The House Of Red Neon

red neon joe grossinger advertising restaurant

I have been meaning to photograph this striking Chinese restaurant for months now. Every time I drive east on I-10 at night I see it just south of the freeway. This image is a 9-image HDR I created using a Nikon D90 camera with my favorite walk-around lens, the 18-200mm Nikkor ISO was 400. When photographing for HDR I like to be in aperture priority so that the depth of field does not change with the different exposures. I set the D90 to bracket 3 images at 2 f-stops apart. After those 3 images were taken I set the exposure compensation to -2 stops and then finally to plus 2 stops. That gave me a total of 9 images for a range of 18 f-stops. Using a steady tripod is an absolute must for this kind of photography. I use the Manfrotto 055XPROB Pro with the Manfrotto 804RC2 head. For general photography, not using extremely heavy lenses, this is an excellent combination in price/performance. I also use this combination with the Sony A350 and Tamron 200-500mm lens with total satisfaction.

I always photograh with the camera set to RAW file mode. I process the RAW files using DXO Labs Optics Pro 6. DXO, which  does the heavy grunt work with the images and saves them in JPG format. I generally only work with JPG files and save the RAW files as my negatives. This procedure saves me an enormous amount of time and effort.

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grossinger photography red neon

This is a single image photo taken around the same time using the same equipment with the aperture set on 7.1 and .62 second shutter speed.

Click on image for a better view

Which picture is “better” comes down to a matter of personal taste. Lila likes the single exposure because in her words “it’s cleaner”, while I like the HDR for the tonal range. Lila has a valid point because in the second image many of the distracting elements such as cars and handicapped parking signs are subdued and hidden.

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What you need to know about HDR

Click on image for a better view
This image is a 3-image HDR with each expsure 1 stop above and below the correct exposure.
Most cameras and that includes the better point and shoot models can bracket their exposures. The thing about HDR is not super saturated colors as a lot of people think, but a greater dynamic range. For a well made HDR there should not be any black shadows nor any blown highlights.
The funny thing about HDR images is that most photographers hate them and most people that don’t do a lot of photography love them. It’s a funny disconnect that has more to do with being afraid of gimmicks in the case of professionals and the love of a crisp, beautiful picture in the case of everyone else.
HDR photography has come a long way since I started working in HDR about four years ago. There were a lot of problems with the software and to be sure, a lot of folks just blasted away and created some really ugly pictures in HDR. I initially loved the idea of having high dynamic range but then cooled on HDR because of the crap software.
Adobe’s Photoshop CS5 has changed all that. Ghosting is no longer a problem because of that cute little “Remove Ghosts” button. It works!
Photoshop does not bother you with a bunch of stupid questions you probably have no answer for anyway and just goes ahead and produces the HDR.
After PS has produced the HDR, it only takes a few seconds, you are given some sliders to tweak the image. I generally don’t do a lot in that panel except to crank Vibrance up to around 80%. Vibrance is cool and smart, it only saturates those colors that need it. Thanks Adobe!
At any rate, now that I have PS5 and have seen how well HDR Pro works, I’m going back to shooting a lot of HDR. There no longer is any reason not to. The software works exceptionally well to the point where most folks don’t know it’s HDR unless you tell them.
I learned a long time ago on FlickR that my images were a lot more popular if I did not state a picture was HDR.
The smart asses that know all about how bad HDR is don’t know it’s HDR unless you tell them.
Photograhy is changing rapidly, the equipment is so much better today than five years ago and so is the software.
Even though I shoot in RAW, I still don’t have to sweat memory space because memory cards have become dirt cheap.
HDR is not a good choice for any kind of action shooting, but for architecture, landscapes, car shows and that sort of thing where you have a static subject, I think HDR is a great tool.
So, go ahead and shoot some HDR if you have PS5 because you will love the results.
If you don’t have PS5, you should. Yes, it’s pricey but the cheaper software is cheaper for a reason.
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You just can’t beat a Nikon!
MIAMI – Paul Shultz was walking along the pier of a Key West marina when he saw what looked like a rotting tomato pounding against the rocks.

The Coast Guard investigator waded ankle-deep into the water to fish out the ocean rubbish: a bright red Nikon camera, small enough to fit in the palm of his hand. Its waterproof plastic case was covered with six months’ worth of crusty sea growth, but the camera itself was almost pristine when he found it May 16.
However, clues to tracking down its owner were few. So Shultz decided to test his investigative skills.
There were photos of two men preparing to scuba dive and a towheaded family nestled together on a couch. There was a mysterious relic settled deep into the sea floor. And even a puzzling video clip of splashing water that appeared to have been taken as the camera thrashed around under the control of something that wasn’t human.

“There was nothing on the pictures that said this camera belongs to so and so,” Shultz said.

After looking through the pictures, Shultz adopted the screen name of “Aquahound” and took his hunt online.

He uploaded the images on Scubaboard.com, hoping some diving aficionados could help identify where they were taken. Within days, the Internet sleuths had parsed the pictures and found some clues all pointing to Aruba, a Dutch island off Venezuela’s coast that’s 1,100 miles from Key West.

There was a plane’s tail number — and a computer search showed the aircraft was in Aruba the day the photo was taken. There was a blue-roofed building that searchers pinpointed to the island using Google Earth. And there was a school poster written in Dutch.

