I know that a few posts ago I had a little rant about flickr in general and just touched on Explore quickly. I haven’t been checking Explore that much in the past year or so because of how frustrating some of the pictures I have seen on there have been. Yesterday I hit a bit of a breaking point though and just wanted to share some thoughts, get some opinions from some of you and maybe vent a little.
For those of you who are not familiar with Explore I’ll give you a quick overview. Explore is a collection of the top 500 pictures on any given day on flickr, judged by the flickr “interestingness”. Things that influence (or at least used to influence) getting into Explore were views, comments and faves in a short amount of time, not being in too many groups and not having all kinds of flashy rewards. Certain groups were also said to hurt or aid hitting Explore. Then in August of 2009 there was a monumental change to the algorithm that would ban certain users from getting on Explore. Apparently some folks even got messages from flickr saying that they had been “blacklisted” and other people “needed a chance” to get on Explore. While I never got that message, I haven’t had a photograph on Explore since then, and I used to hit it every day or so.
Now, I have a few problems with this. First, if Explore is supposed to be the most interesting, the cream of the crop on flickr, how can you purposefully ban photographers who you previously deemed to have the most interesting photos on flickr? It doesn’t make sense that everyone doesn’t get a fair shake at it. Second, and this is a more philosophical question, why are the editors of flickr deciding what is “interesting”? Wouldn’t it make more sense to get feedback from the flickr community (since flickr is a social network) to give a better overall representation of what people in flickrland find attractive in photography? I know that everyone has different tastes (and that’s what makes photography great) and it would make sense to incorporate that into the Explore area.
This leads into my third and, in my opinion, most important point. Let me first say that while I used to get annoyed that I was not hitting Explore anymore, I am completely over it. I have made some great contacts and friends on flickr that mean much more to me that having my picture be #247 in Explore. What I find completely ridiculous are some of the pictures that are currently on Explore. To call them interesting or some of the best is almost an embarrassment. I have five pictures as quick examples, and although I will not be posting them on here because they all are “All Rights Reserved” images, I will post the link to them.
- First off is Explore #4 for yesterday, March 28th. It’s a picture of someone’s retirement cake at work. Panda bear with green cupcakes taken with an iPhone.
- Next is a Front Page Explore of a rock holding a sign in different positions. Ok, fine, maybe it is remotely creative, but to be on the Front Page to say it is one of the most interesting pictures on flickr? Really??
- The next one is a picture of someone’s vintage cameras and their camera bag. The cameras may be interesting if you are actually using them, but a picture of them? And to be #4 on Explore?
- Next up is a group shot of people in a Lightroom workshop. Again, Front Page. Really embarrassing.
- Finally we have a Front Page from today that combines three pictures of someone’s eyes in a green glow. How is this interesting?
Again, I am not saying that these are not ok shots. Everyone has their own style and I can certainly respect that. What I have a slight problem with is these shots being paraded as some of the best on flickr. What I am not saying that these people are poor photographers. I did take the time to look through all of their streams and they all have some work that I like and am interested in. I’m also not saying that the shots above are bad shots…just curious as to why they made Explore and myself and others have not seen it for over a year and a half. Don’t get me wrong, there are TONS of great pictures on Explore; incredible landscapes, dramatic portraits, breathtaking views and so on. Those certainly deserve to be up there. It’s shots like the above ones that just have me scratching my head.
I know this has been a long post, so I’ll make this quick. Both shots from today’s post are from the Times Square Police Station in New York City. I didn’t get a chance to photograph it the last time we were there and didn’t want to miss the opportunity again. Both were processed with HDR Efex under the “Natural” setting. I had to do a fair bit of masking in both of them to get rid of the people and then added a Tonal Contrast filter in Color Efex.
Big game tonight for the Pens against the Flyers. We got this.
Well, after a long weekend off from work and celebrating my little brother’s 21st birthday, I make a return to the blogging world. It was a fun weekend but I certainly needed yesterday of just sitting on my couch watching basketball to help recover. I think I’m starting to get a bit old.
As my Monday posts are typically a recap of my weekend uploads to flickr, I won’t stray too far from that path on this particular Monday. I actually won’t stray from it at all. Although one of my posts you have already seen on my blog (the panorama of our honeymoon resort), so I will not be posting that one. You are more than welcome to check out that post though if you are in some need some warm weather.
