Saturday, April 28, 2007

Its been as much fun as Christmas around here...

Today was one of those blah days, can't shake that stomach bug that I have managed to pick up along with a few other neighbors. Not enough to lay me out, just slowing me down.

Gorgeous day here and unfortunately I wasn't up to getting out. So....I dug through my library of images of nearby Monrovia Canyon and the waterfalls. I shot several about a month ago and just didn't have the skills with HDR to merge them where they looked natural. Well, natural in terms of registration and final picture.
I'm getting the hang of tone-mapping. When I work with these digital photographs I tend to recreate them with the look of Kodachrome, at least the look of those done in the early years through the 60's when they tended to be deeper saturated emphasising the warmer tones more than the cool. (Later films like Kodachrome 25/64 and later were still deeply saturated but more neutral in rendition which did very well in the commercial marketplace...but lacked the character in my humble opinion of the earlier films).

So I took some time today working up a few of the images controlling the micro contrasts and saturation a bit, running them through virtual photographer and its various tools to mimic those wonderful old Kodachrome's of yore and get images that look like they popped out of a 1940 and 50's era National Geographic.

HDR is a real life saver with Digital. Gives one so much more range in terms of tonal scale that you can focus on greater detail in the shadows and highlights and still have a balance within your darks and brights. Love it, especially when I can use it to share with the viewer what I saw rather than what the camera simply recorded. Its a real life jacket in capturing scenes where you have light rocks and a waterfall deep in a very steep dark Monrovia Canyon Falls.

Enjoy "Monrovia Canyon Dawn" and "Monrovia Canyon Falls" and its off to bed for me now!

Friday, April 27, 2007

Ghosts in the foreground...and a reschedule

Working with Photomatix tonemapping again today...I really like the control it gives you. In the end you need to switch from HDR formatting to JPEG files for the web so you lose some details and clarity, but even then when dumbed down and downsized for the web the results are pretty amazing.

Shooting for HDR creates an interesting situation I call "Ghosting". Ghosting for lack of a better term is when you have movement of items within your subject and it can't be helped as you need 3 frames of the same subject at different exposures. People are notorious for moving, go figure. Wind causes movement too most noticeable in small tree limbs. I'm actually starting to dig the ghosting...its like a picture Paul Strand made back in the 1920's where he in the dark room removed people and left their shadows in place in a shot he did in New York (I think it may have been near Times Square...just can't find a copy of the image on the web). Kind of eerie to see something man made in all its permanence with man himself just a wisp moving through.

Anyway, the other bit of news is I have a bit of a flu bug and I need to cancel tonight's appearance at the PnP Gallery here in town. Luckily we can do it next Friday,May 4, 6-9:30 PM. The info if you need it : 418 S Myrtle Avenue, Monrovia 91016. (It's located in the heart of Old Town Monrovia, 2 doors down from the Movie Theatres).

Anyway enjoy the "Ghosts of Westminster" shot in London earlier this month.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Meandering is good, tone mapping is better

This old abandoned church was explored briefly while taking a walking tour in the Jewish Quarter in Paris. (I had other things to get done that day like indulge my other passion , cooking and eating well, and needed to get to E. Dehillerin before it closed that afternoon). The church reportedly was being gutted and going to be rebuilt as shops and a restaurant. What grabbed my eye in the first place was on the other side it opened up to a courtyard shared by several apartment buildings. This courtyard was once part of the convent and rectory gardens. The whole building could be traced back to the 1600's. That little pocket of nature surrounded by ancient to very old man made structures posed a nice contrast.

I spent this morning learning how to get the most out of HDR and tone mapping. HDR is my current obsession and tone mapping was the latest conquest on the old learning curve. I am happy with the final result here, much more so than what I was able to get by using the automated pre-programmed stuff in Photomatix.

Now the details, this is a bracketed shot shot with a 20-35mm wide angle lens at the 20mm setting. I love this lense when I want to capture as much of a scene as possible with maximum depth of field. The base EV was 1/20 second, f8 and an ISO of 400. The other two exposures were bracketed +/- a stop on either side of that base. All were shot in RAW format so I didn't lose a single pixel.

