Oct 192010
Magic (Hour) and Science (Center) Meet

Speaking of shooting at the magic hour in the previous post, a prime example of a building which really comes alive at dusk is the new Connecticut Science Center in Hartford. I recently photographed interiors and exteriors of the building for Josef Gartner GmbH, the German contractor of the aluminum and steel facades of the main atrium.

Exteriors views of the Science Center from the east are tricky to shoot due to extensive construction, fences, and limited vantage points because it also borders the highway. The building dramatically modernized the skyline of Hartford, and while there are plenty of good views further away, it was a challenge trying to get a clear, closer architectural angle.

For the main shot above, I was determined to find a slightly different position than the images I had seen of the building. One possibility was a view from the highway overpass walkway, but it had an eight foot spiked fence, tree branches in the way, and vibration from the traffic below. Nothing that a step ladder, a tall tripod, and some rope to hold back the branches could not fix (disclaimer: no branches were harmed). While setting up, I also had to reassure the curious patrolling security guards that I was not planning to jump or something worse – then it was just a matter of waiting for the light to do its magic. While shooting, I also had to time it when there was a lull in traffic below, so the long exposures could be done when no cars and trucks where whizzing by and vibrating everything, not an easy thing on I-91 at any hour.

An extreme wide angle lens had to be used because of the size of the building and my close proximity. To maximize the tonal range in the image, it is actually a composite of five separate exposures, processed in Photomatix and Photoshop. Here’s are few of the additional views including aerials from a helicopter.

 October 19, 2010  Architectural Tagged with:  13 Responses »
Sep 272010
Swirling Ferns

In photography, there is a “magic hour”, that moment sometime after the sun sets when the light is truly magical.  When photographing architectural scenes, it’s that moment when a building starts to come alive with its own lights or reflections, and there’s still plenty of detail. In nature, there is also that magic hour, a subtle darkening ambient light that allows certain colors to seem iridescent.

Observing my yard just after the sun had set, the ferns where morphing into shriveled brown, lifeless forms but not before a final burst of colors and beauty which seemed to glow in the shadows.

My only camera on hand was the iPhone, which created a painterly effect due to the slow shutter speed, wind, and purposeful camera movements.  It was an attempt to capture in a snapshot, the first day of fall.

 September 27, 2010  iPhoneography Tagged with: ,  10 Responses »
Aug 232010
Gina's Twilight

Like many of my subjects, our niece does not like to have her picture taken. She’s been around me and my cameras her whole life, but now as a teenager she’s developed stealth techniques like the hoodie coming over her face whenever she sees me approaching with a camera.

I was only able to sneak a quick shot before she covered her whole face. While trying to work with what I got instead of what I wish I had, I liked the image’s intriguing gesture, but the mood was all wrong. Taking a clue from the movie posters I have seen for the book and movie series “Twilight” (which is one of her favorites), I decided to rework the image into a more mysterious and sinister quality. This was not going to be a pretty picture.

The transformation involved darkening the image, while holding and enhancing detail and attention to the eye by extensive vignetting of the whole image, and a few layers of color shifting to cool down the tone. The eyes were still not “alive”, so I also added a “full moon” reflection to the pupils. For comparison, here is the original image.

I wasn’t sure if she was going to be too happy with it because the image reminded me of a vampire hiding her fangs. To my surprise, she liked it and even called it “awesome”, a rare compliment. Go figure.

 August 23, 2010  People Tagged with:  15 Responses »
Aug 022010

Testing the iPhone4’s Pano app while Josie (lower left) prowls for low tide critters at Lamoine State Park in Ellsworth, Maine.

“iPhoneography” is a new term floating around the web describing images made with the iPhone. I was never impressed with the quality of images from my old 3G iPhone, so when time came to upgrade, my main motivation were the improvements to the camera and video.

I was able to take the iPhone4’s camera for a test spin during a recent trip to Maine. Going for a dog walk at sunset overlooking Eastern Bay, there was a gorgeous expansive setting and a perfect opportunity, but I realized that a single image was not wide enough to do the scene justice, so it was a job for the Pano app. This image is 180 degree panorama composed of seven different exposures and stitched on the iPhone. Despite all the automatic settings, it handled the panorama quite well and required just minor exposure tweaks in Photoshop to bring out detail.

The humps of Acadia’s National Park’s Cadillac Mountain and the park’s other peaks are visible in the distance on the left. Cadillac Mountain at 1,528 feet, is the highest peak within 25 miles of the coastline of the Eastern United States, and if you are an early riser and adventurous, you can witness the first spot in the country to be lit by the sun’s rays in the fall and winter. Here’s a reverse panoramic view from the summit.

The new iPhone4 has much better image quality, shorter shutter lag times, HD video, and much faster processors, which make on camera processing and many other functions a much quicker experience not to mention a gorgeous sharper screen. I also have been playing around with the HDR app, and its ability to squeeze out a much greater tonal range in extreme shooting situations is simply amazing and probably a post for a later date.

I am one of those photographers rooted in photojournalism that liked to wear a camera at all times, but it is often cumbersome and impractical. Having the iPhone in my pocket is now the next best thing. Despite the bad press about antenna and connection issues, it was worth it just for the new image quality. As they say, the best camera is the one you have with you. Now if I can can only figure out the proper way to hold it it so it won’t lose a connection…

 August 2, 2010  iPhoneography, Landscapes, Travel Tagged with: ,  10 Responses »