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Friday, December 31, 2010

Most Popular Photos of 2010

The following shots were my most popular (according to overall number of views) in my smugmug gallery in 2010. I would like to thank everyone for what I consider to be a very successful start in photography. I have always enjoyed taking photos and processing them as a hobby, but I never thought that I would ever actually make any money from my work. It is very rewarding to me to have people not only like my photos but actually want to display my work in their homes. I am still in a bit of shock that I was able to display some of my work on October at Loft 121 Number 5 as a part of First Friday, after only about a month of photography experience. Another highlight of the year was that I also won the Penn Camera Photo Contest for the month of November with a San Antonio skyline shot, which came as a complete surprise!

Along those lines as well, the number of "hits" across my smugmug gallery, flickr, Facebook fan page and HDR Photography blog have increased every month, but the increase in December was incredible. Thus far, my smugmug gallery has had nearly 22,000 hits in December alone. That is more than September, October and November combined!!

I want to thank all of you who enjoy my work and share it with your friends, co-workers, enemies, random strangers, etc. I could have never imagined such a steep increase in traffic, and I hope that it continues into the new year!

I would also like to thank Danny (for getting me hooked on HDR and giving me pointers along the way), Juan (for letting me show during First Friday), Luis (for convincing me to upgrade to Photoshop CS5) as well as all of you that left comments and followed me on Twitter and Facebook. Your comments and likes help me to decide what type of photos to shoot and what images to process. I greatly appreciate it and your feedback keeps me going!

Here are the top 15 images that I have produced this year. Is your favorite image among them? If not, what is your favorite shot that I posted this year, and why? As always, thank you so much for everything, and hopefully 2011 is even a better year for everyone than 2010!

Sea World San Antonio Christmas Tree

Gecko at National Geographic Museum in Washington D.C.

Parrot at Gator Farm in St. Augustine, Florida

San Antonio Skyline Before Sunrise

Casa Rio Umbrellas, San Antonio

Car on the Set of Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Washington D.C.

Snowmen Playing Football, Sea World San Antonio

St. Matthews Cathedral (Original Shot), Washington D.C.

Azul with Christmas Lighting, Sea World San Antonio

San Antonio Panoramic View with Christmas Decorations

Alamo Plaza Christmas Tree, San Antonio

Downtown San Antonio (I consider this the photo that really convinced me I could produce HDR images!)

Tower Life Building with Christmas Lights (and Texas A&M flag), San Antonio

Flamingos at Sea World San Antonio

St. Matthews Cathedral (Taken with better camera and lens), Washington D.C.

There are quite a few shots that are not on here (I really like some of the shots from I took in early December while on a small vacation in the Baltimore area), mainly because I recently posted them, but you can visit my smugmug gallery at any time and view all of the photos that I have posted. Once again, thank you so much for everything you have provided to me so far this year, and hopefully next year will be even better!!


Cloudy Alamo Sunset

Today's photo (and the last photo I will process this year!) was taken of the Alamo just before sunset in November. The sunset produced some pretty interesting colors in the clouds in the sky, and even though this shot was taken facing east, there is still a decent amount of coloring in the clouds. I don't really have too much to say about this photo, as the title and image sums up a majority of the shot. I will be making one more post today though, posting the most popular photos in my online gallery, as according to smugmug, as well as quick breakdown of some statistics from smugmug since I started my photography hobby in September.

As always, feel free to leave any comments or feedback either below or in my smugmug gallery, and remember to click on the photo to view it (and other shots that I have taken) in various sizes. Thanks for stopping by!

Cloudy Alamo Sunset

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Lift is Real

I took this shot while visiting Baltimore earlier this month. I thought the graffiti "The Lift is Real" was interesting looking, so I took a shot of it. I didn't know until I processed the shot tonight what the back-story of this phrase was. Apparently in 2009 there was a film released called "The Lift". Below is some information from one of the few websites that I found which contained information about the film:

Released on: December 04, 2009, 10:53 am
Author: Alexis Malatino
Industry: Entertainment

BALTIMORE, MD – Studio5 announced tickets are now on sale for the upcoming premiere of the shockumentary, The Lift. The film is an account of two young filmmakers in Baltimore City who attempt to make a documentary about the artists and musicians that share a building, but they stumble upon a rumor that changes their plans entirely. The premiere is Monday, December 21st at 7pm at The Charles Theater located at 1711 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD. Tickets for the premiere are $10.00 and available online at and in person at Cyclops Bookstore at 30 W. North Avenue, Baltimore MD.

