Friday, April 30, 2010

Washington Monument

From http://www.nps.gov/wamo/:

The Washington Monument is the most prominent structure in Washington, D.C. and one of the city's early attractions. It was built in honor of George Washington, who led the country to independence and then became its first President. The Monument is shaped like an Egyptian obelisk, stands 555’ 5 1/8” tall, and offers views in excess of thirty miles. It was finished on December 6, 1884.

Taken during our first trek along the mall on our way to finding a place to eat. We ended up in Chinatown at Fado's Irish Pub where everyone was watching the Capitals play the Canadiens. Good times.

I used the trusty old 18-105 kit lens for this one. It is comprised of 5 bracketed raws ranging from -2 to +2 EVs at 1 stop intervals. I merged it in Photoshop CS4, tonemapped it in Photomatix and post-processed it in CS4 with the Nik Color Efex plugin, using the pro contrast, tonal contrast, bleach bypass and a little white neutralizer at varying opacity level on the layers. I also used Noiseware Pro on the weaker noise setting and adjusted the opacity to 50% on a layer and the sharpened with Nik Sharpener at 85% opacity. Whew.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

#16 Memorial

#16 Memorial, originally uploaded by Evan Gearing (Evan's Expo).
Our first evening in DC, we decided to take a walk along the mall. Little did we know that this was the time that I think every school kid in the nation took a field trip to the Lincoln Memorial. OK, maybe just DC. But anyway, there were a lot of them! I guess this is the time to see the nation's capital since the school year is winding down. Or, maybe it's to annoy us semi-serious photographers. That's just a joke btw... It's good that the kids are getting to see this place, but it sure made it hard for me and three women to get around to look at anything. However, we managed. That sort of explains the angle for this shot. There didn't seem to be anyone milling around on the sides, so I thought this might be an interesting take on a familiar subject. I also have one taken directly in front and I will probably put that one out there in the coming days.

Abe Lincoln was one of our greatest and the things he had to endure to keep our great union together was really amazing. He was truly one of a kind.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Chapel Of St. Joseph Of Arimathea

This was taken during our tour of the National Cathedral. This is one of three chapels inside the cathedral on the crypt level below the nave. This is also the chapel where Helen Keller's remains are interred if I remember correctly.

From the Brochure of the National Cathedral:

The somber mural tells the story of Jesus’ entombment following the crucifixion. This chapel and Resurrection Chapel are primarily built in the Romanesque (or Norman) style of architecture featuring rounded arches and a heavier “feel” than Gothic architecture. The use of this style here imitates the medieval custom of building a Gothic cathedral over the crypt of an earlier, Romanesque one.

I used my Sigma 10-20mm wide angle for this one. I also did my standard processing but I bumped up the bleach bypass filter for this one to 25% opacity to give it a more gothic look. I hope it worked.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Metro Streak

Metro Streak, originally uploaded by Evan Gearing (Evan's Expo).
When traveling, one has to figure out the local transportation systems to get around, unless you want to pay for an expensive cab all the time. This is the Federal Triangle station in DC and the Metro system there is very easy to figure out. Except for maybe buying the tickets to get on. But other than that, the map and the layout does not take long to master. I just wish this system was in place when I lived there 20 years ago, but it was just in the planning phase back then. It's pretty amazing to see what has been accomplished since then. I took this shot on our next to last stop before being done for the day. I've always wanted to get a shot down there and I'm pleased with how this turned out.

This was 3 brackets from -2 to +2 taken with my Sigma 10-20 and all of the usual processing.

Monday, April 26, 2010

National World War II Memorial

As with my previous post, the next few posts I will put here are from my most recent trip which was Washington DC. While there we visited many of the different memorials. One of the ones I really wanted to see was the fairly new (2004) National World War II Memorial. It sits between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial. It's a very impressive sight to behold. It's comprised of two sides; one for the war in the Pacific and one for the war in the Atlantic. This particular shot was taken from the Atlantic side so you are seeing the Pacific side across the fountains. I highly recommend it if you ever visit there. A have one or two more shots from here that I will post in the coming days.

This one was taken using my Nikon D90 on Aperture Priority mode, Nikkor 18-105 kit lens at 18mm, is comprised of 5 bracketed raws ranging from -2 to +2 EVs at one stop increments, ISO of 200, aperture of f11. I merged it in Photoshop CS4, tonemapped it in Photomatix and post-processed in PS CS4 using the Nik Color Efex plugin's pro contrast, tonal contrast and bleach bypass filters at varying opacity levels. I cleaned it up using Noiseware Pro and sharpened with Nik Sharpener.

