Wednesday, August 29, 2007

In the immortal words of Popeye, "It's all I can stands, I can't stands no more!"

I have decided to move my blog on to what I hope are greener pastures. Blogger has been very kind to me but it just isn't giving me the quality that I want for my photo blog. I would like to thank those of you that have offered me suggestions on how to get my images to look better but I don't think I want to have to create Photoshop actions just to post an image. I have decided to give WordPress a try. I will be running it on my URL server and am very optimistic about the options and variations I will have available to me. The new site is located at:

I am sorry for those of you that have bookmarked this page and I hope it doesn't cause you too much inconvenience (I'll make it up to all four of you at a later date). Anyway, thank you for your patience and I hope to see you over on the new blog.


PS - I will be leaving all of my old posts up here just in case you need to reference back to them (only you know why).

Monday, August 27, 2007

And now for something completely different -
I am still messing around with my blogger settings to achieve a decent result for my images that I am displaying here. I pulled these two out of mothballs and messed a bit with the curves and saturation levels to try and get them close to what I see on screen during normal viewing (non-blogger). It's very frustrating at times but I am hopeful that someday I will dial in to the right recipe for displaying on the blog page. If anyone has suggestions or knows of a better color managed blog site (free being the optimal word) please let me know. As for these images, they were taken along the San Francisco coast.

HDR Image Processing -
I have recently had some discussions about HDR image processing and its pro's and con's. Most folks that are doing HDR (High Dynamic Range) processing on their images are using a product called Photomatixs. This is a great program when used correctly but it can offer up some strange and unnatural results with its tone mapping features. Photoshop (I believe starting in ver. CS2) included the ability to create HDR images but most folks don't really have any idea of how to use it to achieve the best results. I know that the first time I tried it in CS2 without any guidance I was very disappointed with the resulting image. First of all, I wasn't aware that the 32-bit image that was being displayed on my monitor as a result of combining my bracketed images could not properly be displayed by my monitor. I also was not aware of what was possible by playing with the adjustment curve when converting it to a 16-bit image. After stumbling across some great web site tutorials, I found that I too could get some great imagery by using this technique. The best results come from scenes containing a wide latitude of tonal ranges where you really want to pull out and keep all of the shadow and highlight details that you couldn't possibly capture in a single exposure (picture a dark object in the snow). If you take a median exposure you will, in essence, get a nice flat image. By taking separate exposures to capture all of the highlight values and then another for the shadow details, and finally one more for the mid-tones, you can then blend all of them using the HDR function in Photoshop or Photomatixs. I would suggest shooting in the RAW image format to preserve as much image detail and tonal range as possible (the Merge to HDR function in the Automate menu will still process JPEG and TIFF images if you don't have RAW images to work from). Also, if you really want to get some great flexibility, try using 5 or 7 bracketed images. It will take some time to process them all but your dynamic range will be phenomenal. Finally, you can actually produce an HDR from a single image but you most definitely need to be shooting RAW for this. You can process the RAW image in an editor of your choosing, such as Adobe Camera Raw, and save three differing exposures of the same image by adjusting the exposure slider (just make sure you don't change the color temperature). You can now proceed as if you shot bracketed exposures. Just for the record, you will not achieve nearly the expanded range and depth of exposure from using one image and your resulting image will also contain more noise than it would from using multiple exposures. This technique works best if you want to create an HDR from subjects that tend to move. The problem with bracketing exposures of, say, a landscape with big fluffy, fast moving clouds, is that the multiple exposures will not align well due to the moving clouds. This is definitely a case where a single exposure will give you the best results. (The last WAVE image I posted on here last Thursday is an HDR rendering from a single RAW exposure. The HDR image was generated by Photomatix and then processed in CS3)

Ok, so now that I have gone on and on without telling you how to do any of this, I will point you to some nice tutorials written by folks that have already done the hard work. If you are using the Photomatix software, or are thinking about it, try out this tutorial on the Vanilla Days blog site. It is very well written and gives some suggestions to setting those mysterious radial buttons and sliders.

