Sunday, February 28, 2010

Texas State Cemetery Visitors Center

This was yet another lunchtime personal photowalk for me. I've never been to the Texas State Cemetery before and I drive by it everyday on my way to work. So, I thought I might as well check it out. It's a very interesting place. The Father of Texas, Stephen F. Austin is buried there as well as the most famous coach of the Dallas Cowboys, Tom Landry. He was coaching them back when I was a fan. Now, with Jerry in charge and what he did to Mr. Landry, not so much. Of course I can't talk too much, I'm a despicable Detroit Lions fan. But, I digress. Anyway, this is from the visitors area at the entrance. Unfortunately I didn't have time to read all of the signs there, but it is definitely worth going back there. It would be much better when the sun is either coming up or going down as it is with most picture taking so I'll try again another day. I do have a shot of the aforementioned people's graves that I'll see if I can do anything with. Again, very fascinating place. Oh, and not to mention all of the confederate soldiers and other Texas dignitaries buried there.

I took this with my Nikon D90 and Sigma 10-20mm lens. The settings were ISO 200, aperture f11, 5 jpg brackets ranging from -2 to +2 at 1 stop intervals. I merged it in Photoshop CS4, tonemapped it in Photomatix ,and post-processed it in CS4 using the Nik Color Efex plugin, specifically the pro and tonal contrast filters and the bleach bypass filter.

Monday, February 22, 2010

George and the Tower

Not really sure why, so I guess I need to research it more, but there's a statue of George Washington on the University of Texas campus. It would be interesting to find out the connection for that someday. I'm happy that he is on the campus. Of all the presidents to choose from, he is the best IMO.

Anyway, I used my standard processing with this one, 5 brackets at -2 to +2, merged in PS CS4 and tonemapped in Photomatix. Then post-processed in CS4 with NIk Color Efex.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Steamy Capitol

Like my previous post, this shot was taken from the University Medical Center Brackenridge in Austin, TX. You can see a lot of Austin from the top level of that garage. However, be advised that if you try this little vantage point some time, you are supposed to let security there know you are going to take some pictures. I figure their jobs are quite boring and they need something to liven it up and we photographers are those who help make their job more interesting - even if the only threat we pose is the possibility of getting the city out of focus. Or, maybe because we like to setup tripods, they thing we're shooting something other than a camera. Sorry to disappoint those guys, but we photogs are pretty harmless even if we do look like Jason Bourne with all of our stuff... OK, maybe more like Maxwell Smart, but you get my meaning.

This shot was processed the same as my previous post as well. 5 bracketed jpgs ranging from +2 to -2 EVs at 1 stop intervals, ISO was 250, aperture f11 and I used my Nikon D90 with my kit 18-105 lens. I then merged it in Photoshop CS4, tonemapped it in Photomatix and post-processed in CS4 using the Nik Color Efex plugin's pro contrast, tonal contrast and bleach bypass filters at varying opacity levels.

Also, to setup for night time shots, I try to takes some test shots and play with the right ISOs until my longest exposure is just under 30 seconds.  I explain it all in my Night HDR post.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Austin, Texas Pre-Dusk Skyline

This shot is another pre-work adventure. I thought I'd stop at the parking garage at the University Medical Center Brackenridge and take a quick shot or two. There are some very nice views from up there. However, I learned quite quickly that one must inform security of his shooting endeavors or one might get a little talking to. That's what happened to me. As I was shooting, a rent-a-cop pulled up in his little pickup truck and asked what I was doing. I told him I was just taking cityscapes and he said, "Next time you need to tell security." OK. I don't think there will be a next time.

This is a 5 shot jpg bracket from -2 to +2 taken with my Nikon D90 and my Nikkor 18-105 kit lens. I merged it in Photoshop CS4, tonemapped it in Photomatix and tweaked it in Photoshop with the Nik Color Efex plugin using Pro Contrast, Tonal Contrast and Bleach Bypass.

Also, to setup for night time shots, I try to takes some test shots and play with the right ISOs until my longest exposure is just under 30 seconds.  I explain it all in my Night HDR post. 

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Another Tower

Another Tower, originally uploaded by Evan Gearing (Evan's Expo).
I wish I got out in the world more and had all kinds of different shots just building up in my archives so I could post something relatively different everyday. However, I'm not that good at trying to get a variety of subjects. So, I think this can become a bit monotonous. Please indulge me in this endeavor and hopefully someday I'll put up stuff that isn't the same everyday. Anyway, this is another in my Texas Tower series that I took a week or two ago. I liked the angle on this one and I like that the sun shone on it just slightly as the clouds were moving along.

