POTW: Polarizers

April 15, 2010 at 10:38 pm

POTW: Polarizers

Ever since I had my Canon A80 and heard you could add an extension tube to put filters on it I've wanted to get a polarizing filter. In fact, it was a selling point that I could add filters to it. Unfortunately It was never a huge priority and so I never did get any filters or even the extension tube needed for them. Now, after owning a dSLR for over a year (invoice date was March 13th of last year), I finally have a polarizing filter.

I first did some test shots around the house trying to remove reflections off windows and stuff and noticed things are quite as obvious as I thought. At any rate I was at my parent's house mowing the lawn and I brought my camera with me. It was a gorgeous bright day out and figured it would be perfect for testing out the filter. In these shots the sun was camera left as you can tell by the shadows on the trees. I shot the above picture and immediately removed the polarizer and took the picture below (I never removed the UV filter I have on the lens)

POTW #15 unpolarized

A couple things are immediately obvious. First the grass looks really bad compared to the polarized one--I removed all the reflections from the grass. Also the sky in upper right is a much darker shade of blue than the left side. I didn't know this at the time but later on found this nice page explaining how polarizing filters work and--more importantly--how to use them. Apparently for the sky I was exactly at the right angle as I should have been 90° from the sun instead of more like 60°. Also since I used a wider focal length that makes the color shift more noticeable. Personally I like the graduation like that, although I would have preferred the whole sky to look like how it does on the right. If I spent more time with trial and error I may have come up with something better but these two images give a good comparison I think.

I went to an abandoned place last week as well. I was feeling pretty tired and didn't feel that well from seasonal allergies, so I plan on going there again at some point. That or I'll use what I have as a stand-in in case I skip a week.

In related news, I had a slight panic attack a couple days ago. I am in the process of joining a couple model sites in hopes I can do some more model photography. While browsing through the images in DPP I noticed several of the images from the photo shoots I did at anime punch were partially corrupted. It was odd because I didn't notice it while first editing the pictures and it only really affected the thumbnails. The full image seemed to be fine. After posts to several forums it finally clicked that I have the past 15 or so days of off-site backups stored through jungledisk. I went into there hoping I imported them and held off a day before starting to post process them. Sure enough I was able to recover the untouched files and replace the corrupt files with them. Not sure what caused it. The files are stored on a drobo which should handle any read/write errors. All I can think of is I "saved" the files by closing DPP and it prompting me to save the images. I've done that before when I've edited a lot more files and never had any issues, which was odd. Only other thing is the file got corrupted when it was being written to the drobo. I'm just glad I had those backups. Unfortunately since I've bought jungledisk for a one time price they have now gone to a subscription only based model, which disapoints me. At least I got grandfathered in to the non-subscription version.

Posted in Photography. |

POTW: Anime Punch 2010

April 6, 2010 at 10:08 pm

POTW: Anime Punch 2010

Guess subtitle this "Behind the Scenes." Went to Anime Punch over the weekend. It takes place in Columbus and is much smaller and more specialized than Ohayocon (only other convention I've been to). Anime Punch strives to be an anime convention, not a japan convention or anything convention. They've received quite a lot of flak for it and I know people that have boycotted it because of issues that stem from it. But the convention makes the valid argument that Ohio has a bunch of conventions which allows for this one to be more specialized than others. The good thing about the smaller convention is the more intimate things feel. Instead of being a single person in a swarm of thousands, you're someone in a group of hundreds. Bad thing is most of the time the hallways didn't really have that many people which is why I have absolutely no pictures from just walking around the convention.

This picture was from one of the photo shoots I did. Showcasing it here since it's about the only way it will see the light of day. As a portrait it's horrible. Mirror itself is dirty, you can see me in it, and you can't even see the model all that well. It was one of those "Hey, I wonder if this would work" shots and immediately rejected it. This type of mirror makes it practically impossible to take a picture without me in it. Tried the same effect in another mirror that I could have done without me in it but the mirror was so dirty you wouldn't see anything. Even with all that going against it, I still like it. Had a few good/interesting shots from the photo shoots. Where the first one I did at Ohayocon there was only a couple I really liked there were quite a few from both of these that I liked.