I also found two excellent sites for processing HDR in Photoshop. The first is from Luminous Landscape which is also a great site for anyone that shoots landscapes or outdoorsy (technical term) images. Another outstanding tutorial was written by Ryan McGinnis on his blog, Backing Winds. His is one of the best step-by-step tutorials out there and will certainly get anyone with CS2 or CS3 up to speed in making great HDR images. So now that you are armed with all of this information, go grab your tripod and start bracketing those exposures!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Another Wave Image -
After having some time to tweak and polish some of my images I have come to the conclusion that this is one of my favorite Wave images. A thousand thanks to Stan Burman, our local man on the scene for getting our passes for us. He's the guy that made it all possible. Thanks Stan!

This doesn't look like it fits with the other Arizona shots I have posted but it was actually taken in a mission just south of Tuscon. The exterior of Mission San Xavier del Bac was in the middle of a restoration but I saw this little flower pot sitting on a shelf inside the visitor center being lit softly by the light from the doorway.

Monday, August 20, 2007

The Antelope Slots -
This is a shot from our venture into the Antelope Slots near Page, AZ. The slots were formed from water rushing through the narrow canyon walls which have been carved into beautiful artistic sculptures. They are narrow and high and there is little light coming in from above. This is definitely not a place for the shaky handed. Tripods are a must. We were fortunate to arrive at the slot entrance between crowded group tours and had the place almost to ourselves. It was a great experience to shoot in there and I can’t wait to go back again some day. If you are interested in shooting in the slots, NAPP Instructor Matt Kloskowski will be teaching a Great American Photography workshop with shoots at the Antelope Slots as well as other great locations around Page. Visit for more info.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Grand Canyon Pano -
I'm not sure how well this will work on my blog page but I thought I would post it and find out. The cause for my uncertainty is the size of the panorama. The original image was created from 9 separate images that were stitched together in Photoshop CS3 using the Photomerge application. If you have not had an opportunity to use this fantastically improved utility in CS3, I highly recommend it. I won't get in to specifics of how to use the feature since there are many tutorials available on the web. I can say that it is hugely improved and about as simple as saying "Here's my pictures, put them together and let me know when you are done." So back to my concern which is that actual size of the pano. The original is 467 MB and over 36,000 pixels in length. That equates to a printed image that would be about 8 feet long. Obviously I can't put an image of that size on the blog page so I shrank it down to a more manageable size. I just can't be sure what Blogger will do with it. As usual, you can click on the image to see a larger version (hopefully it will look good since you can't actually see anything on the smaller version below). Let me know how it works out in your browser of choice.

* For a much larger, screen filling, side scrolling version, click here
You will probably need to click on the image to make it full size as most browsers tend to auto-shrink images to fit the screen

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Rain over the Grand Canyon -
Just a final post before the weekend. I'm off to the airport in the morning and back home to torture myself with several thousand Photoshop tweeks of this weeks images. Have a great weekend!

Friday, August 17, 2007

Saguaro National Park -
I made a drive down to Tucson this afternoon in time to check out Saguaro National Park. After having driven around most of Arizona this past week I had grown accustomed to seeing cactus here and there. I was not prepared for the number of Saguaro cacti growing here in the park. It is just a site to behold. The park is a fantastic area that is very well set up for exploring by car or by setting off on foot through the numerous trail-heads that run throughout the park. A few thunderstorms rolled in around sunset so I didn't get any sunset shots but the clouds and the late afternoon sun did add some great natural lighting to the area. Tomorrow it's a little more Tucson and then back up to Phoenix and then home on Saturday.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Monument Valley -
Leaving Bluff, UT at 4:15 AM, Scott, Dave and I drove 40 miles South to Monument Valley. We arrived at the visitor center just as the sun started painting some incredible light into the morning clouds. We grabbed our tripods and set up for some spectacular shots. It was some of the best shooting I had ever had the chance to do and sharing it two great friends made it all the better! After shooting from this vantage point at the visitor center we hooked up with our Indian guide, Roy, and were treated to some amazing vistas as we drove and shot our way through the valley, surrounded by spectacular monoliths and rock formations. I will post more from this and our other shoots in the days to come. Make sure you check out Scott's blog for more images from our Arizona shoot.

