Tag: Cityscapes

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Post-Processing Explored

My first camera was a small Kodak Instamatic. I’m sure most of the readers of this blog have no idea what that is or for that matter even care! To tell you the truth, it was so long ago I had forgotten what it looked like myself. So, a quick visit to Wikipedia restored my lost memory! Kodak Instamatic

But, just as way of clarification, it was a small plastic film camera. You just snapped the picture; therefore, we called the resulting photos snapshots. When you had finished your roll of film, typically about 12 pictures as I remember, you would send the roll to your local lab or drugstore to be developed and have prints made. It was a lot of fun opening the envelope and looking at your photos for the first time. There was no such thing as an LED screen on the back of your camera back in those ancient times! Sometimes the surprises were not too pleasant. It was not unusual to have several severely underexposed photos. Also, if you hadn’t advanced the film properly, you might have partial images on your prints. We don’t have time to talk about how you had to insert or remove the film in the camera in this blog!

 Today most of us are taking a photographs by using a digital device. Either a DSLR or a mobile phone. In any case we can quickly see the photos and with the available software manipulate the image almost instantly. In the last couple of years, I have rekindled my interest in photography and as the readers of this blog know I have been trying to document my progress as an amateur photographer in this blog. Today I want to share some of my photos with you; but I also want to share what the photos looked like before any adjustments were made with Adobe Lightroom and or NIK software.

 Recently, I was in Pittsburgh for a very short visit and had the opportunity to photograph several scenes around the city. One of the first areas that appeared in my viewfinder was the Strip District. This is an older part of the city near downtown the filled with shops, restaurants, grocery stores and even furniture stores. It has become a busy area for both locals and tourists. The photo below is a street scene from the Strip District. This photo was taken in the early afternoon and the sky was extremely bright. The photo right out of the camera was rather dark as you can see from the screenshot below.

 Unadjusted Street Scene

After processing this photo in Adobe Lightroom I was able to recover a lot of the detail in the shadows and darker areas and the resulting photo is pretty decent. Below is the screenshot from Lightroom when I had finished processing the photo.

 Adjusted Street Scene

Here’s a better view of that photo.

Adjustments made in Lightroom

 

The next shot was a view of the city skyline from the 16th Street bridge near the Strip District. Again, the sky was very bright, so the resulting photo was dark as you can see from the screenshot below.

 Unadjusted Cityscape

Again, after working through Photoshop I managed to recover a lot of detail and I’m very satisfied with the resulting photo. Below is the screenshot showing some of the Lightroom adjustments that were made.

 Adjusted Cityscape

Here’s a better view of that photo.

 Adjustments made in Lightroom (2)

As we were walking around the downtown area we passed an alley and I thought it would make an interesting photo. When I uploaded this photo to my computer I decided it would be a much better picture if I processed it is a monochrome image. Below is the screenshot of the image before I started to process it.

 Before any adjustments

After I had worked the photo in Lightroom I decided to move it to NIK’s Silver eFex software. Below is a screenshot showing the photo after adjustments in both Lightroom and NIK.

 After adjustments in Lightroom and NIK

Here is a better view of this photo. I think the resulting image is very moody and somewhat mysterious. This is probably my favorite photo of the ones I took on the trip to Pittsburg.

 Adjustments made in Lightroom and NIK

As I have mentioned before in previous posts this blog is not about how to instruct you in doing anything because I’m just learning myself. What I do want to do is continue to share my progress as an amateur photographer. To this point I feel that I am making reasonable progress with my new hobby. I can also see that I have a long way to go in the areas of correctly using the exposure triangle, composition and post-processing, but progress is being made. Please come back to visit www.cestlavie4me.com  in the future.

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Hand-Held Panoramas

Some images shout out to be created as a Panorama. This sometimes gives the viewer a much better perspective of the subject and sense of place than a standard photograph. One of the primary tools for great panoramic shots is the use of a steady tripod. Unfortunately, in my case I did not have a tripod on a recent day-trip to Baltimore, Maryland. I do, however, carry a bean bag in my camera bag that I sometimes use as a support for my camera.

My wife and I visited the World Trade Center in Baltimore and on the top floor there is a great observation room with a 360-degree view of Baltimore. I was up for the challenge of attempting panoramic shots without a tripod. Just to make matters a little more difficult, I had to shoot thru the somewhat dirty and streaky glass windows of the Observation Room! So, I proceeded to find spots where I could anchor the bean bag with the camera either on top or pressed against the side and then went to work.

Here are four photos that are each made up of three images. I used Adobe Lightroom to process and combine the images into a panorama. I doubt if any of these photos would win a photography contest prize; but I was very pleased with how well they turned out considering the challenges of hand-holding a camera for panoramas!

Port of Baltimore

Baltimore Marina

Baltimore City Center

Baltimore City Center

Later in the day, we visited The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, also called the Baltimore Basilica. It was the first Roman Catholic cathedral built in the United States and was among the first major religious buildings constructed in the nation after the adoption of the U.S. Constitution. This gave me the opportunity to try a panoramic shot indoors in low light. I again took out my bean bag and took some photos of the altar area. Even with people in the scene the four-image panorama came out well!

Altar

I would always prefer a tripod to a bean-bag, but, it seems that you can make a decent panorama by hand-holding with the help of software like Adobe Lightroom. Now might be a good time for you to take out your camera and try the same technique. Keep on shooting!

