Saturday, September 23

HDR Experimenting (1)

Thanks to my friend and gifted Austrian photographer Andreas Mannesinger (See his link there on the right?), I got a guided tour of his Vienna on Wednesday August 2, 2017. I'll have much to write later about that day, but I've nostly used the outtakes of that shoot for this HDR experimenting.

I took a new camera to a 14 day European river cruise on the maiden voyage of  Teeming River cruises which included a day and a half in Vienna. It's a 7D Mark II. I upgraded from my 7D Mark II instead of going full frame so my three lenses would still be compatible. In addition to the cool reviews of the Mark II's processor's ability to conquer low light and high contrast, I was very interested in it's HRD and GPS capacity. While I generally switched on the GPS software, I've not yet examined the results. Instead, I've first examined the HDR capabilities in cooperation with Photoshop CC's built in HDR Pro. I own Photomatix Pro 5 and expect to eventually pair it with the 7D's HDR files. But first here are some immediate results with the PSCC + Canon features.

NOTE: I expect to add to this posting over the next days, as I work upon additional HDR images. Recall also that HDR is essentially exposure bracketing. Meaning the camera fires a burst of images, one which the meter judges as right on, and others that either over or under expose around that initial setting. Thus some of the images expose for shadow detail, others for highlight detail. By combining the images Photoshop CC HDR Pro (PSCC HDR-Pro) attempts display the average exposure, then pull in detail in both shadows and highlights from the other images made in that burst.

For example.... (1)

Subway Bustle
Here's an entirely meaningless grab shot from the Vienna subway. You may click on any of these images to enlarge the details. I purposely used a slow shutter speed to enhance the sense of commuter hustle-bustle. So the effect I intended is enhanced but so are the details in the shadows and highlights except for the streaks of dark and light where I intended to enhance the tone with some dramatic color slashes. Comments? Without HDR, this RAW image is entirely flat. Incidentally, PSCC HDR-Pro flattens the various shots from a cluster shot into one that is 16 Bits deep. Say what? Think of the image laid flat on a tabletop. Now take a ruler that measures in Bits instead of say inches or meters and measure the depth of the image. The thicker the image the more information that  sits at any one spot. Information that can be mined. In PSCC you can dig into layers to reveal the photos that exposed for highlights or for shadows revealing that information from above.

OK... Now most RAW images are 8 bits deep... jpg images for example. RAW images can be much deeper and PSCC allows us to dig into either 8, 16, or 32 bit deep surfaces. Here I chose 16 bits which allowed me to pull out those vivid yellows and see the flashes of green and blue? Hence while details are blurred, the color glimmers add an illusion of sharpness to the image.

Then here in (2)...

Street Worker

I wondered how a grab shot of a Viennese beggar might work when rendered as an impressionist painting. The lighting was viciously contrasty on a Viennese mid-day in August. I'm not at all happy with the result. I opted to leave the blue cast of the shadows, perhaps removing it might enhance the overall impact, but it just appears gimmicky and forced to me.  

In (3)...


So I decided to combine HDR with heavy texture to play with the wonderful human shapes lined up to refill their water bottles in downtown Vienna. The skin tones are perfect, and the shadows invited the texturing revealing suggestive detail and glimmers of color. Here I think that HDR will allow a lot of conceptual narrative. But this particular meaningless image was ready for the trash yet it provided a good chance to even out a harshly high contrast moment where the figures were in full sunlight and background in shadow. Oddly, as I look at it there seems to be a Norman Rockwell something wafting from this image. Y'think?

Now (4)....


Here the spooky colors of HDR totally pop. I could have muted those blues in particular but their drama seemed too dramatic to overlook. Notice the depth of field (DOF) here in the early morning sun (all images were hand-held) allowing for a smaller lens opening while utilizing a higher shutter speed. Thus the image is sharp while DOF is dramatically deep. You can easily peer down the street. There's really no value to me beyond craft in this image... It makes no comment beyond those that the building's owners might enjoy. Still it is high-craft thanks to the ability HDR allows for digging into highlights... Look at the sun and  window reflections while revealing the detail I wanted (note the area beneath the  under-hang under the number 265). 

Now here's (5)...

Maybe A Church?

Crunchy? U-huh. this one of those typical church-like buildings which seem to pock the streets of European cities. It may not even be a church steeple, perhaps a library? Regardless, it's pretty, but says little more to me. However there's a postcard attractiveness that sucked in my lens. Here I experimented with the Edge Glow and Edges Strength sliders in PSCC-Pro. Which results in a crispy-pop to details. I can sand my nails on the texture in this image. To what effect? The image is pretty without meaning and the effect's reduced its underlying charm. However it does show the power of PSCC-pro to inflate the edges of knife-like details. I can imagine using it sparingly in some images to create a purposeful distraction. I also almost completely removed all shadows from this mostly back-lit tower which also makes my brain say... "Whu?" It's a terrible fake, useful only when I might want to create a terrible fake to make a statement. And again, particularly in the blues, the colors are, well, creepy, don't you think?

Now lettuce look at (6)...

He's Eyeing Me!

