Archive for August, 2010



Half-Timber Wetzlar

The Old Town section of Wetzlar has buildings dating from the late 1300s to the present. Many half-timbered buildings from the 14th and 15th centuries have been lovingly restored. You can see the progression of building…the oldest buildings are the straightest, as they still had access to tall timber. As the town grew, they had to rely on shorter timbers and build one story on top of the other. Over time the various stories have leaned different ways, giving the the 15th century houses a unique, slightly crazed, character. When you add brightly painted carved detail, and filled flower boxes the effect is pretty amazing.

City photography is always a challenge, due to perspective and wide angle lens distortions. We are used to seeing buildings leaning crazy directions, but in the case of Wetzlar’s half-timbered houses part  of  the lean is reality. The building on the right above is a classic example. No one is going to believe the lean of the roof peak, but is, in fact, reality. Correcting distortions for a more natural view is never easy, but the new tools in Lightroom 3 are nothing short of amazing, and, for the first time I was able to pull the half-timbered shots back to something very close to the way I see them with my naked eye.

All the shots here are with the Canon SX20IS. The top shot is an HDR using two exposures in Photomatix Lite, using the exposure blending mode to keep the sky more natural. The other two shots are straight-forward single exposures processed in Lightroom with my usual mix of Blackpoint adjustment, added Clarity and Vibrance, and Sharpening. In both cases the image was cropped for composition and to eliminate distractions, and adjusted using the distortion controls for more believable perspective.

From Gemany and England 2010.




This is one of my favorite views of Wetzlar. I love the jumble of gables and the scatter of skylights. I have taken this shot many times…but never on a late rainy evening, and never with HDR in mind. This is again, two exposures separated by 3EV combined in Photomatix. I had to turn the strength of the blend way down, or the sky went way dramatic.

To my eye that is a bit over the top, though it does make a statement.

After processing in Photomatix, both shots were taken into Lightroom, where the first challenge was correcting the vertical perspective distortion and some lens distortion for a more natural look. Then I adjusted Blackpoint, added Clarity and Vibrance and used the Sharpen narrow edges preset.

Canon SX20IS at 28mm equivalent. ISO 200.

From Germany and England 2010.



Window Light

Happy Sunday!  I am composing this on a Thursday morning in England, as Sunday morning will find me at the British Birding Fair already at this time. This is another shot from my late rainy evening stroll through old town Wetzlar. One of the reasons I like the old town is that it is full of little corners like this one, along a narrow (10 feet wide at most) cobbled street between half-timbered buildings dating from the 1500’s. I like the contrast of the blue wall, with its interesting texture and the bright red and green geraniums. The golden glow of the light behind the pebbled glass window completes the picture for me.

Windows are always interesting to me as photographic elements, and I have noticed among photographers  a similar fascination (among my flickr friends at least…one of my most visited images is a window shot).

For me it is about what they reveal and what they hide. They are meant to provide a view from within and light from without, for those who live inside. But they also. of course, provide a view of the life within to those who are outside. Jesus has something to say about that…about eyes as windows, and about the light that should shine out of them. The title of my SmugMug site comes from one of those passages. I hope my windows show at least such a golden glow on a late rainy evening…even if they are too often, just as obscuring as this one.

This took considerable distortion and perspective tweaking in Lightroom since I shot it an odd oblique angle (to chatch the light in the window). Then my standard Blackpoint, Clarity, Vibrance and Sharpen.

From Germany and England 2010.



Lahn Bridge: Wetzlar

An very old coble stone bridge provides access to the lower part of the old town section of Wetzlar. Here we see it in another late evening shot (after 8PM) on a rainy day in August. The concrete sluice way replaces falls and rapids that contributed to flooding in the past, and keeps the water through the commercial section of the new town at manageable levels. The river is managed, in part, for tourism as it is one of the most popular canoeing trails in Europe.

This is a sudo HDR using the tone mapping functions in Photomatix, applied to a single image, plus some tweaking of Blackpoint, added Clarity and Vibrance, and Sharpening  in Lightroom.

Canon SX20IS at 28mm equivalent @ f2.8 @ 1/60 @ ISO 200. Landscape mode.

From Germany and England 2010.



Rooftops: Hamburg

What does a photographer do if stuck in a 5th office all day on his first (and likely only) visit  to Hamburg (and on a gray day at that).

He sees what is to be seen out the windows and snaps a few on short breaks in the meeting schedule. At lease that’s what I do.

Canon SD4000IS (which is great for this kind of spontaneous work) at 1) 90mm equivalent @ f5 @ 1/320th @ ISO 125 and 2) 106mm equivalent @ f5 @ 1/125th @ ISO 125. Programmed auto.

Both received a combination of Blackpoint right, added Clarity and Vibrance, and Sharpen narrow edges in Lightroom, as well as some distortion tweaking and slight cropping for composition.

From Germany and England 2010.

And then, of course, there is the classic out the windshield shot from the moving car. This one required considerable adjustment for perspective distortion as well a cropping for composition.



Mill Canal, River Lahn: Wetzlar Germany

I love to walk the old town of Wetzlar, and I never fail to find something new to photograph, or to discover a new light on an old favorite scene, but my only opportunity this trip was between 8 and 9PM at the tag end of day of heavy rain. I took my umbrella, and used it, as I explored what the fading light had to say about the ancient town. This is the mill canal along the old town side of the River Lahn were it separates, for the most part, Old Wetzlar and New. I love this jumble of houses, of many different ages (and that is using ages in its historical sense), along the canal, and the light gave me a good excuse to try an HDR shot where nothing else would have worked. The long exposure required for the late evening foreground would have burned the sky white, and an exposure for the clouds would have left the foreground close to black. I took two exposures separated by 3.5 stops, –2EV and +1.5EV, and combined them using the Detail Enhancement/Tone Mapping mode in Photomatix. The result is actually pretty close to a naked eye view. Presented as an photograph, it might strikes the eye as painterly, since we know, from daily experience of recoded images, that a camera could not have caught that range.

The image is not perfect. I was working, as usual, without a tripod, and trying to balance an umbrella as well…but I still like the effect. You would have to walk along the canal in Wetzlar, on a rainy evening with your umbrella up, to know how well it captures the atmosphere of the place.

In addition to the treatment in Photomatix, I adjusted color balance in Lighroom, slid the Blackpoint right, added Clarity and Vibrance, and used the Sharpen narrow edges preset. I also used the distortion controls, both for lens and vertical perspective, to restore a natural look.

Corrected distortion is actually another reason why the experienced eye sees this image as painterly…we have come to expect, to totally accept, wide angle and vertical distortion in photographs…when it is not there, or when it is corrected as in this image, we miss it!

From Germany and England 2010.



Cotton Grass

(Still in Germany)

On the bog in August, about the only thing blooming (or looking like it is blooming), is the Cotton Grass. These tuffs of cottony fiber with their attendant spears dot the marsh and provide contrast with the blueberries that make up the mass of the surface vegetation. I got down low, using Macro on the SD4000IS for this shot (really missed the swing out LCD on the SX20IS!).

Canon SD4000IS at 28mm equivalent and macro. F2.8 @ 1/640th @ ISO 125. Programmed auto.

In Lightroom, Blackpoint right, added Clarity and Vibrance, and Sharpen narrow edges preset.

From Saco Heath.