But could the camera make such a trip? Villy Kourafalou, an associate professor of physical oceanography at the University of Miami, said such an odyssey is possible. The buoyancy of the plastic case combined with various currents could have taken the camera to Key West, she told The Associated Press in an e-mail.

With Shultz’s search narrowed, the resolution came quickly. He posted the pictures on the travel websites Cruisecritic and Aruba.com, and within two days was contacted by an Aruban woman who said she recognized the children in some of the photos as classmates of her son.

She contacted the family, the de Bruins, and all the pieces came together.

“I have a smile on my face … I can’t stop laughing about it,” Dick de Bruin said in a phone interview from Aruba. “It’s really big news (on the island) and in Europe.”

De Bruin, a sergeant in the Royal Dutch Navy, has been stationed with his family in Aruba for three years. The camera floated away from de Bruin while he and a dive team were salvaging an anchor from the USS Powell for a World War II memorial. The American ship protected Aruba, a major oil producer, from German forces during the war.

“There’s a big connection between America and Aruba … first with the anchor, and now the camera brings us together again,” de Bruin said.

The camera is on its way to the de Bruin family via FedEx and should be there any day.

Shultz said he’s thrilled the story is ending well — for a brief moment when he first viewed the mystery video, he feared the camera’s owner had met a tragic end.

There was footage of the divers recovering the anchor, and then in the next video, “the camera started thrashing around and a fin came into the picture,” Shultz said. “Then 20 seconds in I realized there was no blood.”

The culprit: a hungry sea turtle trying to take a bite out of the floating camera in January, two months after it was lost. The camera’s leash apparently got caught on its flipper, and the animal’s splashing turned on the video camera. Shultz’s best guess is that the episode happened off the coast of Honduras.

That video clip has been seen more than 200,000 times on YouTube, with viewers everywhere from Alaska to Africa to Australia. It’s de Bruin’s favorite part of the whole story.

“When I told people what Paul had done, they were astonished. They didn’t believe it,” he said. “But we have the sea turtle on film proving the camera floated from Aruba to the U.S. It’s unbelievable, but it’s true.”

The video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E43sg-Ytt58

Photos from the camera: http://travel.webshots.com/album/577735131ZvBWTi

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Photoshop CS5 HDR Sampler

Photoshop CS5 HDR

click on image for a full view

I just finished playing around with PS CS5’s merge to hdr pro mode.
For this test I chose 3 images I took some time ago with my Sony R1. I never could get a decent HDR image out of the three images because of terrible ghosting. Someone once told me to use a tripod if I’m going to do HDR, but someone else told me I have a hard head. No, I usually do not use a tripod and the above picture is proof of that.
The new merge to hdr pro mode has a cute little button called “Remove Ghosts” with this picture being the result of that.

Click on image for a full view
Wowsers! This is way too easy.
When doing a merge to hdr in PS CS5 you have several presets that are pretty cool. Here is the monochromatic artistic mode.
Click on image for a better view
Personally, I think this rocks and I don’t even like B&W for the most part.
This is just a short demonstration of what the new Merge to HDR Pro feature can do for you.
In my humble opinion I believe that the best photo editing software just got much better.
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To HDR or not to HDR

When I photograph in HDR

According to Wikipedia:

In image processing, computer graphics, and photography, high dynamic range imaging (HDRI or just HDR) is a set of techniques that allow a greater dynamic range of luminances between the lightest and darkest areas of an image than standard digital imaging techniques or photographic methods. This wider dynamic range allows HDR images to more accurately represent the wide range of intensity levels found in real scenes, ranging from direct sunlight to faint starlight.
In my opinion HDR is grossly overdone. I think it’s a crutch for poor photographers that use HDR as a gimmick instead of a photography tool.
I seldom use HDR because:
Most of the time it’s not needed.
It forces me to wade through piles and piles of junk, poorly exposed images.

I can usually get the same or better picture with just one image.

I do use HDR in Photoshop when I am photographing a scene with grey or cloudy sky, when photographing the interior of a junk car, where I usually encounter bright light and almost total darkness. HDR is great for that. I have absolutely no need for HDR shooting landscapes or wildlife under a nice blue sky or a partly cloudy sky.

A lot of people have incorrectly associated HDR with “enhanced”, gaudy, crappy colors. Flickr Explore is infamous for this kind of tasteless crap.
Bright, bold, gaudy colors have their place but only a small minority of the time.
Photographers use that trick on Flickr because their gaudy thumbnails will catch the eye. Click on the picture and you get this ugly, stupidly gaudy image with super saturated colors. That is NOT HDR.

From the days of black and white film to digital photography one fact has always held true.
Nothing beats a properly exposed picture.

When I do resort to HDR I warn myself by shooting with my fingers accross the lens before and after I work in HDR. I generally set the camera to bracket at 1 or 2 f stops above and below the camera’s level.
That gives me three images to work with but I have found that if you are doing a great scene and want to really nail the picture then 6 to 12 exposures done manually at 1/2 fstop work really well.
For that kind of work you need a very sturdy and steady tripod and a light touch as you adjust the camera.

I have tried various HDRI software packages but have found that Photoshop starting with CS3 on up does a far superior job and is much easier to work with than any of the standalone software.
Yeah, you pay a lot for Photoshop but for the long haul you get so much more for your money.
Don’t expect Adobe Photoshop Elements to do the same job the full package gives you. There is a reason Photoshop costs so much more. It delivers far more.
Let me know how you edit your pictures and if you have any tips you want to share.

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