August Monochromes

I had a few images that I rendered in monochrome this month, these were the results of three walks I did with Nikhil, I got a few nice coloured images, but more that I processed in monochrome, which is unusual for me.  I have a few friends who always love my monochromatic work, so I think that they will like these images  🙂

I know that the title “monochromes” cover more than just black & white and sepia images, but I have not quite gotten around to expressing myself in the other formats as yet, although some of my black & white images are actually more of a selenium tone rather than pure black & white.  I tend to lean towards the idea that if it is close to black & white, then that’s where I will categorize it, even if it does have a slight tinge of another colour.  If the effect is more obvious, then I will rethink its category.

To start it off I have two Sepia images, one from the shore at the Kingston Promenade seawall and the second from the Manatee Pond at the Botanical Gardens, Georgetown.

Lonely Coconut
Feeding Time

And now for the Black and Whites, I have four new added to the album; and they go like this:

End of the Wall
Clouds over the Bandstand
Wading Out
Plaisance Palaver

I have found a fondness for monochromatic images, now all I have to do is learn how to represent them better and better, each time I try one I find something new, sometimes I want lots of detail and other times I want high contrast with starkness, sometime I want a bit of both.  Hopefully I am learning all the time  🙂

Two from the Shore

I was going to title this post “Two from the Seawall” but since the seawall itself does not feature prominently in either of the photos, I changed my mind.

I had taken these since the 20th of this month, but never moved them to the Seawall album, nor blogged it until now, my Deck photo that week took precedence and these fell by the wayside (so to speak).

Of course, I prefer one over the other, and I suppose everyone will have a preference, but I have found that when it comes to photography, there is never a time when everyone can agree on which photograph is the “better” one.  When I first started taking photographs, I had often tried to upload photographs that I thought others would like, then quickly realized that this didn’t work for me.  Now, I upload what I think are good photos, even if there are two or three that look similar, if I like them enough, up they will go.  By doing this, I have found that there is a great diversity in the “likes” and “dislikes” of those viewing my images, some that one group will like another will dislike and so forth.

Looking East
Afternoon Cardio

I wanted to try out a poll on my blog and this seemed as good a time to try it as any, so take a second and just let me know, which do you prefer?

The Deck – Week 34

I have always been fascinated by the “Kissing Bridges” in the Botanical Gardens, ever since I was a child and saw paintings of it on someone’s wall or prints in the old GTC telephone directories.  These bridges have been photographed and painted for decades and I find it hard to do a current photograph of it, I have tried a few times and never been satisfied with what I came away with.

It may also have to do with the time of day that I’ve tried  🙂  recently it has always been midday, I really should try an early morning or afternoon and see what comes of it.

I was back in there again this week with Nikhil, trying to get his photo for his 365 Project, and there I was faced with the bridge again.  This time, I came away with something that I was happy with, it may not be the iconic images that live on in my memory and on canvas, but I think it speaks for itself.

My photo for the 2010 Deck for the thirty-fourth week of the year:  The Kissing Bridge

Kissing Bridge, Botanical Gardens, Georgetown, Guyana.

One way to do it… Pegasus and the Clouds HDR

I have been asked to do this, so I am obliging 🙂

Let me start by saying “I am not an expert”, far from it, I am a hobbyist who experiments with various forms of photography, I happen to like HDR images although I don’t believe I have yet gotten a perfect one, but I have some I like very much and one that has even been recognised and included in a Best Of HDRs collection on WebShots.

Normally when photographers do a High Dynamic Range (HDR) image, it is in full glorious colour, but I have always been fascinated by the idea that some scenes render better in black and white, and that some of those same scenes may even render nicely in a black and white HDR.  I think I mentioned some of the terminology before, but for clarification I will write this post as if I never did  🙂

What is an HDR?  As I understand it, and HDR is an image that tries to capture as much detail in a scene as possible, especially those in brightly lit areas and shadowed areas.  This is where HDRs work best, in a scene that has both heavy shadow and brightly lit areas.  The human eye and brain is amazing, when we look at a scene, we can see the details in both these areas at once, but a camera usually takes its metering from one area, so if we meter for the “average” light of the scene, we get some blown out areas of highlights and some extra dark shadows, if we expose for the darker areas, all the detail in the brighter areas disappear, and vice versa.

