Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Photo Of The Day

As an exceptionally mild winter wanes, I was reminded of a very cold winter back in 1983-84. I was living in Dubuque, Iowa at the time. Here is a photo I took then of the sunrise and rising steam from chimneys.

Monday, February 27, 2012

A Little Humor

I enjoy taking pictures of signs that I find amusing. A rich source of such signs is attempts at English in foreign countries, but native speakers seem to have their own troubles right here in the good old USA. These signs are all from the Midwest, but enjoy a certain unintentional ambiguity that makes them, at least to me, funny. Enjoy.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Photo-manipulation Fun

Here's my first foray into the vast world of photo manipulation. I've long wanted to push my skills in this direction, so that I can pursue a new form of creativity. As I learn more, and get better at it, I hope to learn how to combine elements from various photos into a new image, with realistic if improbable results. Doing so involves matching lighting, perspective and color balance, and is harder than it looks. For right now I am content with making a condo lean precariously over the beach in Perdido Key Florida.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Tiny Houses

I've long been fascinated with tiny houses. By that I mean unique, small houses that people actually seem to live in. I've found a few over the years, like the one above in Lime Springs, Iowa.

Back in 2003-2004 I lived in an older neighborhood in Champaign, Illinois, that was sprinkled with some fascinating tiny houses. Needless to say, I took pictures of them, which was good because several of them are gone now. Lately I've been rendering some of them as paintings, with interesting results. Enjoy.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Photo Of The Day

This is a photo of an old abandoned church, southeast of Decorah, Iowa, on highway 9. This photo was taken in January of 1993, and the church has since been demolished. The original negative was scanned and then converted to black and white.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Some Thoughts on the Sun

Sunrise and sunset are naturally attractive subjects for photography because of their dramatic lighting and intense colors. However, as many people have discovered, getting a good picture of a sunset or sunrise can be very difficult to do. Commonly, people end up with a disappointing photo showing a white disk and a black foreground. This is because the dynamic range of the picture, that is, the range of light values from lightest to darkest, far exceeds the ability of your camera to record.

So, what to do? Well, with current digital cameras and photography software, there are two approaches to a better sunrise or sunset shot. I'll explain both of these below, and further explain why I prefer one over the other.

Method one is the HDR approach. This involves taking several shots at different exposures (as above), and using software to combine them in a way that essentially averages out the light values in the scene. With HDR, you can end up with a shot that shows detail in the foreground, but still has color in and around the sun. The picture below (made using the three shots above) is an example.

Do you like it? I don't. Although there is nothing specifically wrong with it, it just doesn't look natural. In fact, if you were standing beside me as I took the picture, this is not how the scene would have looked to you. The various light values in the scene have been compressed too much, and although we've salvaged detail, it is at the cost of naturalness. This, by the way, is the main complaint about HDR: That HDR photos look unnatural, or even surreal. I've discussed that problem before.

In addition to the look of the final product, there is that problem that, at least right now, effective HDR requires the use of some pretty complicated software. This is probably not the solution for the average photographer. Instead, there is another approach, which is simple, and available to anyone with a camera: Expose for the sun, and look for effective silhouettes for the foreground. Here is an example.

In this case, I have given up on trying to preserve detail in the foreground, and concentrated on preserving the color in the sun and sky. Foreground elements become graphical in nature, as silhouettes. It works here, in this picture of Monterrey Harbor in California, and in the similar picture at the top of this post. By contrast, below is a shot I took moments before this one. In it I was trying to preserve foreground detail. It's not bad, but I don't like it as well:

Next time you want to get a picture of the sunset or sunrise, consider looking for strong graphical elements for the foreground, and then exposing for the sun. It's easy, and it works.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Shinjuku in Black and White

Shinjuku is a busy business and retail district of Tokyo known for its amazing neon displays at night. It's one of those places that, for a photographer, tends to be all about color. So, given my recent obsession with black and white, I decided to take some of my photos from Shinjuku, and see how they would look without all that color.

Predictably, many didn't work well without color, but some did. Above is an uncharacteristically calm and people-less view taken in Shinjuku Central Park. Below is the plaza in front of Shinjuku Station. Even without color, it conveys the frenetic energy of Shinjuku in the evening.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Travel Spot: Church of Saint Peter, Malmo, Sweden

The Church of Saint Peter in Malmo, Sweden, is a beautiful edifice built in 1319. Although much of the interior has been updated, it still features an elaborate, and ancient, altar, above. As is common in churches from the middle ages, important local personages are buried in the floor.

Of particular note is the baptistry, which has been restored, but features the original artwork from the 1300s on the walls.

The original artwork is quite elaborate, and beautiful.

Malmo is on the southern tip of Sweden. Today it is the Swedish terminus of the bridge and tunnel that connects Sweden and Copenhagen, Denmark. The university town of Lund, and the wonderful Lund Cathedral are just a few miles away, while Helsingborg is just up the coast. All worth a visit.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Full Moon Again

(Click on a picture to see a larger version)

The weather continues to be incredibly mild here in East-Central Illinois. Instead of piles of snow and battery-killing cold, we have clear skies and temperatures in the 40s and 50s. Amazing.

With the moon near full last night, I headed out in the evening to see what I could find. Above is the grain elevator at Pesotum Illinois, nicely flanked by radio towers. Below is a view of Tolono, IL, from south of town.

The forecast is for clouds for the rest of the week, so last night may have been my only chance for this full moon.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Ise in Black and White

I've been working on black and white conversions of photos from my visit to the Ise Grand Shrine complex in Ise, Japan in 2006. Above is a picture sof one of the massive Torii on the shrine grounds.

Below are a couple of views of Ohari-Machi, an old fashioned market town just outside the shrine gates.

Such old-style Japanese architecture translates well to black and white, I think. It reminds of watching some old Kurasawa films.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Photo of the Day

This is Neil Street in downtown Champaign, Illinois. I took the photo on Monday evening as part of a test shoot for a time lapse film I'm planning. The color version was fine, but I thought it took on a better look in black and white.