Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Capital Metro Bus and Train

This shot best shows two of the primary modes of transportation the agency I work for provides... Bus and rail. Like my other post, this was taken at Capital Metro's Downtown Station on 4th Street in Austin, Texas. This is the second week of CapMetro's commuter rail service and everything is going well. Last week they provided the service for free, but starting this week, riders will have to pay to ride. If you are ever in the area, try it out. However, it is mainly for commuters. It only runs during rush hours in the morning and the afternoon, no weekends. Maybe someday, depending on the number of riders, this will expand to more times of the day and weekends. You can get more info on the train here.

For this shot I used my Nikon D90 with the Sigma 10-20mm lens. I pretty much did my standard processing on this one. One thing I've noticed though, is that night time/early morning shots don't work well with the workflow of mine. They end up quite noisy. So, right after the tonemapping process in Photomatix, I open them up in Photoshop and mask in the sky from one of the bracketed raws. That really seems to help clean up the images.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Red Truck

Red Truck, originally uploaded by Evan Gearing (Evan's Expo).
Recently I've been a little under the weather so I haven't had a chance to take any new shots. So, I thought I'd go through the archives and see what photos I haven't blogged. This is one of those. I took this shot one day while wandering around in Taylor, Texas. The red pickup truck caught my eye as it just kind of stood out from the rest of the vehicles in that lot. And with the gloomy sky, it just made for a cool capture. I re-posted this on flickr as well because I had previously cropped it to a weird size and the reason I did that escapes me now.

This one I processed a little differently than most of my others. I did the 5 brackets from -2 to +2, but I merged and tonemapped it in Photomatix. I then tweaked it in Photoshop just using the bleach bypass filter at about 45% opacity. I cleaned it up with Noiseware on the weak noise setting and sharpened it with Nik Sharpener.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

MetroRail At Downtown Station

Even though I enjoy photography and would like to make some money on it some day, I do have a day job. I work at the local transit agency in Austin, Texas called "Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority" or "Capital Metro" for short. This week we finally went public with our new commuter rail line called "MetroRail". So, this shot here is a fusion of work and pleasure. This was taken at out Downtown Station platform just after the train made it's 32 mile trip from Leander Texas. This is the inaugural week and riding on the train this week is free. Next week the agency will start charging a fare to ride. You can get more info on the train here.

This shot was taken with my Nikon D90 on Aperture Priority mode and its 18-105 kit lens, aperture of f11, focal length of 28mm, and ISO 320. It's 5 bracketed raws with EVs ranging from -2 to +2 at 1 stop increments, merged in Photoshop CS4, tonemapped in Photomatix and post-processed/tweaked in CS4 with the Nik Color Efex plugin. Noise reduction was accomplished with Noiseware Professional and sharpening was done with Nik Sharpener.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Star of Texas

Star of Texas, originally uploaded by Evan Gearing (Evan's Expo).
Well, I think this will be the last of my Texas State History Museum shots. There's really not more to say that I haven't already stated in my two previous posts, except that I kind of liked this perspective as it really makes the star look quite big. Those wide angle lenses really make things look bigger than life when up close!

This shot was also processed the same as the two previous as well.

One thing I 'd like to ask you're opinion on, especially for the guys in the Austin area is, any good suggestions on what to shoot in the pre-dawn hours that's easy and quick? I'm running out of ideas. Thanks,

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Museum Entrance

Like yesterday's post, this is another shot of the Texas State History Museum. This is the main entrance. It's not too exciting, but I like how the entrance curves and I like the huge windows they have there. It's a very interesting place where you can learn everything there is to know about the state. It even houses an Imax theater, the only one in Austin, and maybe Central Texas for that matter. I've seen a few movies there, mainly the 3d ones which are awesome on the big screen. Right now, the new "Alice In Wonderland" movie is playing there. I don't kow about you, but from the commercials, that movie looks pretty creepy to me. I guess I'm not a big Tim Burton fan, although I did like the first "Batman" he did and "Beetlejuice" was pretty good as well. Other than that, creep-city.  Again, I digress. If you're ever visiting Austin, check it out.

