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Diagone Alley

This was a popular scene on our photowalk in late December. I had found this alleyway about a year prior to that when I was so hungry to shoot anything that I left home without much direction and ended up in downtown Phoenix. After daring myself to walk down it despite the very late hour, I ended up loving the back of this particular building. It’s a small section of an entire block and it kind of stands out…almost like it’s the entrance to the magical Diagone Alley from Harry Potter.

One of my co-horts Adam Schmid really got a nice view of this same building with an ultra-wide angle, which you can see right here. Gives you an idea of what I mean about it “standing out.”

What’s remarkable and fun about this spot is the eerie green glow that comes from above and on the opposite side of the alley. You may not notice it at first, but after doing a few long exposures, the green really pops. You can see in my image, the link above and some of the ones below from the other guys that the greenish tint is everywhere. And it casts some heavy shadows too.

Hence…while it’s probably a nice place during the day to shoot, at night you get something a bit more unique.

Photo Walkers

Green Alley

Lockdown

Watchmen

This week’s Movie Title Wednesday was one I really didn’t need to consult the wife on for what film to use. Although…I was still a taaaaad bit nervous. Kidding. Sort of.

Watchmen…which is foremost a graphic novel turned movie, for you younger people. Although I say that tongue-in-cheek because I really didn’t pickup comic books until around 2-3 years ago. The first thing I read though was the Watchmen graphic novel. Long, full of story, violence and awesomeness. There was even a story within a story. I was hooked on comics from that point on and still get them each week from Heavy Ink, an online comic book store.

The movie though was almost as good. It’s hard for a film to copy a book as precise as Watchmen even with a few minor adjustments. Lord of the Rings was kind of the same…minor changes, but it kept the essence of the story and the plot. I loved the film, thought it not only followed the story, but also the feel of the art, the characters and the music. Brilliant job by Zack Snyder.

This image is another one taken from the dog track north of Phoenix. This room is off from the main building and was full of mostly chairs and squishy carpeting that had a lot of bird crap on it. A LOT. Was slightly concerned that the “squishy” was entirely birdy droppings, but I tried not to think about it.

I don’t always talk about my processing habits, but this year things have changed a bit for me when it comes to my HDR images. I’m embracing shadows a lot more than I used to, which is sometimes contrary to what HDR is all about. The goal of HDR is to capture the entire dynamic range of a scene so you can see everything, even the darkest corners. I’m kind of over that. At least, on some images. Like my sunset photo from yesterday…the chairs are fairly dark and you don’t see much detail other than the highlights from the sun. Or my Four Peaks snow shot last week…I purposely kept the cactus darker than I would have done in the past because in reality, that was the scene.

So this image has some darker areas where you really can’t see inside the shadows and I love it. And I honestly am kind of excited about where this change is leading me, especially with other photos I’ve processed this week.

The Ross Family

I plowed through more of the Ross photos last night, mostly because it was sheer joy to process them. Complete and total fun. I think I may have to pigeonhole myself as a downtown Phoenix, urban portrait photographer and that’s all I do. I just love, love, love the backdrops, the train tracks, the bricks, the grunge, the chain link fences, the broken windows, the dirty pavement…all of it.

Oh, and the Ross family of course *grin*

Now, I’m only kidding, I will and do love shooting in a variety of locations, but I hope more people ask to do shoots downtown…there is something amazing about walking and photographing in the midst of the city. On top of it…there is an almost endless supply of locations.

These photos of the Ross band…are some of my favorite ever. They were simply amazing to work with. At the end of the shoot, both David and Heather had extremely kind words about my website and the way it presents both me and my work. That has really stuck with me since then and I appreciate you guys so much for taking the time to let me know what you thought.

For Erin and Alex..the last two pictures are for you guys…I put a little bit of extra time into them.

Thanks so much you guys…truly was a moving experience for me and I hope you enjoy the moments we captured.

The Departed

Yes, it’s Movie Title Wednesday once again, where I choose a movie title to go with one of my photographs. Although, in reality, it now goes something like this on Tuesday nights:

“Hey, Jina, come look at this.”

“What?”

“I need you to pick a movie title for this week’s image, I obviously suck at life when I do it. Far and Away? REALLY? Ugh…”

So now I run it by the lady in charge…because she is wise, keen and knows much more than me. She’s always been that way in many different areas, but now it spreads over to my photo blog. Her potential for helping me be a better person is endless.

The Departed. Wow…an epic mobster film from Martin Scorsese, Leo, Marky Mark (who is awesome btw) and a whole mess of good actors. It’s set in the Boston area (which I love) and involves undercover people on both sides of the law…the police and the Irish Mafia. I only saw the film once, I don’t honestly remember a lot of it other than some shocking scene of a guy getting blasted in the head with a gun. What I do remember is loving the film and being glued to the screen the entire time.

The title of the movie can be seen in this image on so many levels it’s not even funny. First off, it definitely has that South Boston, urban feel to it…it might work as a location in the film. Next up the sun is setting…leaving or departing for the day. Wow, can you believe we’re not done yet? Third it’s a train platform where people or products would end up leaving from on a journey to who knows where. FINALLY, it’s abandoned, unused and sitting alone…almost departed from relevancy in this world.

Although for a guy like me, it’s very relevant. It’s beautiful. Once again it was one of those nights where I pack Lyla up in the car, turn on Mickey Mouse and drive around looking for a good, grungy spot for a sunset. There was a road I’d never been down before and suddenly I see this ramp leading up to a long lost train platform. The tracks stop just left of the image at the platform, which I’m standing on.

