Friday, January 29, 2010

HDR and Traditional Photography

Ever since I started my foray into high dynamic range photography, I see traditional photos a little bit differently.   I see them in magazines, billboards, websites and an infinite amount of other places, as does everyone else.  Now, one thing always comes to mind now when I see these photos, "I wonder what that would look like in HDR?" Usually the conclusion I come to - if processed right - is that those shots would be incredible!

When I see a really good shot of a city, landscape or an interior, they would all look very nice.  The lighting would be nice, the angles and perspective/composition would all be good, but they are traditional photos.  Nothing wrong with that. Just nice. However, HDR could make them spectacular!

I hope I'm not trying to sound like my stuff is better, because that's up to someone other than me to decide. I think I still need to work on my composition skills as well as what I can and cannot do with my camera. However, I do feel I have a pretty good handle on how to process an HDR photo.  When I see a shot of some mountains or a shot of city lights from the street or a high-rise, or a shot of an airline terminal taken with just one shot and good lighting, it all misses something.  They seem flat and boring. You can't see everything in all the shadowy nooks and crannies, the textures don't jump out as much, and they just seem to lack that pizazz that HDR brings.

I guess HDR is really beginning to evolve photography, at least in my eyes.  There are still those that think HDR is fake or manipulated and that what you get out of your camera is what the shot should look like  But, anytime you use a flash, put a graduated ND filter on your lens or adjust the metering in your camera, the final shot has been manipulated.  A traditional shot does not capture everything the normal human eye can capture so already the traditional photo is not totally realistic.  But, with HDR more of what the eye can see in the scene you are trying to capture will show in the final shot.  To me that is more amazing and more realistic

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Which Way Out of the Bunker?


Which Way Out of the Bunker?, originally uploaded by Evan Gearing.
After taking the obligatory shots at the Texas Capitol the other day, I decided to explore some places there I haven't been. One shot I got was the art exhibit shot and this one. Both were taken while exploring the ground floor. There isn't really too much down there, but there are some interesting things if you happen to see them. These are the doors at the top of the stairs that connect the ground floor to the first floor. Behind these doors is the 1st floor and out of the picture to the left are the stairs leading down to the ground floor. It looks kind of like a bunker or a dungeon doesn't it? Anyway, my goal was to get something interesting and something you don't usually see. Oh I'll post the "obligatories" sometime, but anyway, as they say on the Flying Circus, "Now for something completely different."

Monday, January 25, 2010

Rally and Protest


Rally and Protest, originally uploaded by Evan Gearing.
During my stroll Saturday with Van, a pro-life rally happened. There was a parade down Congress Avenue that lead to the Capitol in Austin, TX. Waiting for the marchers were a few pro-choice people protesting the pro-life people. This, I thought, would be a good opportunity to try and see if I have any photo-journalism chops. I think I'm better off doing HDRs, but I thought it would be nice to post something a little different for a change.

Also, I'm not trying to put my thoughts on this issue out there. However, the yin and yang of the people separated by the Peace Officers I thought was rather interesting. Not to mention all of the name calling.. "You're a nazi!", "No, YOU'RE a nazi!!", "Oh yeah, well you're the NAZI!" It just kept going. There were some chants also, but I don't remember those. Exciting to say the least.

Omni Hotel and Austin Center, Austin, Texas


Omni Hotel, originally uploaded by Evan Gearing.
My last couple shots talk about shooting the Omni Hotel in Austin, Texas with Van Sutherland. Well, here's one of them from there. It kind of gives you an idea of the size of the place. The hotel portion is on the left side and the right side houses offices of some sort.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Capitol Art Exhibit


Capitol Art Exhibit, originally uploaded by Evan Gearing.
Yesterday, Van Sutherland and I took a little trip to the Capitol and the Omni Hotel in Austin, Texas. On the ground floor of the Capitol building, just below the rotunda, was this room which had an art exhibit going on. My lack of detail forgot to get the name of the artist whose works was displayed, but as you can see it was very nice.

St Mary's Sanctuary


St Mary's Sanctuary, originally uploaded by Evan Gearing.
Today, Van Sutherland and I took a little photowalk to the Omni Hotel and the Texas State Capitol Building here in Austin, TX. While traversing between the two places, we stopped by St Mary's Church to see if we could get a couple of shots inside of it. Well, at that time there was a service going on. So we trudged on to the Capitol from there. Well, later in the day at the capitol, we went our separate ways, but on the way back to my car, I decided to try St Mary's one more time. The main door was locked, but a side door was open and I snuck in. When I began to take my brackets, there was no one in the sanctuary. In the middle of my brackets a gentleman came in and sat in the pews and he didn't mind my shooting, so I kept on. However, I beat a hasty retreat as I didn't want to upset anyone or maybe get caught by security. So, here's what I was able to get from there.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Photography and Social Networking

I'm beginning to see the light. It's a good thing and a bad thing.  Let me explain.

Last summer, Trey Ratcliff had a photowalk in Austin, TX that I attended.  However, to attend, he asked that everyone RSVP thru his Facebook page.  So, in order to RSVP through Facebook, I had to setup an account. Ugh.  I really didn't want a Facebook account because I thought Facebook is just a giant popularity contest.  Everyone are friends and the more friends you have the more...whatever. Reluctantly, I set one up with the complete intention of not checking it. I used a different email account other than my main ones.  I only set it up to RSVP the photowalk, which I did and then I went on my merry way.

