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Autumn in New York

Okay, it’s not New York, it’s Phoenix…but really, this is Phoenix?

The first day of winter is tomorrow, but down here in the desert, fall is in full swing. I’m not entirely sure what kind of trees these are in the picture above, but along with the Chinese Elms and others, the leaves have suddenly started falling all around the downtown area and it’s just beautiful. Having lived in the outskirts of town for awhile, we don’t really see stuff like this too often. Fall leaves, sidewalks that aren’t right on the curb…it’s more like a place back east. I wasn’t expecting to see this at all…and it’s been a joy to drive up and down some of the smaller downtown streets, checking out the older houses and the fall colors.

The more I live downtown, the more I love discovering the awesome little secrets Phoenix has and the moments I can capture on camera.

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!

Brick

Yes, there is a movie called Brick.

Thanks for visiting for another Movie Title Wednesday and an image that I’m extremely excited about and what it might mean for me down the road. First off, the movie itself is a strange one.  It stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt and the dialog is almost written like a Shakespearean play. If you love Independent films, you might want to track this one down and give it a looksee.

This photo was shot in downtown Phoenix back in October and represents a new world that I plan on exploring slowly over the coming months. I knew it would be an awesome challenge to tackle urban exploration (UrbEx) close to my new home and this photo is my first real trek into that arena. I’m a complete weather junkie, but I also love old and decrepit buildings and architecture. There is something beautiful about worn out bricks, discolored pavement, rusty metal, graffiti, broken glass, etc.

I’m friends with a few photographers who love to shoot UrbEx. Some of them are downright awesome at it. Their work has been an inspiration to me personally and being able to learn from the masters has been a blessing. I know some of them love to follow my stormchasing images…so I’m hoping to turn the tables on them today *grin*

There is much to see yet in downtown Phoenix and hopefully I get a few chances in the coming weekend to be out there a bit more. I want to get better at it and hopefully develop more of an eye for architecture and the urban environment in general.