Posts

The Town

Downtown Phoenix Reflections

(A much better view can be had by clicking to see with a black border and slightly larger!)

This is probably the first time that a Movie Title Wednesday film has been something so recent. That could mainly be due to the fact I don’t SEE as many movies as I used to what with a kid and all. Before Lyla, my wife and I would tend to see around 1-2 movies a month, always on Saturday mornings with the elderly folks at the earliest possible showing. It’s less crowded, more quiet and then we could always come back home after and taken a nice little nap.

Ah…the good ol’ days when we were just kids.

The Town stars Ben Affleck and Jeremy Renner, along with the awesome mad man himself, John Hamm. Fantastic movie, I love that it was set in Boston and it’s one of the best movies Affleck has done in awhile. I really liked how it revolved around what it claimed to be a true story about robbery families being a part of the history of Charleston. There are some really tense scenes, and it reminded me a lot of the film Heat, one of my all-time favs.

Check it out if you haven’t seen it yet.

This image is the final one from my downtown Phoenix reflection series. That series could get a sequel down the road if we ever again see a drop of rain, but for now, this is the last entry. And I couldn’t be more proud of it and the entire series. In fact, this week I will be showing six pieces of art down at First Fridays from 6-10pm at the New City Gallery (more info here) and three of the images are a part of this series. The entire theme will be downtown Phoenix and I’m so excited about doing something way different than the last time I showed.

I will be there from around 6:30pm onwards, so if you happen to live close by, I would love to see you again, or meet you for the first time, whatever. There are going to be some other great artists, live music and food/wine. It’s a great night to be downtown and is also going to be the last of the New City Gallery’s First Fridays until the fall.

My wife saw the above image and asked if I did a texture overlay on it or something, because the reflection kind of makes it hard to tell. But no, this is just a puddle of water over a concrete slab with some awesome stains on it. I especially love the glowing “rift” near the top that was likely some leaked oil at some point now a part of the surface.

(exif: canon 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, iso 100, f/10)

Eights

(image is bigger and looks better with a dark background if you click on it)

Wow, today is starting off weird. Have you ever had an image that you poured over, processed for hours, uploaded to your blog, published it and then actually LOOKED at it and realized it had major flaws? Halos? Dust spots?

How did you miss that?  How is it possible you looked over that whole image for hours and it took this new eye of viewing it on your blog that made you REALLY see it?

Well, I’m honest enough about this stuff…happened to me today. Even after previewing it before publishing I didn’t notice what I noticed later. So I took it down.  Paranoia. I don’t like sub-par stuff from myself.

Think it all goes back to taking your time. A lesson I need to learn. Sometimes I rush through processing just to get it up on the website and I end up missing things. That’s not what happened today. This was just a lack of really paying attention at the time of processing. Also dust spots are a HUGE thing that I miss and I see others missing. You just don’t notice it well enough. I have to usually make myself stop and search them out.

NOW…this image is from the abandoned dog track north of Phoenix. I took a lot of shots while I there that one day and I still might have a few left in the tank to show at some point. What’s funny about this image and some others who have shot there recently is that some of sections of chairs don’t really look too old when framed in a certain way.

(exif: canon rebel xsi, canon 50mm 1.4, f/2.0, iso 100)

 

Screencast: Natural clouds in your HDR images

 

Natural Clouds in your HDR Landscapes from Mike Olbinski on Vimeo.

(Before you start watching the screencast here, you may just want to watch it over on Vimeo because the quality of the embedded version appears to be a lot lower than what you get to see on their website. So I’d suggest going there, choosing Full Screen and then turn Scaling off to get the best experience.)

For awhile now I’ve been wanting to put together a screencast of my processing methods when it comes to HDR. The way I use Photomatix, Photoshop and the Perfect Photo Suite in conjunction with each other, plus how I use them all to get natural results in my landscape and storm imagery.

It’s not like I’m pelted with questions on a daily basis, but when I do get them, many of them are on the topic of how I get natural looking clouds despite using HDR. Late last year I slowly started changing the way I processed clouds and my HDR images as a whole. I owe a lot of that to onOne Software’s Perfect Photo Suite and their webinars that dove into how to use it properly. And then I was inspired by a few photographers that are really brilliant when it comes to storms and weather images, and it caused me to evolve my style even more.

