Monday, April 30, 2012

Might Have To Sell My Beloved Leica

My underwater camera has finally died. It served me well over the years, but it finally gave out. I now need a new camera, and that means a new housing too...and that means new ports as well....this stuff aint cheap!! A new housing and ports will cost me around 7 grand..and then I need a camera to put in the housing...for that, I am thinking of the new Nikon D800...which would be a killer underwater camera. I am not made of money, so the only way I can afford a new underwater camera and housing is to sell my Leica pains me to say that. I have become very attached to my Leica, and it will be very difficult to give up my little baby...but my passion is underwater photography, so gotta stick with your passions...

I have not 100% made my decision yet, but it is looking like the way I will go...I will keep you posted...

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Where The Trash Pickers Live

Everything they own comes from the trash dump. The houses they live in are built out of thrown-away plywood and other boards, their baskets for collecting plastic comes from the trash, and the seats they sit in are also from discarded persons garbage is another's treasure.

Just read on the internet how to make those sliders that show the "before and after" versions of a photo...I will have to give that a try next week...

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Haunted Stairs

You know in those horror movies...?? Where the idiot ALWAYS goes up dark stairs or down into dark basements...?? What are they doing? Why, if you hear really scary noises, would you go down those dark hallways and stairs? 

This is what this photo of stairs reminds me of...going up to the that knocking noise behind a door...where some ghost will pop out of nowhere and scare the hell out of you...

Monday, April 23, 2012

Potato Head...Bali

I have posted a few photos from Potato Head in Bali, but have not posted these yet. This is the back side. It is quite the sight to stand at the bottom, and look straight up...the photo at the bottom is what I am talking hell of a lot of shutters, heh?

Friday, April 20, 2012

Heads of Lettuce

Sorry for no post know how it is...busy, busy, busy...
Happy Friday!!

Have a great weekend, and see ya on Monday!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Color Town

This is one of those shots that you can stare at for a long time, and still see some detail you didn't notice before. Don't ya just want to jump in and walk around?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Sold At Auction

I entered this photograph into an Art first time in doing that. I am happy to report that it was sold for Two Thousand Dollars....that is the highest price anyone has ever paid for one of my photos...pretty cool. The money all went to charity, by the way...

Monday, April 16, 2012

Happy Birthday JIS

The school I work at, and the school where my kids attend, just celebrated its 60th Birthday...
a very fun day!!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Mike's Point

I was going through some of my older underwater photographs...most of my older shots (and a bunch of my new stuff) were lost when my Drobo failed. This one, for some reason, I had an extra copy of....and I am glad I did. I have always liked this shot. This was taken at Mike's Point in Raja Ampat....named after my buddy, Max's son. I have dived this spot countless times. Usually, the current is raging....and I mean really raging. During WWII, the Americans bombed this little rock thinking it was a ship moving through the reality it was just the current passing around the rock...that's how strong it usually is. However, on this day, the current was slack, so I was able to compose my shots of the reef much easier. With the morning sun coming down through the water, it lit just a small portion of the reef which I lit further with my strobes...Not many others really like this shot, but it is special to me...

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Shanghai Tourist Tunnel

I have been seeing a lot of photos from Shanghai popping up on Google+ reminded me of this shot from the tourist's tunnel that takes you from Pudong under the river to the Bund....kind of expensive, but it beats taking a cab all the way around and over the bridge...this is hand-held as no tripods were allowed in the tunnel...

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Helix Bridge in Singapore

I couldn't resist just one more photo from the Marina Sands area of Singapore. I wanted to get as much of the bridge in as I could, but the Hotel needed to be in the photo too.

There were two other guys on the little platform that extends from the bridge with their tripods set up and their big cameras ready for a shot. I set up my tripod between them with my little Leica, and they kind of looked at me wondering why I was using such a "retro" camera. I get that reaction quite a bit from people who don't know Leica....funny....little do they know what a little power house I have on my tripod at half the size of their huge DSLR's....I fired off my five exposures, folded up my tripod, and I was off to the next shot...