This one was processed exactly like my yesterday's as well. I used my Nikon D90 and Sigma 10-20mm lens at 10mm, ISO 200, aperture f11 on Aperture Priority mode. I merged 5 bracketed raws (yes, I'm going back to raws, and the hard drive space on my computer hates me again) with EVs ranging from -2 to +2 at 1 stop intervals, merged them in Photoshop CS4, tonemapped it in Photomatix, post-processed in CS4 with the Nik Color Efex plugin using pro contrast, tonal contrast and bleach bypass filters, mixed in one of the original raws with the color preset in CS4, removed noise with Noiseware Pro and sharpened with Nik Sharpener's output sharpener setting. The final thing I did was adjust the exposure like in my lift the mist post. Whew. That's about it.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Texas State History Museum

This is another one of those "on the way to work in the wee hours" shots of mine. I can't seem to find time to get shots another way, lately. Last time I tried this, I got my gear all setup and ready to shoot and wham, all of the lights went out. It was just a week or two before daylight savings time kicked in. So, now that it's darker in the morning longer, I gave it another shot.

This shot presented some challenges when I merged and tonemapped it. I originally merged 5 raws ranging from -2 to +2 at 1 stop EVs, but that didn't turn out too nicely. Lots of noise in the sky and such. So I just did 3 brackets from -1 to +1 and merged those instead. I then did my usual Nik stuff using pro contrast, tonal contrast and bleach bypass. Oh, and I really had to mask out the sky with one of the original raws because it still presented quite a bit of noise. Anyway, after that, I mixed in one of the originals with the HDR and mixed them using the color preset in CS4. It kind of brought out some more of the tones in the star and the building. It was kind of subtle, but it added a little pop to it.

The website for the museum is here.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Georgetown Winery

A little while ago, I took a couple of pictures in front of the Georgetown Winery. I think I called them both the "snooty wine guy". That was mainly due to the statue in front that you can see in this one. I didn't really know what to call him, so I came up with that. Well, when I was back on the square last Saturday, the winery was lit up a little bit since the sun was going down and I thought it would be a new take on a familiar subject. Hence, this shot. I would've liked to get a shot of more of the front door, but there was a lot of activity there even though you can't really see it in this shot. I thought I might be a little bit in the way if I did that. But, I like how this turned out.

It follows the same processing as other shots of mine, but I think I had the ISO at 320 and the aperture at f11. That's about it.

One other thing I'd like to mention about this place is that the owner is very nice.  My wife and I are not wine drinkers, but as a thank you to my sister and aunt and uncle for their hospitality during a recent trip to Florida, we thought we'd get them both a bottle of wine.  We heard the Winery was a good pace to get wine, so we stopped there.  We found a couple of nice bottle stoppers and a couple nice bottles of wine to get for them.  However, we wanted to ship it to them, but weren't sure how.  Well, he told us he was an authorized shipper and he took care of all of that for us.  We paid for the shipping and he boxed it up and sent it off for us.  He said he doesn't make any extra money off of this service, he just does it to keep business.  That's pretty cool.  So, if you want to ship some wine somewhere, stop by the Georgetown Winery!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Palace

The Palace, originally uploaded by Evan Gearing (Evan's Expo).
Here we have the Palace theater in Georgetown. I think every small town in Texas has a similar theater. They all seem to be named "The Palace", too for some reason. I took this one on my self-imposed photowalk of the square last night. I've been wanting to get a shot of this place for a while, but it seemed the light was never right. You see, the sun sets behind the building, therefore a night shot is great. But, every time I've tried to shoot it, it has been in the morning and the sky behind it would be pitch black. That didn't help. But, I think this one worked out well. If you would like to read more about the theater, click here and read its history.