Of course I was blessed with an epic sunset. Whenever I see one of these, I always like to place it in the best 2-3 of the year. But the fact is, we get these a lot more often than that. This state has unfounded beauty that I continue to discover on a daily basis, be it in the sky, the desert or the forgotten parts of downtown Phoenix.

(special nod to Brian Matiash for looking at this image last week and telling me to “pop” the graffiti a bit more)

Drink at the Duce

This is another shot from The Duce, a hidden gem in downtown Phoenix that we discovered a few weeks ago. The inside is crazy…there is a boxing ring, restaurant, vintage shop, bar, bleachers for Suns games and more. While the inside probably demands some HDR attention from me down the road, on this night I was focused mainly on grungy walls and alleyways, and the west side of the building was calling my name.

I absolutely love the sign on this wall, right down to the font and layout of the name of the building. The way the light from behind the metal cutout shows you not only the name, but some of the brick details behind it is awesome. That light also helped illuminate the area below it and highlight a few other things. There is just so much about this wall I loved…the textures in the bricks and doorway, the sidewalk, the vertical “drink” and the specks of light coming through the square windows on either side (which you can see better if you view the larger version).

I definitely would like to head back inside the place at some point to snatch some shots of the awesomely quirky interior.  The boxing ring is kind of stuck in my head and I know I must capture it someday.

The Blue Door

In my relatively young journey into urban exploration, the discovery of color in the midst of grunge and oldness is something to be treasured. Especially if it’s in contrast with the stuff surrounding it.

A pretty stark wall…dirty whites, grays and blacks make up the textures of the bricks and pavement, but all the plainness just enhances the pop that comes from the blue doorway.

What’s interesting about these old doors and alleyways that I find in downtown Phoenix is that most of them appear to still be used. The sign on this door looks like it was installed recently so I can only assume this loading dock sees frequent traffic. That sign actually bothers me, I almost tried to “Content Aware Fill” it away…but it didn’t look right and I also felt that wasn’t something I needed to start doing.

My urban exploration so far as been solely on the exterior of things. Because of that, I feel like I am doing a lot of these kind of images…finding awesome doors and walls and shooting them straight on. In my head I hear the words “cliche” pop up because everyone takes shots like these. But I still enjoy them and I like the framing. I have another one coming out later on that I love even more. What makes these unique is that they come from downtown Phoenix and may show people the urban portion of the older areas that haven’t been seen before. And for that I’m really enjoying this stuf.f

Soon I’m going to try to make headway into the interiors of the older buildings and see what happens.

Shop 525

I may have written about it already, but last week I dragged my wife and kid out to explore downtown Phoenix with me right before the sun went down. As we drove around, we suddenly saw this old brick warehouse with the doors wide open, and there was a restaurant and a vintage clothing store inside with globe lights hanging everywhere. It was amazing because there really was nothing around it that was like it. No stores, no malls…it sits a few blocks south of US Airways and is called The Duce.

We checked out the inside, which is a collection of the most crazy stuff you’ll see…bleachers with a big screen TV, a bar, a clothing store, an old kitchen from a trailer, a BOXING RING and a bunch of crap I’m forgetting. It was the strangest, coolest place I’d seen since moving down here.

When we left, I stopped on the west side of the building and took a few shots. They have the words “Shop” “Eat” “Drink” on the outside walls and I wanted to capture them if I could. I liked this specific spot because of the dual lights kind of illuminating the “shop” text.

For those interested, I polished off this image using the onOne Perfect Photo Suite. I don’t have a tilt-shift lens nor will likely get one anytime soon, so I tried out FocalPoint on this and it was awesome to use. I wanted to keep the words sharp, but push the out-of-focus a bit on the outskirts of the wall. So a combination of PhotoTools and FocalPoint helped arrive at this finished product.

I have to say, I’m loving the software. I’m using it for urbex shots now of course, but I’ve also created some presets for my portrait photography as well and love the results. If you are interested in checking this software out, you can now use my awesome coupon code “OLBINSKI” to get 15% off. Just visit their site to get an overview.

The Alleyway: Downtown Phoenix

Saturday night was a bit of a first for me. I decided to do a little urban exploration (#UrbEx) of downtown Phoenix. I’ve been inspired lately by some really good photographers back east who do this on a regular basis: Brian Matiash, Bob Lussier and Jacques just to name a few.

The few hours I spent walking up and down streets was amazingly fun. It also went by in a heartbeat. Along the way I met a fellow photog from Mumbai and really enjoyed the brief conversation we had. I forget his name, I’m horrible at that, so I hope he finds my site via the card I gave me and we re-connect online. We met at the ASU campus down there, where there were some seriously cool light effects going on. At one point there were three of us photogs hovering around there.

The photo above is a 7-bracket HDR that I shot in an alleyway off 1st street south of Monroe. I’ve never really done more than three brackets for my HDR shots, mostly because I shoot a lot of weather and clouds move fast (plus no auto way to shoot more than three yet), so this was a learning experience. I essentially set up my tripod, took a very dark exposure around 2 seconds and then just increased the exposure time until I felt like I had enough brackets.

I also just loved the building itself, the decay, the details in the bricks, the hanging wires…all of it.

You’ll notice some blurriness in this shot. There are lenses called Tilt-Shift that do this kind of thing automatically, but since I don’t own one, I did it post with Photoshop. I am just experimenting with a few new ways to do things, this tilt-shift method of shooting urban scenes was mostly trying to emulate shots by Brian and Bob.

I like it…but I’m not sure. I may end up posting a few alternative shots to this scene…one without the tilt-shift and one straight black and white exposure. I absolutely love HDR for many things, but sometimes the original exposure is awesome as well. You’ll see an example later this week when I post a few alternate shots of the Hotel San Carlos.

Hope you enjoy this…feedback is welcome!