Marina at Lake Perry

The semester is finally over.  At first it felt like it was going by quickly, but the last few weeks have been on slow mode.  It’s been ages since I’ve processed any photos for fun and not for the paper or an assignment, but I finally got around to it.  It feels good to be back.  I just hope I can keep doing it and not get so wrapped up in robotics this summer that I put it off and neglect this blog, again, for the nth time. It’s frustrating.

It’s been a while since I’ve shot any landscapes.  This photo was taken over spring break, back in March.  I haven’t really shot any landscapes since then.  I’ve been shooting quite a bit of baseball.  Go K-State! Big 12 Champs in Football, Basketball, and Baseball! EMAW! It’s a good time to be at KSU! …but I digress. I was asked to shoot a wedding and some senior photos, but I turned them both down because of schedule conflicts, and weddings really aren’t my thing, yet… maybe in the future.  So, I haven’t been idle, I’ve had assignments, but, I just haven’t had the chance to shoot landscapes, which I really love, but hopefully I can get out on the weekends this summer and shoot.  If you guys have any suggestions of great places to photograph in Kansas, let me know in the comments, I’d appreciate it.

Now let’s get to the details of the photo.  I set the camera (Pentax K-5) on a tripod.  I set it to bracket mode.  I used a wireless remote to trigger the camera. I don’t remember locking up the mirror, but if you really want to ensure that you get the sharpest photos that your gear is capable of, do that too.  I took six photos.  In bracket mode I can take a max of 5 with one click.  That’s great, but I don’t use it, because theres a funky limitation, you can only take 5 photos within a range of 4 stops, like between -2EV to +2EV.  When shooting into the sun, you might want to shoot from -4EV to +4EV.  So what I did was to take 2 sets of 3 photos at a time, 2 stops apart.  The first set was from -4EV to 0EV, so a photo at -4EV, at -2EV, and at 0EV.  The second set was then from 0EV to +4EV, so a photo at 0EV, +2EV, and +4EV.  Now you might be wondering why I have two photos at 0EV.  Well, I have yet to really test this out, but I think with into-the-sun photos, I get better results in Photomatix Pro when I have a duplicate photo at 0EV or whatever the middle exposure of the set of photos is.  I processed all six in Photomatix Pro.  I then imported the result back into Aperture 3, I did some basic edits there adding some contrast and vibrancy.  I then used Nik Color Efex Pro to add a color contrast, which really brought out the red sky around the setting sun.  Finally, to sharpen the photo, I used Nik Sharpener Pro. I think I like it better than the Unsharp Mask filter in Photoshop.  If you have any comments or questions, let me know in the comments section.

The winter sun sets behind the hills, its last rays glistening across the water as it leaves an amber glow in the sky.

 Some details about this photo:
Camera: Pentax K-5
Lens: DA* 16-50
ISO: 100
Focal Length: 16mm
Aperture: f/11
6 image HDR, bracketed from -4 EV to +4 EV


Winter Storm Clouds

The Kansas State University Olathe campus is closed tomorrow because of the weather, still not sure if the campus here in Manhattan will be open or not.  I’m guessing it will be business as usual. Last week we got hit pretty good, maybe 7-8 inches of snow, not the 12-15 I was expecting and kinda hoping for, but I didn’t waste what “little” we had.  It started out as just a small group of us friends throwing snowballs at each other but it morphed into this epic snowball fight with like 20 people!  It was a lot of fun.

Anyway, with all this snowy weather we’re having, I decided to post this image.  I actually took this back in January.  I think I was on my way to class or on my way to the office.  I was carrying my camera, using my Carry Speed Strap, so it was handy and easy to get to.  I take my camera with me everyday, but I usually have it in my bag, and I’ve found that unless I have it out of the bag, even if I have it with me all the time, I’m not going to take more photos.  That’s why I got the Carry Speed Strap, so I could easily carry it outside the bag and be ready to take and make photos.

This photo is a HDR image.  I used Photomatix Pro to merge three DNG RAW photos bracketed from -2EV to +2EV.  I then imported the merged or tonemapped image into Aperture 3 (I use Aperture 3 to manage all my photos).  I did a few adjustments in Aperture like exposure and added contrast using curves.  I lightened certain parts of the image with the dodge tool, just brushing it in on parts of the lamp-post and some of the snow.  I also used the intensify contrast brush (I really like this one!) to darken the clouds in the background a bit more and make them stand out a bit.  I then used Nik Color Efex Pro Aperture plugin to bring out some more detail and add some “brilliance” to the photo.  The last step was to send it to Photoshop for sharpening with the unsharp mask filter.  That was pretty much it.

Winter Storm Clouds


Some details about this photo:
Camera: Pentax K-5
Lens: DA* 16-50
ISO: 200
Focal Length: 16mm
Aperture: f/10
3 image HDR, bracketed from -2 EV to +2 EV


Big 12 Football Championship: Rushing the Field

This was taken just after the Kansas State Wildcats defeated the Texas Longhorns to secure the Big 12 Football Championship.  Fans (mostly the student section) rushed the field and although it probably wouldn’t have happened, the group of people wearing yellow jackets were stationed around the goal posts to protect them from being taken down.  The reason I wasn’t down on the field was because I wasn’t able to get a press pass to shoot the game from the sidelines.

This panorama was processed using the same technique in the tutorial I wrote.  If you haven’t yet, make sure to check it out.  I’m quite surprised how well this image turned out.  I was shooting in bracket mode, hand holding the camera (no tripod), had the ISO up to 1600 and people were moving all over the place, but there really isn’t any ghosting in the photos.  Photomatix Pro does a really good job of removing it and aligning the source images.  I used to use the Photomatix plugin for Aperture 3, but I stopped a few weeks ago and started using Photomatix Pro because the results are so much better.  You can see the difference here.  The only disadvantage to using Photomatix Pro is that I have to export the original files from Aperture and process them in Photomatix Pro and then import the results back into Aperture, but it’s worth the extra hassle.

2012 Big 12 Football Championship Celebration

Some details about this photo:
Camera: Pentax K-5
Lens: DA* 16-50
ISO: 1600
Focal Length: 16mm
Aperture: f/11
15 images stitched into a HDR Panorama using Photomatix Pro and Photoshop

Do you think this image is good enough to get into the student yearbook?

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.