The other photo shoot felt like I was back at square one again. It was a group of four people from the same anime. From a logical standpoint that means it should take four times as long to do. With my current average time of like 15 minutes (I can see the professional photographers that may be reading this roll their eyes) that means it should have lasted for an hour when in reality it was more like a half hour. I did remember to take in consideration there are four people in the same frame. So when I had them looking off camera I couldn't just tell them to look to the left because they would all be looking at different spots. Sometimes that's what you want but other times I had to find some object for them to all look at. It was also more difficult because I was pretty much unfamiliar with the anime. The night before I watched the first couple episodes to get some sense of the series but I was still flying blind for the most part. This was fixed somewhat simply by asking how they related to each other. For example if two of them were sworn enemies you wouldn't have them standing next to each other acting like best friends. Add to all this I got to the hotel maybe 40 minutes before the shoot and it was all rather rushed. So I had the same lessons learned as I did from the photo shoot at ohayocon. Slow down, double check composition, etc. Really the big thing was slow down. Looking back I noticed I felt pretty rushed. Not sure if I felt more intimidated by now being director over four people instead of just one or if it was because within minutes of getting settled in the hotel I had to run off to do the photo shoot.

Although I'm pretty good at hiding it I'm actually really nervous during these photo shoots. Not only do I have to be social with people I hardly know but I need to maintain a leading role as the "expert"--I know what is going to work and what isn't when taking a picture. As far as technical knowledge of how to operate my camera I'm set. It's the guiding other people that I need to work on. Also some things that I should have caught in camera but didn't. For example at one point for the second photo shoot (the one the above picture is from) she's up in a tree--her idea, and she climbed it in heels no less--I'm over in the other tree so we're both at the same level. Didn't notice it when taking the picture, reviewing it at the time I took it, or looking it over back at the hotel room, but there was a parked car in the background. That should have been obvious to me when framing the shot in the viewfinder. Another thing I should have done is utilize the fact she's five feet above the ground and took a picture from ground level looking up which would make it look like she's farther up. Looking back at that specific position and I think it was another one of those times I felt rushed. I'm sure it wasn't comfortable being crouched on a branch in a tree so I was trying to get some pictures done as quick as I could. Again I should have just maintained an open line of communication, just tell her to let me know when she wants down and took more time to explore other angles that may have come out better.

There was another picture that was quite uncomfortable for me which was the closeup. After I did the first photo shoot and looking them over in the hotel room I noticed I got some decent pictures of them individually but I didn't have any real close up pictures. I knew I wanted to do this for the second photo shoot. A couple problems I immediately noticed. First is my general shyness and being extremely self-concious of other people's comfort level and personal space, especially people I don't know all that well. The primary lens I'm using is the lovely Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8. 55mm for a closeup means I'm going to be within a couple feet of the person (which for me feels really close). Also I have to assume that this person has never had a photo shoot done before and need to get them used to having someone snapping away pictures. I solved this by telling myself to wait till the middle or end of photo shoot. At that point the whole photo shoot process would no longer be a completely foreign concept. I also know that my nerves tend to settle down pretty quickly once I get into the groove of things. So by the time I found an opportunity to do a close up I didn't give it a second thought. And with only one picture I nailed it.

So lessons learned from these photo shoots: really try to get there early to scout the area and get into "photographer mode." Also still need to not rush things. I should also get into the habit of reviewing the photos with the person or persons. That way if there's something that either the subject or myself notices we can retake right there. Still like doing photo shoots of cosplayers because things like posing aren't as complicated. They're used to posing for photos as it is. Also, as much as I've mentioned how nervous I get during these, I've found I'm not as much interested in the pictures but the people I meet. It's almost like photography is an ice breaker to meet new people. That could also mean that the photography aspect is so second nature to me that it's a non-issue, but interacting with people is a new and enjoying thing. Explains why I don't have much interest in wedding photography even though that's where the money is. After the first couple weddings it's just taking the same pictures over and over again. I might do senior photography and other type of portraits because I enjoy getting to know people and tailoring the session to that person. With cosplayers that's typically whatever character they're portraying where other forms of portraiture I'm getting to know that actual person instead.

