Zann’s One Word Photo Challenge – Up

I’m wrapping up the third week of my 2015 photo challenge, and the word for this week is “Up”.

I really didn’t get a chance to do much shooting during the week, and yesterday (Saturday) we were out of town for a family visit, so this morning I got out early in order to meet my self-imposed deadline of completing each week’s assignment by Sunday evening.

And, oh my god, it was cold outside this morning. It was 23° with a wind chill of 13° when I got to my first shoot site at about 7:40 a.m. Fortunately the skies were a beautiful blue with some fluffy clouds starting to roll in, in advance of a cold front, so it actually worked out well, even though my fingers were frozen!

Today I used my Nikon D700 with the 24-85mm lens so that I could get a good wide-angle view of the structures that I was shooting upward toward. I wanted to try and convey a sense of how tall they were by including as much of the base as possible. Of course this means I wound up with perpective distortion, but in this case I really didn’t mind, in fact I welcomed it. They’re all shot in portrait mode to enhance the “up” factor.

I’ve processed these, as usual, in Paint Shop Pro X7, using various Topaz plug-ins–Adjust, Clarity, DeNoise, B&W Effects, Lens Effects, and a new one that I just picked up this week, Restyle.

So, here are the results of this morning’s efforts:

Transmission tower, using Topaz Restyle for some color tweaking:

UP_oneword_004_2015-02-15_psptpzrestyle

The same transmission tower, from a different angle, using Topaz B&W Effects:

UP_oneword_010_2015-02-15_psptpzbw

Water tower, using Topaz Lens Effects (neutral density filter):

UP_oneword_014_2015-02-15_psptpz

Flags in front of the Lee County Justice Center in Tupelo, using Topaz Lens Effects and Adjust:

UP_oneword_024_2015-02-15_psptpz

The old Cotton Mill building, using Topaz Clarity and Adjust:

UP_oneword_032_2015-02-15_psptpzadjust

Another abandoned industrial building, using Topaz Clarity and Adjust:

UP_oneword_039_2015-02-15_psptpzadjust

The one-word theme for next week, starting on February 16, is “delicate”. Feel free to play along! Just be sure to use the hashtag #zannonewordphotochallenge when you post your photos to your favorite site. Here’s the list of upcoming challenges, each of which begins on a Monday. Photos must be shot in the week indicated, before the end of the day on the following Sunday, although they can be edited later.

2015-photo-challenge-zannonewordphotochallenge

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Checking out the Slopes – HDR or Not?

When we visited the Snowbowl Ski Resort recently, they had just had their first snowfall of the year the previous night.  It wasn’t enough to completely cover everything, but it was certainly enough to cause some excitement among the people who had driven to the top of the mountain just to view the scenery.  And, of course, the kids were thrilled.

I was happy to get a chance to photograph snow at the same time I was shooting pictures of the aspens.  I was shooting everything in bracketed series of three (-2.0/0.0/+2.0), in both RAW and JPG format, just to try and cover my options for processing.  I wasn’t sure whether I would want to give these the HDR treatment, or just work with the single images.

Here’s an example of just how different the processes can be.  I took this shot just around 1:00 in the afternoon.  It was heavily overcast, with low-hanging clouds and fog in the trees just a few hundred yards above where we were.  It was a tricky lighting scenario with the dark pines, white snow, golden aspens and gray clouds.  There was a guy and his two kids climbing the slopes, offering a great perspective of how large the trees and the slope are.

Here’s the shot I took at “normal” exposure (I had set the camera to Aperture Priority mode), and let the camera control the shutter speed.  This one was at F/14 at 1/100 second, with the Nikon D5000’s equivalent of ISO 100.  I tweaked this one a little bit in Topaz Adjust (yeah, I went ahead and purchased it last night), and then did a little more adjusting in Paintshop Pro X3 (CLICK THE IMAGES TO VIEW LARGE!):

Now here is the same shot, but processed as an HDR by merging the three bracketed images in Photomatix v4.  I used the Fusion preset in Photomatix, and used the de-ghosting functionality to take care of the movement of the hikers between the three shots.  I then did some adjusting in Topaz Adjust, with final tweaks in Paintshop Pro, and here’s the result:

I like the way the HDR kept the gray of the clouds while highlighting the gold of the aspens, and this one obviously has more detail of the snow on the pines but to me it looks over-processed.  And I don’t think either of the images are exactly what I saw, color-wise.

