OneQuestion: Brian Matiash

Copyright Brian Matiash

I’m so sad, the first week of OneQuestion is at its conclusion! But what a way to finish. Last, but definitely not least…well, maybe kind of least, or more in the middle, or whatever, my good friend Brian Matiash (who knows I kid, it’s our thing) was kind of enough to drop this friggin’ awesome road shot on us today and answer the question I posed to everyone. Brian is an amazing guy, an amazing photographer and I owe him a lot for where I am right now.

And before we get to Brian’s answer, I just want to thank everyone who participated in this project, and also all the support we had out there from Twitter, Facebook, G+ and the rest of it. It’s been a ton of fun and I can’t wait to do it again sometime!

What do you have a passion to photograph? What would make you forego much-needed sleep

because you just can’t help but get out and take more pictures?

Follow Brian Matiash: Twitter | Website

Let me start off by thanking my good bud, Mike, for thinking of me when he put this very interesting series together. I always appreciate unique spins on guest blog series and this one certainly doesn’t fail to please with the provocative question that is posed – What would make me forego sleep to keep shooting?

Well, let me start by explaining just how much I love my sleep. I hold it in the same lofty regard as a finely crafted ale. I don’t get much sleep because I’m unable to nap and it usually takes about 2 hours for me to even fall asleep at night. So, when sleep finally does come, I usually hold onto it like it’s manna from heaven. But still, what would keep me from it?

Well, the answer can be summed up in this – it’s all about ‘the streak’. There is a phenomenon in photography where you are out shooting and all of a sudden, you just see this one shot. Everything is aligned and the frame just makes sense. You get the camera situated and BOOM! – you get this shot that just surges through you. You chimp it and you know you nailed it. This causes adrenaline and endorphins to start coursing through your veins. Thoughts start caroming off each other and new shots appear right in front of you. You’ve hit the streak. It’s that streak that makes it more than a pleasure to give up sleep and comfort.

When I took this shot, I was tired. More than that, I was tired, sweaty, and getting more wet with each rainy minute that went by. But, I was mid-streak. I had just finishing shooting the Empire State Building and saw a way of framing it that I never thought of before. Something about the shot just energized me. I had been on my feet shooting all day and we were in the middle of a massive heat wave. But, none of that seemed to matter at that point.

I started darting around, thinking of shots to get. I settled on this one random corner and positioned my camera about a foot off the street. I knew the type of long exposure effect I was going for. Each shutter release was a 10-20 second investment. Timing the traffic lights and the amount of cars passing through the frame was critical to get the shot. But, I had fuel pumping and it didn’t matter. After a few failed attempts, I got the shot I was looking for.

It was one of those situations where I wouldn’t have stopped until I got the shot I was happy with. At that point, it didn’t really matter what time it was or how gross I felt, it was all about getting the shot. Sleep would come eventually. The shot only happens in the moment.

This is what it is always about to be a photographer.

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!

Subscribe to the onOne University Podcast

I don’t always talk about my processing  methods because I’d rather go into more detail about the image itself, why I took it, where I took it and what I may have learned from being out that day. But when I do share a bit of my post-processing work, I talk a lot about the Perfect PhotoSuite from onOne Software.

There are quite a few amazing reasons why this software package is a valuable part of my workflow. Almost beyond valuable. It gives you the power to do simple, minute enhances to your images but also allows you to use filters to create sweet effects. Plus it will help you with hundreds of textures, album templates, add framing, increase your image sizes for printing and a ton more. I honestly don’t know what I’d do without it.

But on top of the abilities of the software itself, the team behind it are even more awesome. Almost daily you can watch LIVE webinars on their website where one of their software experts guides you through that days lessons on the best ways to use their tools. My buddy Brian Matiash started working there awhile ago and he’s been such a valuable asset for them. He has the incredible gift of wanting to help people be better. Without asking for anything in return. And he took that quality to onOne Software and the amount of teaching and education pouring out of their website every week is remarkable.

You can watch these webinars live or taped. And NOW…just launched recently…you can subscribe to their onOne University Webinars PODCAST on iTunes. Already in just a few weeks, it’s gone from a brand new channel almost 18,000+ podcasts to #27! That’s astounding!

So a few links for you today:

The information for the Podcast can be found right here, but you need to subscribe on iTunes. Just search for “onOne University.”