US Capitol Art

Well, we made it back from DC and had a great time. One thing to know about DC if you've either been or plan to go, bring your walking shoes because you will do a LOT of it. There's so much to see and you can take the Metro train everywhere (almost), but you will still walk until your dogs howl! At least mine are. It's nice to be home now and get some much needed recuperation before heading back to work.

This is a shot I took on our third day there. We just finished a tour of the US Capitol and we started heading back to the place we were staying. On our way out, this lady sketching the Capitol caught my eye, so I asked her if it would be OK if I could take her picture while she was drawing. She agreed and I fired off a couple. This one turned out the best I think. But, after looking at it a while, it seems a little weighted to the right. I will have to add that to my book of things to remember while shooting. However, I kind of still like this shot.

This one is three raws taken at f11, ISO 800, bracketed at -2, 0, and +2 EVs, handheld. I did something a little different with this as I did an exposure fusion (courtesy of Michael Tuuk) in Photomatix instead of a tonemapping and then I post-processed in Photoshop CS4 using the Nik Color Efex plugin's pro contrast, tonal contrast and bleach bypass filters at varying opacity levels. I removed the noise with noisware pro and sharpened with Nik Sharpener.

Friday, April 16, 2010

"How Do You Like the View?"

Last weekend I had some time to myself to go take some pictures. However, I only had a couple hours to kill, but I didn't have a plan. Darn it! I need to be better about that. So, I decided to drive out into the hill country and see if I stumble across anything interesting. Well, on my journey, I ended up at the Driftwood Estates Winery. Although I'm not a big wine connoisseur, I still thought it may turn out to be an interesting place to shoot. When I saw the signs leading to this place, I had thought of French or Tuscan architecture and big rooms with huge barrels of wine aging to perfection. However, when I got there, pretty much all I saw were a couple of corrugated steel buildings and an outdoor sitting area where people could get an incredible view of the hill country and the accompanying vineyards. Well, I only had about 15 minutes before I had to double-back, so I set up my gear and took a couple of shots. This is the one I think turned out the best of the bunch. It's a couple just relaxing and enjoying the wonderful view. I thought it was just a nice moment captured between two people.

I think maybe I underestimated the place because there was an area setting up for a wedding later that afternoon. I think it must really be a nice place. I just wish I had more time there.

I had second thoughts about posting this shot because I wasn't sure if it was really worth it, but the more I look at it, it's beginning to grow on me. What do you think? I guess what I'm saying is, I'm looking for some constructive criticism here. Sometime I'd like to get into people shots, but in a discreet sort of way. Let me know if you think this is any good or not.

This was processed with my standard work-flow, of which I hope to publish relatively soon. The only difference is, this one was 3 raw brackets instead of 5. I merged it in Photoshop CS4, tonemapped it in Photomatix, and post-processed it in Photoshop using the Nik Color Efex plugin. I used the pro contrast, tonal contrast, bleach bypass and glamour glow filters at varying opacity levels. I cleaned it up with Noiseware Pro and sharpened with Nik Sharpener.

Lastly, I think this will be the last of my posts for the next two weeks or so as I'm heading off to Washington DC for a few days next week. Thanks for reading and I'll see you soon!

Oh, and don't forget to check out my new store.  If there's something on this blog that is not there, email me at egearing at gmail dot com (I spelled it out so as not to get slammed by spammers) and I will be sure to post it!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

New Online Photo Gallery and Other Stuff

In another attempt to help keep my hobby up to date, I have created an online gallery and store to sell some of my better works.  If you go to http://egearingphoto.zenfolio.com you will see some of my favorite stuff that are available for purchase.  Zenfolio is affiliated with MPix and their service is excellent.  I recently ordered a print of my Red Truck on metallic paper that's 20x30 in size and it turned out really, really nice. Not to mention, the day I ordered the print, I selected priority mail for $6.00 and it came two days later.  Normally a package that sizes cost $20 for parcel post which can take up to a week!  I couldn't be more happy with it!  Please check it out some time and let me know what you think.  There's also link in the upper right portion of this blog called My Zenfolio Store.  So, now not only can you purchase a print from the "Buy Print" link (through Fotomoto) underneath the photo in each post, but you can also see and purchase more through my Zenfolio gallery.

