Feb 12

The 1st Day of the Routeburn, 180 Megapixel, 360 Degree Panorama

During the first day of the Routeburn Track, on the south island of New Zealand, there is a side trail that leads to Key Summit, a 1 km peak nestled in between quite a few larger mountain ranges.  It’s an easy 400m climb up to the top (thanks to the fact that the Track has been climbing up from the road all day already), and worth the view:

360 Degrees

While this photo looks small, it’s actually one of the largest I’ve worked with.  It was composed of around 20 individual photos (each 22 megapixels from my Canon 5dii), merged in Photoshop.  While I’m only able to upload a (relatively) small size to WordPress, the original file is a computer crushing 180 megapixels.  Definitely click to embiggen and enjoy the view!


Dec 11

Juneau Sunset HDR Panorama

A high dynamic range panorama is a first for me. Over the past year or so, I’ve taken bracketed exposures for a number of panoramas, but until now, I hadn’t tried to edit any of them. The challenge lies in matching the exposure and color between the two HDR images, each consisting of 3 photos. It took a good deal of trial and error (merging a panorama, then going back to re-edit an HDR to try to make it match better) before I was able to create a seamless single panorama:

Juneau Sunset

The use of HDR in this shot is certainly subtle, but without it, there would be absolutely no detail apart from the sky and water.  The tiny bit of green on the hills and white in the town added by the use of HDR provides another level of interest to the shot, particularly when viewed at full size.  HDR merging was done with Photomatix, the panorama was created and final editing was done in Photoshop.


Dec 11

How to Brew an English Porter

I for a couple years, I played in a string quartet where the two violins were married with non-string-playing husbands.  The quartet rehearsed all afternoon every Sunday, and to occupy themselves, the two guys would brew beer while they waited.  Mash and boil one weekend, bottle the next.  The beer is cheaper and higher quality than your average store-bought six pack (assuming you know what you’re doing and already have the necessary equipment), and it’s always fun to learn and perfect a complicated process like that yourself.  A year ago one violin (and her husband) moved away, and I’ve occasionally filled in to help my remaining friend with a batch of home-brew.

As I’m the novice of the pair, I’ve mostly been following along, helping where I can, and trying to learn.  This last batch, I decided to grab my camera and document the process each step of the way.  My objective with the video was to produce something interesting to watch — if someone can learn how to actually brew this beer from this video that’s great, but that wasn’t my first priority.  A couple important pieces of information have been left out of the video as well, such as how much sugar to add when bottling.  That particular detail varies depending on your own personal taste, and a reasonable amount can be found with a google search.

This was filmed using my standard set up — Canon 5d Mark II with the 24-105 f4/L lens.  It was mostly shot at 3200 iso due to our brewing at night, but I find that iso to offer perfectly acceptable color and noise.  Color grading was done with Magic Bullet.  No cats were actually sanitized during the process.

If anyone has any questions please feel free to ask!


Nov 11

High Key Cello Photography

Recently, I used my high key lighting setup for a product photography shoot, and while it was assembled I had some fun with it.  A friend and fellow cellist agreed to help me model her cello, and some interesting shots resulted.  Here is a pair of my favorites:


Bow Tip

Bow Hand

While I think that the bright white background does the color of the cello no favors, the one place it really works is on the web against the white background of a website.  I’d just never frame these photos.  After a half hour of me playing with the camera, we traded places, and I got to hold the cello for a while.  It’s always interesting seeing the way someone else approaches an environment — in this case the fact that we were in a high key studio doesn’t even matter:

C Bout and F hole



Oct 11

Lillie Park Panorama with the Nikon D3100

This past weekend I finally was able to get my hands on a Nikon D3100.  A friend and I were out for a walk in the woods with our cameras, and after an hour walking, we came to an area with green leaves in the trees and orange leaves in the air and on the ground.  I didn’t understand it, but I did want to take a picture of it.  I set up my tripod, got out my Canon, and realized I had left the memory card on my desk.  At this point, my friend came to the rescue and handed me her camera, a new Nikon D3100.

I’ve heard in the past of photographers buying more expensive cameras purely because they had more wheels on the back with which to quickly adjust settings.  Now I understand why.  Nothing on the D3100 can be easily changed without going through a menu.  Fortunately, the Nikon has excellent automatic settings, so manual and semi-manual modes only need be used in tricky situations.  This was one such situation, and it took me some time to take this 8 frame panorama:

Lillie Park Path

I’m somewhat disappointed after using the D3100 — the relative difficulty in using manual settings on that camera must be discouraging for developing photographers.  I can only imagine that automatic modes are frequently used in situations that really favor manual control, simply because of the complexity.  At this point I must sound like a broken record — I’m not commenting on the image quality, build, lenses, or anything else.  They all seemed fine, and for that matter, probably better than other offerings in this price range.  In the future, I’ll simply be much more outspoken about the benefits of having a pro-style body, with plenty of input wheels and buttons.