And if you want to check out their software or buy it, you can get $100 off the Perfect PhotoSuite for the entire month of February. Smoking deal, check it out right here.


(above image taken by Bob Lussier)

For awhile now I’ve been part of this amazing group of guys involved in a bit of healthy competition on Facebook we like to call HDR Tennis. We put up our “shots” and see who wins every few weeks. The public decides by clicking on those handy-dandy “Like” buttons on Facebook.

I know, like I don’t have enough going on right?

Basically one person supplies the brackets of images each time and we all process it how we see fit. Bob Lussier provided this match’s brackets, an image of an amazing set of stairs in one of those awesome abandoned places he finds in the Boston area.

The original “Zero” bracket from Bob is above. What I liked most about the image was the stairs of course and the doorway slightly open up top. So my version, which you see below, is cropped and uses the OnOne Focal Point plugin for Photoshop to help bring your attention to the doorway. I also did a little highlighting of the sign on the door to make it pop a bit. Lastly, I converted it to B&W using a little combination of Nik Silver Efex that I like.

I really love this image…think it has a creepy, Twilight-zone feel to it.

Check out the other versions on the HDR Tennis Facebook page or check out the sites of the other participants when you get a chance … Dave WilsonBrian Matiash,Peter TalkeJacob Lucas and Scott Wyden

Holey Windows: Before and After

Yet another awesome external wall to an abandoned or barely used building in downtown Phoenix. Loved the sort of monotone colors on this wall, something I don’t always look for. I tend to like scenes like the Blue Door I posted a few days ago where there is some color that pops out at you. But this just had a very post-apocalyptic feel to it…almost a Matrix-like color to the thing.

I used PhotoTools on this image as I have been doing a lot lately, and I have to say, I absolutely love the amazing flexibility and range that the software package has. And I’m not blowing smoke. There is so much versatility in how you want to present your image…so many tools that allow for a serious amount of creativity.

I’ve never really done a “Before and After” before and in some ways I almost hesitate to do it…but I’m also kind of excited. I mean, you don’t necessarily want everyone knowing the full extent of how you process an image, but on the other hand, it’s so much fun to show people what you do and perhaps even help them learn how to do it themselves. There are some friends of mine out there that are incredibly humble and sacrificial in the way they help other photographers, the way they freely give away their secrets and tricks…and I have to believe that’s the right way to be.

So the above image was composed of six bracketed photos, the one below being the “Zero (0)” bracket.  Depending on the brightness of scenes, I tend to go from -3 to +2 most of the time, or if I want more, I’ll just go up to +3. Occasionally I do the whole -4 to +4, but since I’m still without a Promote Tool, I tend to stick to six brackets right now. I find they give me what I want, but I’m sure someday shooting nine or more will be something I want to give a shot.

Plus when I shoot weather and fast moving clouds…six is about all I can do without a ton of movement. Someday I’ll pick up the Promote Tool, but it’s pricey for me right now.

So this is the RAW zero bracket right out of the camera:

The image below is the intermediate, tonemapped image right out of Photomatix. What I’ve been trying very hard to do lately is to keep my tonemapping simple. I only want to make sure I see the entire dynamic range of the image. I used to overprocess and over-tonemap in Photomatix, which led to a lot of noisy images and stuff that I’m just not as fond of anymore.

Now I stick to doing the processing in Photoshop and instead use Photomatix to give me a starting point. It’s amazing how much I’ve seen my noise go down in my images because of changing this up. Even late evening sunset photos with just six brackets yield hardly any noise at all.

So you can see the tonemapped image above kind of looks like the middle ground between my original raw and the final product.

Now here is the part where I can’t remember what I did in Phototools to polish off the image. I didn’t do much, just a few filters…more than likely one of the new HDR presets in their latest package. I did apply my own vignette to the image to give it some darker edging and more internal focus.

That’s it…the behind the scenes look at how I process an image, or at least, the major steps I go through. I plan on doing a little video tutorial soon on what I do and I also have some plans to do HDR Workshops in downtown Phoenix this coming new year. If you are interested learning this amazing way of processing photographs, let me know.

Oh, and if you like what you see with Phototools, you can learn more by visiting there website. I have my own coupon code now and if you use “OLBINSKI” when you check-out, you’ll get 15% off.

If you have any questions or comments on anything I talked about, please don’t hesitate!