In an HDR, we take at least three images or exposures.  You can take more, I have had limited success with more images and do intend to keep experimenting with that in the future.  The greater the tonal differences from bright to dark in the scene the more images you take the better, or more precisely, the more variation in the exposure from image to image, the smoother the transition in details from light to dark will be.  For the purposes of this blog-post I confine the description to the three that I took for the “Pegasus and the Clouds” photograph of my previous post.

I use a Canon Digital Rebel T1i (also known as the EOS 500D in Europe and the KissX3 Digital in Japan), it is my first SLR camera, so all my descriptions will be formed around this camera for this post.  For my three exposures I wanted to get a wide difference in the exposures to get the impact from the clouds, so went into the Exposure compensation settings and with the scroll wheel widened the AEB or Auto Exposure Bracketing settings to +2ev and -2ev, with it set like this, I will be able to take three consecutive photos, one at normal or 0ev, one at -2ev (or underexposed) and one at +2ev (or overexposed).  I also activate “continuous shooting” on the camera, when I press the shutter button, it will take all three exposures consecutively.  One tip, use a tripod if you can, I have a bad habit of not having mine around when I want to try an HDR and always have to try them handheld, this usually plays havoc with aligning the three images in the creation process.  Since the Canon shot all three without me even lifting my finger off the button, this helped a bit as I was hand-holding  the camera:-)

The images to the left are the three exposures, as shot from the camera, the top one being “normal” followed by the underexposed shot that gives me lots of detail in the clouds, and then the overexposed shot that gives me more details in the trees and shrubs.  Since I intended this to be a Black and White HDR, I did not do any colour adjustments in Adobe Lightroom.  I am trying out Lightroom, it is an amazing software for cataloging and processing my RAW files, Amazon has it for under $300.  From Lightroom I exported the three images so that I could process the HDR in a separate software, I had never tried before so I tried using DNG files as my export this time.

The software I wanted to try the HDR combination in is Mediachance’s Dynamic HDR, for its very capable handling of HDRs I find the $55 price tag reasonable.  In this software I go to “Create new HDRI” and add my three images, verify the “ev” values, select “align files in next step”.  and hit OK.

In the alignment stage, the software “fixes” one image, and allows you to manually or automatically align the other two, I usually assume that I had no rotational alignment issues with holding the camera and concentrate on the vertical and horizontal alignment of each layer, I usually reset the values to zero and move from there.  I tend to pick a spot where there are vertical and horizontal lines or crossing lines to align, it gives more contrast and overlay assistance.

Some things I find uncontrollable, like the movement of leaves in the wind, for this black and white, I chose to just ignore them  🙂  If after aligning one portion of the image you find that there is mis-alignment in a separate area, then you need to get into the complex area of “pinning” the portion and moving on to the next area and pinning and aligning it, and so on… just remember that there are two layer that you have to align each time.

Once you think you have the image aligned as you need, hit OK and go onto the next stage which I find the most fascinating, the Tone Mapping, this is where we get to bring out the details in those areas we really want them.  Dynamic HDR has some nice presets that just need tweaking for personal preference.

For the dramatic effect I was looking for with the clouds, I went for a Ultra-Contrast local method of tone mapping, I applied the “sky” 3D filter and lowered the smoothness of that filter to get the most out of the clouds, and just played with the dramatic light strength and radius for personal preference in lighting effects.  Once I had it how I wanted I processed and saved it to a high res TIFF file, which I then re-imported into Lightroom.  Just a note here; the tone mapping portion is where the photographer’s idea of the HDR is expressed, there is so much that you can do, from creating a “cartoony” type image (which I find less preferable) to a more natural type image, to a strong highly tonal image, and more.

At this point I could have just done a Black and White conversion in Lightroom and called it a day, but I was curious to see how my favourite monochrome plugin would treat the image, so I edited the new image in Nik Silver Efex, for my black and white conversion, not much to it, just some neutral conversion and then back to Lightroom.

In Lightroom, I noticed a lot of grain in the image, so I did a touch of noise reduction, some luminance smoothing and some negative clarity, and finally a small crop to remove the post on the far right of the image.

I hope I covered everything I did, since I had to do some re-creation on this as I wasn’t planning a “how to” post on this  🙂  so now I have a before and after image, a normal shot with no processing or editing, give the gloomy sky I could have done some contrast and still gotten a nice image, and the resulting HDR in BW

Just a closing note; this is based on my experience with this one image, there are other HDR software out there and there are other Black and White software too, the ones mentioned here are just the ones I was trying out with this image.  Go out, have fun!