We’ll start with Friday’s post. This is one that I took a few months back at the end of November on a photowalk I did on Mt. Washington. Now I have photographed the city from that location a couple dozen times, but this was definitely a sight that I had not seen in any of those previous visits. I usually like to make the trip up there at night, as the Pittsburgh skyline from that high is just breathtaking. However on this particular trip the sky at a certain rainbow quality to it that was just awesome (that’s “awesome” as in full of awe, not awesome like in Wayne’s World). On Mt. Washington there are a handful of overlooks that stretch out from the main road that you can view the city from. I was a bit farther down than normal, and I had a great view along the river of the main part of Pittsburgh. Set up shot, bracketed and fired away.
Processed this one in HDR Efex under the “Subtle” method from 7 bracketed exposures. I masked in the entire -3 exposure, as it had the best color for that I was going for. Added a curves layer to enhance the red of the red and then a second blue layer to enhance the, well, blue. Did some selective coloring on the top of the PPG Building (the shiny one with spires on top) to bring out the golden tones of the sunset reflecting off of it. Finally, added a Tonal Contrast filter to the city as well as some high pass sharpening to the skyline.
Next up is another candid from our trip to New York in December of last year. I was walking around early Friday morning and caught some iPhone photographers trying to capture the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center. I’m always intrigued by pictures of people taking pictures, so I thought I would give it a go. I had dedicated this one on my flickr page to Kurt, aka Ian Sane, as he wrote me a very kind testimonial. Kurt is a master of candids and street photography, and like I said on my flickr page, if you haven’t visited his work, check it out. You won’t be disappointed.
Not too much to speak of processing wise here. Lowered the overall saturation in Camera Raw and increased the saturation of the reds and greens. Straightened the shot and applied a Tonal Contrast filter (very slight) and the pill box. Voila.
Today’s upload brings us back to that early morning photowalk I went on a few weeks back. Like I’ve said before, the one thing that I have not had much success capturing is the moon, and this is an example of that. I was walking between two hotels new the Point in Pittsburgh and saw the moon glowing over Mt. Washington. I set up the tripod and took the brackets, but wasn’t really happy with the result of the moon. I did however like the overall scene, with the warm glow from the hotel restaurant, the pastel colors in the sky and the motion blur from the tree branches, as it was incredibly wind, so I thought I would process it anyways.
This is a seven exposure HDR processed with HDR Efex under the “Natural” method. I had a bit of a tough time with the white balance, as I was getting incandescent light from the hotel, halogen from the street lights and the natural light from the moon. I had to do some heavy adjustments to the reds, as the whole shot was just too warm. I also increased the saturation of the sky to help bring out the pastels. I didn’t mask in the entire sky, because like I said, I really liked the motion blur from the trees, it gives to scene a sense of being there, in my opinion. Added a very slight Tonal Contrast filter and call it a day.
Thanks for sticking with me through this long post. I’ll catch everyone tomorrow.
Back and blogging after what seemed like too short of a weekend. Attended an ‘80s themed birthday party this weekend. Let’s just saying that it was…interesting. I did take a whole bunch of pictures, but I’m not sure I’ll be sharing them on here. People have reputations that they probably want to protect.
Today is going to be somewhat of a catch up day on HDR Exposed, as Mondays usually are. I have a variety of pictures you post, seeing that I unconsciously post more random pictures on the weekend that during the week. Actually, I’m not sure if it has something to do with having more time on the weekend to take a look through my “For Flickr” folder than I have on my hard drive and pick out an interesting one, compared to the weekday, where I’m a bit more rushed and more or less just pick a random one from there. The backlog of shots is getting a little low, so I may need to get out shooting sometime soon. I’d like to do some street candids in Pittsburgh on a Friday or Saturday night, but I think that it is still a little too cold out for that. We even got more snow yesterday. I’m about ready for spring to come around, when we can leave the doors and the windows open and you don’t feel so cramped and stuffy in your own house. Soon, very soon, spring is coming.