This one was taken with my Nikon D90 and my Sigma 10-20mm wide angle lens. I bracketed 5 jpgs from -2 to +2 EVs at 1 stop increments. I then merged them in Photoshop CS4 (using Bridge) and then tonemapped it in Photomatix. Lastly, I post-processed them in CS4 with the Nik Color Efex plugin. I used the pro contrast filter at about 35% opacity, the tonal contrast filter at about 65% opacity and the bleach bypass filter at approx. 15-20% opacity. I cleaned up the noise with Imagenomic's Noiseware using the weaker noise setting and then sharpened it with Nik Sharpener at about 60% opacity. Last thing I did was adjust the exposure to +0.08, the offset to -0.0020, and the gamma 0.96. That's just about my standard work-flow. I will vary from picture to picture, but that's pretty much my normal routine.However, the most notable thing in this one is that the pro contrast filter in Nik had to be reduce to 35% opacity whereas I normally use about 65%. Not a big deal, but like I said, it can vary from shot to shot.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Sunset on the Storefront

Lately I've been in a bit of a rut as far as picture taking goes. I haven't had that normal inspiration needed to get out there and shoot like I need. Then, some local photographers talked about getting together this past Friday to shoot down around 6th Street in Austin, TX and I thought that would be perfect to get some new stuff. However, that was the first day of a big music and movie festival call South By Southwest (SXSW). Well, that day for work I had to go downtown on business in that afternoon and it was already crazy down there. I could barely find a place to park. I really just got lucky as someone was pulling out of a spot right when I got there. Not really wanting to fight the crowds and the traffic, I decided to forego the expedition and try again another day. I probably missed out on some cool stuff, but after a long day of work, I was just not up to it.

Still no shots though. So, I decided to go to one of my favorite and close locations... the square in Georgetown. It's such a nice and quaint place and at the time I decided to go, the sun was just setting. So, I snapped off a few. The name of this store is called "Tribal Impressions" and they sell all kinds of Indian leather stuff.For a better look at what they sell, check out my flickr shot called "Anything in This Window, Please". Looks like a cool store, but I have yet to go in there and see what they have.

Hopefully, this will give me some more inspiration to get back out there. I really look forward to getting together with those guys in Austin. Hopefully we'll find another date that will suit all of us and the place we go to won't be too crazy.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Union Pacific Engine (Keep posting stuff)

You never know what can happen when you keep posting pictures to flickr or wherever.  The following is a little something that happened with my train pic above, but first the story about where I took this shot:

Last year while looking for some inspiration, I decided to take a drive to Taylor, Texas to see what I could find. I really wasn't sure what I would see when I got there, but while driving around, I ran across the rail yard. What a cool opportunity! Not only were the trains there, but the sky was nice and gloomy-looking to add some great mood to the shot. I must say though, I had no problems wandering around taking pictures there.  There was a maintenance guy who saw me, but he didn't leave his truck and let me pretty much do what I please. However, if you click on the picture above and read the comments on this on flickr, some people aren't too pleased with what I did here. They think we photogs could be ruining their chances of getting close to trains or something. Not really sure what their beefs are, but I get the feeling they like to get close to the trains, but just not take shots of them or something.  But, I digress.  Trains are cool for HDR, especially when it's cloudy out.

I'm not really sure what I did to process this one as it was quite a while ago when I shot it. However, I think it probably falls in line with my standard processing I've used on previous shots posted in this blog.

Even though this shot is old, I wanted to add a little something else about it. It turns out that the owner of a company called Night Light Designs discovered it one day and she asked me if she could use it. I told her that it would be fine as long as she used my name on it. And, she gave me three free night lights with my pic on it. Granted, it's not much, but it's a little more exposure than I had before. I guess someone out there likes my stuff.  Check my night light out! Help out their company and get one for your kid!

The moral of the story is, keep posting stuff! You never know what will happen. Something similar happened to me with some shots in Georgetown, Texas that I took and you can read more about that in my Photography and Social Networking post. Maybe someday, I'll espouse on that a little further. Hence the title in parentheses and the moral: Keep posting stuff!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Tower and Garages

This is the last in my University Medical Center Brackenridge parking garage series. As in my previous posts, Steamy Capitol and Austin Pre-Dusk Skyline, I caused security at Brackenridge to get a little antsy. That's fine, they were just doing their job, but I guess a tripod wielding photographer poses some sort of threat. Can't wait to find out what.