All the pictures I took are in the gallery.

Let me know if these descriptions are starting to get too long. Maybe I'll make a dedicated post on portraits and what I've learned so far.

Posted in Photography. |

POTW: Meyer Dairy

March 31, 2010 at 10:35 pm

POTW: Meyer Dairy

This week I went through an old dairy in Cleveland. Don't have any background information on the company. The picture this week is from looking up through some stairs. I fully intended to capture it at the angle I did, although looking at it now it may have looked better if I was looking straight up. Also did a couple more tests with enfuse. Still need to get used to it. For example this image was from 9 separate images, but the outside is brighter than I wanted. There may be some way to fix that but I couldn't find the setting that does.

This week I'll be at anime punch doing a couple photo shoots and just general convention type pictures.

Pictures from meyer dairy can be found here.

Posted in Photography. |

POTW: Superior Bridge Subway

March 25, 2010 at 8:47 pm

POTW: Superior Bridge Subway

Cleveland hosted a tour of the level underneath the detroit-superior bridge. At one point it used to be part of the subway system. Now it's being used as an art exhibit for the Cleveland Ingenuity Festival that's going to be held later this year. I did a lot of pruning with this set of images since I didn't want to fill the gallery with the 80 or so pictures I took. This specific picture is of an engineer walking back to the office. With the trechcoat it's like a final scene in a detective movie. Would have probably looked better if I cropped the image and maybe made it black and white. Trying not to do too much post production on these weekly photos to show what can be captured just in camera.

Speaking of camera, this is the first photo taken with the new Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens I bought with my tax refund. Hard to tell in this photo but this lens produces some really sharp pictures. Was really evident when I was taking pictures of my cat for some before and after grooming comparison. Also finally did the smart thing and insured all my camera gear. Just add it to my house's property insurance, didn't cost much at all, and now it's covered if I drop my camera or something.

Rest of the pictures from the bridge can be found in the photo gallery.

Posted in Photography. |

POTW: Enfuse Example

March 18, 2010 at 10:37 pm

POTW: Enfuse Example

HDR photography has been a popular thing for a few years now. The premise is simple; take multiple pictures of a scene at various exposure offsets and merge them together. This gives a final image that has more dynamic range than any one photo could take, which means you can see more detail in darker and brighter areas. Most HDR sucks. A couple reasons for this. One reason is what I call "super HDR." These are images that have such a large dynamic range to them that it shows more than the human eye could see. Occasionally, this wouldn't be bad, but I see people that do this for every single picture they do. Another reason is just the process of doing HDR. Without getting too technical, you merge the images and create what's called a tone-mapped image. You then need to tweak settings on this intermediate photo to get a suitable output. This can create things like halos around bright spots in the image. It can also mess with the colors and saturation of the image. In my opinion, a HDR image should mimic what someone viewing that scene in real life would see.

There is another method of merging several images together called--among other things--exposure fusion. In this method the images are compared and whichever image has the "best" pixel, as determined by several factors, is included in the final image. Some smoothing of the final image and it's done. This is a more direct approach as no intermediate file needs to be made. It's also much easier to do. The above image had all default settings. I like this over HDR because it produces a more realistic image. You may even been thinking that's just a single picture. Well, here's the first of the three images used for the above file.

POTW #11 initial shot

My camera, a canon 40D, takes three pictures. The first one is at the proper exposure, which in this case had 0 exposure bias. It then takes (again, this can be changed) an image with -2 exposure bias and +2 exposure bias. With the image above being the first of the three, that means it's a single properly exposed picture. Some things should be immediate when compared to the top image. There's hardly any detail in the window and the windows on the right were blown out slightly. In the upper left corner there was hardly any detail. Even the reflection in the water has more detail in the enfused image.