In a bit of other news, I'm currently documenting my work-flow to give you a better idea of how I generally process my shots.  I know I sort of describe some of the things I do each time I post a new image (or at least I try to), but that really doesn't spell out everything in one post.  So, I thought if I can do that, I could refer to it in subsequent posts and then just touch on anything I may have done differently for the image in question.  It's in a very raw, draft form right now, but I try to work on it when I can.  There is one thing that will hinder that operation; I'm getting ready for a trip to Washington DC in about a week or so.  I'm really looking forward to that, but like I said it will slow the time it will take to get my work-flow documented.

Lastly, as some, if not most of you may already know, Adobe is releasing Photoshop CS5.  And, from some of the reports I've read, it has a really robust HDR engine in it that will give Photomatix a run for its money.  That interests me quite a bit since I currently use Photoshop CS4 and Photomatix.  If I can reduce the amount of software I need, I'll be happy as a clam!  The only thing I wonder about is how the Nik plugins will work with it or if I will have to wait and upgrade those as well.  I think I will wait on CS5, but I'm looking forward to hearing more about what it can do.

Well, I guess that's about it for now.  Again, please take a look at my gallery and I will be posting more images there as well as here soon.  Thanks!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Bluebonnet Sunset

UPDATE:  This shot made the local news weather broadcast and blog on KXAN.  You can see it here:

blogs.kxan.com/2010/04/12/bluebonnets-to-satellites/


Thanks to KXAN for providing the video for me to post here.  Pretty cool.  If you have some nice photos of wildflowers, send them in to weather@kxan.com and you might get Jim to mention yours as well!

Springtime in Texas is a great time of year. That's when the wildflowers put on an amazing show. These flowers here are known as bluebonnets and are the Texas state flower. This year has been a great year for wildflowers more than others because of the cold and wet winter we had this year. Last year was such a disappointment since it was so dry and hot the last couple of years. Some are saying this may be the best year yet. However, the place I took this had an even better display two years ago. They were even more dense than this. Anyway, this field is just on the edge of Georgetown where 29 and TX 130 meet. There's a Nazarene church there and this field is right behind it. Pretty spectacular I must say. But, in a few short weeks, these will be gone and it will be hotter than... um, something that's really, really hot.

This shot is a sort of mixture of traditional photography and HDR. It's three bracketed raws taken from -2 to +2 at two stop intervals. I merged them in Photoshop CS4 and tonemapped it in Photomatix. However, when I opened it back up for post-processing in CS4, I decided to take a different tack. I grabbed the brightest bracket and masked in the flowers in the foreground and then masked in the darkest bracket for the sky. The only thing left over from the tonemapping in Photomatix are the trees. Once I did that, I did my usual thing with Nik Color Efex using the pro contrast, tonal contrast and bleach bypass filters. I even brought in the graduated neutral density filter to darken the sky a little bit more. I cleaned it up with Noiseware and sharpened it with Nik Sharpener.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Corner of Congress and Nellie

Well, this is the last in my SoCo series. If you've read my two previous posts, you will see that those two subjects are represented in this shot. This one also shows a shop called Luther's from the corner of Congress and Nellie. I'm not sure what that store specializes in, but I think it's clothes. And I think I'm correct in my assertion that it's probably trendy/cool clothes. In other words, stuff that me as a consummate nerd would probably not be able to pull off. Anyway, I liked all three of these shots because of the neon that these places show off. All except maybe for that Austin Motel sign. Speaking of which, did anybody out there get my orchid joke or was it too subtle for y'all to pick up on?

This one was processed my standard way. I really need to document my work-flow. I guess that should be the next priority. Anyway, tomorrow I'm gonna try to take a couple hours in the middle of the day to try and find something to shoot in S. Austin. I just have no idea what that will be. If anyone out there has any suggestions, please comment here and I will check it out. Thanks!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

blackmail AUSTIN

Like the Austin Motel shot I posted yesterday, this one was taken in the morning on SoCo or South Congress Avenue in Austin, Texas. That part of town is known for its trendy and eclectic shops and boutiques. I guess this one called "blackmail" only sells clothes that are black. Seems rather limiting, but that's what they do. The reason I liked this place was because of the big neon AUSTIN sign on display in the front window. I thought it looked pretty cool and what's better is that they left it on. Otherwise, if they turned that sign off when they left, I probably would not have taken this shot.

This shot was processed using virtually my same workflow of merging in Photoshop CS4, tonemapping in Photomatix and tweaking in CS$ with the Nik Color Efex plugin, specifically the pro contrast, tonal contrast and bleach bypass setting. I then cleaned it up with Noiseware Pro and sharpened with Nik Sharpener. I also masked in the sky from one of the raw brackets to help cut down on the noise these night shots get when tonemapping in Photomatix. It really helps.