The fun came in when I started to use the Tone mapping plugin for Photoshop. The controls are very user friendly and let you control so many variables that the results are much more what I envisioned when I shot the image as opposed to what the preprogrammed filters allow. The final image here loses a lot when its made small enough for the web, but you get a good idea of what the real deal looks like. Wahoo it sure is fun to learn more stuff.

This image will be with me in its "artist proof" version Friday night where I will be one of 2 artists featured at the Paint n Play 2 open house being run in conjunction with the "Family Festival". The details Friday, April 27, 2007 6:30 - 9PM. 418 S Myrtle, Monrovia, CA 91016. (PnP is located 2 doors south of the theatre in the center of Old Town).

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Into action, support the Arts!!!

Giving to the community is what keeps us all thriving. The Monrovia Art Festival Association has a simple mission to bring art and art education to the community. "MAFA" as it is known locally does just that. I do my share within the organization when I can and that includes donating pieces for their use when it is fund raising time.

May 12, 2007 is the next MAFA event : Acknowledge the Arts. In this event MAFA recognizes and awards a local individual or business that supports our mission. In this case its Chris Owens of the Focus One Credit Union here in Monrovia who donates their entire lobby for MAFA Artists to show their work.

The particulars: Ticket price purchased in advance is $25 per person or $40 per person with guest. Cost is $30 per person if purchased at the door. The ticket cost provides for admission and refreshments. Please forward your check to: The Monrovia Arts Festival Association, Post Office Box 92, Monrovia, CA 91017. The Monrovia Arts Festival Association is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization so that means your ticket costs are tax deductible and you get a nice evening with great food and lots of good wine. You may request tickets to be held at the door. And an invitation (click for a full size copy).
The piece I will be donating this year is "English Rose in Blossom". Straight forward photograph and will be on display at the Focus One Gallery later this week until the night of the auction.

Enjoy the song and video too. I found this on a blog I check in on by a local photographer "Citifarmer" , that is quite lively...may well have to be my summer theme song. It's by Tim Armstrong of Rancid fame, the cd "Into Action" is due to be released 5/22


Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Visual amuse-bouche

Ages ago (like 1984) there was a B-Movie, "Buckaroo Bonzai" and one of my favorite lines went something like "no matter where you go there you are..." . Travelling opens your eyes up to the world and it sometimes isn't so much the differences but the similarities that strike me.

Meandering around London and Paris there was so much to see and tease your eyes. Its kind of hard walking along these ancient cobbled pathes and not think about who walked in the very path you traversed during the dark ages. Like here in LA graffiti and other urban art like "stenciling can be found", just has its own twists. A few little tidbits for your own visual stimulation....

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Tour Eiffel (Eiffel Tower to the rest of the world)
The ultimate icon for Paris is "Tour Eiffel". Amazing in person. In daylight its cold gray steel pierces the skyline and visible from all over the city. With the coming of dusk it changes character. Slowly the incandescent spotlights on various levels uplight the tower bring on an incredible warm glow to the tower. Magically without any notice at that moment the sun drops below the horizon it begins to twinkle...eventually its a virtual explosion of brilliant white flashes all up and down the tower where it looks like a diamond blazing under spotlit jewelers loop. Totally amazing. Totally mesmerizing.

I have always loved night photography since the days I was doing the "dip and dunk" in my parents basement as a kid. Today I have HDR to help me along bringing in an incredible range of detail through out the image with no massive areas blacked out and void of detail or so burnt out they glowed.

I walked each evening just before dusk until sunset along the Siene from in front of my Hotel (Novatel Paris Tour Eiffel). I walked and shot essentially the length of "Quai du Grenelle" from the "Point de Grenelle" bridge where the other Statue of Liberty resides up to the Champs de Mars ReR station and the Bir-Hakeim bridge.

