Dark and Spooky

It turned out to be a nice and warm day.  It rained a little bit in the morning, but the afternoon was partly cloudy with the temperature in the sixties!  Just after sunset, I took a stroll through campus, camera in hand.  I walked around Hale Library, checking out different angles and thinking about doing a sunrise shot, but realized that it wouldn’t work since the Sun rose on the south side of the building.  So I kept walking and came up on Anderson Hall and something about the light, the lampposts, the wet pavement and the clouds just said spooky and haunted.  So I wanted to capture and convey that.

I shot this image hand-held, bracketing from -1 EV to +1 EV in Av mode.  I dialed up the ISO to 3200 to get the shutter speed fast enough to get a sharp image, since I didn’t have a tripod.  Initial processing was done in Photomatix Pro and sharpening was done in Photoshop.  I played around with different filters in Color Efex Pro 4 to get the look and mood I wanted.  If you haven’t yet, check out the Modern Film Filters.

Haunted/Spooky Anderson Hall at Kansas State University

Some details about this photo:
Camera: Pentax K-5
Lens: DA* 16-50
ISO: 3200
Focal Length: 16mm
Aperture: f/6.3
3 image HDR, bracketed from -1 EV to +1 EV


Tutorial: HDR-Panorama Using Photomatix and Photoshop

In this post I will show you how I made the 180 degree, HDR panorama of the imploded Dev Nelson press-box and Bill Snyder Family Stadium at Kansas State University using Photomatix and Photoshop.


I setup at the middle of the highest row in the stands so that I was inline with the 50 yard line.  I used a wireless remote to trigger the camera (Pentax K-5), which was mounted on a tripod with a ball head, and set to bracket mode (-2EV, 0EV, +2EV).  I started shooting from the left and panned to the right, taking three shots per stop, making sure I had enough overlap between stops.  I took a total of 36 images and with 3 images per stop it came out to 9 stops, so I was panning around 20° between stops. I shot in RAW-DNG.  I then imported the images into Aperture 3 where I rename, tag, and organize the photos.


I’ll go over a quick overview of the major steps I took to process the photos and then go into more detail of how to do it.  The first step was to create the merged HDR files, using Photomatix Pro, for each set of bracketed images.  The second major step was to take these HDR images and merge them in Photoshop CS6 to create the panorama.  I’ve found that this is a good way to do it.  You might think that you should create three separate panoramas (one panorama for the -2 EV photos, one for the 0 EV, and one for the +2EV photos) and then merge these three panoramas in Photomatix to create a single HDR image.  I’ve found that this does not work very well and you run into problems.

So, the first step was to select the 36 images in Aperture 3 and export the originals into a folder.  When you are processing HDR images, you want to work with the RAW files (not jpegs) this way you have more data to work with.

Select photos in aperture

Export original photos to a folder

The next step was to choose one set of bracketed photos to process in Photomatix Pro.  The resulting Photomatix settings used to process this first set would then be used to process the rest of the bracketed sets using the batch processing feature of Photomatix Pro.  I selected a set that included the other side of the stadium, the field, and the demolished press-box.

load a set of bracketed images into photomatix

Photomatix then asks what pre-process settings to use.  Here are the settings I used.

 photomatix pre-process settings

I then moved sliders back and forth in Photomatix until I got a look that I was happy with.  I wanted to bring out the details in the image, but I didn’t want it to look “fake” or cartoonish – you know, that obvious HDR look that is full of halos.  Here are the final settings.

Photomatix Settings

I then saved the settings as a preset to process the other images.  The next step was to batch process the rest of the images (Batch Bracketed Photos) and here are the settings I used.

Batch Process Photos Menu in Photomatix

Batch Process Photos using Photomatix and previous settings

After Photomatix finished creating the HDR images, I fired up Photoshop CS6 and merged them using the Photomerge option under Automate.

Automate Merging in Photoshop

Select Photomerge

Here are the settings I used for the photomerge.

Photoshop merge settings

Photoshop then merged and aligned the photos, which took some time.

Photoshop aligning the photos

This was the result of the photomerge, a bunch of layers that fit together.

result of the photomerge

As you can see, the resulting image wasn’t perfectly oriented. So I created a smart-object from the layers (select them all, right-click, and select the create a smart-object option).  I then rotated the smart object, grabbed the rectangular selection tool and created a new layer from the selection (right-click on the selection and click the new layer from copy option).  I then turned this layer into another smart-object.

create a smart-object from all the layers

Straighten the smart object then make a selection and make a new layer from the selection

I then saved this straightened and “cropped” layer as a new file.  To do this I right-clicked on the layer and selected the export contents option and saved it as a .psb file (not .psd).

I then opened this file up and further processed it using Color Efex Pro, Noiseware, and Photoshop adjustment layers.

Make adjustments in photoshop

I then saved this and exported a TIFF version.  I imported the TIFF version into Aperture 3, cropped it and this was the final result.

180 Degrees: Dev Nelson Press Box Demolition

If you have any questions, please let me know in the comments.

180° Panorama – Dev Nelson Press Box: Imploded

Morning, early, cold, cloudy, on December 15, the day we had to move out of the dorm for Christmas break, that was the day the Dev Nelson Press Box at Bill Snyder Family Stadium was taken down.  There was a crowd there as this was somewhat of a historical moment.  The view wasn’t very good from the side, where security kept us behind the line.  Only a few, privileged individuals, were allowed on the east side of the stadium to watch the implosion with an unobstructed view.  University cameras were stationed at all the best spots, capturing both stills and video, the rest of us, well… we could see through a gap on the north-east corner.  So, I didn’t get a great shot of the actual implosion, just the results, after we were allowed into the stadium.

