Lightning Strikes the Triangle

date May 13, 2011 location Chicago, IL comments 20 Comments

I think I found a new favorite subject to photograph: Lightning. This shot was a miracle for many reasons. First, it was a crazy coincidence that I had my equipment on me when I was here in this highrise. Second, this was my first attempt at shooting lightning ever. I didn't really know what settings to use, but through trial and error and an enormous amount of luck I was able to make this capture.

For those interested in capturing lightning, the concept is pretty simple. You'll need a tripod because you'll want the expsosure to last a few seconds. Since I was behind a rain covered glass window, I had to turn my aperture lo enough to get the fewest number of dust and rain drop spots in the frame. The rest is pure luck.

Lightning Striking the Gold Coast TriangleView Exif InformationView on Map

Lightning Striking the Gold Coast Triangle

HDR Tutorial

date April 11, 2011 location Chicago, IL comments 69 Comments

Welcome to my HDR tutorial!

I plan to keep updating this tutorial, so please be sure to leave any advice or feedback in the comments section below. Let's get started...

I divided the tutorials into two videos, Part 1: Capturing the Brackets, and Part 2: Processing the Photo. There is really a lot that goes into both of these steps. I designed this tutorial for beginners and HDR experts alike, so feel free to skip any steps that you can't do (for example if you don't own a specific program that I am using, or your camera doesn't bracket in as many intervals), and you should also keep evolving your own workflow, don't change it completely based on what I provide here. This tutorial is the culmination of what I have learned over a couple of years making HDR images.

One thing that I left off is materials, these are very important, so here you go:

  • DSLR Camera: This is the most important. You can't do HDR without a camera, and I recommend a good one. The HDR process tends to bring out the details in the images that you will capture. Unfortunately, this means that if you don't use a good camera, the flaws in the images that you take will be exaggerated even more by the HDR process. It is also necessary to make sure that your camera does autobracketing. Autobracketing is the process by which your camera takes multiple pictures consecutively at various exposures. It is the process of combining these images that creates an HDR, so make sure your camera can do this. I shoot with a Nikon D700, most Nikon DSLRs are capable of autobracketing.
  • Tripod: A tripod is a necessary piece of hardware for shooting HDR. Since you will need to capture multiple images of the same subject, you need a tripod to keep your camera secure while your camera brackets away. I shoot with Induro CT-114 legs, and a Manfrotto 498RC2 head.
  • Software:
    • Adobe Lightroom 3: I use this software for manipulating my RAW photos and also storing my photo library.
    • Photomatix: This program is at the heart of my HDR processing. I use this program to combine all of the exposures that I take, and turn those images into a tonemapped, high dynamic range image.
    • Adobe Photoshop
    • Nik Color Efex 2.0: This is a series of photoshop plugins that I use in every HDR image that I produce. These filters are great for adding contrast, texture, and structure to HDR images.

Part 1: Capturing the Brackets

Part 2: Processing the Photo

And the final result...

My HDR TutorialView Exif Information

My HDR Tutorial

Droid HDR Wallpapers

date May 26, 2010 location Everywhere comments 1 Comment

Here are a few of my images cropped for the Motorola Droid. Enjoy these free of charge. Also, check out my iPhone Wallpaper Collection. I was hoping that I could make a collection dedicated to all Android phones. Unfortunately each phone running Android really has it's own resolution. So to the smaller crowd with Droids (like me), enjoy these, and let me know if there is an image on the blog that you would like cropped for the Droid not listed here.

<a href="">187/365</a> cropped for the Motorola Droid.

<a href="">188/365</a> cropped for the Motorola Droid.

<a href="">171/365</a> cropped for the Motorola Droid.

<a href="">89/365</a> cropped for the Motorola Droid.

<a href="">77/365</a> cropped for the Motorola Droid.

<a href="">258/365</a> cropped for the Motorola Droid.

HDR - The Autotune of the Photography World

date May 06, 2011 location Verrazzano, Italy comments 35 Comments

Yesterday, while browsing one of my favorite non-photography websites, the topic of HDR came up in a comments discussion and one of the comments contained the following quote:

"HDR=The autotune of the photography world"

This ignorant commenter is relating the use of autotuning in the music industry - the process of digitally modifying a vocal track by making pitch corrections - to the creation of high dynamic range images. This implies two misconceptions about HDR that need to be cleared right now.

1. The HDR image creation process (also called tonemapping) is easy.

False. For proof, check out my HDR Tutorial. I think there are a lot of people out there that think HDR is simply a button on the camera or a program that easily turns a standard image into a tonemapped one. This is not true, it has taken me almost 2 years worth of trial and error with all the different sliders and settings possible, to get the production of my photography to where it is now, and I am still learning new things every day. No two images are ever the same, and each image that I produce requires a different balance of settings to achieve the right balance of light.

Ok, so maybe it is not easy to create a tonemapped image from brackets, but any amateur can create a compelling HDR once they learn tonemapping, right? This brings me to misconception #2.