The film was written and directed by Brady Starr and the "secret" the filmmakers uncover is apparently something to do with music and vampires (I can't exactly tell for sure, there are scattered sites around the web with some information but none of them seem to have much in the way of details). While the film seems to have been just locally screened in Baltimore, I think it was pretty neat to have found the slogan spray-painted near a bridge. I also think it is interesting that upon having researched the photo I ended up finding a lot more in the way of background than I had anticipated. I can't imagine that this graffiti would have remained since last year, so the film obviously had at least one fan that keeps the theme of the film alive.

Please feel free to leave any questions and comments either below or on my smugmug gallery, and remember, clicking on the photo links to my online gallery where you can see this and other photos in a variety of sizes. Thanks for spending some of your time reading my blog and looking at my photos!

The Lift is Real

Our Lady of the Atonement - revisited

About a month ago I posted an interior shot our Our Lady of the Atonement Catholic Church (original post is here). Today's photo is another shot of the church, this time taken with a Canon 10-22mm wide-angle lens rather than the Tamron 10-24mm wide-angle lens. Unfortunately I could not get to the same vantage point because the door to the balcony was locked, but even if it had been unlocked the shot would not have look as good because the stained glass windows were in the process of being cleaned. I got as far forward as possible with this shot to include as much as the sanctuary as possible but not include the open windows and/or workers.

Even though it has only been roughly a month, using a better lens and having a better understanding of post processing I think makes the new photo much better than the original. I would have liked to taken the exact same shot as before but that wasn't possible. It might be in the future, but yesterday it was not. As a side note too, this shot was taken with three bracketed RAW shots, rather than just a single RAW shot. The resulting shot I think looks pretty similar to processing the photo from just one RAW shot, there are some differences with subtle lighting, I think I might start to do interior/non motion shots entirely with bracketed images, but shots such as wildlife/roller coasters/urban areas with motion I think that using one RAW shot produces the best results.

Anyway, remember to click on the photo to see it in a variety of sizes, and please feel free to leave questions or comments below or on my smugmug gallery. Thanks for stopping by!

Our Lady of the Atonement

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Closeups from the Seal & Sea Lion Community

Today's post is comprised of two very close up photos of sea lions at Sea World San Antonio that I took with the Tamron 28-300 lens. The photos were taken at the Seal & Sea Lion Community exhibit at Sea World San Antonio, located in San Antonio, Texas. I took close to 400 shots (a majority of them at this exhibit) trying to capture "perfect" (to me at least) shots of the animals as they slept, swam, and begged for the small fish available for purchase that allows visitors to feed the animals. The first photo is of (I may be wrong on this, if I am please correct me) a Harbor Seal and the second shot is of a Sea Lion (I am not a marine biologist, I don't play one on TV, and I did not stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night, so please correct me if I am wrong!).

I tweaked the photos a bit to make the water appear roughly the same color and brightness in both photos, and I desaturated the overall coloring of the photo to make the animals a little less "glossy" from the water on their fur. I think the shot of the Sea Lion came out as the better of the two, what do you think?

As always, feel free to leave any comments or feedback, and remember to click on the photo to view each shot in various sizes. Thanks for stopping by!

Harbor Seal

Sea Lion

Sunday, December 26, 2010

It's a Long Way Down!

Today's photo is of the Steel Eel, a roller coaster at Sea World San Antonio, just as it begins it's descent from the first hill. I took this photo on the 26th of December when members of the University of Arizona football team were visiting the park (Arizona is playing Oklahoma State in the Valero Alamo Bowl, being held in the Alamodome on the 29th of December. Both teams visited Sea World over the past few days, you can read more about it on the "Inside Sea World San Antonio" blog post by Katie Preuss ).

I went to the University of Arizona team website to try to identify the players, but the only player that I am pretty certain I was able to identify was the rider in the first car wearing the grey Arizona shirt. I think it is Colin Baxter, who wears number 64 and plays center. Of course, this is just a guess, I think it is Colin Baxter based off similarities in this shot and his "official" photo, but I could be mistaken. Maybe if someone reading this is more familiar with the team (or even able to pass the link to the photo on to the team) they could identify more players.

My favorite part of this photo is the differing reactions of each of the riders. Some are excited, some appear to be scared, some appear to be very scared, and one rider (the man in front of the rider in red who seems to be flashing the University of Texas "hook 'em horns" signal) appears to be unfazed by the fact the coaster is about to drop 150 feet at a 60 degree angle reaching a top speed of nearly 65 miles per hour.

I took this shot with my Tamron 28-300mm lens. I wasn't quite zoomed all the way in (the Exif data states the focal length was 209mm) and the 1/400 of a second exposure time was fast enough to capture the coaster with minimal blur. I am quite pleased with the resulting photo after processing and I hope that you are too. I did contemplate adding some clouds in the background via Photoshop to give the shot a little more contrast, but decided against it.