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Nikon D800 Vs. Canon 5D Mark III

This review cracked me up (link below), but I think it sums up the two cameras quite nicely...In case you are wondering, I still have my Leica M9, and have no plans on changing cameras anytime soon. However, I DO need a new underwater camera (and housing), and I am considering the D800 for the job...there are even housings already on the market...amazing how that happens, heh?

If I do end up getting the D800 for my underwater camera, I will then be able to do my own review of the D800 vs the Leica M9...that would be fun!!


I originally processed this photo in color, but ended up liking the black n white better. These guys have been working down at the pier for a long time...salty dudes!!

Monday, April 09, 2012

Internet At Home

I have not had internet at home since my catastrophic failure of my Drobo...that is more than a year without internet at home. This weekend, FINALLY, the ISP I wanted installed has been installed. If you have ever gone without internet at home, you will understand how great it is to have it...I certainly appreciate it much more. It was also more of a challenge to keep this blog up to date with no internet at home..I had to make all my updates at work, and often there was no time to do that...I can now make my posts at home, so I should have much less of those days where I can't find the time to make a post.

Below, is one of those "forgotten" photographs from my last trip to China...I remember processing it, but I don't think I posted it to this here ya go...

Thursday, April 05, 2012

A Quick and Dirty HDR Tutorial

I have been wanting to do something like this for a long time. A couple of years ago, I made a short video of my workflow for an HDR photograph, and I gave it to my students and friends, but didn't share it here on the blog as the file was too large to post. I am working away around that now, and hopefully, I will be able to share a video with you on how I create my HDR's. In the meantime, I thought I would share a few details on what I do in this post...Most bloggers will just tell you...

take five bracketed shots of your scene, merge your shots into an HDR using Photomatix, and then finish off your photograph in Photoshop.

Well, if you are like me, that is not nearly enough, I am going to get into the nitty gritty of what I do so that maybe you can walk away today with a little more info and some pointers on how to create a decent HDR image.

First off, HDR has become hugely popular in the past couple of years. Seems like everyone is creating HDR images these days. There is still a LOT of hate for HDR...I will never really understand the hatred, but to each his own, I guess. I happen to like it. Yes, sometimes an HDR image can look "cartoonish" or "over saturated" or not realistic....ya, so what? It is the artists ' interpretation, and the artist can do whatever he/she don't have to like it.

My own style has varied over the years with my HDR. When I first starting doing HDR, I was dreadful at it....I look back on my own photos from a couple of years ago, and wonder what the hell I was thinking....but I have since refined my techiques, and I think my HDR's look much better these days, but there is always more to, what I discuss in this short tutorial is not the end-all technique, but a place to time goes on, my style (and yours) evolves...what I like today may be totally different two years from now. Software and skills also evolve...I often go back and "re-work" an image using more modern software and new techniques that I have learned.

In this tutorial, I will be giving you the details on how I created the photo below...I am not saying this is my best HDR ever (far from it), but it is a good example as it had a few of the common problems that crop up when creating an HDR image, and I will show you how I dealt with those problems.

This is the final image after post processing...I will post it again at the bottom of the post so that you don't have to scroll all the way up again to see it...
First things first....what makes a certain scene a good candidate for an HDR? Well, HDR stands for High Dynamic Range. Which in essence means that scenes which have a large range between its shadows and highlights will make a good candidate for an HDR. If you look at the photo below (my middle exposure from 5 bracketed shots), you will notice the left alley is well lit, where the right alley is deep in shadow. My eye saw everything perfectly exposed. Our eyes have an incredible dynamic range, but your camera does not. It wants to look at one area of the photograph, and expose it perfectly. With just one shot of the scene below, it is near impossible to have every part of the photograph exposed properly. My Leica M9 exposed for the bright areas on the left and the distant right, but when doing so, the shadow areas are way under-exposed. With one shot, the camera did not capture what my eyes saw that what to do? The answer...several shots all shot at different exposures to capture the entire dynamic range of light in the scene. That is the idea of an HDR...we blend those different exposures into one photograph that artificially displays the dynamic range that our eyes see.