On to the shots. The first shot is a candid that I took while we were in New York, on Friday morning during the AM rush hour. Speaking of it being cold, it was absolutely FREEZING that morning, but I think at the time I took this shot my fingers hadn’t frozen yet. I was getting ready to cross the street in front of Radio City Music Hall when I saw this lady crossing the street. I captured her right when she was kind of making this goofy expression which just added to the shot. The only thing I didn’t capture was a perfectly crisp shot. Since it was so early and my first couple shots had been with a tripod, I hadn’t adjusted my ISO yet, so there was a little motion blur. I touched that up with Topaz InFocus then ran it through my typical cinematic processing steps, or at least my version of it. Decreased overall saturation, did a selective coloring adjustment on the red in her coat and the greens in the sign and bush. Added a Tonal Contrast Filter in Color Efex and the pillbox to finish it up.
Next is my post from yesterday. This is another early morning shot, except this one is from the Steel City (Pittsburgh, just in case) a few Saturdays ago. Equally as cold but with the element of wind too. Fun stuff. Took this one soon after I arrived downtown, and my initial plan was the head over the Clemente Bridge. Well, I made it about this far, took the shot, then turned around, because the wind was really whipping across the water. So I took my seven bracketed shots and moved on. This is a view from the Clemente Bridge looking down the Allegheny River towards the Rachel Carson Bridge and Convention Center, which you can just see the first light of day starting to come up behind.
For the processing, pretty standard to all the rest of the shots in this series. A seven shot HDR processed in HDR Efex under the “Natural” method. Adjusted sliders accordingly, then kicked it over the Photoshop and Color Efex. I masked in the enter sky of the -2 exposure, with some minor adjusting to the original shot. Desaturated the reds in the roads and from the lamps, as the D700 has a bit of problem sometimes with white balance. Masked out a corner of a piece of the bridge in the upper left and finally added a Low Key filter to the entire shot from Color Efex.
On to today’s shot, which I will be posting a little later today on flickr. This is a panorama that I took last Wednesday on the far end of Mt. Washington in the late afternoon. I had some time to kill before heading to friend’s for the Penguin game. I had actually seen this exact shot, as someone in my office had it hanging in their office, so I think I would give it a try. I would have liked to do the panorama with my 70-200 zoom, but all I had was the 16-35 with me, so I took it at 35mm. On the right you can see the Point and the city of Pittsburgh and how high the water is. We got a lot of rain early last week, which caused all three rivers to rise, shutting down parking lots and some areas of the North Shore and the Point. I really like this vantage point too, because you can see the Monongahela River on the right, the Allegheny on the left, and where they converge to form the Ohio. Pretty cool stuff. On the left you can see Heinz Field, home of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
On to the processing. This is a panorama of three 5 exposure HDRs, stitched together in CS5. The HDRs were created under in HDR Efex under the “Subtle” HDR method, as I didn’t want to go too heavy handed on the HDR since I was making a panorama. I didn’t like the way the sky looked, so I masked in the entire sky on all three HDRs. Adjusted the yellows of the bridges and Heinz Field to make them stand out and desaturated the browns of the lifeless trees to make them not to distracting. Lastly I corrected the skyline and gave the overall shot some definition in iPhoto.
Whew. I’m exhausted. But today you got a little bit of everything, candids, regular HDRs and panorama HDRs. What more could you want?
Even though it is so bitterly cold out still, we have eight inches of snow on the ground and more wicked weather seems to be coming, we are certainly drawing closer to the end of winter. Spring is almost here, flowers will bloom, jackets will go in the closet, windows rolled down, baseball season starts and everything seems to come alive again. To me, THIS is the time to make your New Year’s resolutions (you did make them, right?) I realize that we just had New Year’s last month, but it’s difficult to distinguish one year from the next in the middle of winter, especially when winters here in Pennsylvania last from November until March. But when the seasons change, and new life is breathed into everything around us, it seems like an appropriate time to make those changes in yourself as well.
Now I’m not saying you have to make resolutions. Especially since they are so difficult to keep. It’s not that we make way over the top, unachievable goals that we want to reach in the new year. For me, and I don’t want to speak for everyone, they just kind of get forgotten about, unless you make a conscience effort to drive towards them. I read an article (and I can’t remember where now) that said that if we share our resolutions and goals that we are less likely to achieve them. I think I agree with this (I think). At a previous employer, we had to write goals out, read them in front of the office, hang them on our wall and review them every two weeks. That’s a lot of pressure to achieve them, and it’s not the kind of pressure that really motivates you. It’s the kind that says, “Wow, everyone knows what I have to achieve, and if I don’t, I’ll look bad to everyone”, which has the potential to put you in a bit of desperation mode. Keeping them to yourself can give you that self empowering, self motivating attitude that can get you to where you want to be and achieve what you want to achieve. So I look at spring to a fresh start to the year, a time to take one more look at those New Year’s resolutions and make them happen. I know I will.