Please feel free to leave any comments or feedback either here on the post or in my online smugmug gallery. And remember, you can click on the photo to view it up to X3 in size as well. Thanks for stopping by!

Long Way Down

Great White and Duck

The photos in today's post were both taken at Sea World San Antonio while I was visiting the park getting some day time shots. The first photo is of the inverted roller coaster "The Great White". The coaster opened in 1997 and the ride is actually the same layout, although the overall track is shorter, as "Batman the Ride", which strangely enough is also located at the other amusement park in San Antonio, Six Flags Fiesta Texas. (At Six Flags the ride is called Goliath, which is actually the same ride that was located at Six Flags New Orleans prior to Hurricane Katrina). I took this shot while testing out the speed aspect of a f/2.8 lens as opposed to a f/4 lens.

First Loop of Great White

The second shot is a shot of a duck that walked right up to the camera while I was debating on taking more shots of the flamingo and duck exhibit at Sea World. You can purchase food to feed the birds in the exhibit, and I think this duck thought that I was going to give it food. I like this shot because the background is blurred because the lens is fast and the subject was very close to my lens (I would say at most the bird was 2 feet away), blurring most of the background except for the primary subject of the shot (for example, if I took this shot at f/8 a majority of the image would be sharp).

Duck Staring at Camera

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Creek Bed and Sky - remastered

Since the original Star Wars trilogy is on Spike TV I thought that I would take a look at a photo I edited a long time ago and re-work it. I ultimately decided on this photo because it is currently the background wallpaper for my blog.

I am including the original photo as well so it is easy to compare the two photos. In the new one I think that all of the colors have a more natural feel to them as well as some other differences that jumped out at me:

  • the grass isn't eye-burning green,
  • the clouds in the sky have more detail,
  • the rocks in the creek bed are greyish instead of purpleish/blueish,
  • there is more detail in the trees instead of it being blurred due to reducing noise,
  • and hopefully some differences that you may notice as well!

With the original photo I only used Topaz Labs products, whereas with the new one I have the benefit of using a few products from Nik Software and combining them with Topaz InFocus and DeNoise. The colors in the sky of the new photo (specifically the yellow and red) blend together a bit more in the new photo which I think actually enhances the photo, once again making it look more realistic. I also applied the lens correction aspect of Photoshop CS5 to the photo which is why the dimensions look slightly different between the photos (a small adjustment that I think helps present the photos in a more natural manner as well).

Which of the two do you like more? Are there any other photos that I have done that you really like, but would like to see what they would look like now if I processed them again? If so, please leave a comment either here or on the photo in my smugmug gallery and I will add re-reprocessing it to my to-do list.

Re-mastered Creek Bed and Sky

Original Creek Bed and Sky

Secret "Peppermint Specialists" Workshop

I made a recent post about the Candy Cane Forest as a part of the Sea World San Antonio Christmas Celebration. Yesterday when I visited again I managed to find the secret location which produced the large candy canes as part of the forest.

The site is called the "Peppermint Specialists" and it is a commonly overlooked part of the Candy Cane Forest, although it is unquestionably the essential element of the display. I managed to get this shot of the unmanned workshop through a window while the workers were on break (why else would the building be unattended on Christmas Eve?). As you can see the workshop was in the process of producing large peppermint candies rather than candy canes, and it looks like the workers have been pretty busy. Hopefully they managed to produce enough peppermint candies by the Christmas deadline and are enjoying today with their families and friends!

The Secret "Peppermint Specialists" Workshop

As always, comments and feedback are greatly appreciated. You can click on the photo to see this and other photos in various sizes via my smugmug gallery. Thanks for stopping by!

Welcome to Snowman Village

First of all, I want to wish all of my readers a Merry Christmas! I hope that you are all enjoying this holiday season.

This photo was taken at Sea World San Antonio on the night of the 22nd. Since I last visited the park on Thanksgiving they have re-arranged the Snowman Village display and it is no longer in one confined area by the lake, it is a little more spread out now (in fact, some of the snowmen are now on top of buildings). I didn't edit this shot much at all (other than creating the HDR using Photomatix and HDR Efex Pro), the lighting and coloring is really close to what was taken in the original photo (although I did de-saturate the shot a bit to make the colors look a little more flat). Out of all the displays at Sea World, I think that I like the various snowmen the best, mainly because I don't think San Antonio will be seeing enough snow to make a snowman any time soon. Even though these snowmen are not made of snow, they are nice to see and they make pretty good subjects for photos.