Camera settings include 10mm focal length, ISO 200, aperture f11, and shutter of 0.8.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Austin Motel

Austin Motel, originally uploaded by Evan Gearing (Evan's Expo).
Austin is a trendy town to say the least. One of the most trendy parts of town is located on South Congress Avenue or SoCo as it's know to the locals. One of the iconic places on SoCo is the Austin Motel. As you can see from the sign, it has been in Austin for 72 years. You can read about its history here. It has this very distinct neon sign and although it is an art deco sort of design, it also makes people think of other things, but I'm not exactly sure what that is. Hmmm... Anyway, I always though a great companion piece to this shot would be a nice neon orchid. Not sure why, they just seem like they would go together. I wonder if there is anything like that in this town? Um, probably not...

Anyway, I took this early morning shot with my D90 and Sigma 10-20 lens, at f11, ISO 200, 5 bracketed raws from -2 to +2 at 1 stop intervals, merged in Photoshop CS4, tonemapped in Photomatix and tweaked with Nik Color Efex using the pro contrast, tonal contrast and bleach bypass filters.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

St Mary's Altar

As I often am, I'm a day late and dollar short... In looking for something to post, I came across another shot I took of St Mary's Catholic Church here in Austin. However, by the time I realized that I should've posted this in observance of the Easter Holiday, two days have already passed. But, I still think it appropriate anyway. So here it is. I took this one back in January while photowalking with Van Sutherland. I posted another similar shot to this one that describes my little adventure while getting this shot. Let's just say that I had heard from others that the priest running the place is not too keen on people shooting in there so I got in and out as quick as I could, sweating profuse bullets I might add. That could explain a couple of blotches on the shot, hehe.

This shot is 5 bracketed jpgs this time... but unlike my blunderous previous post, this was purposeful. I have been experimenting with shooting fine jpgs vs raws for my brackets and most of the time, I really can't tell much difference. However, with Adobe Camera Raw, while you can still open jpgs with it, processing raw files gives you a bit more flexibility. It's much easier to change white balance and other things. Overall raw is better, but fine jpgs are also a pretty good way too.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Moon Over the Capitol (and the big blunder)

Before I get into the details of this shot, I want to pass along that I had the honor and privilege of being mentioned in a couple of blogs recently. One is Van Sutherland's Exile Imaging blog and the other is Alan Kesselhaut's blog. They are both excellent photographers and have great blogs themselves. For them to mention me in such a positive light is quite an honor to say the least. Of course, after I talk about this picture above, they may change their minds. So, onto the blunder and thanks again Van and Alan! Check out their blogs when you get a chance!

As you can see, this is a shot of the Texas State Capitol that I took on the morning of April 1st, 2010. I was pretty excited about getting it because, as you can see, the moon was full and the clouds were really moving fast so as to not totally obstruct the light from the moon. I set up my gear and took some brackets here and there all the while thinking to myself that these are gonna turn out really awesome when I'm done! I couldn't wait to process them!

After work, the time came to load them up onto the the computer and make some magic! But wait, the file sizes were only about a tenth of their normal size and the extension was .jpg instead of .nef! NOOOOOOOOO!!! I mistakenly left the quality setting on my D90 at BASIC, the smallest resolution setting on it! What a bonehead/rookie mistake! You see, a couple days before, I had to take a couple of snapshots for work that didn't need any serious resolution, and basic was all that was needed. Well, I forgot I did that and forgot to go through my WHIMS (thanks Scott Kelby) before I shot. WHIMS stands for:

* W: White Balance
* H: Hightlight clipping warning
* I: ISO
* M: Mode (JPEG or RAW)
* S: Shooting (Resetting to the right shooting mode for the subject: Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, Manual, etc.)

Had I done the WHIMS before I started shooting like Mr. Kelby recommends, I would have noticed the mode was on basic and I would've changed it back to raw. Stupid, stupid, stupid (picture me doing the "I could've had a V8" thing to my forehead)!

I'm wondering, since I took this one on April 1st, was my mind playing a cruel subconscious April Fool's joke on me? If so, not very funny, but I digress once again...

Anyway, I decided to process the shot anyway and I must say, I'm not too disappointed in how it turned out. I think I probably lost a little detail here and there and maybe the highlights in some areas are a little too blown out, but overall I'm pretty happy with it. Let me know what you think.

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