And I’m always changing, doing things differently, learning something new…just going with the flow. That’s what I love about photography…nothing ever stays the same. I can be in a certain mood for a few weeks where I just want to process in B&W and then I go back to color. You just never know how you are going to be influenced or inspired to do something new.

I hope the screencast is worth your time and perhaps helps people looking to do their HDRs a bit more naturally. If you are intrigued by Phototools and the onOne PerfectPhotoSuite, there is a huge sale running RIGHT now for $150 off the entire thing…just click here to check it out.

By the way…you guys never really see me pimp anything else on this site. That’s how good this software package is to me. It can do soooo much…and it’s such an important part of my workflow. I don’t pimp this stuff just because I’m an affiliate…I wanted to be an affiliate because I love it so much. Hopefully that makes sense.

If you have any questions about the screencast, or ideas for other ones you’d like to see me do…just let me know in the comments below.

Finally, here is the before and after of the image used in the screencast. Thank you for watching!

Warped

(yo…the image gets bigger if you click on it…try it out)

Last month about 20 of us got together for a little downtown Phoenix photowalk and it was simply a blast. Especially when we all stopped to eat at Five Guys…holy moley that place is good.

I owe this shot to one of the other photographers with us that night. I wish I could remember her name, but I suck. I saw her standing by a fence looking into this place, so I wandered over to see what was up. What an amazing spot. The first thing I thought of was that I wanted a bride and groom standing in the middle of these warped tiles with that fantastic old windowed-wall behind them.

Of course, that wasn’t going to happen on such short notice, not to mention the chain link fence surrounding this wide open area. So I tossed that idea away and concentrated on getting something sans models.

The 50mm was perfect for shooting through this fence, so I got low to the ground and tried to pull in the amazing shadows going on from some off-camera street lights.

Now I gotta send some love to my boy Brian Matiash. He *hearts* a filter called “Cyberpunk” in Phototools. He uses it a lot, it’s kind of his signature style. It doesn’t always work for me with my landscape/stormy subject matter anyways, but I tend to stay away from it because…well…I don’t like stealing someone else’s mojo.

Of course, when I do, I like to give credit. I loved this image when I was processing it, but it just lacked something special. For some reason I thought “Cyberpunk” and splashed that dude on there and bam, it was right. I masked out a bit of it around the tiles, but wow I loved what it did to the pavement and background building.

Two final things on this beautiful Friday with me heading home early from Vegas:

1. If you get inspired by someone or borrow heavily from stuff they do…be a man (or woMAN) and give some friggin’ credit. There is nothing worse than passing off something as your own when you deep down inside know you saw it on some guy’s website, or a webinar, or whatever. Make your momma proud.

2. It’s Follow Friday on Twitter, so in the spirit of that, you guys should follow Sarah Fisch because…holy crap I LOVE her landscape work.

(exif: canon eos 5d mark ii, canon 50mm 1.4, iso 400, f/2.5)

The winding road

(clickity click on the image for a biggity big version)

I know, a road shot right?

This is yet another shot from my trip to Nelson/El Dorado Canyon southeast of Las Vegas back in mid-March. The clouds, the light, the winding road…were almost too much fro me to handle. I saw too many shots I loved and had to reel myself in thinking “Do you really need 25 more road shots Mike??

My real, unabashed answer to that from deep inside me is YES…but in reality, certain road shots are special, most aren’t and you gotta know when it’s worth it.

This photo was actually unplanned…I had parked on the other side of the road and was shooting some Cholla cactus on a hillside that were amazing looking with the sunlight (you may remember this shot). But as I turned to walk back to the car, I just stopped and saw the road.

A quick pause here. I love being a photographer. I love looking at something and seeing beauty in it that perhaps another person would never notice. It’s something to embrace.

The image above, for me, was full of unique elements that made it worth shooting. First off the light shining further up the road. The second was the way the elevation slopes upwards instead of down. The way it winds right to left and then back right. The way it rises on the bends. The clouds. The hills.