I appreciate any feedback and remember to click on the photo which takes you to my online gallery at smugmug to view this (and my other photos) in various sizes. Enjoy!

Welcome to Snowman Village

Friday, December 24, 2010

Candy Cane Forest

Today's photo is another shot from the Christmas Celebration at Sea World San Antonio. The area is lit in red lights and decorated with large candy canes. From the Sea World San Antonio website:

Candy Cane Forest
Location: Near SeaFire Grille
You can sip hot cocoa as you experience this self-guided area of the park. Everything will be adorned red and white. From the 8-foot-tall candy canes to the red and white floral designs, Candy Cane Forest will leave you craving a peppermint or two!

I took this shot from the path just outside of the display and set up the tripod a little lower than normal so I could capture the bushes in front of the display to add green coloring to the shot naturally. The entrance, which is illuminated in white lights, in fact they are what cast the white glow on the left side of the photo, also has "LED snow" but with the needed time-lapse required to take night shots makes the decorations look blurred. I might try to take the shots with a higher ISO setting at some point, but the added noise from increasing the ISO might detract from the photo itself.

Unlike the decorations downtown, this area was actually meant to be red and is just another example of the great displays and attractions that Sea World San Antonio has on exhibit during their Christmas Celebration.

Feel free to leave comments and feedback on this photo, and if you want more updates on photos please "Like" the Facebook fan page or follow me on Twitter. As with all of the photos in my posts, clicking on the photo links back to my smugmug gallery where you can see this photo in various sizes as well as all of the photos I have uploaded to my gallery. Thanks for stopping by!

Candy Cane Forest

Thursday, December 23, 2010

World's Largest Mistletoe

I took this photo last night while visiting the Christmas Celebration at SeaWorld San Antonio. The photo is pretty self-explanatory so I will not delve too much into the subject of the photo, but I would like to talk about the processing of this photo a little bit and share some of the steps that I took to create this photo.

This photo was taken at night, and as with night photos, details like lighting must be taken into account before, during, and after the shot. You can easily tell that the large sign on the left is illuminated by a bright light, but when the overall shot is exposed, the light over-saturates the sign and the middle of it (the "brighter" portion) is completely unreadable. I thought about this as I set up my tripod to take this shot, and my first few shots were taken with a shutter speed of of 3/10 of a second to capture the "middle" of the sign without it being overly saturated by the flood light. Once I was happy with that portion, I proceeded to take the shots that would make the "rest" of the photo (the one I ended up deciding on was taken with a shutter speed of 8 seconds).

Once I got home I actually exported both sets of images at +2, 0, and -2 (over-exposed, original, and under-exposed) and using the power of Photoshop merged the second image with only the middle of the sign from the first image on all three exposure settings to create an entirely readable sign. I did this by selecting the area that I wanted to merge using the lasso tool and tweaking the brightness of that selection using Viveza (Control Point technology is so GREAT!). Once I had each of the images merged, I then went through my normal HDR process (Photomatix, HDR Efex, Topaz Labs' DeNoise and InFocus, and Nik's Color Efex Pro and Viveza).

One step I added to this shot, instead of my normal desaturation as one of the final steps, I created a black and white image using Color Efex and merged that with the full color image. I like the way that this process desaturated the photo while retaining the darker areas, so much so that I think that is going to be my new method of desaturation in all of my processed photos in the future.

The overall processing time of this photo took about four hours as I tweaked portions of it to get the photo exactly how I wanted it to look. I knew that it would be a fairly lengthy process when I set up for the shot, but I think every second that I spent on the photo was totally worth it. I truly hope that you concur! The only question that I have about the this really the "World's Largest Mistletoe"?

I appreciate any comments or feedback (either here on the blog or in my smugmug gallery). Please feel free to click on the photo to view it in various sizes. Also feel free to "Like" my HDR Photography Fan Page on Facebook (see that little Facebook box to the right? It takes you right there!) You can get updates on new photos, posts, and projects I am working on there. Plus you can also be alerted every time I post a new photo. As always, thanks for stopping by!

World's Largest Mistletoe

(And, as a side note, if you are in/around/near San Antonio during the Christmas holidays, I highly recommend visiting Sea World and taking in the shows and various displays in person (as well as the new baby penguins which I'm hoping to take photos of today!))