How do I take bracketed exposures?

There are actually a few ways to do this. You can manually bracket your exposures by changing the shutter speed, or you can change the aperture and keep your shutter speed constant. However, the latter is not recommended. Why? Well, when you change the aperture, you change the depth of field, and when you blend your exposures together, you will find many areas of your photograph out-of-focus. So, to avoid that, keep your aperture constant and change the shutter speed. What shutter speed to use and how much to change it between exposures will depend on the ambient light available in the scene and the range of light between shadows and highlights. If for example, you are shooting into the sun, there could be a huge range between shadows and highlights....the more the range, the more exposures you will need. I often will shoot between 7 and 9 exposures if I am shooting into the sun. However, most photos are taken with the sun at the side of us or behind these cases, 5 shots separated by one stop each will suffice. For a majority of my HDR's I shoot 5 exposures at -2, -2, 0, +1, that means two stops below the normal exposure and two stops above and one at the regular exposure. For this particular shot, I exposed my camera for the highlights, and then set up my camera to automatically shoot 5 exposures in aperture priority mode. Most cameras these days will have that "auto" function to take a series of bracketed photos with one push of the shutter. My old Nikon could take a series up to 9 different exposures, but my Leica will only allow a max of 7.

Do I have to use a tripod?

Better to use a tripod to prevent any camera shake and to make it easier to align the images in post. However, a tripod is not always with you and is not always needed. I did use a tripod for this shot because my shutter speeds of my upper two exposures were relatively slow...but many times, the dynamic range is not that great, and all shutter speeds are pretty quick. If this is the case, you can get away with hand-holding you camera (as still as you can).

Below is the middle can see the "dynamic range" of light in this photograph...perfect candidate for an brightest exposure exposed the shadow areas on the right, but the left side highlights were blown out. The idea is to combine the exposures to have the complete range of light exposed properly like our eye would do...
Ok, so you now have your five exposures in your camera. I usually check to see if I had indeed caught the entire range of light. If not (sometimes you still can't see the shadow areas), I will add a stop or two and re-shoot so that the entire range of light is captured.

By the way, best to shoot in RAW...I always shoot in don't want your camera to do any in-camera editing of your images...

I download my photos to Adobe Lightroom....Adobe just came out with LR4, and it is awesome! Photomatix also makes a plug-in for Lightroom that enables you to export your photos right from LR into Photomatix....sure makes your workflow faster. You can find more info for LR HERE, and info on Photomatix HERE...I don't have any connection with either Adobe or HDRsoft (makers of Photomatix), but do really like their products!

I select my photos in Lightroom, and then export them directly into Photomatix. Photomatix then creates the HDR and opens the photo where you can then tone-map your image playing around with the various sliders provided. There are also some pre-sets that you can use. I play with the sliders until I get the most "realistic" look that I can, but this will totally depend on your style and what you like...

Below is the result after Photomatix had blended my exposures and I messed with the sliders...

After you are satisfied with the initial look of your photo from Photomatix, click "save", and if you have the LR plug-in, your photo will be re-imported back into LR...

There are some real problems with the photo above. Many think that once they have finished with Photomatix, the photo is done. Far from it. Have a look are the problems that I see...

Problem 1. Ghosting....see the people in the photograph....they look like ghosts. Need to fix that, and this is what I did. I chose one of my exposures that clearly shows the people near the same spot as the "ghost". I had to use two different for the two dudes on the left, and one for the people on the right in the shadows. I then had to match the relative brightness of each exposure so that it matches my HDR....I do this in LR. I just adjust the exposure until it looks relatively the same as the HDR image. I then open each of these images in Photoshop, and use Nik's Color Efex Pro's Tonal Contrast filter to make the people more HDRish looking...I often reduce the opacity of the effect to not overdo it...then I went back to the HDR...duplicated the layer, and moved the new photo I just adjusted below the duplicated layer in photoshop. I selected the two layers and used "auto align" to be sure the two layers were aligned. I then created a mask on the top layer (the HDR). I can now "paint in" the new people by painting in black on the mask...once I painted in the new people, I did the same thing for the people on the right.

