Weekly Photo Challenge: Serene

A recent trip to Rome gave me the opportunity to visit Montecassino Abbey.

ISO 250 22mm f/9.0 1/800

That’s it up on the hill. The Abbey was founded by St. Benedict and is beautiful with stunning views.  This image was taken at the nearby Polish War Cemetery. The calm, serene image that I have above makes the destruction of WWII and the fighting that took place here almost unimaginable. It was so quiet while I was here, peaceful.

I used a wide angle 11-22mm lens to capture this scene. I like that lens for landscape shots like this one, it helps bring a sense of expansiveness to the image. It was very bright that day, so I took a few exposures.  In Photoshop, I merged two of them into a single HDR image.  I find that HDR is sometimes a good way to create an image that has a good final exposure, meaning that I haven’t lost to much detail in either the dark or light spots in the image.  Other than that, I let the image stand on it’s own.  It was a bit hazy that day, and I haven’t attempted to take that out of the photo.

For me, this was a peaceful, quiet moment. You will have to tell me if that is the kind of feeling it evokes for you? Feel free to comment below.

While we are on the topic of serenity, I’ll tell you my life at the moment is anything but.  It’s a good thing though, just somewhat full to overflowing.  I have the opportunity to do several unique and exciting things over the next few weeks, so I have decided to take a break from blogging. I will be back mid to late January, so I’d like to take this moment to wish all of you a serene and peaceful holiday season and all my best to you for the coming year. Thank you for reading.

Cheers!

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Transformation

Something that I’ve found fascinating since I was a child is the ability of the planet to transform itself.  The idea that a volcano can change the course of human events is humbling, a reminder that we can’t control everything.  That’s what I was thinking when I shot the photos that would become this image:

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That’s Mount Vesuvius in the background and the excavated town of Pompeii in the foreground.  I knew a bit about the history of Pompeii before my visit but one thing that I didn’t know, or had forgotten, was that when the volcano erupted in 79 AD it added land to the area. Pompeii use to be the port, now the port is further away.  As for the photo, it went under a bit of a transformation as well.  I started here:

ISO 640 22mm f/10 1/640

This photo above is one of three shots, identical except for their exposure value, that I combined into one photo, making an HDR version.  From there I cropped the photo. There was quite a bit in the foreground that keeps you from moving to the back of the photo and the lurking volcano. Then I thought about the mood of the photo.  I wanted to express the indifference of nature to the ambitions of man. To achieve that thought, I removed the people in the photo with the healing brush tool. Seems a bit ironic. Then I put a cool toned filter on top of the photo and darkened the edges a bit to help draw your eye to the volcano.

I thought the outcome made for a more interesting photo but what you think?  Have you ever been to Pompeii?  For me, it was one of those places that I have always wanted to see and it did not disappoint.  Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

Cheers!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Experimental

Sometimes it’s fun to experiment, try something new.  I gave a few tools in Photoshop a spin and here is the result:

ISO 1250 22mm f/9.0 1/40

Not everything I did to get this final result was new to me, but because certain steps were, this photo took some time to produce. A typical learning curve with any thing that is new.  I started with this photo, shot in the early morning. The sun was up the sky was beautiful, but the streetlights were still on and even the traffic had a sleepy feel to it.

ISO 1250 22mm f/9.0 1/40

The first few edits were pretty basic. I cropped and straightened the photo. Then I removed the wire you can see in the sky with the healing tool.  Then I sharpened the photo. This is the color version that contains the sky that is in the final version:

ISO 1250 22mm f/9.0 1/40

From here I wanted to make a black and white version.  I find that sometimes if you boost things like saturation and vibrance in a color version it ends up being over the top in color:

ISO 1250 22mm f/9.0 1/40

But quite nice in black and white:

ISO 1250 22mm f/9.0 1/40

I then put my nice color version and the black and white version in Photoshop. At this point the photograph was two layers, black and white on top and color underneath.

With the selection tool, I picked out the area of the sky in the top layer, made a mask, then inverted the mask.  This had the effect of revealing the color sky underneath.  This was by far the longest step in the process.  I don’t have a whole lot of experience with the selection tool, it can be a bit stubborn and add in things you don’t want in your selection. I’m not a patient person. I would like everything to work correctly the first time, thank you very much.  I will say that this tool is one that has improved over the years. When I got that part of the effect to where I wanted it, I then dropped the opacity of the black and white layer to 95%. This brings in just a hint of the warmth of the color version that is on the second layer.  It also the same tone as the sky, so it makes the two layers clash less and work more as a single image.

What do you think of my final image? Do you have an image editing tool that you avoid because it drive you crazy?  Feel free to leave a comment below.

Cheers!

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Peek

Last week I showed you photos taken at the top of St. Peter’s Basilica from the outside viewing area.  This week I’ll show you a few details of the interior of the dome. These are shots I took on the walk up, just a few details from a place that is a grand and beautiful. I’m a bit leery of heights. Sometimes, that fear inspires me to take a photo.  Here I am taking a peek into St. Peter’s:

ISO 320 4.15 f/2.2 1/17

To get this photo, I focused on the grid and allowed the background to blur. Even with the blur, it’s pretty easy to see how ornate St. Peter’s is.  A photo like this also expresses my fear of heights, I often feel that I can’t focus correctly, so I have directed the camera lens to do the same. I was using my iPhone, which likes to self-correct things it feels the photographer is getting “wrong”, so it took a few shots to get the photo I wanted. In this case, I knew I wanted the shot to be in its finished form without any further editing.

