Posts from the ‘HDR’ Category

NW MN part 2: I love abandoned farms

What gets me ALMOST as excited as photographing birds, is shooting abandoned buildings, barns and vernacular architecture from a bygone era. That’s a crazy thing for “The Photonaturalist” to say, but it’s true. Maybe it’s nostalgia from our many trips to my grandparent’s farm in rural South Dakota…or maybe from growing up in an outer-ring suburb of Minneapolis and watching all the cool old buildings and farms get swallowed up by housing developments…or maybe from my dad’s stories of going to a one-room schoolhouse…or from poking around old abandoned farms with my photographer uncle, Ben. However I came by it, it is an addiction.

When I saw this empty and lonely farm house in rural Itasca County, I stepped hard on the brakes, did a U-turn and grabbed my camera. Trespassing is a habit of photographers who love abandoned buildings. This leafless gnarled tree in the “front yard” really added to the eerie feel.

The top image was highly manipulated
1. Adjusted in Aperture (exposure, levels, curves, white balance, etc)
2. Converted to black & white in Aperture
3. Converted to sepia for fun…and I liked it!
4. Vignette added (quite heavy vignette for a spookier feel)
5. Exported out of Aperture and opened in Photoshop to tweak the perspective and add “noise” to make it grainier

A low-contrast color version lightens the mood.

And some moody black & whites…I love that tree!

Canon 7D with Sigma 10-20mm lens, hand-held

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Sparky’s Top Ten 2011

I really enjoy the exercise of picking my Top Ten from the previous year. As I peruse the “4-star” files, it gives me a chance to reflect on the adventures and misadventures, the misses and successes from the previous year. While the duties of being the father of a 3-year old and 1 1/2 year old has kept me close to home, I’m still fairly satisfied with the results. My point? You don’t really need to travel to Africa, Antarctica or Alaska to make stunning images. Start in your own backyard! The sunflower/raindrop shot was taken 20 feet from the front door!
Nine of the Ten were taken within 85 miles of home (Wrenshall, MN)
Six of the Ten were taken within 35 miles of home
Three of the Ten were taken on our land or in nearby Wrenshall

Here they are in reverse order (Hey, you’ve got to build excitement!)

NUMBER 10

This is the only photo of the bunch that was taken further than 85 miles from home; This perturbed Canada Goose was defending territory on my mother-in-law’s pond in Galesburg, Illinois. The light was perfect, it is tack sharp, and there is behavior. The goose’s open beak makes the shot. It also shows that common and familiar birds can still make great subjects.

NUMBER 9

Okay, I didn’t actually click the shutter of the camera for this shot…It was taken by my Bushnell Trophy Cam trail camera. And it’s not that great of a shot…BUT, I included it because 2011 was the Year of the Trail Camera for me…And this Bobcat was only 100 feet from the house. I’ve never seen a Bobcat on our 5 acres but the trail camera has recorded them on more than a dozen nights/days. It just goes to show how many subjects may be near by but never seen.

NUMBER 8

Another oddball choice, but I really like this picture. It is a HDR (High Dynamic Range) image created from 3 separate photos taken at different exposures. I’ve always loved vernacular architecture—old buildings, gas stations, city halls, school houses, barns—so this abandoned farm caught my eye as I was taking a “long cut” home through Pine and Carlton Counties.

NUMBER 7

I got very wet taking this images of a Le Conte’s Sparrow in the Sax-Zim Bog 40 miles NW of Duluth. It was just after dawn and this guy was singing away, intent on attracting a female even though it was late in the breeding season. Dew covered every blade of grass and I got drenched as I made my way closer and closer to the songster in the old hay-field. Le Conte’s Sparrows are not common so I was thrilled that he let me get within 20 feet. In fact, he was still singing when I backed off and returned to my truck.

NUMBER 6

A surreal landscape (icescape?) of bushes encased in a thick layer of ice on Stoney Point between Duluth and Two Harbors on Lake Superior. Taken at sunset but looking east…I much prefer the pink and blue of the eastern vista at sunset to the gaudy 🙂 oranges and reds of the west.

NUMBER 5

I love the position of the wings in this shot of a juvenile Red-tailed Hawk. Yes, I wish it was an adult, red tail and all, but I’ll take it. Hawk Ridge; Duluth, MN

NUMBER 4

Pine Grosbeaks only visit the “tropical south” of northern Minnesota in winter. They nest in Canada. Their pinkish red feathers are stunning in the snowy woods. But this was actually taken in our local city park only five miles from home!

NUMBER 3

It is possible to have flying birds and the moon in focus without resorting to Photoshop! Taken in late October at Crex Meadows, Wisconsin…a major stopover in their migration south.

NUMBER 2

A very rare phenomenon…the “wavebow” was captured along the North Shore of Lake Superior in March. I just happened to be driving by and saw this scene. I pulled over and scrambled down the embankment to fire off a few shots before it disappeared. It is in the latest issue of Lake Superior Magazine as a two-page spread.

