March 29, 2009

Another photo and some news

Old photo. I took this, I believe, last spring. I didn't have photoshop at the time. The original was pretty interesting but I wanted to see how it'd look with faux HDR. It came out darker than I expected, but I like it. It's pretty soothing, which isn't an image normally associated with metro or train stations.

On personal note...Shit. In just three days, I'll be on the road, on my way to Colorado. I'm very excited, but at the same time, a bit nervous. For the first time in a long long time, my job future isn't certain. I plan to freelance - working a 9-to-5 gig isn't for me. Of course, freelancing brings several uncertainties with it. It's dependent on how well I network and being a salesperson, selling my service and myself. Which is my big weakness. But I'm determined to make it work. And if it doesn't, at least I can say I tried. I'd rather try and fail than not try at all and wonder for the rest of my life if I could've done it.

Sentimentalism aside. I must say I really...hate...packing. I'm going to try remember that so I don't fill my next home with clutter.


March 27, 2009

Old gravestones should look old

I like the old timey look.


March 25, 2009

In exactly one week...

at about this time (1 PM), I will be on road. Woohoo!


Arlington Cemetery Redux

Sometimes when you take a photo, it's a perfectly good image, but it's lacking some oomph. Joie de vivre. Pizazz. That's where photoshop comes in handy.

A dreamy kind of look.
Vintage black and white
Harsh "high-pass"
Vintage sepia

All of these are interesting for different reasons. Everyone will have different preference for different styles. So, at this point, the hard decision of choosing one photo boils down to this: What message are you trying to convey? Or emotion you want to evoke? A dreamy, tranquil one? A time-encompassing one? Harshness of war/death/whatever? Solemnity?

If I had to produce a photo for a commercial purpose, my choice would be a lot easier, depending on the product or service we're selling. But for personal sales...I probably would choose the black and white one, because it's a type of image that would work on most people's walls.

What do ya'all think?


March 23, 2009


I'm actually moving to Colorado in about two weeks. I have to be out of the door on 31st, and will be officially on road on April 1st. No joking. That means I won't have a whole lot of time to blog between now and whenever I get settled in. So I'm going to post some reruns and postdate them so that new posts will continue in the next couple weeks.

Some of these photos might seem familiar if you're a long-time reader, but I'll try to tweak them, at very minimum, so they're a little different.

Here's the original shot of Apollo that I took before moving to this house. I'd say about a year ago, roughly. If memory serves, when I posted it here, I made it look like an old pointillism comic photo.
This time around, I decided to play with a fake HDR look. A HDR photo is a fairly new rage in photography although it's been around a long time. The advent of digital cameras just made this technique a lot easier to do. The "correct" way to take a HDR photo is to shoot a preferrably static image on a tripod (as to get identical images and not have any weird ghost issues in postproduction), then shoot it again at two or three stops in both negative and positive exposures. Then after you upload the photo, you can merge them to create either very horrible pictures or absolutely jaw-dropping photos.

I don't have the time to go out and do that right now, so I decided to fake it using photoshop.
After moving - or perhaps while moving, I'll work up some bad examples to show you an example of the ghostly overlaps and hopefully a good one or two, too. I'm taking my tripod, who knows, maybe I'll see something interesting.

Oh and...what's in photo #1 that's not in #2? Hint - I did not crop anything out.


March 20, 2009

Pucker up baby!


March 19, 2009

Piece of machinery


March 18, 2009

Byebye winter!

Old picture from my first winter here in D.C.


March 14, 2009

Art is subjective. Even in photography

When I was in Colorado a few weeks ago, I visited a town that had a huge variety of homes. I was most interested in the Victorian-style homes and shot a few. I chose one of the pictures and ran it through the mass-spectrometer and...kidding. I played around with different features in photoshop.

Here's the near-original. I tweaked it slightly so that the picture wasn't tilted (for some reason, I almost always shoot at a slight angle). As you can see, it's a not bad picture. But it doesn't "sing" to me. It looks a bit washed out, partly because of the sky. The details to the sides of the house are a little distracting. I could crop them out, but it'd be hard to do that especially on the left side because the little house is clearly visible through the porch awning. If I cropped only on the right, the big house would be off-center, and I felt that did the photo disservice.

I ran it through a few easy steps to make the yellow pop a bit and made this photo a little more vignette. I also burned the edges of the frame a bit so that the houses to each sides weren't as obvious.

Here, I pushed the 70s feel a bit further. I like it. All it needs is a white border.

I took #2 photo, because I liked the vignetting and burning at edges effects - and wanted to keep that element in these new versions - and converted it to black and white. I think it works pretty well here.
Pushing the envelope a bit further. I deepened the contrast, making this photo a bit darker. Now the whites in this photo really pop out at you.
Why does this photo work? The trees serve to frame the big house and the balance of dark versus light helps keep your eyes centered.

What else could I do to improve this photo? If I had the time, I'd have gone back in morning when the trees' shadows wouldn't be a major player in this photo. Ultimately, I prefer the last two black and white photos, though I couldn't pick between the two - I like them both for different reasons.

What do you think? Which is your favorite and why?


March 12, 2009

How DUMB is this couple?!?

A genius couple decides to experiment in bed. Normally I would shrug and think that's just dandy...until I read what they chose to do. Male Genius put a dildo on a power tool - a saber saw blade, no less - and fired it up. I really want to know: Did either one of them at any time think that this might be a bad idea? Did the thought even flicker across their minds? What about the Female Genius? Who wants the risk of a sharp thing up your hoo-ha? Or even near it? This boggles my mind.