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

F-35B Joint Strike Fighter

This photo was taken at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, near the Dulles Airport. The subject of the photo is the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (also called the Lightning II). The aircraft on display is the "B" variant, capable of Short Takeoff and Vertical Landing (thus the STOVL on the tail). This version is going to be used to replace all of the F/A-18 Hornet and AV-8B Harrier II currently in use by the United States Marine Corps. The U.S. Navy and Royal Air Force and Royal Navy, both of the United Kingdom, had planned to use the F-35B although they recently decided to opt for the "C" variant of the F-35, which includes features such as collapsible wings for easier storage on carriers.

This aircraft, along with the F-22 Raptor, are likely the two aircraft that will likely define the future of aerial fighter combat. Maybe the reboot of Top Gun will feature these aircraft too!

I greatly appreciate comments and feedback on this (or any) of the photos that I post, and feel free to click on the photo to view it in a variety of sizes.

F-35B Joint Strike Fighter

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Decorated inlet along Museum Reach

This photo is of a small inlet of water along the Museum Reach portion of the Riverwalk located in San Antonio, Texas. This is decorated for the Christmas holiday like much of the Museum Reach portion of the Riverwalk. The lights in the inlet change colors, I captured this shot when they were primarily green.

An interesting tidbit about the inlet is when the Riverwalk is drained many small creatures, such as turtles, are placed in inlets like this one to ensure they are able to survive. We heard that from one of the Rivertaxi pilots as it went by shortly after taking this shot.

Please feel free to leave and comments below or in the smugmug gallery, and remember to click on the photo to view it in various sizes.

Decorated inlet along Museum Reach

Monday, December 20, 2010

Riverwalk Christmas - Museum Reach

This photo is taken near the Pearl Brewery in San Antonio, Texas. The brewery itself is the building outlined by white lights. This year the city decided to place lights under and around the water for the Christmas celebration and I think it looks much nicer than anything that could be found downtown, which seems to have an abundance of red lights this year. I commented about the red look to a friend of mine and we noticed that the light strands downtown have both red and pink lights on them. Even though the lights do sometimes blink on and off, the red and pink lights (sometimes even both) always seem to be on, which probably accounts for the red glow.

But, this photo is not of downtown, it is of what I consider to be the much nicer portion of the Riverwalk, the Museum Reach The sidewalks are very wide and are all stroller and handicapped accessible. This portion of Riverwalk is very well landscaped and much more impressive than the "downtown" portion of the Riverwalk. I know that I have stated this in a previous post, but I am re-stating it again for any new readers that are checking out this post.

This was a time-lapse picture that I shot specifically to capture the purple color of the small waterfall in the bottom left of the photo. These lights changed colors and I will be working on a few shots with different colors in the future, but I think the purple one came out the best so I did it first. You can also notice the glow of the lights under the water as they too are part of this year's Museum reach decorations.

As with all of my photos/post, I appreciate any comments and feedback. And remember, you can click on the photo to view it up to X3 in size. Thanks for stopping by!

Riverwalk Christmas - Museum Reach

Sunday, December 19, 2010

San Antonio Reflections

The post for today contains two shots of the same concept, reflections in the water. I took these shots yesterday during a trip downtown with a co-worker to get some shots around San Antonio. The shots were taken of the fountain pools just outside of San Fernando Cathedral. I wanted to get a shot of the Christmas tree in front of the church and noticed, with the setting sun, the buildings looked pretty crisp in the reflection of the pool, so naturally I got a few shots from two different angles.

One of the buildings (present in both shots) has the Frost Bank logo on it (the circular logo) so I am pretty sure it is related to Frost Bank. The white building visible in the first photograph looks like it belongs to the city of San Antonio, but I am not sure of what it actually is. The red building I cannot find anything on, if someone knows what the actual buildings are please feel free to comment on what they are!

I thought about trying to get more of the background in the shots but decided against it and wanted to focus solely on processing the reflections. I think the photos came out pretty well, the colors were a little bright in the first photo so I desaturated that one a touch more than the second one, but I think they both came out looking pretty interesting.

Any comments or feedback is appreciated (as would comments that could identify the other buildings!). And, these photos are the same as other photos that I have posted, you can click on the photos to view them up to X3 in size.

San Antonio Reflection

Another angle of San Antonio Reflection

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Seagulls at Fells Point

Before I took my trip to the East Coast I asked if anyone had recommendations for any areas to take photos of. One recommendation that I received was to visit Fells Point, about a mile or so east of the "Inner Harbor" area of downtown Baltimore. I visited the area on the second day of my trip and it was pretty nice. It was also very cold so I did not hang around too long to take many photos of the area. I would like to visit again when it is warmer. Much, much warmer.