Pegasus and the Clouds

In my younger days, I spent some of my days in my father’s house in Kingston, Georgetown, and this hotel has always been known to me as The Pegasus.  The name of the hotel has changed a few times over the years, but regardless of who has owned it or what name they gave it, it has always been known to locals as The Pegasus.  Under the new owners, it is once again The Pegasus (officially Pegasus Hotel, Guyana), a name that stirs up images of the mythological flying horse.  Of course, my images of Pegasus are of the winged white horse of the books and older movies that I recall, not the black beast of the recent movie, but times change and perceptions change.

I was walking on the Kingston Promenade with Nikhil, when I saw the clouds to the south-west, and although it is not usually a picturesque scene I thought that maybe it would make a nice Black and White HDR (High Dynamic Range)  image, so I took my three exposures and moved on to other things.  The only thing of interest in that direction, other than the clouds, was the Pegasus Hotel, so the resulting photograph was of Pegasus and the Clouds.

The resulting image come out a bit grainier than I had hoped, but I think that the overall image made a nice Black and White.

Pegasus and the Clouds - BW HDR
Pegasus and the Clouds - BW HDR

The Deck – Week 33

At the risk of looking like a total idiot, I went onto the road at midday yesterday for this week’s Deck photograph, walked under a few of the trees lining Avenue of the Republic, stood as close to centre under each as I could get and pointed the camera upwards.  Needless to say, I drew a few stares, lots of people wondering if the chinaman had finally lost all his marbles, or if there was a cat up the tree (we don’t see many cats up trees in Guyana, must be a northern thing)

This was one of the few “planned” shots, I usually wing it, go out and see what there is to see, but this was something I genuinely wanted to try out, so I took several photographs under the trees, trying to get the composition that was in my mind’s eye.  This is why I do not plan these things, you never get what the mind’s eye conjures up.  After several tries I got what I thought was the one I was looking for.  I still went out later with Nikhil, to take a walk and see what else I might get for the day, unfortunately the light was not co-operating with us at all yesterday, if you are one of those people unfortunate enough to get my personal email updates you’ll see some of the other image I retrieved from the day 🙂

Now, without boring you with too much chatter about the other images I took, here’s this week’s photo for the 2010 Deck:

Panoramas from Sint Maarten and Saint Martin

As I mentioned in previous posts, the island is divided into two portions, I would love to say halves, but I am not one hundred percent sure that the square mileage would be equal.  Anyway, as I was saying, it is divided into two portions, one under Dutch rule and the other under French rule, and in my photo jaunts across the island I actually managed to take photographs for two Panoramas, one in Sint Maarten and one in Saint Martin, so neither side can claim I didn’t do one, right? Right.

That being said, I am no expert on photography, much less Panoramas, but I liked both that I took, they have their appeal and, of course, their faults, but I give them both over for your viewing pleasure (or disgust, whichever label suits you).

In Sint Maarten, the Great Bay is where the Cruise ships filled to overflowing with tourist anchor and dock, there is a roadway that winds its way up the hillside on the opposite side to the area where the ships moor, and there is even a lookout point on that road set aside for viewing the scene.  Because of its vantage point high up in the hills, I needed only take three overlapping photographs to produce a simple panorama of this scene.  Fortunately, there were two cruise ships in the bay that day, so the image has that little extra caveat.

Great Bay, Sint Maarten, Netherland Antilles

I was taken to a spot on the French side that is not frequented by people, my memory fails me a bit here, I think it is somewhere near Baie Rouge (I welcome any clarification).  It was a little late in the afternoon and the sun was setting to my left, so I got a little colour change in the sky, I find that my best Panoramas (that include skies) usually are done nearer to the midday hour.  For this Panorama I wanted to include the shallow waters near the shore as well as the skies, so I took the photographs in portrait orientation mode, this meant more photographs to encompass the view than if I had used a landscape orientation for the camera.  In total I used thirteen (13) photographs for the panorama, and only cropped out a portion to the left that was too much into the afternoon sun.

Near Baie Rouge, Saint Martin, French Antilles

Sometimes one photograph of a scene is not enough to express the feeling that envelopes a person, that’s when you either take a veritable cornucopia of photographs of the large and small items of interest in the scene or you do a Panorama  🙂

I hope you enjoy the images I have shared, please click on them to see them larger (hopefully) at my site.