Quinceañera in Hermann Park

While we were walking around the Hermann Park area near the Medical Center in Houston, we came across several different photographers who were working with clients, taking advantage of the beautiful weather, flowering shrubs and distinctive architecture in the area.  We saw one photographer doing a bridal shoot in front of Rice University, and another unloading his equipment in front of the glamorous Hotel Zaza for some sort of social event.

But my favorite was this young Hispanic girl dressed in her quinceañera finery, standing in front of the statue of General Sam Houston where a photographer was capturing the occasion for the proud family.  I was fortunate to capture this shot with my 28-300mm lens in a less formal moment.

When I started processing the image, it seemed like a pretty mundane shot.  Nothing very memorable there, but I still thought the story was worth telling.  So I used the Topaz Adjust plug-in and selected a painterly filter which I tweaked slightly, and finally came up with an image that looked much more romantic and less harsh:

Quinceañera

For comparison, here’s the original unedited image:

Original unedited version

Original unedited version

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Houston Museum of Fine Arts in HDR

A few days ago I posted a shot of the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, Texas.  Today I’m offering another view of the same building from a different, closer angle.

It’s such a magnificent building, and the grounds are meticulously groomed, making it a magnet for photographers and sight-seers alike.  I really wish we had had time to visit the Picasso exhibit that was on display there…next time we’ll have to plan our trip a little better!

Houston Museum of Fine Arts - Picasso Exhibit

This is another HDR image, composed of nine bracketed photos shot with my Nikon D700 and the 28-300mm lens. I processed the brackets in Photomatix Pro V4, and then did final editing in Paintshop Photo Pro X5.

To Color or Not

I really have a love affair with black and white photography, and I’m always looking for opportunities to drain all the color out of a shot and replace it with shades of gray.

But sometimes, I just can’t resist the blue of the sky against the green of the grass.

This was one of those times, so I just decided to have my cake and eat it, too.

Here’s a 9-bracket HDR of St. Paul’s Methodist Church in Houston, Texas, processed both in color and in black and white.  The HDR processing was done in Photomatix Pro V4, and the further editing was done in Paintshop Photo Pro X5.  For the black and white image, I used the Topaz B&W plug-in.

It was a little windy that day, so there’s some ghosting in the clouds as they were skittering across the sky, but I actually kind of like it so I didn’t attempt to process it away.

So, which do you like best?

St. Paul's Methodist Church - Houston TX (Color)

St. Paul's Methodist Church - Houston TX (B&W)

Cancer Survivors Plaza – Houston TX

After the little Elvis diversion, we’re back to photos from our recent trip to Houston, Texas. I love this little plaza in the Medical Center area of Houston (although it looks as though it could use a little TLC).

Cancer Survivors Plaza - Houston TX

This is an HDR image produced from nine brackets, shot with a Nikon D700 and the 28-300mm lens. Processed in Photomatix Pro V4 and Paintshop Photo Pro X5.

Texting God?

I love candid shots, and I love black-and-white photography.  And when I can combine the two, it makes my day!

While I was in the process of shooting brackets for HDR processing at St. Luke’s Methodist Church in Houston, I noticed this guy sitting on the steps in front of the huge wooden doors.  I’m not sure if he noticed me as I pointed the camera toward him, but if he did, he didn’t really care.  He was much more interested in his smartphone. 🙂

Texting God?

I processed this in Paintshop Photo Pro X5, using the Topaz Black & White plug-in. It’s one of my favorite shots from the trip.

Houston Architecture in HDR

Wow, it’s good to be processing photos again!  I especially enjoy the HDR processing, and while we were in Houston I was able to get a few good brackets to bring back to the computer.  For most of them, I was using the tripod and shooting nine exposures (that’s one of the things I love about the Nikon D700, it allows a LOT of bracketing!).  But there were a few where I just shot hand-held exposures of five brackets.  I haven’t processed any of the latter yet, but I’m hoping that Photomatix will be able to align them without too much of a problem since there are a lot of straight line, architectural features in the shots.

So…here are a couple of images that I’ve processed so far.

This first one is the Museum of Fine Arts, which just happened to be hosting an exhibit of Picasso’s work, thus the banners on the front of the building.  The grounds were beautiful with the spring flowers in full bloom, and the partly cloudy skies gave plenty of shadows and light to enhance the HDR effect:

Houston Museum of Fine Arts

This next one is St. Luke’s Paul’s Methodist Church, located nearby the museum and medical center. I probably should have pulled out my really wide angle lens for this one, but I don’t think it came out too badly. I love all the detail in the facade of the building. It was a breezy day, so there’s a little bit of ghosting in the tree limbs that I wasn’t able to totally remove in Photomatix, but I don’t think it’s too distracting at all:

St. Luke's Methodist Church - Houston TX

There are more images to come, so stay tuned! It’s good to be back!

Wading Back In

I can’t believe it’s been almost a year since I posted anything new.  In my last update, I was dealing with my first wedding shoot, a spur-of-the-moment project that I was happy to do, but which totally stressed me out.  The actually shooting wasn’t that bad, but when I started processing the photos, I wasn’t pleased with how the images were turning out when printed.  The difference between the way they looked on my monitor and the way they printed was so drastic that it just about killed my enthusiasm for the project.

It was probably time to step away from photography for a bit, at least the more technical aspects of it.  In the meantime, I’ve enjoyed just taking shots with my iPhone for the pure enjoyment of capturing everyday life, humor and tragedy included.  Instagram has been a fun way to share those spontaneous shots without worrying about getting the perfect white balance or the rule of thirds.  It’s been a catharsis of sorts.

But recently I’ve begun to miss my dSLR’s, and when we planned a quick weekend trip to Houston to visit old friends, I decided it was time to take the cameras out for a spin.  It helped that we were driving instead of flying to Houston, so I didn’t have to worry about dragging all my equipment through airport security.  I was able to take both cameras (D700 and D5000), all the lenses I wanted, as well as my tripod.

And I’m really glad I did!  The weather was gorgeous while we were there, so I spent several hours shooting both single images as well as brackets for HDR processing.  And it was nice to have a good camera on hand to get a shot of all our friends at our little reunion dinner.

So, without further ado, here’s the first shot that I processed from my recent foray back into the photography waters.  This was a quick shot that I took of some flowers blooming along the sidewalk as we strolled through the Medical Center area.  I used the Nikon D700 with the 28-300 lens, and I processed the shot in my old stand-by, Paintshop Photo Pro X5.

Houston in Bloom

I’m in the process of working on more of the images that I shot on our trip, and I’m excited about getting back into the groove of things. Springtime is coming (sooner or later!), and it will be the perfect time to brush up on my skills.