Today’s post is my last from the New York Public Library. I couldn’t go there and not get a shot from the one of the reading rooms. This is the Rose Reading Room, and I wish I could have gotten more pictures of it, but my wife was a little embarrassed at how loud the five exposures were, so I just got this one shot and moved on. I will say that they did kind of echo throughout the room, and you can see the look I got from someone on the left side of the screen. This shot is one reason I love HDR. You are able to see the outside skyline as well as all the intricate details in the ceiling.
The processing wasn’t too difficult, just a bit time consuming. Like I said, it is a five exposure handheld HDR processed in HDR Efex. I obviously had to mask in all the people, the lights because they were a bit blown out, as well as outside the windows. For the outside, I opened up the -2 exposure, recovered the highlights, reduced the exposure, and then masked in just the windows. Boosted the color a bit to make the blue pop. No Color Efex to this one, just added a High Pass Sharpening filter to it. I think that this is my favorite of the library series.
Pens are playing the Sharks tonight, and we will see the Penguins debut of James Neal and Matt Niskanen. I’ll be there cheering them on. Let’s Go Pens.
One of the great things about living in western Pennsylvania is that we have four very distinct seasons. Unlike a lot of the northern or southern states where it either states cold or warm for most of the year, we see a gradual transition from winter to spring to summer to fall. We get to experience a white Christmas, flowers blooming, barbeques and fireworks and beautiful fall foliage that is painted throughout the region. However, one of the worst things about living in western Pennsylvania is that we have four very distinct seasons. Summer and fall I’m more or less okay with, it’s just the end of winter/beginning of spring that really get me. Don’t get me wrong, I love snow as much as the next guy, but when it dumps eight inches during rush hour on a Monday night in late February, that I can do without. It’s not so much all the snow we got, but the fact that yesterday morning it started out as a torrential downpour of rain. Then, eleven hours later, we have a little blizzard that locks up most of the city.
There is something eerily calm about the snow. I spent the better part of two hours last night unburying both my driveway and a few of my neighbors and when the wind died down it was a very serene mood. The street lamps were glowing warm light that was being diffused by the falling snow, there wasn’t anyone on the road and it was just quiet. You could not tell where one person’s yard ended and another began. You couldn’t even tell where the yard ended and the street began. A plow truck hadn’t been through in over an hour, so the road was completely covered again. I found myself just standing there, with ice forwards on my hair and gloves, taking it all in. And for as much as I do not really like to spent until midnight shoveling and being freezing cold, it was oddly peaceful.
Some shots from the storm, all taken with the S95.
Now to completely switch gears. Yesterday’s post was all about the Winter Classic and the matchup between the Penguins and the Capitals. Well, the Pens lost (title reference #2), in a hard fought, 1-0 game. I can’t be too upset, as the goalie for the Capitals, Michal Neuvirth, played an outstanding game. Since I talked hockey, I didn’t get a chance to post my picture from flickr. I’ll make up for that today, since they are the same subject. Heading back to New York. On the Friday we were we spent a lot of time doing some of the touristy things, like Grand Central, Central Park, FAO Schwartz and the New York Public Library. I hadn’t planned on stopping at the library, but since we were so close and we hadn’t been there before, I thought that it would be worth a quick peak. We made one lap around and then headed on our way.
The first shot is the front of the library. It was a bit of a pain to process because of all the people walking around in front. I just wish for one second I could get everyone to stand still so I could take the picture. I think for all the HDR photographers out there, we should be given a remote to stop people as we please. Just a thought. Anyways, it is a five shot handheld HDR, and HDR Efex did a decent job of cutting down the ghosting. I had to tonemap the +1 image to mask in all the people, and I also did a 100% mask of the -2 exposure for the sky. Desaturated the reds a bit, added a blue curves layer to the sky and applied a Tonal Contrast filter in Color Efex. Lastly did some high pass sharpening.