Enjoy this series of HDR images from "La Tour Eiffel" shot over 3 days and nights while in Paris. All are post processed with the help of the "virtual photographer" plug-in for Adobe's Photoshop suite and of course Photomatix

Last of the London HDR done

I finally cleared out the folders of stuff shot in HDR. I am so torn on what to do with this tool in my little bag-o-tools. Whether to go natural or surreal is a path I keep exploring.

The potential to go surreal tended to pull me more last night and down that path I went. HDR captures so much that I went out to exploit the depth of color and took it down the path of the exaggerated colors of the 1930's Kodachromes and postcards of that era.

London was experiencing record breaking temps the week we were there and spring sprung fast. There were literally fields of daffodils, naturalized all over the parks in the city. I shot a few all over the place. The one I worked up to look more like the 1930's postcard done on a Kodachrome here was shot in St. James Park at the end opposite of Buckingham Palace. HDR did a really nice job of preserving the highlight and shadow detail...especially in the brilliant white "Paper White" daffodils which actually were crosshatched with the shadow of a very large tree near by which I made pretty much disappear with the various tools within Photomatix.

The other image also was shot in HDR and post processed in Photomatix, then through the Virtual Photographer plug in for Photoshop CS. It was taken at St James Palace and the tiered sections of the palace and the chimney's made a nice stair step to the clouds above. Sort of an allegorical reference to how the Kings believed they held the job due to divine right.

Anyway...enjoy them and I'm taking a quick lunch break and going back to working on the "Tour Eiffel" HDR series later.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Real vs Surreal

A healthy dose of jet lag added into the mix and I keep wandering back and forth across the two liberally today.

HDR for those of you not following this blog is something I have been exploring a bit lately. If you want more details read the entry's from the last month or so for all the details. Short version is that you shoot your images exposing for the shadows, mid-tones and highlights and then use a program such as photomatix to meld them together giving you a higher dynamic range of colors and grays than can be captured with a single exposure.

HDR users out there have formed into two camps (It perplexes me why we humans do this, but we do). One camp is the "natural" guys who use it to only expand the range of the image while still looking natural. The other group is the "surreal" guys who make use of the program's ability to create surreal images by over emphasising the ranges and how they interplay with each other. Me...I run in both camps like a wild man and a hedge clipper (skip scissors those are kind of light duty risk taking).

So as I sit here in my fog meandering down both paths I worked an image that appeals to me an a few different levels. Both started with the same 3 raw files and were worked up differently. One is more natural, the other is going towards the surreal almost illustrative interpretation of what was there. I shot this overlooking the Edgware Road Station in London just before dawn.

The added bonus is that HDR since it is 3 separate images shot a fraction of a second apart you get some interesting ghosting from images that move. This becomes very noticeable in the long exposures needed at dawn which is why I tend to like the surreal version of the scene better.

Decide for yourself and enjoy two different versions of "Edgware Road Station"

just say "NO"!!!

Off the topic of my normal stuff, odd discovery is that just like the "Hunchback of Notre Dame" Paris today is overrun with Gypsy's. Am tossing out this tidbit as a commentor-blog pal noted he will be in Paris in a few more weeks. Here you go Wil...even what they look like.

When I first visit a new city I like to pick up a local tour to get a lay of the land and a feel for how things work. Interesting enough but the guide made it clear to heed the signs in Paris regarding "pickpockets at work".

He let us know that Paris is overrun with "Gypsy's" (his term not mine) from Romania that wear long skirts, travel in packs and approach tourists, especially us American varieties and present us with a card asking if we "speak English". Its a twist on the "I'm a deaf mute variety.

His instructions were to tell them "NO" loudly and clearly and to walk away.

Essentially if you take the bait they watch where you keep your money when you pull out your wallet to give them the odd Euro. Since the travel in packs the others watch where you kept your cash and when you start to move they swoop in and take it from the last hiding place you kept your dinero.

Sure enough when we got the Eiffel Tower (sounds like 'tour effay el' in french for a quick phonetics lesson) they were there in hoards. They were in a group of about 4 going from corner to corner presenting their card, getting some donations from suckers outside our group.