The Wave -
Cell phone coverage has been spotty the past few days and Internet access, completely unavailable. This has hampered my posting of images from this week. That and the fact that i am completely worn out (for a complete run down of the week, pop over to Scott Kelby's site). Here are a couple of shots from our morning at the Wave. What an incredible site to see, as have all of the iconic locations we visited this week. I will post some more from our other shooting locations sometime today (we were up at 3:30 AM to get to Monument Valley for sunrise). Enjoy and have a great day!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Shooting in Tonto National Forest Park, Arizona -
I spent a busy day roaming the Tonto National Forest Park. The strange thing is, there really is no forest, unless you consider thousands of cacti to be a forest. Anyway, I spent the morning at a ghost town/gold mine. It is really a tourist draw but I was there before any tourists so it was kind of cool. Then I hiked for a couple of hours in the Superstition mountains. This is the home of the Lost Dutchman's Mine. Needless to say, it's still lost. After discovering how out of shape I really am, I headed North to Canyon Lake, then to the Roosevelt Dam, and finally to the Tonto National Monument to see some cliff dwellings. I finished off the day with some twilight shots back in the Superstitions. I'm picking up Scott and Dave in the morning and we will head North to the Antelope Slots near Page, AZ. I'll hopefully be able to post some more up there. Until then, have a great week. Hi D.C.

A few more from today's shoot.

Friday, August 10, 2007

New Blog Section -
I have added a new section of the blog which I call "A few useful resources". It can be found on the right-hand side down below the Links section. This is just a list of some books and training DVD's that I own and have found to be very useful to me in creating digital imagery. The links take you directly to the products in Amazon. I don't get anything for recommending them, it's just where I usually do most of my shopping and they have one of the best layouts for descriptions and reviews for books anywhere on the web. I will add more resources that I think would be helpful in the blogs to come.

New photos coming soon -
I am on vacation as of today, WoooHooo! I am taking the kids to the Prince William County Fair this evening and then I am off to Arizona to hook up with my buddies Scott Kelby and Dave Moser for some photographic hijinks in the northern Arizona canyons. It should be a fantastic trip and I will be sure to post some images as I am able. Until then, Have a great weekend.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Dull & Disappointing -
I am pretty disappointed with the color and brightness of the images in the last post. They didn't look like that when I processed them and even after going back and "lightening" things up and reposting, still not happy. I have added them to my gallery page under the Miscellaneous images. If you want to see them with a little more saturation and with proper shadows and highlights, look here.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Precious Rain -
For those of you that live in the East, you know how dry things have been lately. We finally got a little break this afternoon with some localized showers. Unfortunately not enough to make a difference but it did cool things off a couple of degrees. I took these out next to my house after one of the passing showers. I just slipped in the butterfly because, well, it's a butterfly.

High Dynamic Range -
I have been playing with some HDR effects in both Photoshop and some third party software. This is a sample made from 5 exposures of my BMW. I created the HDR file and did some tone mapping in Photomatix Pro. You can download a copy here.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Way too much time on my hands...
This is a little self portrait that I used to test out the Dragonizer action set that is available from Action Central. They have a ton of downloadable Photoshop actions that let you automate everything from workflow to applying some really funky effects. The Dragonizer is an action set that lets you apply some pretty dramatic grunge effects while still giving you the ability to tailor it to your own tastes. I posted the original as the second image so you can see how the effect changed the image (I applied the crop myself after running the action).

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Continuing Down the Civil War Trail -
Since I am still in bachelor mode with the rest of the family on vacation I decided to take another little day trip to yet another Civil War site. This one was a little bit further than the last. My destination for today was Harper's Ferry, WV. It had been a long time since I had been there. The last time I visited I had a 4x5 field camera in tow and digital wasn't even a consideration. Flash forward twenty years and I'm shooting digital IR. Who would have thunk it? I spent the better part of the afternoon wandering the very hilly streets and exploring the shops and the National Park grounds. The town sits on the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers. It is also the home of John Brown's attack on slavery, the largest surrender of Federal troops during the Civil War, and the education of former slaves in one of the earliest integrated schools in the United States. It is highly worth the trip if you are ever in the area.
(To see a complete gallery of my Harper's Ferry images, go here)

A Few More From Today...

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Playing Around
Just messing with some filter effects and blending modes. I should probably write down what i do just in case i find something I like. This turned out ok and sort of achieved the look that I had in mind when I began.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

A Couple More...
Here are some other shots that don't really fit into the battlefield theme but I did take them at the park.

Manassas Battlefield continued....
Here are a few more images from yesterday's shoot. I always seem to be shooting in the middle of the day. Not very many "golden hour" shots but sometimes you just have to shoot when the opportunity presents itself.