Problem 2: The sky. I hate what Photomatix does to skies. Almost 100% of the time, I have to mask back in the sky from one of my exposures. If you look at the sky near the roof on the right, you will see a "halo" effect...this is a dead giveaway for most HDR's, and the one many people neglect to fix. It is actually an easy fix. I just choose the sky I want from one of my five exposures, and move it (like I did for the ghosting) into Photoshop as a new layer where I mask in the sky. For this photo, the sky I used was darker than the sky in the HDR, so I had to be careful masking at the edges of the roof as the darker photo darkened the roof as well.

Problem 3: Color. Photomatix does a great job in blending the photos, but the color is usually very flat as you can see from above, and it will often lack in the blacks. The color adjustments can be done almost entirely in LR...I first grab the black slider and add back some of the blacks, but not too much. I can then change the white balance to either warm up (usually) or cool down the overall white balance. I then go into the individual colors and boost some and reduce others until I get the overall color balance I want. This is totally formula...I just play around until I get what I want...

Problem 4: Sharpness. Photomatix usually softens the photo...another giveaway that the photo is an HDR. I use "unsharp mask" in Photoshop to sharpen my photos, and then sharpen again if I am going to make a print.

Other problems that can occur: Although I didn't have a problem with this photo, often you will have some areas either in the shadows or the highlights that are lost or blown out. Again, if this happens, just choose one of your exposures where it got the area right, and mask in those parts.

Here is the final version again...notice the people are no longer ghosts, the sky looks natural, and the buildings have vibrant colors and everything looks sharp...
Hope you enjoyed this tutorial, and hope you learned something....cheers, Scotty

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Art Deco Black n White??

Ok, I debated whether or not to post this image, but talked with Tika (my wife) about it, and she said she thought I should post it. So if she doesn't mind, then why not?

There is a bit of a story that goes with this photo. I went to a photo exhibition here in Jakarta that featured some black n white nudes that were very tastefully done. I had never tried nude photography before, but was inspired by what I saw at the exhibition, so asked Tika if she could be my model for me, and I would give it a try. It was much tougher than I thought it would be, but this was one of my favorites...looks kind of Art Deco, heh?

In any case, I was reading my google+ stream this morning, and up popped an article written by one of the photographers I follow, David Duchemin (link to his blog is on my list to the right). He was writing about sharing, and one of his quotes is:

"The amazing thing about sharing our work is that it keeps the gift moving. But it does something else. It improves our craft."

It was this quote that inspired me to make this post...I was inspired by what I saw at the exhibition, so I am "keeping the gift moving", and also improving my own craft at the same time trying something new...

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Another Shot of Marina Bay

I took this shot about 30 minutes before the laser light show on one of the alcoves of the Helix Bridge. It is a 5-shot HDR. I had to do some post work after tonemapping in Photomatix...well, I always have to do post work, but more than most on this photograph. I don't like what Photomatix does to the skies, so I blended back in one of my original exposures to get the sky right. I also blended in one of my exposures for some of the buildings. Even though I used a tripod, the buildings were not as sharp as I wanted, so I had to mask back in one of the exposures for sharpness as well. I then isolated some of the colors, and boosted the end, a nice shot of the Marina Bay Sands area...

Monday, April 02, 2012

Twin Buildings

I had a nice week off from work, and now I am back at it...but it was not easy coming to work today after arriving at two in the morning...needless to say, I am beat.

I can't remember the names of these churches in Rome, but I remembering wondering why they would build two identical buildings right next to each other??