The saw unsurprisingly cut through the dildo and injures the woman. Fortunately, it sounds like she wasn't too badly hurt, though I imagine she won't need an episiotomy if she has kids (fair warning, male readers - don't click on that link unless you really want to know what that is).

The news article

Free advice to the genius couple or any other couples: if you're ever tempted to stick a dildo on any power yourselves a favor and just go buy a vibrator instead. They're not expensive nowadays.


March 11, 2009

Night photography

True night photos are tough to do, unless you've got gear - or the know how. There are some easy, cheap tricks anyone can employ, especially if your camera has a flash or flash attachment.

Tripods are relatively inexpensive these days, and there are even some for digital point-and-shoot cameras.

Tonight, though, I forgot mine. Out walking Apollo, I found an interesting looking tree, which I photographed with a flash while holding the camera. This is the result...
What happened? Because it was so dim, I used the flash, then the shutter remained opened long after the flash disappeared. Because I was holding the camera, my breathing moved it - and produced a slightly blurred image where the flash did not reach. If you click on the photo to see a larger version, you'll see that the details on the bark and that dried leaf are pretty sharp - those got most of the light. I kinda like this image. A happy accident.

Here's another shot of the same tree. I opted to tweak the setting so that the light spread on the camera was different (more on that later) and the length of exposure, shorter. Shorter exposure = darker image. But this time, I put the camera on a fencepost and set the self-timer so that my finger would not jar the camera. This resulted in a much sharper, more in-focus image.

If you don't have a tripod, place the camera on something stable and solid - fence post, rock, ground, table.
Use the self-timer so that your finger doesn't move the camera when pressing the shutter button
If you're able to, play with the f-stops, iso speeds and the light meter, to try find an ideal balance. It might take a few trial and error attempts before you hit on a good mix.


March 9, 2009

Small update...

I've been as sick as a dog for the past few days and barely able to function. Look for posts to return in the near future.


March 3, 2009

Bad cropping examples

When you move away from taking just snapshops to actually trying to produce quality photographs that you'd be proud to frame, you're moving into the realms of artists. And just any art, tastes are all subjective. What may work for you in a photo might not for others. Or vice versa.

These are a few old photographs I took awhile ago. I decided to be heavy-handed in cropping them, to give a few example of what's too much.

Original. The composition isn't bad. It's not quite divided up in thirds, but that couldn't be helped, considering the enormity of the subject in the photo. In this photo, the ground accounts for one third, and ideally the monument would the other third and the "empty space" - sky, in this case, would be the last third. But architects did not take photography into consideration when designing this monument.

Cropped. Now, it's more evenly divided into thirds. But cropping it didn't improve the picture, although it did help emphasize just how talllll this monument is. I prefer the original over this.

Original. Same subject, but a bit further away.
This is another example of too-severe cropping, which resulted in loss of interest in the photo. If I cropped it so there were still a bit of the trees along the sides, that would be more interesting - the trees also serve to help guide your eyes toward the center, where I want the focus to be.

Another monument...It's a not bad-shot, but because this photo is nearly monochromatic - sometimes a good thing, sometimes not - I found that my eyes kept skipping all over the place, even despite knowing it's empty space.
Cropped it severely. The monument now dominates the space, which is fitting because, well, it's a damn big monument. But sometimes having a bit empty space to serve as a sort of neutral buffer for the eyes is good. I think a cropping job that's a smidge less severe than this (below) would be better.

What do ya'all think? Agree? Disagree? Speak up!


Snow day

Cameras - digital cameras, especially - like to underexpose snow (more on this in a later post) so this originally came out dark. Cameras also have a hard time photographing true white - even when your settings are properly set - so this came out pretty blue too. I tweaked this picture so it was lighter and truer to its actual light settings. Then fiddled with the tone so it was less blue. I actually was able to get it really close to true-white, but the values for the trees, branches and so on were a little off. After some reflection, I decided I liked it somewhere in middle - a bit blue, but not smurf blue. It feels very wintry and stark, but somehow at the same time, it makes me feel like a kid. I want to jump into that scene and make snow angels.


March 2, 2009

Snow day


March 1, 2009

What to do when a photo is boring

I can't really put my finger on why I don't like this photo. I think it's too boring. It just doesn't sing to me. Compositionally, it's fine. I think part of it is the colors - or the lack of. Sometimes monochromatic photos work. Here, it doesn't.
When I run into photos like these, that's when I start messing with the different post production tools I have at my disposal. Get creative. Tonight, I tried converting this into a black and white, split tones, duotone, and a couple other color tools. Nothing really clicked well with me, so I turned to my cheat sheet - a list of "actions" that I downloaded off Internet.

Actions are basically short-cuts that Photoshop, Gimp and a number of other advanced photo-editing softwares have available. To reproduce the effect in the second photo, I'd have to go through about 20 or 25 different steps. That's tedious and time-consuming, never mind I'd never remember all the steps I'd need to take. So to be able to duplicate certain effects, you can either record each step as you go along and the next time you want to get the same effect, the program will run it for you. It's similar to the "macro" in MS Word. Or you can save yourself the effort and download them off the Internet.

Many people upload copies of their actions for other people to use; they are usually free to be downloaded - very handy cheat sheet if you have a compatible program.

After several trials and errors, I hit on an action that produced a photo I like a lot better than the original. It still doesn't "sing" - I still feel it's missing something. But at least it's a bit more interesting now. Click on the before and after photos to compare the large versions.


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