So, I’ll keep practicing and processing until I get better at using the software as well as the camera.  But, it was sure fun seeing the snow last week.  Hopefully it’s a sign of a good ski season just around the corner.

Downtown Phoenix Architecture Old and New

Tonight I have three more HDR images from my photo walk in downtown Phoenix, Arizona this past weekend.

This first image is the bell tower at the historic First Baptist Church on Monroe Street.  The church was built in 1929, and it was gutted by fire in 1992.  The interior of the church is gone, but the shell still stands, including this bell tower.  It’s on the National Register of Historic Places, and the owners of the property are trying to pitch it to investors as a future art space of some kind.  Fortunately, there is a parking garage right across the street from the tower, and by climbing up about five or six floors, I was able to get almost eye-level with the top of the tower, avoiding any perspective issues with shooting the tall tower from ground level:

Downtown Phoenix 004

This next image is the the back of the Orpheum Theatre (on the right) where it intersects with the side of Phoenix City Hall (on the left).  I know that there’s a perspective issue on this shot–since it was taken from ground level with the camera pointed up, the buildings look like they’re leaning into each other.  I thought about trying to correct it, but decided that I kind of like the compositional aspects of the way the buildings appear to be huddling together.  I think there’s a lot of geometrical interest that would be lost if I corrected the perspective on the shot:

Downtown Phoenix 005

And finally, here’s a shot of the newly expanded downtown Phoenix Convention Center.  I really love the multi-color stone facing on the building, as well as the angles of the walls.  I also like the way the glass of the overhead pedestrian walk reflects a nearby sign–I didn’t notice that detail when I was taking the shot:

Downtown Phoenix 006

Each of these images was created from a bracketed series of three photos (-2.0/0.0/+2.0) taken with my Nikon D5000 and the kit lens (18-55mm 1:3.5-5.6) at F/13.  I used Photomatix Pro v3 to produce the HDR image, and then post-processed in Paintshop Pro X3 to tweak the brightness and contrast, and I used the Curves tool to modify the color balance slightly.

Hope you enjoy these images from a very warm October day in downtown.  I’ll be sharing more as the days pass.

Changing Perspective – Concord Baptist Church

I’m still working on some of the photos that I took a couple of months ago when I visited my parents in North Mississippi. Today I worked on one of the shots that I took of the exterior of Concord Baptist Church where my dad is the pastor. This is also the church where I grew up (many years ago), and where I played the piano for many years, so it has a lot of memories for me.

The front parking lot of the church slopes down sharply to the road, so when I set up the tripod for my bracketed shots, I was looking back uphill at the building, especially in order to get the full steeple in the shot. I was a little concerned about the angle, but I went ahead and took several bracketed shots to process as HDR’s. As I was shooting, the rain clouds were gathering, and I wanted to be able to capture the dark sky behind the white of the steeple.

Here’s how the HDR came out when I processed in Phototmatix:

Skewed Perspective

As you can see, the left and right edges of the building look like they’re leaning in toward each other, rather than standing up straight.  So I decided to play around with some of the photo adjustment tools in Paintshop Pro to see if I could correct the perspective problem.  I used the Perspective-Vertical tool to widen out the photo at the top while keeping the bottom at its original width, thus “stretching” the picture across the top to make the building stand up straight.  I then did a few adjustments to contrast, brightness, etc., and ended up with this version:

Perspective Corrected

Check out the vertical wall on the far left of the building just above the A/C unit, and compare it to the first shot.  Hopefully you can see the difference (although Andy had a little trouble seeing it! ).

Tonight we’re heading over toward Goodyear to have dinner with my sister-in-law, and I’m hoping that while we’re in the area we can go back to the Estrella Star Tower and maybe get some night shots.  Here’s a link to the daytime shots that I took there back in the spring.  I’m told that the tower is lit up at night, and I’d like to try my hand at some night photography.  However, the skies today look a lot like the skies in the photo above, so we may get rained out.

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