From the highest point on the east side, I setup, inline with the 50-yard marker, I took 36 shots from left to right, 180°.  I divided it up into 9 sections, taking 3 bracketed shots per section, from -2EV to +2EV.  Merged the bracketed photos of each section in Photomatix Pro, then stitched the merged images in Photoshop to get the panorama.  I then straightened, cropped, and applied adjustments in Aperture, Photoshop, and Color Efex Pro.  After several hours, here are the results.
180 Degrees: Dev Nelson Press Box Demolition

Some details about this photo:
Camera: Pentax K-5
Lens: DA* 16-50
ISO: 400
Focal Length: 16mm
Aperture: f/11
36 images stitched into a HDR Panorama using Photomatix Pro and Photoshop

I am planning to post somewhat of a step-by-step tutorial on how to do this.

Book Review: Going Pro

If you’ve followed this blog, you know that I’ve been reading the book Going Pro: How to Make the Leap from Aspiring to Professional Photographer by Scott Bourne and Skip Cohen.  I just finished it and as promised, here is the review.  Right before picking up Going Pro I read VisionMongers by David duChemin which is another book about the journey of becoming and being a professional photographer.  You can check out my review of that book here.

Going Pro: How To Make The Leap From Aspiring To Professional Photographer

In this review I’ll sort of be comparing the two books I mentioned.  VisionMongers focused less on details and more on key principles, while Going Pro incorporates some principles but really delves more into specific things you should do.  In that way I think these two books compliment each other.  If you are thinking about making a living in photography, you should read them both.

Going Pro has 11 chapters and around 225 pages.  Don’t worry, it’s all easy reading and there are lots of beautiful images captured by different professional photographers to keep you entertained if the text gets boring (it really doesn’t get boring).  The chapters are:

Chapter 1: Define Your Niche
Chapter 2: Be the Best Photographer You Can Be
Chapter 3: Test the Water and Show Your Work
Chapter 4: Marketing
Chapter 5: Social Media Marketing for Photographers
Chapter 6: Use Twitter to Grow Your Photo Business
Chapter 7: Blogging: Your Online Presence
Chapter 8: The World of Search
Chapter 9: Old-Fashioned Networking
Chapter 10: Expand Your Business
Chapter 11: Outsourcing

This book starts out with defining your niche, basically, what do you want to shoot, or more generally what do you want to do specifically?  It’s interesting because VisionMongers basically starts out with this concept and emphasizes it as well.  You need to know what you want to do and where you want to go.  That’s the first thing you need to figure out.  I was at an academic time management workshop yesterday and the first point the speaker made was that you need to know what you want to do and where you want to be in the future.  I’m hearing this from so many places and so many people, that this must be really important because everyone is saying it.  Anyway, in this chapter, they list out all the different prominent “fields” of professional photography like landscapes, weddings, commercial photography and so on and give a brief description of each one.

Then the second chapter is about continuing to improve your craft and being the best you can be.  It’s a pretty short chapter with some tips and ideas on what you can do to improve and be at the top of your game.  The third chapter talks about having a website to showcase your work, getting feedback on your work at workshops, getting published, and details and suggestions on going about this.

The rest of the book is really about marketing and the different tools you have at your disposal.  From social media sites like Facebook , to Twitter, to blogs like WordPress and Blogger, to search engine optimization techniques, and finally to “old-fashioned” networking.  I think this is where this book really starts to shine.  There are so many great tips and specifics on how to use these tools and how pro-photographers use these tools.  These chapters don’t cover everything you need to know, but they sure give you a great place to start and get you going in the right direction.  For example, one major take away for me was the specifics on how to search on Twitter and how you can use Twitter to find potential clients and see what kind of work is available in your area.  I just never thought of using Twitter for something like that.

There are some “features” of this book that I liked.  Some chapters include do’s and don’ts like what should you do if you are using Facebook and what you shouldn’t do.  Another thing, throughout the book there are short messages by established professional photographers and some of these are interesting.  From cover to cover there plenty of amazing images, but one complaint I would have is that many of these images are repeated from one chapter to the next.  I really liked the photos by Chase Jarvis, very cool.  Also, the list of resources at the end of the book is certainly helpful.

To finish up.  If you are thinking about becoming a professional photographer, I would recommend that you read this book, especially if you don’t really know where to start.  But, before reading this book, read VisionMongers by David duChemin and then read this book.

If this review has been helpful, I would appreciate your feedback.  Thanks!

Sunset on a Farm

I enjoy shooting into the sun and trying to capture it right before it disappears.  Notice how flat this place is?  That’s south, central Kansas and boy are the sunsets beautiful there.  I also like the tractors!  The one on the left is hooked up to a planter, incase you were wondering.

I actually processed this photo a couple of months ago and decided to reprocess it, this time using Photomatix Pro instead of the Photomatix Aperture Plugin.  I think the results are better this time. A lot cleaner for sure.  I like it.

Sunset on a Farm

Some details about this photo:
Camera: Pentax K-5
Lens: DA* 16-50
ISO: 80
Focal Length: 16mm
Aperture: f/13
HDR Composite using 6 photos from -3 EV to +4 EV
Merged using the Photomatix Plug-in for Aperture 3