Archive for the 'cityscape' Category


1/22/2011: Vegas Segments 5, Cranes

Vegas is not only the city that never sleeps, it is also the city that is never finished. There are people on the streets and in the bars and casinos 24 hours a day, and every year when I go back I see at least one new hotel, or new hotel wing, and there is always evidence of new construction at the moment. Construction cranes over Vegas are as much a part of the skyline as the Winn or the Venetian or Cesar’s Place.

Canon SX20IS at about 75mm equivalent, f4 @ 1/1250th @ ISO 80. Programmed Auto.

Processed in Lightroom for intensity and clarity. Perspective adjusted and cropped.


8/28/2010: Good Night Wetzlar

One last shot from old town Wetzlar. The stone bridge, gables, and lighted shop windows, with the gloomy drama of the sky above. Without HDR treatment this shot would be impossible. To me it totally captures the feeling of the rainy evening as I headed back to the hotel, and says something about old town Wetzlar that I have felt, but never captured before.

Two shots with the Canon SX20IS separated by 3EV, and then tone-mapped blend in Photomatix. Final adjustments in Lightroom for Blackpoint, Clarity, Vibrance, and Sharpen. Perspective and distortion correction.

From Germany and England 2010.


8/27/2010: The Dom and the Bridge

It got later and later on my rainy evening walk through old town Wetzlar, but the evening light lasts a long time in Germany. I was headed back to the hotel when I made a last stop for this classic shot of the Dom above the stone bridge over the Lahn. Once more a shot I have taken many times, but never in this light, and never with HDR in mind. The drama of the cloud cap, the last light, the moisture in the air softening color and prespective, and elegant arches of the bridge set in rustic stone, the pastel gables of the old houses, and above it all the tower of the Dom (and that anachronistic blue polyester tarping). Quite a shot, even without the fairy light of the fountain on the trees at the right. Smile

Two radically different exposures allowed me to capture the light of the foreground and the gray of the sky, and Photomatix Lite put them together for a pretty remarkable effect (if I do say so myself).

A little help from my usual Lightroom routines (Blackpoint, Clarity, Vibrance, and Sharpen), and some perspective and distortion correction, and there it is.

Canon SX20 IS.

From Germany and England 2010.



The Dom: Wetzlar, Germany

There is an interesting story, of course, behind the Dom…the not quite cathedral of old Wetzlar. The original church was built in the 1300s, but as the city of Wetzlar grew (salt and iron), the town fathers found the ambition to be a cathedral city, and began to build a new church around the walls of the old. That’s how they did it then…they literally built the new building with the old one inside it. Before it was completed, Wetzlar fell on hard times, and construction was abandoned. It was restarted, as I remember the story, 3 separate times in the next 200 years, as the fortunes and ambitions of the town and the town fathers waxed and waned, each time with a new architect and a new style.  It never was finished. There were supposed to be two towers, and inside the church there are doorways half way up blank walls where new floors had been planned and never installed. And yet, because of that, it is one of the most interesting churches in Germany, containing as it does, written in stone, a record of the changing styles in church architecture over almost 3 centuries.

Sitting high on the hill on which old Wetzlar is built, the Dom dominates the skyline from any direction, but it is actually not easy to find a good spot for photography. This is a classic distant shot, taken from the long park along the River Lahn, beyond the stone bridge, again on my one rainy late evening of photography on this trip to Wetzlar. In this light, and with that sky, it certainly has drama. What you see is a Photomatix HDR rendered from two Canon SX20IS wide angle exposures. (The blue on the tower is not a lens or sensor flaw. There is scaffolding the full height of the tower where they are repairing and reinforcing the walls, and it is, characteristically, covered in bright blue polyester tarps.)

After blending and tone-mapping in Photomatix Lite, I did my usual Blackpoint adjustment, added Clarity and Vibrance, and sharpen in Lighroom. Some perspective adjustment was also applied.

From Germany and England 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.



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.



Night Lights and Intelligent Design

Happy Sunday!

With a 6:46 am flight out of John Wayne International in Santa Ana CA, I was up early and outside the hotel waiting for my taxi. The little ornamental lake in the development, surrounded by the early lights of the buildings and with  low clouds behind, catching some of the city light…well…I just had to try. Flash off, camera steadied on a convenient concrete post along the shore, standard Program mode. I took several shots.

Though this could have been a black and white shot…I really enjoy the little red highlights in the water!

Which just goes to show that beauty is where you find it. It does make me wonder though, if the architects of this office and condo development in urban Southern California saw this in their minds’ eye when they drew in the lake?  Personally, I tend to take things like this as intelligent design, rather than random chance. I think the architects foresaw the possibility of beauty in the nightscape and planed accordingly.

Which is the way I look at creation itself. If I am wrong…well…no harm done. I get to enjoy the beauty either way. If I am right…well…then there is an aspect of respect…an acknowledgement that a beautiful mind has been at work…and a sense of kinship. After all, the architects only created what they thought others would find beautiful. They counted on my being enough like them to see the beauty they envisioned. Otherwise, why bother? And so it is, I believe, with the creation and the creator. If that adds a dimension to my enjoyment of the beauty, well, I think I am the better for it.

Canon SD4000IS at 28mm equivalent @ f2.0 @ 1/13th second @ ISO 1600. Programmed auto. (This is impressive image quality for ISO 1600 on a pocket P&S! Evidently the the back-illuminate CMOS sensor lives up to its hype. And there is another kind of beauty, as I see it, in that!)

Straightened in Lightroom (balancing on top of a round post is not ideal). Corrected for vertical and wide-angle distortion using the new tools in Lightroom 3. Added Contrast and Clarity. Sharpen narrow edges preset.

From Zeiss Trip CA 2010.