For today’s flickr post, we have one of the hall ways inside the library. Same issue with the ghosts here. Five exposure handheld, tonemapped the the +2 image for the people and masked them in. Then I tonemapped the -2 and masked in the window at the back of the scene, as I was metered on the shadows and the window was very blown out. Added a slight blur around the edge of the frame to put the focus on the center and finally added a Tonal Contrast filter.
That’s all for today my friends. See you tomorrow.
It’s so difficult when you go to a place that’s been photographed as much as New York has been to find some way to make it your own. Not just by the random guy with a P&S that he’s had for five years snapping away either. Obviously you have professionals, professional amateurs, regular amateurs, artists, everyone you can think of. And really, it’s not just New York, it’s any place you go, even Pittsburgh. I’ve fallen into the trap myself of taking the “obligatory” shot of the Pittsburgh skyline (ok, I’ve down this many times), and the shot in the middle of Times Square, and the Brooklyn Bridge at night. It’s equally as difficult both when you live in a place and when you are visiting it. I live in Pittsburgh, so I am constantly shooting in and around the city. Like I said in yesterday’s post, I feel like I need to take a fresh look at the city, and I do have a few ideas for the next couples weeks. As for when you visit somewhere, like New York or Boston or Chicago or LA, you want to make sure you get THE shot: the Brooklyn Bridge in NY, Fenway in Boston, Navy Pier in Chicago, the Hollywood sign in LA. The question is, once you get that picture, now what?
For me, I didn’t want to leave New York without putting my spin on at least a few of the typical shots. So I scoured flickr for hours looking at hundreds (eh, probably thousands) of shots from around the city in places that I knew we were going to be going, especially the aforementioned Brooklyn Bridge. I wanted to make sure that we were there in the afternoon, because I knew I wanted to incorporate the sun in the shot. There are surprisingly few pictures of sun flares and the bridge, so I knew I had it. It was a sunny day on the day we were heading there, so I thought I was in luck. I got “the shot”, standing right in the middle of the bridge then kind of climbed onto the railing. I couldn’t just lean over, because the way the bridge was bouncing from the cars I wouldn’t have got five clean exposures. Unfortunately, clouds had moved in by this time, and I didn’t have a crisp shot of the sun, as the clouds were diffusing all the rays, preventing me from getting the sunflare I wanted. I still like how it turned out.
I think it is very important to do some research on where you are going before you get there. You don’t have to spend hours looking at pictures, but take a look at a few, that way, when you get there you aren’t surprised at what you find. You will have an idea of where you need to be and what will work for your photography style.
Technical time for the shot above. We know it’s five shots and handheld and it was processed with HDR Efex. I needed to mask in the cars, the people walking and just tiny halo around the bridge. I added a Tonal Contrast filter in Color Efex, just to the bridge and the road, to give it more of a gritty feel. I also selectively adjusted the reds to give them more of an orange look. Added an S curve to give it some contrast finally, but certainly not least, a high pass sharpening.
Until next time.
I think that I may have jinxed the Pens with my post on Friday. It was an ugly weekend for them, losing both games by a combined 14-6, and two of the most painful games I’ve watched in a while. I don’t even really want to talk about it, so I won’t. Just wanted to mention it.
Something that I need to do soon is get out shooting. I feel like I’ve been a bit lazy lately because I had so many shot from New York that I knew I wouldn’t need to get out and shoot much. Other than Penguin games, I really haven’t been out at all this year with my camera. I may actually go out one day this week after work. It’s not that I am unmotivated; I’ve been there in the past, and it’s kind of a tough feeling. It’s not like I don’t have anything to post when I go through one of those funks. It’s just that I don’t think that anything is good. Then all of a sudden you look at the same pictures a few weeks later, and you start processing away. Not really sure why, but sometimes, that’s just how it works. I guess that I just feel I need to get out of my comfort zone. I have photographed Pittsburgh from so many different angles, at so many different times of day and times of year that I just think I need to get out of Pittsburgh and shoot something different. Maybe go hiking, or a little road trip to another city. Or maybe it’s as simple as just taking out the 70-200 and shooting some candids instead of wide angle HDRs. Everything in moderation after all.
Anyways, on to today’s shot. And yesterday’s shot.
