Storm clouds over the Siegestor

Storm clouds over the Siegestor

We came across this wonderful and huge triumphal arch in Munich one day recently...

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Arches and marble

The inside of the Indiana Statehouse is very impressive.  I took a 30 minute detour through it when I was in Indy a while back and was glad that I did.  It just screams HDR.  There are 3 levels and all this marble, and all these columns and arches - it's worth a visit, camera in hand or not.  It is not a large structure - being from Austin I am used to a huge Capitol complex like ours - but it is beautiful and I am glad I squeezed in a few moments there, and doubly so that I had the camera!

The architecture of Central Park

When I was in NYC on business, I ended up with some free time at the end of the day and decided to meander towards Central Park.  I had been in New York City before, but had never been to Central Park.  I had a very basic map in hand of the city, which gave little detail on the Park itself, so I was rather happy and surprised when I stumbled across the area around the Bethesda Fountain.  It is a beautiful fountain and I was very intrigued when I found this little area under a bridge.  It has all these nice arches and the ceiling was alive with all these beautiful orange lights - it just screamed HDR to me.  While I was setting up, there was this young guy standing around with his guitar, playing some Beatles songs and chatting with me.  He was pretty good, and the acoustics here were excellent. 

A beautiful entryway

As you may have read in some of my previous posts, I am a big fan of doors, entrances, entryways - whatever you call them, or whatever form they come in, I just like them - that is, if they are beautiful or interesting in some way.  I guess it is something in me that likes the symbolic passage from one place to another, or something.  Beats me, I just know I like them.  Anyways, we recently paid a visit to some family members that live out in the Texas Hill Country in Horseshoe Bay (if you know the area) and I have always liked this entrance.  Isn't it beautiful?  I sure think it is.  The curve of the arch is just right, the river rocks in it are awesome, and the iron gate is a great touch - like I said, it's beautiful!  It was a cloudy day when we were there, and of course my camera was thinking it was HDR time, so I was looking for some things to shoot.  I wandered around a bit and found myself here, setting up this shot.  This was not long ago as I said, so the spring growth was starting on the flowers although the trees were still bare from winter.  I thought that made an interesting contrast and added to the overall image.

This is a 6 exposure HDR taken at f/11, with exposures from +2 to -3.  I merged them into an HDR in Photomatix and then made some adjustments in PSE around Curves and Contrast.

Echoes of running water

I just love the sound of running water, don't you?  I assume everyone does.  It has a calming effect I guess, and in this hectic world everyone needs that.  In this case, I heard that peaceful sound as well as a slight echo as the sound waves bounced around the underside of this stone bridge.  It's pretty cool.  I came across this bridge while on a photowalk around the University of Texas campus, and being a bridge guy I immediately climbed down to the side of the stream and started finding my way across rocks that happened to be in all the right places.  They were a little slippery but at least this time I had on the right kind of shoes.  I took a bunch of shots here, from all sorts of angles, and was happy to spend quite a while there.  

This is a 6 exposure HDR, taken at f/22, with exposures from +2 to -3.  They were blended into an HDR in Photomatix, then adjusted in PSE (Curves, Contrast, Unsharp Mask) and a final touch in Topaz Adjust.  I am starting to use Topaz Adjust quite a bit, and really like the product.  It has all kinds of interesting settings that you can use to adjust your photos, though some are a bit over the top for me.  If you want to read more about it, you can see my review of it here.   

Curves of a bridge

This is a shot of a pedestrian bridge in downtown Austin.  I enjoy taking shots of bridges, and usually wind up underneath them trying to find cool views, in which I am usually successful.  I thought this one had nice lines to it.  From the top of this bridge you can get a nice view of our downtown skyline.  The arched bridge in the distance is a frequent subject of mine, since it has those wonderful arches in it.  In the old days, before this pedestrian bridge existed, you had to cross the distant one on a very narrow track.  Every time a car went by it felt like you would get blown off the bridge.  That pretty much stunk, but it's all better now!

This is a 6 exposure HDR shot at f/13, with the exposures ranging from -3 to +2.  The raw files were merged into an HDR in Photomatix, and then the HDR was adjusted in PSE for Curves, Contrast and UnSharp Mask.