Anyway, this was taken near the Bond Street Wharf building (which I have a few nice shots of that I will process at some point in the future). I tried to get a shot of the seagulls and the water, but I got too close and scared some of them. The brave seagulls are standing their ground looking at me, but several of them decided I was threatening enough to fly away. On the other side of the harbor you can see some of the plants and ships that make up part of what seems to be the "manufacturing" section Baltimore Harbor. I forgot that I took this photo until I was contemplating what to post for today and came across this shot.

I personally think this photo is even better than my shot of the USS Constellation because I completely forgot about it, but I think the end result makes for a very nice photo.

As always, comments and feedback are much appreciated, and you can click on the photo to view it up to X3 in size!

Startled seagulls at Fells Point

Friday, December 17, 2010

Hiller 1031-A-1 Flying Platform

Today's photo is another item on display at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum Udvar-Hazy Center that I took when I revisited the center in early December. While at first it might look like some kind of UFO type object, it was created to be a one man aerial platform that could be controlled with very little training. I won't go over the entire readout from the attached photo that contains some information about the platform, but I thought it was pretty interesting that it was sort of like a flying Segway several decades before they were produced. It would have been pretty interesting had this craft been able to be mass-produced, but the safety precautions needed to fly the craft unfortunately made it too cumbersome to control.

As always, any comments and feedback is appreciated, and click on the photo to view it up to X3 in size!

Hiller 1031-A-1 Flying Platform

Display discussing the Hiller 1031-A-1 Flying Platform

Thursday, December 16, 2010

USS Constellation in the Inner Harbor

The subject of today's photo is the USS Constellation, located in the Inner Harbor in Baltimore, Maryland.  The USS Constellation is one of four ships located around the Inner Harbor as part of the "Historic Ships" tour.  This is actually the second USS Constellation and it was originally launched in 1855.  The previous Constellation was broken up in 1853 in Norfolk after being docked there since 1845.  If you have visited Baltimore and the Inner Harbor you likely have seen this ship before, but thanks to the wonders of HDR processing hopefully you have never seen it like this before.


When I took this shot I wanted the shot to be a little darker than normal to allow a more natural look without creating an over-saturation of color.  As with any HDR shot, I used Photomatix and HDR Efex Pro to generate the HDR images (usually I use a combination of the results of both programs to generate my "final" image).  Once I was happy with the blending, I used Nik's Color Efex Pro and Viveza as well as Topaz Lab's DeNoise5 and InFocus in the processing of this shot.  Once I got the lighting how I wanted, I slightly desaturated the entire shot to give it a more realistic feel.  This is one of the shots that I honestly got lucky on.  I thought it would be a pretty nice photo, but as I started to work on it I realized it was going to end up looking much nicer than I had anticipated.  I hope you agree!


As always, questions/comments/feedback is always appreciated, and you can click on the photo to see it up to X3 in size.


USS Constellation in the Inner Harbor

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Baltimore Basilica

Today's photo is of the first cathedral in the United States, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which is located in Baltimore, Maryland (the official website can be seen by visiting this link). I am quite surprised at how "plain" the interior of the cathedral was, I expected to see intricate details and artwork when I went inside. It was built in the early 1800s, but was closed from 2004-2006 for extensive renovations to return the cathedral to its original design. I would imagine that if you were able to visit the cathedral during the 1800s it would look pretty similar to how it does today.

I asked if I could take shots from the balcony, but was told it was closed, so I set up the tripod in the middle of the fairly empty cathedral and took a few shots. I processed it using Color Efex and Viveza, tweaking the coloring to bring the white colors out a bit more than they did through the HDR processing. I purposely kept the white a little gray to give a slightly older look to the photo, and I think it is a pretty accurate representation of the Baltimore Basilica.

As always, questions and/or comments are very much appreciated, and you can click on the image to view it in a few other sizes.

Baltimore Basilica

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

St. Matthews Ceiling and Dome

Today's photo is another shot from inside St. Matthews, located in Washington DC. This shot is of the ceiling and dome of the cathedral, showing the artwork that adorns the interior of St. Matthews. I cannot stress enough how amazing the sites within the cathedral are. You could literally spend an entire day inside shooting various angles and shots and you would still be overwhelmed with just how detailed the interior is.

This shot is a little darker than the previous shot because illumination usually works from the ceiling to the floor, not the other way around. I didn't fix it too much in processing because that also allows more of the detail to be brought out in the shot, which is what I was really trying to capture in the shot. I included the re-taken shot as well so you can see how much of a difference the different field of view made. The arch that crosses at the top of this photo is the same as the arch at the top of the original photo, it is just a different perspective (and a few feet closer to the front of the church). I am glad that I was able to find time to shoot this church again, and if/when I get another chance to visit the DC area St. Matthews will always be very high on my list of places to shoot.