This was in between rain showers and I managed to not get too many spots on the lens. Thank goodness. I think used the trusty Sigma 10-20 at the full 20mm. ISO was 200 and it's a five exposure bracket from -2 to +2 at f11 and tonemapped in Photomatix with some tweaks done in Photoshop with the Nik Color Efex plugins.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Up or Out

Up or Out, originally uploaded by Evan Gearing (Evan's Expo).
I took this on my way home from work last Friday. The Lois Perkins Chapel is located right in the heart of Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas. It's mostly a liberal arts school, but it is very quaint and has some nice architecture there to shoot. I snuck inside the chapel on Friday afternoon just to see what it looks like from the inside and shot a few quick ones and got out of there. You just never know when that lightning may strike, but churches with high ceilings are always something cool to shoot. I just wish there were more around here. Maybe there are, but I need to be more adventurous and less scared of the possible singeing that could take place once I step inside. ;-)

Texas Tower

Texas Tower, originally uploaded by Evan Gearing (Evan's Expo).
I took this shot a couple of weeks ago along with a few other shots of the tower. This one was kind of nice because it was raining the whole day, but the clouds broke for a few minutes. I snapped off a few before it clouded right back up again and started raining. It was weird. And, like a dumb-ss, I changed my lens a time or two, but luckily it was in between breaks in the rain. Luckily, nothing happened, but looking back on it I thought that was probably not too smart. If there was any water on the body or something and it trickled inside while swapping lenses, I would've been sick. But, I digress....

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Rod and Gun Billiard Table

Well here's an experiment... On my recent trip to Florida, we ate lunch at the famous Rod and Gun Club in Everglades City. I didn't have my D90 with me at the time, but I did have my Lumix DMC-TZ5. Of course it was set for the KISS concert I attended a couple of months ago so the settings weren't very good. Man, what a rookie mistake! Anyway, I tried my luck at getting a few hand-held indoor hdr shots with it and then expanding the size of the shot. They really didn't turn out too well, but after some manipulation, this one and one other that I may post later kind of grew on me. It gave the shot a sort of old time worn look like the photo has been around a long time and just discovered in some long lost archives. This shot is of the billiard room on the first floor. Some history of the Rod and Gun Club is as follows from their website:

"The Rod and Gun Club was originally built upon a foundation set by the first permanent settler whom founded the historical city in 1864. By 1922 Barron Collier purchased the Rod and Gun Club. He catered to many famous, notable guests and operated the club as a private establishment.

Half a century later in the year of 1972 the Rod and Gun Club was purchased by the family whom owns it to this day, the Bowen family! Throughout the years the Bowen family has maintained the Rod and Gun Club's old frontier values and rustic charm! The Rod and Gun Club does not cater to the needs of all vacationers but to those whom are seeking to experience a piece of history!

The first settlers in these parts were the Mound Builders. They were followed by the Caloosa Indians, the Spanish, and the Seminoles. When the braves retreated into the wilds of the Everglades after the Seminole War, a trading post was established at the site of what is now called Everglades City.

In the 1920's the wealthy industrialist Barron C. Collier swept into southwest Florida and bought up everything in sight. He carved out Collier County and planned to make Everglades City into another Miami. One of his first purchases was the old Allen House, built on the foundations of the first home put on the south bank of the river. The Allen House had been gradually enlarged over the years to house the fishermen, hunters, and yachtsmen who came through the city. Collier converted the building to a private club where he entertained the mighty and the wealthy, including a few presidents."

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Just off the Rotunda

This particular shot was taken inside the Texas Capitol building a few weeks ago. There's sch great architecture there. You can find something different to shoot just about every time you turn around. It's a great place to shoot and it's very photographer friendly there as far as security goes. And for us locals, it's a great place to keep up your photo chops.

I did my standard hdr stuff with the 5 brackets for this one, but I changed it up a little and used Topaz Adjust for the final tweaking. Sorry, but I don't remember the exact settings I used for it. I really need to remember to write the things down. Sometimes though when I'm processing, I think, "Whoa, that turned out nice. Now, how did I get there?" Another time maybe...

Friday, February 12, 2010

Lois Perkins Chapel Interior

On the way home from work today I stopped by Southwestern University here in Georgetown, Texas and tried my luck to see if the Lois Perkins Chapel would be open or not. Lucky for me it was. This was taken from the second level and I got there at the right time as you can see the light from the stained glass windows on the left shining on the wall on the right. However, I'm not too sure this shot turned out very well, but I like the perspective of it. I feel that lately my perspectives have all been from the center so now I'm trying to shoot from different angles. I hope this will add a little more interest and help me from getting too bored with these shots.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Father and the Capitol

Earlier this week I took my own little photowalk during my lunch hour. I'm trying to do that a little more lately just to get out of the office for a little while and try to get something new. Anyway, like my Rainy Tower shot, I went to the University of Texas campus again and found this statue of George Washington. He's facing the Texas capitol building as though he's making sure the government here does what it's supposed to. That may be debatable but I thought it looked kind of cool anyway.