Sometimes scenes like this one speak only to us, not others. Not everyone else is going to appreciate it, or love it the way I do. But that’s okay. Be proud of what you see and what you compose. Own it, grow it, get better at it.

(exif: canon eos 5d mark ii, canon 50mm 1.4, f/2.8, iso 100)

Cold Mountain

Arizona Desert Snow Photography

(please click on me, I look better a bit bigger with a nice, dark frame around me – sincerely, the image above)

Sometimes the movies I pick for Movie Title Wednesdays are ones that I absolutely love and would watch a hundred times over. However, on some occasions, I love them mainly because the title fits perfectly with the photo I want to use.

At the same time…you can always be sure I’ve at least SEEN the movie. That is my one rule.

So this week we have Cold Mountain, a film starring Jude Law, Nicole Kidman (pre-plastic) and Renee Zellweger.  The main plot revolves around Law’s character as a Confederate soldier during the Civil War and his trip back home to Cold Mountain. I don’t remember hardly a thing about the plot, but I almost always remember when I liked a movie and this one was pretty good.

You can forget the movie at this point (although I’d love to hear how many of you have seen it and liked it) because the title is really all that matters. This image is one I shot back in late December when we had some crazy snow storms blow through Arizona. Around noon that day I saw some pretty good storms building up the Beeline Highway so I dragged my wife and daughter out there and basically we roamed that area until sunset.

The light was incredible after every wave of storm went by. Such clear, crisp air allowed these amazing views. This was just a shot in the late afternoon after a big storm cell moved through dumping even more snow. I just love the hilltop coated with the white stuff in contrast with the desert below and the dark, menacing clouds in the background.

This kind of black and white processing is something I’ve worked on since the beginning of the year and cannot wait to use during stormchasing season this summer. There is something beautiful about the relationship between stormy weather and black & white. I just love it.

(exif: canon rebel xsi, canon 50mm 1.4, f/20, iso 100)

 

Ripples

(click to see larger and a bit better…Wordpress re-sizing makes this one a tad too dark in places)

The image I posted yesterday evoked some awesome comments from you guys about what might be wrong with the composition of the scene. It came down to the foreground element. And over the course of the comments, it became clear that the foreground in a landscape photo can make it or break it.

I wanted to thank you all for your input. I honestly wasn’t able to put a finger on it until your thoughts helped me realize I was thinking the same thing all along.

If you read this blog regularly, you’ve probably heard me talk about foreground elements while I’m out storm/weather chasing. Often you are in such a hurry to capture a scene before it changes that you run around like a crazy person looking for a special object to include in your photo…like a cactus, or rock, or abandoned building…whatever. I love this part of it, but sometimes you just can’t find something awesome.

The image above was taken in the early morning of February 19th. The sky were amazingly thick from an approaching storm, but what was incredible was some of light from the rising sun was hitting the bottom of these clouds, giving them those orange, purple and red tones. You couldn’t even see where the hole in the clouds was for the light to shine through. It just felt so dark.

Ironically, I’ve converted this to black and white because I like drama in my stormchasing photos and these clouds look more foreboding and mysterious void of color. The foreground in this shot is very subtle, but the reason I chose it was the rippled in the ground leading out towards the horizon. I’m not sure where they were from…perhaps some heavy rains created some running water and the waves were formed.

We’ve entered the driest time of the year for Arizona, so I’ll be looking back at some older weather images I haven’t processed yet and post them in the coming weeks. Otherwise I’ll go  nuts without any storms to shoot!

Although…if things line up in the next few weeks out in the midwest, I’ll be taking a 3-4 day trip out there to stormchase…and I cannot wait for that!

(exif: canon eos 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, iso 100, f/13)

 

Morning on the Bradshaws

(click to view a little bigger and better in lightbox)

Do you ever have an image where you struggle and struggle with liking it, then hating it, then liking it, then hating it…and…well you get the idea.

I’m sure you do. For those of us blogging on a daily basis, we can’t necessarily post masterpieces every single day. We sometimes have those borderline photographs that we like, but we may not like it enough to actually hit the “publish” button on the blog.