2. The HDR process can turn any photo taken by an amateur photographer into something appealing.

This couldn't be further from the truth. When producing an HDR image, all the rules of good composition, lighting, and time of day still exist. If you don't believe me, take a look at some of my early work and you will notice a complete disregard for many of the core principles of composition. I will admit that a byproduct of the HDR process is the creation of excellent looking texture and this leads certain subjects to be more suited towards HDR than others. The below image of a wine cellar at Castello di Verrazzano is a perfect example of that. That does not, however, mean that any composition, with any set of f-stop, white balance, ISO, and expsoure settings would come out looking like the image you see below.

I give my readers the benefit of the doubt, and I believe that it is only a small percentage of people that still have these misconceptions about HDR photography. For the critics that are still out there though, I ask you to stop looking at HDR as some sort of cheap equivalent of autotuning in the music industry and start seeing HDR as what it really is. HDR is simply a breakthrough technology in the photography industry. Photographers can embrace this technology, or they can ignore it.

The Cellars of Verrazzano.View Exif InformationView on Map

The Cellars of Verrazzano.

iPhone Wallpapers

date May 24, 2010 location Everywhere comments 2 Comments

So I figured it would be a good idea to start a collection of my photographs cropped for iPhone wallpapers. If this catches on I would consider cropping some photos for Android, iPad and who knows what else.

I usually shoot in landscape mode which isn't ideal for the iPhone. Please leave any photo you would like to see here in the comments and I will see what I can do about getting them up here.

<a href="">185/365</a> cropped for the iPhone.View on Map

<a href="">96/365</a> cropped for the iPhone.

<a href="">45/365</a> cropped for the iPhone.

<a href="">158/365</a> cropped for the iPhone.

Facebook Cover Photos

date July 05, 2012 location comments 1 Comment

Many people have asked me for permission to use my photos as their facebook timeline cover photo. This is obviously cool with me, and I have taken the liberty of picking out 20 of my favorite photos and cropped them to the facebook timeline size for your use. I did also include a watermark to my facebook profile page, I know, I'm a sellout.

facebook cover photo

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facebook cover photo

facebook cover photo

facebook cover photo

facebook cover photo

facebook cover photo


date November 03, 2010 location Canmore, Alberta comments 9 Comments

Today. This is 3 Sisters Peaks in Canmore, Alberta. Canmore is just 10 miles from Banff and the perfect town to stay in if you are visiting Banff - this information courtesy of the trusty Frommer's travel book. We spent 3 nights in this town, and didn't think to look for places to shoot here until the last day. A quick flickr search for "Canmore", sorted by interestingness of course, revealed to us that 3 Sisters Peaks was the place for photography, and we weren't disappointed. After driving through several ski homes - think summer homes for skiiing for anyone that wouldn't consider going somewhere cold for vacation - we we arrived at this beautiful lake. The weather was kind and calm, allowing me to capture this great reflection of color.

The Lake at 3 Sisters Peaks in Canmore, Alberta.View Exif InformationView on Map

The Lake at 3 Sisters Peaks in Canmore, Alberta.

Nikon D7000 Autobracketing

date September 20, 2010 location comments 1 Comment

A Nikon technician has responded to a ticket that I opened regarding this discrepancy with good news. The USA site is correct and the D7000 brackets in 2-3 frames up to 2EV!

It has been several days now since Nikon announced the D7000 camera. There is still confusion as to its autobracketing functionality. Autobracketing, as many of my readers know is a huge spec for HDR photogs and the difference between being able to do this at 1EV and 2EV is the difference between a camera that can't do HDR acceptably and one that can. The ambiguity is this, on the specs indicate autobracketing up to 1EV: While lists the specs as bracketing up to 2EV: See the below screenshot:

Nikon D7000 autobracketing

Cinque Terre Sunset

date May 04, 2011 location Riomaggiore, Italy comments 9 Comments

If you ever visit Italy, put this place place on your list. This is Cinque Terre during a beautiful sunset. Cinque Terre literally means "Five Lands", and is a section of the Italian coast containing five different villages, all with a beautiful, colorful style architecture which you can see here.

This photo here is from the very first town, Riomaggiore. If you do make it Cinque Terre one day, I would recommend staying for the night as the sunsets can be beautiful. We did not stay the night, and this picture was taken just minutes before the last train back to Florence left, so I didn't get to see this place in blue hour but I can only imagine the beauty of this place during that time. I got a great deal of satisfaction from taking this photo because these rocks were not easy to climb one handed while holding a very heavy camera rig. I was quite impressed with myself.

Riomaggiore at SunsentView Exif InformationView on Map

Riomaggiore at Sunsent

The Heart of the City

date February 23, 2011 location Chicago, IL comments 18 Comments

This was taken near Marina Towers in downtown Chicago.

The Skyline lit by MoonlightView Exif InformationView on Map

The Skyline lit by Moonlight