This shot I converted to black and white using a trial version of Nik Silver Efex. I used the high contrast green filter. It really does a nice job of getting some great black and white effects from your photos. However, one thing that bothers me about this particular plugin is that it slowed CS4 to a crawl. I mean a craaaawwwlll. It was really annoying. It starts as soon as I open CS4. So, I may have to just set CS4 to not load the plugin at startup and see if that helps. If not, anyone out there have any suggestions?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Ground Floor Hallway

I took this one a few weeks back while exploring the bowels of the Texas Capitol. This is on the ground floor. I thought it would be a good candidate to try the old black and white treatment on.

It's a 5 bracketed shot from -2 to +2 EVs, merged in Photoshop CS4 and tonemapped in Photomatix. I then used Nik Color Efex to do my normal treatments and subsequently used the BW converter effect. Once I converted it, I went back and did one more bleach bypass layer at about 30% opacity.

I may post the color version another time, but I kind of liked the way this one turned out. What do you think?

Other settings include:

Aperture: f11
ISO: 200
lens setting: 10mm

Monday, February 8, 2010

Rainy Tower

Rainy Tower, originally uploaded by Evan Gearing (Evan's Expo).
This morning on my way to work, I stopped by the University of Texas tower to get a shot or two. This was pretty much what I got. I originally went in to shoot the Bob Bullock Museum, however, as soon as I got setup, the outside lights at the museum went out. So, I went to plan b, the tower.

This one was a bit tricky to process. The light on the right in the picture had a green cast to it that I tried to adjust and mask out. I think I got most of it. The original was really bad, but this version was about as good as it was gonna get.

Anyway, same processing applies with this one as the others pretty much; 5 brackets, -2 to +2, iso 400, f11, I think.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Inside the Austin Centre

Van Sutherland and I took a trip a few weeks ago to shoot some stuff around Austin and we tried the Austin Centre out for size. If you are a regular follower of this blog or of my flickr page, you probably know what I am talking about. Anyway, this is another of the interiors inside the Austin Centre which houses the Omni Hotel and some executive offices. We met a very nice security guy named Bernie Evans there who was kind enough to let us photo there. Hopefully we can go back someday. So many nice opportunities there, esp at the golden hour, I'm sure.

Public Of Tex

Public Of Tex, originally uploaded by Evan Gearing (Evan's Expo).
Another shot in my capitol series. As you can see, this was taken from the third floor of the capitol looking down over the seal on the floor. There are certainly all kinds of photographic opportunities in the capitol and security there is very good at letting us photogs trudge through there with our tripods and stuff to practice our trade. It's always a good fall-back place to take some shots if you just can't think of anywhere else to go. I hope it stays that way at the capitol for a long time. However, with the recent pistol shooting there, it makes me wonder.

This is a 5-shot hdr with the original jpgs bracketed from -2 to +2 EVs at 1-stop intervals, merged in Photoshop CS4 and tonemapped in Photomatix. I then post-processed in CS4 using the Nik Color Efex 3.0 plugin and specifically used the pro contrast, tonal contrast and bleach bypass presets at varying levels of opacity for the layers the presets created.  I probably should have masked some of the people, but I kind of like the look this achieved, plus I'm a little lazy.  Besides, the guy sitting down in the middle at the bottom took a flash picture while I was taking my brackets and his flash gave a cool little look after the hdr process.

Also, my camera is a Nikon D90 and I used a Sigma 10-20 lens.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Red McCombs Red Zone

Yesterday I decided to grab my camera and see what I could find during my lunch break. I originally went to the top of the parking garage at the Brackenridge Hospital to see if I could get anything, however, the conditions weren't too good and I didn't get diddly. Well, I took one shot and that one turned out questionable. So, I decided to see if I could get anything around campus or of the stadium. Here's one shot that kind of stood out to me. This is one of the entrances to the University of Texas football stadium, better know as Longhorns Stadium. I thought it looked kind of cool, so this is it. The doors here were open so you could go inside. In there was a couple of fast food places and more doors to actually get in to the stadium. I ventured past those doors, but everything past there was gated off. Just my luck. Maybe next time.

This shot was 5 bracketed jpgs from -2 to +2 evs, tonemapped in photomatix and tweaked with the Nik Color Efex plugin in Photoshop CS4.