St. Matthews Ceiling and Dome

St. Matthews Interior

Please feel free to leave comments and/or feedback below. Also remember that clicking on the photo lets you view the image in various sizes as well as taking you to my online gallery hosted over at smugmug. Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Reading Terminal Market

This is probably the last photo I am going to post from our short trip to Philadelphia, as I stated previously I didn't have a chance to take that many shots while we were there since the main reason for the trip was to visit the Mutter Museum.

I got this shot after we had dinner across the street from this location. I didn't know what the "Reading Terminal" was until I got home and researched it for this post, I just knew that it looked like it would be a pretty good photo. I set up the tripod on top of a pair of newspaper vending machines (mainly to provide a small amount of protection from the cab drivers who would swerve over three lanes to try to make a turn on the adjacent road) and took several shots with both my 17-40 lens and newly purchased 10-22 lens. This shot was actually taken with the 10-22, as it gives a wider field of view than the 17-40.

Back to the Reading Terminal Market, a detailed look at the history of the market can be found on their website. For those that decide to not read the detailed version of the market history, it has been around selling produce and goods since 1892. Once the Reading Railroad ceased to function, the city had a variety of plans for the massive building, finally settling on using it as the location for the Reading Market. I would have liked to have gone inside the terminal for some interior shots (you can see the beams through the glass on the right side of the photo) but there wasn't enough time.

I did my normal amount of color desaturation on this photo, and darkened the neon lights to make them a little more readable and less saturated. I also did some small retouching of certain areas (like darkening the cab tire and removing some of the red light saturation from above the Reading Terminal Market sign) using Viveza.

I hope you enjoy the photo, please do not hesitate to leave and questions or comments. As always, remember that you can click on the photo to view it up to "X3" in size!

Reading Terminal Market

Sunday, December 12, 2010

St. Matthew's Cathedral - Revisited

Today's bonus post is again from St. Matthew's Cathedral, located in Washington, DC. I took the first shot with a Canon T1i and Tamron 10-24mm lens. Today's photo was taken with a Canon 60D and a Canon 10-22mm lens. I think you will notice quite a difference between the two shots. The shot I took today is MUCH sharper and has more realistic colors than the original.

The vantage point for this shot is slightly more forward than the previous shot. The reason for that is that I did not want the hanging lights to block the figures on the arches like they did in the previous shot. The height of the camera from the ground is also much lower today, allowing me to capture more in the shot. The lower height allows almost the same overall field of view of the original, even though I am about 15 feet closer to the front of the cathedral in today's shot.

Another difference from the previous shot is that I have learned more about the importance light balance and color saturation during processing. As a result, the overall feel of the photo I think looks more realistic and is a more accurate representation of the scene that I capture while I am shooting.

Please let me know what you think, which picture you like more, and if you can notice differences between the two shots.

New St. Matthews Cathedral shot

Old St. Matthews Cathedral shot

Two shots from Philadelphia

Yesterday my wife and I traveled via Amtrak from BWI airport to Philadelphia to visit the Mütter Museum and do a small amount of general tourism of the Philadelphia area. The museum was smaller than I expected, it was pretty interesting, but I did not expect it to be so small.

After spending a few hours looking at the exhibits on display we took a cab to visit Calumet Camera (for me), then walked toward the "historic" area around Independence Hall. Unfortunately Independence Hall is under construction, so I wasn't able to get any shots of the building. As we walked toward the building holding the Liberty Bell we came across this waiting area for horse-drawn carriage rides. There were probably about 5 total carriages waiting in line, but this horse was the definitive star. I noticed the Phillies hat immediately and had to have a shot of the horse. It wasn't until I started processing the shot I also noticed he was wearing a tie. Although I did not get many shots (no photography is permitted in the museum and we spent a majority of the day there), this shot of Philadelphia is my favorite that I took yesterday.

Horse wearing people clothes

The second shot I took after getting back to 30th Street Station. It is across the bridge and river from the station. I decided on this angle because I was also able to capture the building in the background that was illuminated in scrolling Christmas lights. I upped the ISO on this shot so I could capture it quicker and retain more of the original coloring (rather than over-saturation from the scrolling lights). Once I started processing I will admit I used Viveza to enhance the reds and greens on the building (once again, Control Point technology is worth the price of the tool alone!) The reflection in the water is completely untouched, so I did my best to match the coloring on the building with the water reflection.