In some ways, it was much easier to get this shot:

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Close up detail of the eye of an angel, part of one of the many mosaics that ring the walkway of the landing.  Close-up, in focus shots, are the kind of photos that I think my phone generally handles pretty well. Again though, the camera defaults to catching what it thinks is correct; while the details are correct, the color is not.  The original file looks like this:

ISO 500 4.15mm f/2.2 1/17

I edited the photo in Lightroom.  I warmed the overall temperature, giving it a bit more of a golden glow.  A warmth not captured in the photograph, but that I felt was there at the time.  I’ve also sharpened it a bit and darkened the corners, to draw your eye to the eye in the photo.

I knew there were steps and a climb involved at St. Peter’s.  It would have never occurred to me though not to bring both of my cameras.  This is one of those times that people sometimes make the argument that it is better not to bring a camera, to just be in the moment. I can respect that line of thought, but for me this is a time of compromise.  I took out my camera, got the shots I wanted, then put my camera away and just spent some time looking around.  I’m that person in my family, the one that always gets to the top last.  How do you handle times like these? do you ever go without your camera?  How do you like my glimpse inside St. Peter’s?  Feel free to leave a comment below.

Cheers!

 

Thursday Doors: You have to look up to see the Door

There are some beautiful wooden doors at Ely Cathedral:

ISO 800 50mm 1/100 f/6.3

The photo above was taken on the Octagon Tower tour so I was at eye level.  From the main floor of the cathedral though you would be forgiven for looking up and not realizing it was a door:

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Even with one open, from the floor it’s not overly obvious.  Standing next to it though, it’s obvious:

ISO 160 4.15mm 1/35 f/2.2

Getting good photos in a church can be tough. Often flash is not allowed so you have to use the lighting available in a creative way. It was a sunny day when I was visiting, so that was a plus.  The first and third photos in this post have been cropped and sharpened. Particularly for the first photo, I thought the available light highlighted the photograph in interesting ways.  The middle photo is an HDR image. I bracketed the shots and then combined them in Photoshop. In this case, I was looking to add as much detail to the image as possible.

The tour of the tower was really interesting, but to me the highlight was these doors. Having the opportunity to see them close-up really allowed me to see what beautiful works of art they are.  What do you think of my edits? Do you also enjoy seeing works of art from different angles?  Feel free to leave a comment below.

Cheers!

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Rounded

I climbed to the top of St. Peter’s Basilica this week and looking down couldn’t help but noticing how rounded St. Peter’s Square looks:

ISO 500 22mm f/9.0 1/800

I went in the early morning.  They officially open at 8, but were letting people in before that, so I was at the top just a few minutes after 8.  It was a hazy morning, but that made the view beautiful.  Here is the original file:

ISO 500 22mm f/9.0 1/800

The edits I have done in Lightroom included bumping up the temperature slider and the clarity. Other than that, I felt that the image worked as is.  It’s rare that I don’t crop a photo, but it this case I felt that wasn’t necessary. The best edit was the simplest one.  I had attempted in other edits to make an HDR version of this photo; I also cropped a version using the straighten feature.  Ultimately, it was this edit you see above that ended up being my favorite.

The climb up the dome itself was not my favorite moment in Rome. It isn’t hard in terms of the number of steps, but if you have trouble with closed in spaces it might not work for you.  The stairs are narrow and spiral inward in places. I made it, but it wasn’t a fun climb for me.  I was glad to have gone early in the morning when there were not too many other people which meant that I could just keep climbing to get to the outside viewing area and fresh air faster.   When I had done my research on the climb, I had only really considered the number of steps and not the space where those steps were. The view was worth the climb though.

The photo was worth the effort.  Have you ever felt this way about an image you have taken? What do you think of my minimal edit?  Feel free to leave a comment below.

Cheers!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Glow

In photography, there is often a lot said about the golden hour, including the fact that there are two of them. Like a lot of the rules of photography, you get some great results by paying attention, it is a fabulous time for natural light to infuse your photography.

Very nice, but my life often doesn’t work that way.  I have to make do with the light I have at the time. As a result, I’m almost always thinking about lighting and working with what I have to make a nice photograph.  Here is a nice bit of light I found and exploited:

ISO 1600 19mm f/22 1/250

To me, this photo is all about the soft glow of red and orange tones.  Here is the scene as I originally saw and shot it:

ISO 1600 19mm f/22 1/250

When I was taking this photo, I wanted to get as much of the scene as possible, so that included sky and surrounding trees, even though I thought I might be cropping later. When I went to edit the photo, I added an orange tinted filter and also boosted the orange and red tones in the photo, their saturation and luminance.

As far as cropping went, I used another rule of photography, and that is the rule of thirds.  Here is a screen shot with the rule of thirds grid applied to the photo as I was cropping:

Screen shot of the cropping process.

What I was thinking was that the docked boats were the point of interest and most prominent part of the orange tones. It was the way the light was illuminating the interior of the boats that made me take a photo in the first place. I have placed them at one of the grid intersections. This size crop also allows for the curve of the bridge and the people on it to be standing in a spot where your eye is likely to rest.  These are things that strengthen the composition of this image.

What do you think, do you like my interpretation of the light and the crop of this image? Your comments are welcome below.

Cheers!