Not sure how it started, but we got the bright idea to sound off "No" in a 3 stooges harmony. We all laughed and it frustrated the hell out of the Gypsy's and their pals in the background.

So much for your education on street smarts in Paris, I have lots of work to do, LOTs and I need to get busy.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Wow Europe was incredible...

The travel gawds smiled upon us this last week in Europe...London was gorgeous and a warming trend started when we arrived. From the low 70's to nearly 80 by weeks end in Paris. All the spring bulb's were up and showing off their color...fields of daffodils, tulips all over the place. This visit only reaffirmed my view on London being one of the most charming and friendly cities. Paris certainly is a close second for this crazed American that can speak "tres un peu francais" and found no difficulties communicating with anyone.

HDR is fun, you can certainly do a lot with it in terms of presenting both "natural" and the "surreal". The couple I worked on today addressed the natural world, quite nicely I think in preserving details in the shadows. In the case of the "London Eye" it even does a nice job in keeping details in the cloudy sky. Saturation certainly wins across the spectrum in both.

Anyway jet lag is taking its toll and after downloading and sorting images I am too beat to do much more today.

Enjoy "Houses of Parliment" and "London Eye" for a teaser on the images done this last week while on "holiday"

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Art supporting the other arts...

No secret that I support all the other non-profit art groups out there. When I was approached by Jill Maglione, Vice-president of the "Happy Hour Theatre Group" for a piece to be auctioned at the upcoming fundraiser I not only said yes...but offered up some ideas on how the group can raise money.

The "Fundraiser Fete" by the "Happy Hour Theatre Group" is set for April 6, 2007 @8PM. It will be held at the NoHo Actors Studio, 5215 Lankershim Blvd (at Magnolia), North Hollywood, 91601. Reservations and more info can be had on this gala event by calling 818-206-4050.

It promises to be a fun and cheap evening at only $10/person. That gets you drinks, munchies (they were fancy and called it hors d'oeuvre even). There will be local artists present, art all over the place, live music and a special performance from a Magic Castle magician! And...there will be raffles and door prizes too. Go, "Dress to Impress" as their invitation says and have a great time.

Also...a final tidbit, since "Happy Hour Theatre Group" is a non-profit group as defined in 501 (c)(3) your $10/person is tax deductible.

I'd be there as it really sounds like fun, but alas I'll be half way to London. At least if you go you can see one of my pictures taken in the Yosemite Valley at sunrise a few years ago "Merced River Fog"

Monday, April 02, 2007

Tired and Hung
Am all nicely hung at the Monrovia Coffee Company. Good news is that I have 3 nice groups of three and space for a single impact piece. AM likely going to run with the first HDR of the Monrovia train station as that should stop people nicely in their tracks. Hanging it around 8AM Tuesday so if you are an ambitious soul come out and see me!

A couple quick snaps from my trusty Che-ez Snap blogger. The quality is pretty precocious...enjoy it for what it is...all glorious .3MP under $20 (at that price its worth it for the usb plug). You get the images on a wall...

More good news, I run at the Coffee Company through 6/9/07.
Prepping, packing, even a little shooting...

Show prep goes well have 3 more to get the wires on so I can hang at 3:30. As I mentioned a couple of days ago I am hanging today for a 3 month run at the Monrovia Coffee Company. The information:

April 2 - June 1, 2007
Monrovia Coffee Company, 425 S Myrtle Ave, Monrovia
Weekdays 6AM-10PM, Weekends 7AM-11PM

It was such a nice morning I had to go out in the garden for a break, camera in hand of course. The Bearded Iris I shot is from a rhizome brought to this country by my mothers, friend's grandmother from the Ukraine at the turn of the last century. This hardy old stock Iris puts the hybrids to shame. This Iris has cuttings and offspring from all over the United States from where it was first planted in Michigan's Upper Peninsula (yes...I'm a yupper by birth). Here in So Cal it naturalizes so fast it has to be seperated and replanted every 2-3 years. If you want cuttings...ask me in the fall!

Anyway Enjoy a couple shots of "Peach Blossom" and "Bearded Iris".