This image is one of those for me. I figured I may as well post it to see what people honestly think. I love it because the scene from this spot up by the Sunset Point rest area was breathtaking in person. It was cold, wet…but the view of the Bradshaw Mountains with the low clouds and fresh snow was mesmerizing. I’ve been wanting to post this one because it felt like the only decent image I came away with that early morning run up north.

But I feel like something is missing…and am not sure what. It could just be the sort of bluish mono-tone the morning had…so the colors aren’t vibrant or striking. The sun hadn’t risen yet, but even if it did, the clouds were too thick to let any real light through.

I don’t usually ask for critiques, but if you got ’em, let me hear ’em.

(exif: canon eos 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, f/8, iso 100, 17mm)

Seraphim Falls

(image can be viewed larger with a sweet black border if you click on it. you know you want to…)

Coming up with a title for this image for Movie Title Wednesday was kind of difficult. Most of the movies that came to mind I either didn’t remember much about, or really didn’t think fit too well. My wife liked Legends of the Fall, but I think I’ll save that for when the leaves change down the road. There was The Grand, or The Majestic…or even one that seems to fit perfectly…A River Runs Through It. But again, I don’t remember much about it other than Brad Pitt was in it and that I was a senior in high school! Ack! There was also The River Wild with Meryl Streep…but I didn’t like that either.

In the endSeraphim Falls was the title. I highly doubt most of you have seen it, but it’s definitely worth renting. Pierce Brosnan is hiding in the Rocky Mountains just after the Civil War has ended and Liam Neeson is a Confederate Colonel who wants the man killed to avenge a wrong. It all goes back to something that happened at Seraphim Falls…which you eventually discover.

I loved the title of the movie when I first heard it. I wanted to make it fit here but wasn’t quite sure EXACTLY what Seraphim meant, so I looked it up and was pumped when it has a rough translation of “burning ones.” Sure, it’s kind of a stretch, but when you think of a sunset and the fiery red skies you tend to get…it works.

Last weekend I got up at 3am to meet three other photogs to go up north and shoot all day. Despite all the fun I had and the pictures I took…this one shot above of Grand Falls was my entire reason for going. I’m not saying this about the photograph itself, but more about the scene.  Ever since I visited for the first time last year and had boring blue skies, I’ve been dreaming of getting back there and capturing a gorgeous sunset. It was like the entire day boiled down to this span of five minutes when the sky changed color.

The fact that we even got color was amazing. The sun was stuck behind some very thick clouds and as it got darker and darker…I thought that was it. Nothing was coming through that. And then suddenly in the northeast the clouds turned red. My heart jumped. I started waving at the other guys to point it out. People started moving around excitedly. Slowly the color moved westward until…for what was probably less than a minute…the sky looked as it did in the photo above.

Then it was gone.

I loved the day, loved the time spent with friends and especially loved that my wife and daughter were up there to share this with me.  Last year’s trip was exciting, but this one will be the one I remember always.

(of course, until I go back next year…have some fun ideas for 2012)

(exif: canon eos 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, f/10, iso 200)

 

The open door

(click to view image larger in lightbox for a better look)

My life has become a lot about where I am currently located these days…either Phoenix or Las Vegas. The project at my day job has gotten really busy up there so my presence has been required more. It’s hard to travel to much, because I hate being away from my girls. But traveling does give me chances to see new places.

One of the recent visits I made included a trip to the ghost town of Nelson. I was a bit bummed to find out that the actual “real” ghost town part was still inhabited by people with lots of huge “No Trespassing” signs everywhere. In this kind of town…it’s a bit more dangerous to venture onto a property with one of those signs. You’re likely to get nailed by a shotgun or something.

Further down the road, however, I discovered that there was a sort of “touristy” version of Nelson with a lot of old vehicles, barns, mining equipment, etc., all laid out. I walked around it a bit…but I honestly felt little desire to photograph old things that had been places there for tourists. I’d rather find them in their natural element, if you get that.

One image I did take, the only one…was this old bus. I loved the setting sun shining through the windshield and the open door, making it something more unique than just a another photograph of an “abandoned” vehicle.

(exif: canon eos 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, iso 100, f/5.0)