Friday, February 5, 2010

New Version of DXO Optics Pro

From the team at DXO Labs:


Dear photographer,

The DxO Labs team is pleased to announce the availability of DxO Optics Pro 6.1.2 for Windows. This new version supports the following additional equipment:

  • 5 new cameras: Panasonic Lumix GH1 and LX3; Pentax K-7; Sony A500 and A550
  • 81 new body/lens combinations for the following cameras: Canon 7D, 20D, 30D, 40D, 50D, 400D, 450D and 500D; Fuji S5; Nikon D200, D300, D300s, D50, D3000, D5000 and D80; Pentax K-7; Panasonic LX3 and GH1; Sony A230, A330, A380, A500 and A550
>> Learn more
>> Free trial version

The photo press praises DxO Optics Pro innovations:

"DxO Optics Pro: Thinking Like a Photographer" - Sally Grotta, Digitalbenchmarks
"The noise handling is the best I've seen, [...] The ability to correct for fringing and lens optical deficiencies is really stunning" - Jon Canfield, Photography Blog

>> Read the complete reviews


The DxO Labs team

Eye of the Gator

During our airboat adventure in Florida last week, our captain, "Captain Darrell" (not sure if that's the correct spelling of his name), found an alligator for us to gawk at and take pictures of. He would just throw a marshmallow into the water and the gator came right over. The gator got right next to the boat and I was able to get this shot.  That reflection in its eye is me!  Kinda scary!

What I did for this particular shot was process a single raw in photomatix and then did some minor tweaks in photoshop. The main thing I did was add a vignette with Nik Color Efex to just really highlight it's eye. I really wanted that to pop. I hope I accomplished that with this one.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Mangrove Trees

I just recently got back from a trip to Florida to visit my sister. While we were there, we took an airboat ride through an area of the everglades called "10,000 Islands". What we went through were mainly islands of mangrove trees which is what you see here. This was originally a color picture, but I couldn't really get the color right so I thought I'd give it a shot in black and white. It's a single raw converted to three tifs with -2, 0, and +2 EVs and tonemapped in Photomatix. Then I opened it in Photoshop CS4 and converted it to black and white using the Nik Color Efex plugin. I also did a couple of minor exposure tweaks.

One other bit of interesting trivia surrounding this area... Apparently the Seminole Indian tribes used to inhabit these parts. I can't imagine the rigors of primitive living in this environment, but I guess it can be done.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Texas Capitol Dome

As I mentioned previously, here is one of the obligatory shots I took during my photowalk with Van Sutherland a couple of weeks ago. When in the capitol, one must get a shot of the dome. It's a must. This one is a 5 bracketed shot from -2 to +2 at 1 stop intervals and then tweaked in Photoshop CS4 and Nik Color Efex 3. Most of my post-processing consists layers of Nik Color Efex. I run the effect and then adjust the opacity of the layer and use the following formula:

66% opacity of pro contrast, 66% opacity of tonal contrast and 10% opacity of bleach bypass. Then I do some minor exposure corrections as mentioned in a previous post.


Anyway, there you are and I'll put out more soon.

Topaz Detail Major Upgrade

From Eric at Topaz Labs:

Topaz Detail v2 is a major update from v1 that triples the processing speed, sports a slick new user interface, and includes some new processing features. For those not familiar with it, Topaz Detail specializes in sharpening and detail enhancement without creating artifacts or halos. Its underlying algorithms employ the most recent advances in detail enhancement technology to accomplish this. In fact, many people say they like it even better than Topaz Adjust!
We're certainly very excited about this upgrade, and it's going to make your workflow much easier - if only because of the huge speed increase! Without further ado, existing Detail v1 customers can get Detail 2 here for the grand total of $0:
Detail Screenshot
Click the Mac or Win button to download the upgrade. Your existing license key will work for this update. Topaz Fusion users will also need to update to the latest version of Fusion.
If you don't have Topaz Detail, check out the very cool detail enhancement and sharpening plug-in here: Topaz Detail. If you like it, use the coupon code "DET2FAST" for a 25% discount on either Topaz Detail or the entire Photoshop Bundle. (Expires 3/01/10.)
Thank you so much for supporting us and we hope you enjoy the update. The reason that we are able to provide timely and free product upgrades is because you spread the word, and we truly appreciate that. This way we're able to spend more money and more time on making our products better instead of on advertising. So, if you like our software or service, we would be very grateful if you tell a friend or write a review. Let us know if you do!
Please reply to this email if you have any questions or comments. We would love to hear from you.

Best regards,
Eric from Topaz Labs

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Austin from the Long Center

One morning in January I decided to grab my camera and see if I could do something on my way to work. I have seen a lot of shots taken from the Long Center for the Performing Arts in Austin, TX and I thought maybe I could grab something that might be nice. Of course, trying to get a nice shot with the pressures of getting to work on time, esp. when running late, can sometimes be too much to bear. But, this is what I was able to come up with. Not too bad. However, I would like to get out there again, maybe at sundown, to get some more shots. We'll see.

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