Blog Posts

Photographing Cityscapes

Okay, so the title is a big DUH! In any event, I had an opportunity recently to visit both Chicago and Las Vegas and to take some photographs. I decided to focus on architecture in both cities. These two cities could not be more different. Chicago is filled with bold and imaginative high-rise buildings that feature stunning architecture and style! Las Vegas, on the other hand, is somewhat of an adult fantasyland, the architecture here focuses on creating the illusion of something magical and exciting in hopes that you won’t mind losing your money while you are gambling!

The environment for both cities is also quite unique. Chicago hugs the shoreline of Lake Michigan, while Las Vegas is located in the desert. Chicago is a city of big business, big commerce and big industry. Many major corporations are either headquartered or have bases there. Las Vegas, is a city whose industry is hotels, casinos and visitors.

In any event, both cities provided some great photographic opportunities. In Chicago, I did make an effort to try and take all of my photographs in the early part of the day to take advantage of some beautiful blue skies and white clouds. One of the photos in this post features two towers, the tower on the left is black and the tower on the right is a bright silver. The reflective surfaces created a lot of glare. The sky was somewhat dark so I decided to process this photo as a monochrome image.

Trump Tower is on the right.

Trump Tower is on the right.

The next photo was in the shadow of the Chicago CTA (subway) “L” train, with the iconic Trump tower in the background. My vantage point for this photo was standing in the street near the curb trying to avoid being hit by a car, truck or bus! When I uploaded this picture to my computer, I was initially disappointed in it because most of the picture was in heavy shadow. Fortunately, Adobe Lightroom’s shadow slider opened up this picture considerably along with the use of the Tone Curve tool. The lighting was somewhat tricky, but it created what I think is a good photograph. You can be the judge of that yourself!

CTA's Elevated "L" Train with the Trump Tower in the background.

CTA’s Elevated “L” Train with the Trump Tower in the background.

One of my favorite photos of this trip is titled Diving Platform. When I first saw this building I thought “Now that is a photograph waiting to happen!”. The sky was blue as was the tint of the building. The issue was where to stand, so I tried several angles. The best position was standing as close as I could and pointing the camera straight up and using the tree branches to enhance the photo. Since it was the middle of the day, many people passed by, some looked at me with a little curiosity but most just ignored me!

Building acroos the street from the Sofitel Hotel. Photo shot at midday.

Building across the street from the Sofitel Hotel. Photo shot at midday.

I also took quite a few photographs that featured highly contrasty, bright skies and therefore the resulting photographs were not very good. So I didn’t post them to hide my lack of photographic skill! I had the opportunity to see firsthand how important the correct light actually is, even for shooting in the city. I did some sunrise photography in Chicago and I was quite pleased with those pictures, but I decided not to post them in this blog in order to be brief.

Las Vegas, because of its location in the desert, the skies are extremely bright during the day and generally speaking clouds are somewhat limited. This definitely makes it difficult to take daytime photographs of the buildings along the Las Vegas strip. I did attempt to take one photograph of the New York New York Hotel and Casino which I posted in this blog. As you can see, the sky is quite boring and lacks any interest. I had to use the graduated filter in Adobe Lightroom to lower the exposure just to make it a presentable photo.

Under the category of people say weird things, I’m sure the following situation has probably happened to you. As I was standing with my camera mounted on a tripod and pointed to the New York New York Casino, not once, but on several occasions people asked me what was I doing? I smiled and fought the urge to say something really sarcastic and merely replied “I’m taking a photo of the casino”.

Shot in the late afternoon from the MGM Hotel & Casino Sidewalk.

Shot in the late afternoon from the MGM Hotel & Casino Sidewalk.

One of the benefits of being in the desert were the clear skies. I decided to take advantage of this by getting up at 4:00am the next morning to take some photographs. The Paris Hotel and Casino was situated in a favorable spot to catch the first glimpses of dawn breaking. I set up my camera across the street from the hotel, interestingly enough in front of the beautiful and very photographable Bellagio Hotel and Casino. The reflecting pool that you see is the pool that contains the famous water shows that the Bellagio is known for. This photo is another example of taking advantage of light, both the manmade light from the casinos and the light from the early morning sky. The photo was processed in Adobe Lightroom and Nik software’s Viveza 2 helped to brighten up the Eiffel Tower.

Shot at daybreak from the Belliago Hotel & Casino sidewalk.

Shot at daybreak from the Belliago Hotel & Casino sidewalk.

A little later that morning, I walked up Las Vegas Boulevard to the new Aria Hotel and Casino complex. Near the hotel are two very unique condominium towers along with an upscale shopping mall. The towers are unique in that they are actually built to look as if they were leaning in opposite directions. I took several shots from different positions because each time I peeked at the LCD screen the buildings tended to look straight! Finally, as I stood at the edge of the street corner in harm’s way, I got the best angle for the shot! Again, the early morning sky helped to make this an attractive picture. Later in the day, the sky was much too bright to take the same shot.

Aria Condos and Shopping Mall. Shot in the early morning. These towers really are tilted its not the camera!

Aria Condos and Shopping Mall. Shot in the early morning. These towers really are tilted its not the camera!

So what have I learned from all of this? Besides the fact that I needed my wife to watch out for traffic as I took pictures, that lighting really is important. Another thing I learned, is if I am going to take a lot of pictures of tall buildings, I may need to invest in a tilt-shift lens to correct the distortion caused by a regular lens in this situation.

As I have said before, this blog is not intended to teach anything because I don’t have enough skill as a photographer to take on that task. This blog is my attempt at documenting my experiences as an amateur photographer. Do any of you amateurs have an experience to share with shooting cityscapes? Let me know by leaving a comment.