Well, here I am six months or so later and I'm now checking it on a fairly regular basis.  "Why" might you ask?  One reason is that I actually got some photography work out of it.  The owner of a restaurant in Georgetown, Texas called "Amante's" saw one of my shots on Flickr and then subsequently found my facebook page and sent me a message.  The owner really liked my work and asked if I could take some shots of her restaurant.  I did, she liked them, and the villagers rejoiced!  Pretty cool!

Not only did I get some work, but I'm also catching up with some old friends and making new ones. It's kind of cool.

So, I guess Facebook is not just a huge, totally massive popularity contest (sorry, I still think it kind of is), but it actually helps put people together.  And with my little hobby of photography, it has actually helped me get some of my work out there.  Not to mention the fact that I got a little more cash for photo toys!

My day job is in IT, but photography is my hobby.  I'm on computers all day for work and with digital photography, I'm on the computer a lot to process pictures.  I like computers, but too much can be very tiresome and in turn can be bad. Now, Facebook comes along which is starting to keep me attached to the computer a little more. Bad.  That, this blog, my Flickr page, regular email, web surfing, et. al., could begin to drive me crazy!  But, the good thing is, I've also learned that it can connect me to some very wonderful people and help me get my name and work out there for a little extra fun with my hobby. Good!

So, as I said, I'm beginning to see the light.  It's a really good thing. Now if I can find a good balance, I will be set.



Now, does this mean I should start a MySpace page, and a Twitter page and God knows what else?  Aarrgghhhh! Baaad???!!!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Stagecoach Inn Porch


Stagecoach Inn Porch, originally uploaded by Evan Gearing.
Since I had today off, I decided to get some shots since I hadn't been out in a while. Wasn't sure where to go, so I hopped in the car thinking I might go to Walburg, but Salado just kind of popped into my head. So that's what I decided to do and this is what I got.

This shot is the porch of the famous "Stagecoach Inn" in Salado, TX.

Constructed during the 1860s, the Stagecoach Inn was known as "Salado Hotel" and as "Shady Villa" before the current name was adopted in 1943. Military figures George Armstrong Custer and Robert E. Lee, and cattle baron Shanghai Pierce are among those thought to have stayed here. A good example of frontier vernacular architecture, the Stagecoach Inn features a two-story galleried porch with a second-story balustrade. -From the Texas Historical Marker in front of the Inn.

Also, if you ever eat there, they have more of the history of who has stayed at the Inn on their placemats. If I remember correctly, it is thought that the James Gang stayed here once or twice.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Lifting the Mist from the Georgetown, Texas Corner


Now that I'm really vested in to the whole HDR-thing, I wanted to pass along a little tip that I use when I'm just about finished with my post-processing.  I do something I personally call "lift the mist". 

With HDR photography, the finished product always looks a bit flat to me.  I think this is because all of the brights are darkened and the darks are brightened.  It almost looks as if there a fog or a mist that covers the image.  So, I've found a step that really helps make my stuff a look a little clearer (at least to me).  It's a very slight adjustment and you can really see the difference in a full-res image.  I'm not sure if my example below will convey the difference because of its size, but I'll put it out there anyway. You may want to click on them to get the bigger resolution and that may help. So, as an example, I will use my Georgetown, Texas Corner shot:



 
 Before

 
After


So what I do as a last step in my post-processing is, I adjust the exposure in Photoshop ever so slightly.  I create a layer and then go to Image | Adjustments | Exposure.  The settings I generally use are as follows:

Exposure: +0.08
Offset: -0.0020
Gamma: .96

These are all a general starting point for me and sometimes I'll adjust the opacity of the layer if it's too much.  Mainly this darkens the darks a little bit and brightens the brights just a hair.  Really, it darkens more than brightens and your mileage may vary.  But, once I do this, my shots usually get some added depth to them, like you could almost jump into them.  Be advised, you may lose some detail in your darks and some may not like that, but I prefer the overall look to the shot instead of having the slight detail in the dark areas.  To me, it looks as if the fog or mist has been lifted, hence my little term "lift the mist".

Give it a try and see what you think.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Snooty Wine Guy


Snooty Wine Guy, originally uploaded by Evan Gearing.
This was another shot taken during my lunch break the other day. It was a pretty fun looking statue out in front of the Georgetown Winery in Georgetown, Texas. I couldn't resist.

It is a 5 bracketed shot from -2 to +2 with some post processing using Nik Color Efex in Photoshop CS4.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Church Entrance


Church Entrance, originally uploaded by Evan Gearing.
Well I finally got out and did a little shooting in the new year. I took a brief respite during my lunch break from my real job and went into town for this particular one.

I was inspired to take this shot by a couple of people.. Van Sutherland and Russ Barnes. Van for the church itself since we were talking about a shot of his the other day, and Russ due to his great black and whites. I don't think this measures up to any of theirs, but here's what I was able to come up with.

Anyway, this is a shot of the front the Grace Heritage Center on Main Street in Georgetown, Texas.

Disqus for Evan's Expo