I created the image with a program called enfuse. There are clients with GUIs for mac, windows, and linux. You can download it and get more information from here.

Posted in Photography. |

New Photo Gallery Theme

March 10, 2010 at 10:08 pm

A quick note that I'm trying out a different theme for my photo gallery. Still considering playing with the color scheme. If you remember the old theme let me know if you like this one better or if you don't remember the old one how does this one look? Thanks. Again the link is http://photos.vrillusions.com.

Posted in Website. |

POTW: Sand Run Metropark

March 10, 2010 at 9:40 pm
POTW: Sand Run Metropark

I was down in Fairlawn for a doctor appointment. Pretty much every time I'm down here I go to through the fjord (is it called something different?) that crosses the road in the middle of the park. This time I remembered to bring my camera and tripod. So I trekked through snow towards a small hill to setup. Had a couple ideas I wanted to do and this was one of them. It's two cars going through right after the other. If you look you can see the splash from the first car is illuminated by the headlights of the second car.

I need to invest in some insulated boots or something. I stood for close to an hour in the snow waiting for it to get dark but not too dark. Also I'll have to buy some waders at some point as I wanted to take a pictures of the small waterfall coming off the ledge opposite of the camera. Also while I like the ball head on my Dolica Tripod, I was using a cheaper tripod I got at best buy that has the standard head that lets you pan. I had to change positions between getting cars going each direction. Once I get a higher end tripod I'll need to get both a ball head and a regular one as they both server their own purpose.

For those wondering what type a camera lens could take such sharp pictures, most were taken with my trusty Canon 50mm f/1.8 II Camera Lens (aka the thrifty fifty). Highly recommended lens. There is a better quality 50mm lens but it's also a lot more expensive

Rest of the pictures I took can be found in the photo gallery.

Posted in Photography. |

POTW: Streetsboro Park

March 4, 2010 at 10:05 pm

POTW: Streetsboro Park

It was Sunday afternoon and didn't have any pictures yet. Visited my parents like I do most Sundays and figured I'd go through the park. Was amazed a tree still had a lot of it's leaves so I trudged through ankle deep snow to get this. Tried a couple looking straight up the tree and they just didn't come out how I wanted. Kinda bland but maybe it would make a good texture if I did that kind of thing. For those somewhat familiar with north-eastern Ohio, Streetsboro is located south of Twinsburg and north of Kent.

Posted in Photography. |

POTW: Westinghouse Factory

February 25, 2010 at 8:50 pm

POTW: Westinghouse Factory

Winter is still in full force but the sun decided to finally come out. Been meaning to go to the Westinghouse factory for a while now. Apparently I wasn't alone in this since while I was there I ran into a group of three other photographers. Also ran into a group that was just walking around, including a young boy maybe 10 or so. Kind of a dangerous place to be taking a child to but he seemed to be enjoying it. I was there by myself (yes, I'm that crazy) so I had plenty of time to try out some new techniques. I spent a good half hour trying to capture the water dripping from the roof firing a flash from the side and various other tricks and didn't get anything usable. Did have fun with a broken elevator (like I said, I'm crazy). Since it was completely dark I hooked up my flash to a remote trigger and set it in the corner of the elevator and got a couple interesting shots. Ultimately I had composition issues since neither image looked straight. I may revisit them later. Those pictures and everything else I took are visible in the gallery.

Posted in Photography. |

POTW: Tower City

February 18, 2010 at 9:48 pm

POTW: Tower City

This week I went to tower city. Years ago I would go here with my parents maybe every other week it seemed. There was a Warner Brothers store and a Disney store. For the life of me I couldn't say what we bought all the time but we always bought something and then we could get the ticket validated so parking was free. Well the only thing left is the ticket validation if you purchase something. Warner Brothers and Disney are long gone. The water fountains weren't on but I figured it may have something to do with valentine's day and the mass wedding they were doing the following day. Also did a quick walk around public square you can see in the gallery here

Posted in Photography. |