Sep 11

Mount Doom and the Tongariro Crossing Panorama

This photo is an excellent example of why travel and photography generally don’t mix.  Unless you’re planning your vacation around getting great photos, rarely do you have the time or energy to really think through a photograph.  You don’t go off the path, you don’t think about alternative angles, interesting composition.  You simply find something beautiful or amazing and try to capture it as best you can to share with friends back home.  Such was the case in New Zealand last year — I had walked past one volcanic crater already on the Tongariro Crossing, I was standing next to another, looking down at a third, with some turquoise volcanic lakes off to the side of the path ahead.  Of course I got out the camera, and snapped off this 7 or 8 frame panorama:

Tongariro Crossing Summit

Of course, it’s immediately apparent that the volcanic lakes didn’t make it into the photo.. the frame containing them ended up not turning out.  Also, while this is in no means a bad photo, it could have been far better if I had walked twenty feet to my left so that the crater in the foreground filled the bottom of the panorama.  Had I thought this through while I was hiking and taken my time getting the shots, I would have ended up with an absolutely extraordinary panorama.  That said, I still enjoy this shot…


Aug 11

Queenstown, New Zealand at 5 am (and Shadow People for Gizmodo)

Last November 20, I found myself flying into Queenstown, New Zealand at 6 in the evening.  Having been awake for two days at that point, I promptly found the room I had booked at the X Base hostel downtown and went to sleep.  The best thing about going to sleep at that time is waking up completely refreshed at 4 am.  With no obligations for the next 5 hours, I strapped on my hiking boots, grabbed my camera and started exploring.  The lake was just a block away, so the docks were my first stop.  Around 5am, the sun started rising over the mountains to the northeast, so I tried to find a good place to take a photo of the dawn over the mountains.  I didn’t have a tripod and there wasn’t enough light to shoot handheld, so I ended up setting my camera down on the edge of the dock and plugging in my remote shutter button to take the first photo of the trip:


Completely unrelated, I submitted a photo to Gizmodo’s Shadow People photo challenge this past week:

Shadow Motorcycle

When I’m riding my motorcycle, I often notice myself paying more attention to my own shadow than is prudent.  I can’t help myself; between the sun, streetlights, headlights and a small dose of narcissism, my shadow is a very interesting thing to watch.  Riding along early this week thinking about the challenge and watching my shadow, it wasn’t much of a stretch to put two and two together.

To capture this shot, I used a GoPro HD set to take shots every two seconds.  The camera was handheld, and let me tell you, riding a motorcycle, watching your shadow to make sure your arm and camera are hidden, and trying to take good photos all at the same time is difficult.


Aug 11

White Pass & Yukon Route – Second Panorama

The wide angle perspective of the previous panorama shows a huge amount of the vista in front of me, but it significantly distorts distances and shapes.  Unfortunately it makes things look far less impressive than they actually were.  This next panorama is zoomed in, and captures the train I had just disembarked ascending the opposing slope.  It is a much better representation of the actual geography of the area, and as a result is by far my personal preference of the two perspectives:

White Pass & Yukon Route


Aug 11

White Pass & Yukon Route Panorama

The trail-head of the hike to Lawson Glacier can only be reached by one of two ways: helicopter or unscheduled stop on the White Pass & Yukon Route train.  Naturally, taking the train is much cheaper so I started the day by boarding the train in Skagway, Alaska.  Right after I jumped off the train, I pulled my camera out and started snapping pictures. A couple solid panoramas resulted.  The first one is from just a couple seconds after disembarking:

White Pass & Yukon Route Train

Regardless of the photomerge settings I used in Photoshop, this one came out very distorted.  I fixed it by hand, but at the cost of a good deal of image size.  That said, I’m still rather happy with the result.  Stay tuned for another!


Aug 11

The Met (and Amzini contest results)

First, a quick follow-up.  I placed second in the Amzini video contest with my Kayak Fail video!  I believe I came in 5th in votes amongst the 12 finalists, but production value counted for 50% of the total and apparently I did well there.

Anyway, this weekend I made a quick trip to NYC.  I visited family there, watched a couple of Yankee’s games, and got to the Met Sunday morning when it opened to enjoy a couple crowd free hours in the museum.  My iPhone as always was handy — here are a couple of my favorite shots of this expansive building:

The Asian Exhibit