Drumroll please….NUMBER 1

Probably the photo that took the most time to get…I shot hundreds of images over a two week period to get this shot…And I finally got it right outside our front door! The time between a raindrop/dewdrop building up to critical mass and falling from the petal is milliseconds. The editors at the Minnesota Conservation Volunteer also liked it and it ran in the Nov-Dec 2011 issue.

If I get motivated I may do more “Top Tens” of landscape, birds, mammals etc. But I do hope this motivates you to do your own Top Ten images.

Iceland Summer 3—Rekjavik in HDR


Part 3 of a look back at our Scandinavian honeymoon from 2006:

I think the Insight Guide to Iceland put it quite well, “Visitors are often unsure whether Reykjavik is a scaled-down city or a scaled-up village.” At 112,000 residents it is about the size of Duluth-Superior…And most of its growth has been since WWII. It was only a town of 5,000 folks in 1901. Reykjavik is the world’s northernmost capital at 64 degrees North. Strolling through the old city centre is a charming look at Icelandic culture. One thing I noticed right away is that many of the brightly-colored houses were sided with corrugated metal! One amazing fact is that the entire city is heated with geothermal heat…No fossil fuels used to heat a northern city!

We know the explorer pictured above as Leif Erickson, but in Iceland he is known as Leifur Eriksson, and he is a national hero. Son of the Viking Erik the Red (who discovered Greenland), Leifur also became an explorer and (as all Scandinavians know) “discovered” America centuries before Columbus. This reminds me of my favorite bumper sticker…“Proud to Live in America…A Norwegian Colony since 1004 AD.”

[Photo Note:] All photos in this post are “HDR” images. High Dynamic Range images are created in software programs (I use Photomatix), usually from 3 or more images exposed for different parts of the scene. This technique is especially useful in scenes where it is impossible for the camera to capture the entire range of exposure. Examples would be a shadowed landscape with a bright sky. The software averages out the exposures in the highlights and shadows so all areas are middle range. It is a unique look and not everyone likes it. I must admit that I do like the surreal effect.

Jon Gunnar Arnason’s striking sculpture Solfar (Sun-Craft, 1986) sits along the oceanfront in Reykjavik.

Sheep, sheep, everywhere. I’m sure it’s true that, like New Zealand, there are more sheep inhabiting this island than humans. And crazy cool sheep. They say that every single sheep on Iceland is descended from Viking stock. And there are no fences! …hence this road sign not far from Reykjavík.
Every autumn, farmers go on horseback with their Icelandic sheep dogs to round up their flocks. The flocks are driven into huge wheel-shaped corrals with the “spokes of the wheel” defining the pens. Every farm has its own mark cut into their sheep’s ears and this is how they sort them into the correct pens. Icelandic wool is still big business in Iceland.

Teddy Roosevelt N.P.—Hoodoos AFTER Sunset

Part 5 of 6 from a mid October trip to North Dakota’s Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

The fun doesn’t stop after the sun goes down! In reality, often the last thing you want to do on an exhausting photo trip is go back into the field after dark. You’re tired, and you know the alarm will go off WAY before sunrise but you do it. And it is always a blast!…The kind of fun that was hard to imagine in the film days.

Today’s digital SLRs are capable of amazing low-light images. In the “film days” we were limited to ISO 400 film…and that was often unacceptably grainy. Now I can shoot at ISO 12,800! (that’s not a typo) and there are other cameras that can go beyond that. The image above was taken at night with only a flashlight illuminating the hoodoos. I was able to make a relatively short exposure (30seconds) due to the High ISO capability of the Canon 7D (though not nearly as good as the Nikon D3 series). Of course, you always want to shoot the lowest ISO for the least amount of noise. In this case I used ISO 1600. A short exposure also limits the movement of the stars in the final image. Click on the image to get a better look at the stars.

How big do you think the hoodoos are in the image below? It is really a miniature landscape as each hoodoo is only 12-24 inches tall. Did you think they were many feet tall? The image was taken with the Sigma 10-20mm lens from a very low angle as I wanted the hoodoos to appear large and silhouetted against the sunset. I kept the camera moving in a circular motion while clicking the shutter and popping the flash. The flash froze the hoodoos but the slow shutter speed and motion blurred the sky colors.

The bottom image is an HDR created in Photomatix Pro. I like these surreal artsy images known as High Dynamic Range. Some people hate them. The program takes several of your images of a scene with a great range of contrast and combines them into one image with a medium exposure. In this case I combined only two exposures—one for the foreground and one for the sky. You can then tweak the look from natural to bizarre. Fun stuff. Note that it is the same hoodoos as the previous image and taken only minutes apart!

Stars & Hoodoos: Canon 7D, Sigma 10-20mm at 10mm, f4 at 30seconds, ISO 1600, flashlight, tripod
Hoodoos Sunset: Canon 7D, Sigma 10-20mm at 10mm, f16 at 1/20 second, ISO 200, flash at -2EV, handheld
HDR Hoodoos: Canon 7D, Sigma 10-20mm at 10mm, f16 at 2 exposures, ISO 200, tripod