30th Street Station and Christmas building

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Interior of Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Church

While I was walking around the Inner Harbor area on the 8th I stopped by the Barnes and Noble Bookstore located in the old Power Plant building just to see what it looked like inside. It was pretty impressive, if you have never been inside of it it is quite possibly the most impressive Barnes and Noble in the world. I picked up a guidebook to Baltimore for $3.50 and one of the sites I decided I had to shoot the next day was this church which is located in Mount Vernon, about a 15 minute walk from the Inner Harbor.

Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Church was completed on 12 November 1872. The site "sits on the site of the mansion owned by Charles Howard who was married to Elizabeth Phoebe Key; daughter of Francis Scott Key. Francis Scott Key died in the mansion and a plaque observing his death adorns one of the exterior walls. This bit of history allows the church be marked as a historical location on the National Historic Register". The bit of history was taken from the brochure on the church that the groundskeeper let me have.

The doors to the church are locked, I had to ring the bell of the administration offices, located in the adjacent house, and be let in by the head groundskeeper. He was very pleasant and understanding about my desire to take photos, and let me take shots of the interior for about 15 minutes. He stated that they have tours of the church as well, but the individuals that ran the tours had not yet arrived for the day. It would have been interesting to learn more about the church, but for now photos will have to suffice.

The interior of the church itself feels much older than 1872, I think it is pretty impressive looking. The exterior is fairly unique as well, and I will be posting a processed shot of the exterior in the coming days.

Interior of Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Church

Friday, December 10, 2010

Trio of shots from Ft. McHenry

I took these shots yesterday after visiting Ft. McHenry for the first time. I would estimate the Fort itself is about two miles from the Inner Harbor, but if you have never visited I would highly recommend it. While I was talking with the park volunteers yesterday I learned that the visitors center (which I thought looked pretty new) had just opened this week, but the "official" ceremony will not be until March, when the park resumes normal operations. I learned quite a bit about the site in my discussions with the volunteers and some of the knowledge I will share about the photos below.

The first shot is one room of the Artillery Corps Enlisted quarters. Up to 16 soldiers called the room "home". With the exception of the hardened walls, the interior actually doesn't look that dissimilar from the tents and connexes that service members reside in while deployed overseas. You have a small bed, a small area for personal items, a place for your weapon, and that is about it. What stood out to me in this photo was the name of one of the enlisted men on the foot of one of the beds and the inclusion of military artifacts from the era (muskets, canteens, etc). You can view the photo up to X3 by clicking on it and try to find more details that I did not discuss. If you find something of interest, please leave a comment below or on the photo in my smugmug gallery! (That always applies for any of my photos, getting feedback on any shot is very much appreciated!)

The second and third shots are "powder rooms" located within the complex. The first photo is of one of the above-ground storage areas. Once again, there are several aspects of this photo and details that you can best view by choosing the X3 viewing option, but two that I wanted to point out is the date on the powder kegs and the roof. The date is from 1814, the year of the attempted attack on the fort that made this location famous. The authenticity of the entire site is pretty amazing, while they do have modern touches for the convenience of guests, it still feels as if you are stepping back in time to what it was like to be at the Fort nearly 200 years ago. The second portion is the roof. During the battle which led to Francis Scott Key composing what would become our National Anthem, a cannon ball from a British ship landed a direct hit, crashing through the roof and landing in the middle of the room. For some reason, be it the cannon ball was a dud or if there was an issue with the fuse, it did not explode. Had it exploded, it is possible that the outcome of the battle would have been quite different. The actual cannon ball itself is located directly outside of the building among several cannons from the era. With regards to the photo itself, the sun was directly behind the building so it was difficult to get the lighting exactly how I wanted it. I was able to make some minor modifications using Viveza to over/under expose certain areas via control points. If you have been reading my blog and keeping up with my posts you know that I have a very special place in my heart for the Nik Software products, the "Control Points" that allow you to tweak small areas of the photo is such an amazing feature to have in a photo editing tool!

The third photo is my favorite picture that I took yesterday, it is of another powder room, except this one is located underground just outside of the walls of the Fort. I mentioned the date on the kegs in the last photo, the date on these kegs are from 1864. The room is protected by a locked wooden door. To get this shot I placed the camera on the tripod with the legs unextended so the overall height was approximately 18" from the ground. I did my best to focus on the powder kegs while retaining some focus on the wooden bars in the door so they were not completely out of focus. I must have taken over 30 shots from this vantage point making minor tweaks to the aperture, length of exposure, and focus point trying to get the shot exactly perfect. Out of all the photos I took yesterday of the Baltimore Basilica, the Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Church, and Fort McHenry, this is by far my favorite shot.

Fort McHenry Artillery Corps Enlisted Quarters

Above-ground powder room at Fort McHenry

Underground powder room at Fort McHenry