So this is the University of Texas Tower peaking out of all the parking garages located downtown. I thought it was kind of a cool shot, but it might've even been better had the Tower been lit orange. Oh well.

I used my Nikon D90 with it's 18-105mm kit lens for this one. It was processed as 5 bracketed jpgs from -2 to +2, ISO 250 at f11. I merged them in Photoshop CS4, tonemapped them in Photomatix and post-processed in CS4 with the Nik Color Efex plugin.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Looking Down from Above

Here's the dilemma.. Most of the time, I like it when no one is in the shot. I think most of us photogs think the same way, unless it adds interest to the shot in some way. Here, I'm not so sure. You see when I went to shoot the dome and rotunda at the Texas Capitol, there was this one guy who just would not move. He just kept standing there... Not only for this shot, but when I went up to the same level he's on in this shot, he still stood there. He wouldn't move! So I just had to work with what I had. There were all kinds of other people there and they went about their merry way. But NOOOO!! Not this guy. So, I ask you, does he add to this shot or not? I like to think, if anything, maybe he adds some perspective to it. Yeah, that's the ticket! Or, maybe he just screws the whole pooch on it. I'm not sure if I made up my mind yet.

Anyway, this was taken with my D90 and Sigma 10-20mm lens, ISO 200 and an aperture of f11. I merged it in Photoshop CS4, tonemapped it in Photomatix and post-processed in CS4 using the Nik Color Efex plugin, specifically the pro contrast, tonal contrast and bleach bypass filters. Here's something I haven't mentioned previously, but I clean it all up using Imagenomic's Noiseware Pro, and sharpen with Nik Sharpener. If anyone cares, maybe I'll put out my standard formula for how I do this.

Anyway, let me know if you like the guy on this shot or not. If not, any recommendations on how to clone him out? I 'm not sure of I could do it without it looking too crappy.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Tomb of Albert Sidney Johnston

I took this shot at the Texas State Cemetery last week. It is the tomb of Albert Sidney Johnston, a Confederate General. You can read more about him here.

This shot was originally a color hdr, but it seemed like it was lacking something. So, in my processing, I decided to see what the black and white converter in Nik Color Efex would do and it really made it look cool, I think. I like how it made the blue sky really dark. It gives it more of a haunting look.

It's a five bracket jpg exposed at f11 from -2 to +2 exposure values at one stop intervals, merged in Photoshop CS4, tonemapped in Photomatix and tweaked/converted in CS4 using the Nik Color Efex plugin, specifically, pro contrast, tonal contrast, bleach bypass and bw converter.

New Version of Topaz Adjust

From Eric at Topaz Labs:

Topaz Adjust, our most popular image enhancement tool, has been upgraded to v4 to include many new presets, the ability to handle larger images, a new user interface, faster noise reduction, and greater stability. It's completely free for existing Topaz Adjust customers. Download it here:
To install the upgrade, download the appropriate installer, run it, and follow the installation instructions. After installation is successful, restart your host program and "Topaz Adjust 4" will be there. You can then uninstall the older version of Topaz Adjust if you choose. Enjoy the upgrade!
We would like to give endless thanks to those who offered suggestions, feature requests, and bug reports on our software. Members of both the Topaz Flickr Group and our site forum were instrumental in helping us reach the final version of Adjust 4. This is part of the reason we are able to continue to offer completely free major upgrades from day one: our community spends valuable time supporting us in our efforts, so we are extremely happy to reciprocate. Thanks again.
If you like Topaz Adjust, you might also like one of our other photo plug-ins. Topaz DeNoise, for example, is a supercharged version of the noise reduction capabilities included in Topaz Adjust, and Topaz Detail offers similar detail enhancement and sharpening capabilities without any halos. Check them out here.
Finally, as part of a intro promotion surrounding the new release of Topaz Adjust 4, the coupon code NEWADJUST will not only save $10 off a new purchase of Topaz Adjust, but will also save 20% off of any bundle purchase or Adjust->Bundle upgrade. This coupon code will expire on March 15, 2010.
Enjoy the upgrade and have a great day

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