Arches and angles

Last week I went on a photowalk with my buddy Pete Talke, who runs the popular travel photo blog www.places2explore.wordpress.com.  We met at the University of Texas campus here in Austin.  He had never shot there and it seemed like a good place to start.  Well, it was awesome.  We had a great time, were able to get a bunch of great shots, and even snuck into the football stadium for a while, until the police found us and escorted us out.  I'll share some shots from that little adventure later.  The main building on campus, which has a massive tower rising above it, is a popular spot for photographs.  Although I took a shot or two of the tower, I was more interested in exploring some of the fine architectural details of the building.  This was shot at the front entrance.  I went to college here, but did not remember how beautiful it is.  I was really awed by this covered area, with the arches, textures and wooden ceiling.  I only wish for two things: that all the lights were on that day, and that I had known about this sooner!

This is a 6 exposure HDR, taken at -3, -2, -1, 0, +1, and +2.  They were combined in Photomatix and then adjusted in PSE (curves) and a slight "pop" added in Topaz Adjust (which is a cool product I might add!).  Hope you like it!!

A time to reflect

With 2009 drawing to a close, we all look back upon what has transpired over the last 12 months.  Hopefully you have had a productive and exciting year, full of more of the things you want to do than the opposite.  Looking forward, I wish you a happy, healthy and productive 2010.

My 2009 was fun, interesting, productive, and exciting.  I officially launched this website, which has been great fun, and got serious about my photography.  I am focused on learning as much as I can, and experimenting with different things so as to stretch my range and myself.  The more I learn, the more I realize that I have much more to learn.  I guess it is always that way.  But then again, if you stop learning, you are basically dead anyways.  So, here's to learning more in 2010!

I have written several goals for my photography for the new year, most of which I will spare you having to read about.  But, here are a few of them:

* Quality, not quantity - since I started on Flickr earlier this year, and then launched this website, one of my initial goals was to post a new image every day.  I didn't exactly succeed, but that's ok since I am not getting graded (am I?).  This year though I want to focus on posting what I consider a quality image.  I felt like some of my posts in 2009 were not great shots, and I posted despite that fact because I was trying to get something posted.  In 2010 I intend to focus on producing high quality images and posting them when they are ready.  So, I envision about 4 posts a week, or something like that.

* Focus on the composition - as I mention above, learning about photography is important to me since I want to continue to improve, and composition is a basic element.  I feel like some of my comps are good, some are great, and some are just fair.  I intend to experiment and try things so as to focus (no pun intended) on getting good comps and interesting ones too.

* Slow down - sometimes I get in a hurry while setting up for a shot (doesn't everyone get a little excited now and then?) and either don't check all my camera settings, or miss an important element to the shot that I should have included.  Unless the situation prevents it, I plan to slow down, breathe, and plan my shots this year with the goal of getting it right the first time.

Well, that about covers it.  I hope your 2009 was a wonderful year, and that you experience much health, happiness and prosperity in 2010.

By the way, this was taken under the Lamar Street bridge in Austin (the same bridge from my last post), a few minutes before that last shot.  It is a 5 shot HDR (-3, -2, -1, 0, +1, +2) taken at f/13.  It was combined in Photomatix, then adjusted in PSE (Curves, Contrast) and Topaz Adjust.  Thanks for visiting! 

Hungry bridge

Ok, I admit it - I have a thing for bridges.  I guess I never really recognized this before, but once I took up HDR photography I have really gotten into them.  Here in Austin we are fortunate that a river runs through town, so there are several bridges along the way to capture.  They are not all beautiful, or spectacular, but some of them do offer some interesting shapes to photograph.  This is the Lamar Street bridge, shot from the north side of the lake.  To me, it looks like the bridge has its mouth open and is ready to eat something - hence the title.  

This was a 3 exposure HDR (0, -1, -2) shot at f/13 during the mid-morning sun.  It was a beautiful morning and the sky was fairly bright, but more importantly the water was very calm which allowed me to get such a nice reflection.  That is one of the great things about HDR - the detail gets accentuated, even in reflections.  It really brings a photo to life.

Arches at the Mission

As you may have read in my previous posts, I really like architecture.  I have enjoyed it for as long as I can remember, and with photography I find that I am always drawn to architectural elements whenever I am somewhere.  I don't claim any skill in it, or deep knowledge of it - just simple appreciation.  In this case I really like the arches and how they carry your eye through the photo, as well as their repetitive pattern.  They reminded me of a Roman aqueduct.  This was taken at Mission San Jose in San Antonio, TX.  This mission is known as the "Queen of the Missions" and is one of several found just south of downtown San Antonio, TX.