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The light rail platform at 5th and Mill Avenue

I took this shot as I was leaving downtown Tempe last Friday night. I had been feeling pretty lousy about the shots I’d taken, they didn’t feel “awesome” and I had no idea what I would end up with. I switched to my 50mm lens when I was walking out and wished I had taken the time to just walk around and snap candid “life” photos of downtown instead of what I had been doing the last few hours.

Don’t get me wrong…I ended up with a few nice shots, a beautiful sunset…but while HDR is great and fun, it’s also a lot of work and it takes me away on occasion from the beauty of a simple shot of a sign on a light rail platform.

I loved this photo, but I loved it even more when my wife said she thinks she’d love to have this printed and on a wall somewhere. She’s always a good gauge for me. Of course, she’s more partial to this type of photography than the grand scale of some of my HDR work.

The light rail bridge in Tempe, AZ

I’ve been playing around a bit with my HDR processing methods after snapping photos in downtown Tempe Saturday night. I was ending up with a lot of noise in my shots and had to find alternative ways of getting the job done.

This one above was in the same boat, but I ended up loving how it looked anyways. There is a lot of “grain” as I like to call it in the shot above. The sky, the clouds, the underneath of the bridge…all have a lot of dirty noise going on. I felt it looked a little more abstract than normal. So instead of processing it like normal, I ended up trying to embrace what I was given.

It works here for me. The clouds were moving fast, you can see the trees on the left look like they were blowing around pretty good. I lowered the saturation of the original HDR photo and masked in bits and pieces of an original raw shot.

I hated it at first because the colors were dominating the shot and there was gobs of noise, but just dropping the saturation gave it a whole other atmosphere. I love the grain, which is something I work very hard against in most of my other HDR photos. Experimenting today with something different…let the noise be your friend.

A lot of techno babble, but it was a tough group of photos to process. I left my photowalk not loving the shots I got, so being able to turn any of them into something I actually love has been a triumphant struggle.

Aside from all the post-processing talk, I just loved the composition of the shot. The bridge coming from overhead and behind, plus the curved road in front of me. I timed it to make sure I got a some headlights going around the bend, but it wasn’t s super-busy road. The clouds in the sky were hard to see with the naked eye, but a 30-second exposure really created something with a little motion to it.

Revisiting the downtown Phoenix alleyway

The shot above was taken in downtown Phoenix and is just an alleyway I found whilst doing a little urban exploration.

I first posted a version of this back a few weeks ago. I processed it using a tilt-shift style to create a blurred or bokeh effect on the sides of the photo. A friend of mine who shall remain nameless (BRYAN!) said he wasn’t a fan of the blur and wanted to see the details instead.

I thought about it and went back for a second look. While I still like the blurred effect myself, I also really do love the details in this shot that the blurry areas covered up.

So for Bryan, and anyone else that is interested, here is a “revisit” to this shot with all the yummy details of a grungy alleyway.

It actually has a ton of character to it. I suggest clicking on the photo for a larger look.

Again, as the other one, this is a 7-bracket HDR photo.

The Herberger Theater in downtown Phoenix

This is probably the last shot from my recent walk of downtown Phoenix. The Herberger Theatre is not a historic building, having only been constructed in 1989, but it was part of the revitalization/redevelopment of downtown Phoenix and responsible for helping to foster the growth of performance art in that area.

I’ve only seen one show there, a friend of mine was in Fiddler on the Roof back a very long time ago (at least 12 years) and I just remember it being a fun little play and an awesome venue.

Technical gibberish about this photos: 6-7 bracket HDR ranging from 2 second-25 second exposures.

This Friday I’m hoping to photograph around late night downtown Tempe along Mill Avenue, after a little happy hour/going away hoopla for a friend at work.

Of course, I’m not done with Phoenix…I have a lot more to explore down there. Sometime soon I shall return!

Downtown Phoenix from the ASU campus

Another photo from my little trip to downtown Phoenix last Saturday night. If you saw my shot of the light pillars from yesterday, you can also see them in this shot off to the left.

This is definitely something a little different for me. My HDR photos tend to lean more to the “realistic” side of things, instead of being artistic and almost fake looking. The unprocessed version of this photo had a lot of color in it that just seemed a little distracting to me, so I lowered the saturation a lot and toned it down a bit.

The completed shot certainly has more of a “painting” feel to it than an actual photo…which is okay sometimes. Most of the time though, I try to get them to look as close to possible to what I saw with my naked eye.

Planning another visit down there next weekend sometime, so hoping to visit the grungier side of downtown Phoenix and get some old railroad shots, older buildings…and whatever else I find.

The Multi-Color Light Pillars of downtown Phoenix

If you can imagine…I was walking past this and completely missed it. In fact, if it wasn’t for another photographer with a tripod setup, I might have just strode on by without ever knowing what could have been. In the picture above, against the sky on the right side of the shot, you can see a very large net-like structure against the sky.

That was my target. I had come down to Phoenix looking to get a shot of that lit up. But as it usually works out for me, the thing I intended to photograph becomes nothing compared to what I find along the way. It happens to me all the time. I’ve almost started to count on it.

So I was grateful for this other photog I saw getting his own shots from another angle. He made me pause, look and realize the beauty of these lights. It’s hard to see in a still photography, but they pulsated with light in different patterns, lighting up the floor and ceiling of this little covered area.

The above shot is an HDR from 5-6 brackets. I was there for awhile, then went over to the big “net” to try and get shots of that, but then soon found myself back at this first spot, this time with an entirely different color being “played” on the pillars.

The below is my return trip, another HDR from 5-6 brackets. The orange-red color looks different than the blue above because the light was pulsating in a completely different pattern.

Hotel San Carlos in downtown Phoenix

The Hotel San Carlos originally opened in 1928 and was the most modern hotel in the entire southwestern United States at the time. First hotel in Arizona with air conditioning and hand-powered high-rise elevators. It cost $850,000 to build…which doesn’t seem to be that much until you compare it to the $820 price tag of a Model “A” Ford at the same time!

You can read more of the history of this hotel by visiting their website.

This was just another stop on my little photowalk of downtown Phoenix Saturday night. I took a bunch of long, bracketed exposures ranging from 2-30 seconds. The top photo is an HDR obviously, using 6-7 of those bracketed shots. You can see a lot of streaks from the passing cars caught in the long exposures.

Now, while I enjoy the look and the colors of the HDR, I am also a guy in love with black and white, so the photo below gives you an entirely different feel when looking at the hotel. At least, it does for me.