First, yesterday. Another one from Times Square. I mean, I don’t think I could ever get enough of that place, as there are always going to be different people and things there and therefore different stuff to photograph. I’m sure I would get sick of it eventually if I lived there, but seeing as I don’t, I could take pictures of it all the time. Then again I’d have to live there to do that. Touche, catch 22. I took this one form the top of the grandstand in the middle of Times Square, looking towards the corner of 47th and 7th. I really like this view because it shows so much that is New York: the theatre, taxis, limos, people in suits, tourists, people selling you stuff on street corners, chain restaurants. To me, the whole scene is still moving.
This is a five handheld HDR processed with HDR Efex. Had to mask in a lot of the street for all the moving people and cars, and also that tiny bit of sky you see, as it was a bit blown out, then moved it over the Color Efex and added a Tonal Contrast filter. Desaturated the whole scene, then did selective coloring to enhance the reds. Added a warming filter to cool off the blue tones just a bit, and finally added some High Pass Sharpening.
Seeing as today is Valentine’s Day, I thought I would post something somewhat related to the sentiment that today is all about. Looking through the archives I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to use. Then I stumbled across this one from our trip to New York, one I took during one of the five total minutes that I had the zoom lens on instead of the wide angle. This is from the Brooklyn Bridge during our last day there. I wasn’t really thinking too much about this shot when I took, but now I’m glad that I took it.
For the processing, I edited the RAW in Camera RAW in CS5. Decreased the Saturation, increased the vibrance, and warmed up the white balance a bit. Recovered some of the highlights, lowered the exposure and the contrast, and gave it a bit more clarity. Moved it over the Color Efex where I added a slight Low Key filter, at 15% Effect Strength and 90% glow. Gave it a quick crop, and here you go.
Here’s to wishing you and yours a Happy Valentine’s Day!
One of the best things about being a photographer is that every single time you go out shooting, you can learn something new, which is a bit unique in my opinion. Take another hobby, like music. Now, I have great respect for all musicians, because the limits of my musical inclination ends at the piano. However if your hobby is, say, playing the piano, you can play for hour and hours, and while you undoubtedly will get better, you may not learn anything new. Same with writing. Or painting. You will continue to progress in your skill, but you may not learn anything new. When I am out shooting, especially if I am with another photographer, I find that I always come back, not just a better photographer, but more equipped to handle a wider variety of photographic situations.
It doesn’t even have to be limited to what you can learn physically about the camera itself. It can be a different angle to shoot at, or the time of day to be in a certain part of the city, or a certain location. I’ve been photographing downtown Pittsburgh for three years now and have spent many an hour on the North Shore of Pittsburgh shooting in and around PNC Park, home of the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball team. However, on a recent photowalk with fellow Pittsburgh photographer Brad Truxell I found a great new location not 200 yards from where I spent countless hours shooting that offers a fantastic and unique view of the city. Now I can’t wait to get back there to shoot it again, as it was a bit cloudy the last time we were there.
The other great thing about photography is that you can instantly learn from any mistakes you made (see my last post). Just about every time I got shooting, I will be looking at my pictures when I get home and instantly wish I would have moved my tripod 2 inches to the left and used f11 instead of f4. Next time I’m out shooting, I will do just that. It’s not just about getting better with the settings of the camera, it’s being able to see a scene and know the best angle to capture it from, knowing what time of day to be there. These are things that aren’t always evident at the time of the original shot, but can be instantly corrected.
To go along with the theme of looking back today, my shot has a bit of a vintage feel. This is one from the 42nd Street Subway station in New York, which we saw a lot of when we were there (the subway in general not just this station). The last time we were there, I had taken a few shots of the subway that I really liked, but I wanted to try to take a different approach to the panning/motion blur that I did last time. I also wanted to try to incorporate someone standing in the subway station. I was pretty happy with the way that this one turned out, and knew I was going to post it as soon as I looked at it. That is after I processed it of course.
In honor of the Kodachrome being officially phased out I gave this one a Kodachrome filter in Color Efex. I’ve never shot with the film (thought my first camera was a Pentax film camera of some kind) and only know what I’ve seen of it in pictures, so I’m not sure how accurate it is. I still liked it though, and it gave me the old vintage feel that I was looking for in this shot, where it could have been taken anytime in the last thirty years. I added a bit of grain as well as the pillbox border.