Here the intention was to go surreal with a surreal Viennese billboard. In monochrome which I'd then selectively recolor by hand. Okay... technically it works, but it's a podge of purposelessness. Hey, everything doesn't sear into deep meaning, okay? 😥 However I got a lot more of that crunchiness in the grass and the horizontal slats in the upper right than intended. Apparently the edge sliders are considerably more powerful than they appear when working in PSCHD-Pro. Moreover the colors I chose are even creepier than the stuff that comes out of HD. Ugh! But the tonal map here is generally more believable and coming under better control.

Which brings me to (7)...
TWA? What's That?

Better. The idea was to create a travel poster for the Teeming River Cruises. Have you ever seen the classic TWA travel posters? They generally depicted paintings of  high-key iconic scenes from far-away places that hung behind the desks of travel agents. Here was my first chance to intentionally exaggerate the edge slider power in PSCC HDR-Pro. See how there's a white fringe around the edges? While I deleted some where it was most distracting, I emphasized it in this image then processed it through Alien Skin's SnapArt 3's oil painting filter. 

Okay, that's not Vienna, you caught me: But this image combined so many of the iconic Slovak details of their capital city along with their fearless use of primary colors that it cried out for the TWA treatment. For the first time the tools created exactly the feeling I'd preconceived. And note how even with the distraction of the oil effects, there are still shadow and highlight details where I intended them?  Okay, I'm getting somewhere... Um, right? 

Life's about learning, right. Critique and comments madly accepted either here to through the email on the right. Thanks...

Thursday, September 7


We boarded our Teeming River Cruises river boat on Friday, July 21. Ahead, a 12 day journey from Amsterdam, up and down rivers to Budapest. The Royal Crown carries just 90 passengers, and left Amsterdam at around 2:10 pm on Saturday with 89. Now why was that? 

Later I learned that Captain Hans de Gelder delayed leaving for a full 10 minutes beyond his scheduled 2pm departure. But the rules of the river, berthing, and crew assignments meant moving off even though a search for one missing passenger turned up nothing. Before disembarking they'd even called the Amsterdam police to see if the tardy guy was hurt, or perhaps hospitalized. Seems he left the boat around ten that morning to, "Wander around my favorite city.
Yeah, it was me. Without European cell service my iPhone, away from WiFi, was useless. Stupidly certain that the boat was leaving at 4, I contentedly snaped pix until about 1:55 when I decided to go back even though 4 was still way off. But the day grew hot, the mid-day lighting grew awful, and crowds were everywhere thick as July humidity. 

Imagine my surprise approaching the slip when, well, there wasn't a boat! 

At about 2:20 an empty Teeming Rivers slip adjoined Viking Cruise berths where greeters awaited their passengers. So I walked over and met a happy Irish fella in charge. Teeming River equips all of their disembarking passengers with identification cards that carry their boats' telephone numbers. The Viking guy got right on it. He sent me inside to relax, called the boat, and arranged a reasonable limousine service to meet the boat at a place called Roosseveltlaan, in Utrecht some  24 miles and 40 minutes away. My driver in a sparkling new Mercedes town-car described landmarks along the way. The Royal Crown's  captain detoured through a residential neighborhood's canal about twenty miles beyond Amsterdam. There the driver and I, along with a gaggle of curious neighbors, stood waiting (as a light drizzle fell) on this X for the Royal Crowne to poke its nose under that lovely bridge up there in the distance. 
 And, after about 20 minutes, it did poke under. But, as you can see from the picture here on the left, this was not a dock with no provisions for gangways or ladders. Instead the boat almost stopped, a guy grabbed my camera, while two other BIG fellas snatched either of my arms and flipped me like a cod onto the boat's deck. FWOOOP! As 89 passengers and a bunch of crew laughed and cheered, I became a celebrity. From that moment on, the crew and a lot of the passengers helpfully reminded me of departure times at each stop. 

BUT: The toughest part of all of this wasn't mine. Nope, my poor wife Rita was so worried. As the minutes ticked toward departure, her anxiety blossomed. Our reunion was tender yet, what is the exact word? Judgemental? Yeah, you remember that financer-guy Bernie Madoff? Well I know how Bernie felt. Fortunately I'm married to saint. 

Okay, with that outta' the way... How was the cruise? Where'd we go? What'd we see? Hear? Smell? Eat? Feel?

Sunday, September 3

Yeah, But Is It Art?

At a street market in Amsterdam there is a vendor selling boxed sets of compact paint spray cans. They come in sets of complimentary colors (including shading hues). And the boxes are cleverly open with an over-the-body strap that allows the user to dangle the cans at waist level for rapid access. European cities are more densely tagged with grafs than most of their US counterparts. They also seem to be far less political and/or gang related.
Questions: (1) Is this display on the corner of Elandsgracht and Derde Looiersdwars Straats in Amsterdam’s Centrum… art? Before rushing an answer, look how the city’s allowed that advertising box along the wall, and planted weed-like street signs. Look how bikes are strewn all about. See the utility boxes screwed to the walls. Is any of that, art? How should this scene look? Who makes that decision?
(2) Uncovered walls in Pompeii are wrapped in millennia-ancient tags. While much of the Pompeian graffiti seems advertising related (“Buy Deficia’s Big Sausages”) lots just reflect a passion of people to declare that they were there.. Is their an instinctual artistic need to brand a historic instant with their presence?
GEEK STUFF: Grabbed with my new Canon 7D through its workhorse 17-85mm zoom. Mid-day sun tested the 7Ds ability to capture HDR groupings… I’m thinking it dramatically passes that test. Right?