Two days with no HDRs, I know, I know. But if you look carefully, you will the blog is called HDR Exposed – Photography and More by Dave DiCello. So consider this some of the more, and we’ll be back to the HDRs tomorrow!
If you are a photographer, you’ve been there before. You’re walking down the street (or through a field or up a cliff or through your living room following your cat to get picture #1,493 of it this week) and you see the perfect shot developing. You have the right lens on the camera, the settings are perfect, all you have to do is get in the best position and click the shutter. The mirror (if you have an SLR) will go up, the sensor will capture all those billions of photons of light on the million pixels it encases and you will have the shot. And not just a shot. THE shot. It may not be your single greatest shot ever, but the stars have aligned for you to capture it. You can’t possibly believe your good fortune. All of a sudden…
If you’re in a field, a flock of birds suddenly take flight, scaring both you and the two deer grazing peacefully. If you’re walking up that cliff, your foot slips just as you press the shutter and you have a picture of a blurry sky. If you’re chasing your cat…I don’t know, what happens when you are chasing your cat?…oh you probably trip over one of the other twenty-five cats you have. Next thing you know, you don’t have the shot, the world that just seemed so perfect now seems so cruel, and you are cursing everything from the birds to the rocks to the other cats to that guy this morning who cut you off and made you three seconds getting here or else you would have had the shot. And you spend the next couple hours trying to get that shot again. But, you are worried it may have been a once in a lifetime thing.
Well, for me, this was the case on our New York trip. Early on Friday morning with the wife still sleeping from our flight in the night before, I braved the cold to head out and get some New York morning rush hour traffic, both vehicle and pedestrian. I thought, I’m going to start out and shoot some candids, something that I don’t do a whole lot of. The 70-200mm f2.8 goes on, 16-35mm f4 goes in the bag, and off I go. I get a few shots of people waiting for the bus and taxi, a business man running across the street, and a lady in a red hat making a phone call. Interesting, but kind of “Eh”. I turn back towards Times Square and I see them. Four guys. Walking down the sidewalk. Almost equidistance from one another. The first, second and fourth guy are all in stride, with the third being on an opposite step. I see a crosswalk coming up. A legendary rock band’s album pops into my head with the exact same set up, even with the third person being on an opposite stride. ( I feel compelled to mention this is the Beatles and the Abbey Road album for those not picking up the reference). Oh, I got this. I am ready. I have about half a block until they reach the cross walk to get in the best shooting position, which is, yep, right where I was already standing. Perfect.
Check the settings. Ok, ISO? 200. Aperture? 2.8. Shutter speed? 1/150? Too dark. 1/100? Not quite. 1/80? There it is. Focal length at about 100mm. Spot focusing on the third guy. They’ve spaced out from each other a bit from their original positions, but that’s ok, I can live with that. First guy in the crosswalk…second…third…fourth…just a few more steps…and…
“Oops, sorry man, didn’t see you were taking a picture.”
Just as I’m about to press the shutter, I get bumped, ever so slightly, by someone who didn’t see me standing with a D700 and monster of a 70-200mm 2.8 elsn up to my face. The Active VRII lens worked great and doesn’t allow the whole image to blur, and the bump was ever so slight, that the focal point ended up just to the right of the third guy, on someone way in the back of the scene. The four crosswalk guys? Totally out of focus. I think, “I’ll catch them at the next crosswalk”. Great idea. Oh, except for one of them turns left at the street corner, walking down the street. I couldn’t believe it. I even had the third guy on his right step, just like Paul McCartney in the album cover, with the other three being on their left step. I mill around for a few minutes or so to see if I can recreate the moment, but no such luck.
I know, I know, there are things I could have done better. A higher aperture to keep more of the scene in focus and not give such a shallow depth of field. Switched to manual focus so I wouldn’t have autofocused to the point behind them. Looked around to make sure there was no one coming. I thought I had all my bases covered. Not this time. But, I thought , I still really like the shot so I decided, against my better judgment, post a picture that is technically not that great. For the processing, I tried to give it a cinematic feel. Lowered overall saturation, added a vibrance layer, added an S curve to give it a bit more pop, gave it just a bit of grain and put it in a pillbox.
I know it’s weird for a photographer to post a picture that he obviously, for lack of a better term, messed up on, but at least for today, that’s ok by me.