Aug 2010

Reflections

Reflections-1

This summer has been very busy. Work, my daughter getting married, work, my son moving out, work and more work. Today I was finally able to take a break and think about taking some photos. I have been wanting to work on water drop reflections lately. Tonight my wife wanted to go gather some books to donate to our daughters teachers classroom. Right before we were to leave I looked outside and noticed that the last light of evening was perfect. I grabbed my tripod (an adventure in and of itself. I had to locate parts from the relocation of said tripod by my two year old). I put my macro lens on and set out to get the photo set up. These plants are both found in my garden. The cactus is a cold weather cactus and the flower is indian blanketflower. I misted the cactus and then started shooting. Click to view on Black.

This shot would not have been possible without a tripod and a cable release.

The specs:
Iso 200
105mm
f/40
5 second exposure

I did minimal treatment in Lightroom 3 and then published it.

I like the reflections of the flowers in the water droplets.
I like the contrast of the cactus and water.
I like the detail found on the cactus.
I like how many drops are found.
I would like to not have the thorn reflections over the flowers.

Thank you for taking the time to visit today.

I will respond to all comments.

~wr~

Fire Chalice

Fire-chalice

This summer I have had a hard time getting out to take as many photos as I would have liked. It is in part due to commitments at home. A daughter getting married and trying to run my part time business. So today I came up with the great idea to take some macro photos of flowers with water drops on them. I set up for the photos, but it was so windy all day that it was hard to keep the subject in focus and all the good drops that show reflections were blown off the plants before I could set up. This plant is called Fire Chalice and is a favorite with the hummingbirds.

Thank you for visiting today.

Rikki

Here is another incredible blog entry from Rikki of Rikkims. She is a very talented photographer that takes time to tell a story with every one of her photos. She puts a lot of time and effort into taking photos that have meaning and portray a story. Thanks for another great post Rikki.

~wr~


Basically, I don't have very much "fancy" equipment. Whenever I see people with big cameras I always get excited or maybe it's jealous haha. The reason I don't have one is because when I went for my interview/portfolio review at the Hallmark Institute of Photography last october I asked the guy looking at my work which camera he recommended me to get. He told me straight out not to get one (even though my parents were planning on getting me one for christmas). The reason was because once I get the camera from Hallmark he said I would never use the other one because the cameras we get there are so immaculate and I’d be unhappy with that one afterwards, so he said not to waste the money. So I'm stuck with my little old point and shoot. I shoot with an Olympus FE280 - it's a little 8.0 megapixel, red point and shoot and it has done me well so far. I realize everyday how much I'm limited with it but I try to make up for it in post processing. I'm hoping this will make me a stronger photographer in the end and I’m going to be in heaven when I get the cameras from Hallmark!

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I got you.

One nice thing I do have is a tripod! I don't think I’d live without that. I take mostly self-potraits because I don't have very many models, however I do take pictures of other people but I rarely post them on flickr for privacy reasons. I don't have a remote so I have to resort to my cameras 12 second timer. It can be very frustrating but it works. So this picture you see here was of me and my boyfriend. It's so hard to get him in a picture with me, but when I do I always love how they come out. I live near the Hudson River so there are some very beautiful places to take pictures. This one in particular was taken on a dock thats right next to the Mid-Hudson bridge. We had just gone out to dinner at a local restaurant on the river and afterwards I forced him to walk down to the dock with me, then I whipped out my camera and he groaned. haha. I didn't have my tripod with me so I had to set the camera down right on the dock and I ran to get in position next to him. I'm actually very happy that I didn't have my tripod because I love the different view it gave. You can see all the nails in the dock. I think it gives it a different perspective that's really special. I wasn't even considering the rule of thirds with this picture but it came out as if I did. After I got it on the computer I fixed the exposure a bit and turned it into black and white because the colors weren't anything vibrant. That's all I did for processing but it came out as a great, memorable shot.


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Holding still

This shot here was completely planned out (for the most part) unlike some of my other shots. I've been to this location once before and it's a really magical place. So I had gotten a new dress the friday before I took this picture. I always take pictures in dresses so I was excited. I went out sunday afternoon to this place and it was very hot. I found the flower that I’m holding on the way to this bridge. I love Queen Anne's Lace , they are so beautiful and I was definitely using that in my picture because I love flowers. When I got to the bridge I had already had some poses in mind and this was one of them. I made sure to set my tripod on the bridge, but at a lower angle so it would have a nice personal perspective of me sitting on the bridge. I also made sure to sit on my shins and have my dress all fanned out like I did- close attention to details. Then I heard the beeping of my timer so I quickly got into the first pose I could think of with the flower and my hand in my hair and this is how it came out. I love the contrast between the red and green. I wasn't even thinking about that beforehand but afterwards I thought hey that was lucky. I feel that with a location like this you can't go wrong. It's just tough sometimes for me to come up with poses because I have no modeling ability whatsoever haha. But I am happy with the turnout. I don't usually like to give my photos an incredibly personal feel for myself, simply because I want other people to imagine themselves in the spot I'm sitting at, which is why I take lots of pictures with my back facing the camera or like this one where my eyes and face are hidden. I feel that pictures like this give other people a chance to envision themselves in my shoes. I like to take pictures other people can relate to and enjoy and sometimes this helps a little. But when I'm taking pictures for other people I do the opposite- I make them very personal for the person they are of so I make sure to get their faces and anything else that defines them in it.

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Perry

Here is a chance for you to see my work with me behind the camera. This is a picture of my friend Perry. I took this photo back in October around the time I was first really getting into taking pictures. I'm still a beginner at photography so I consider myself a super beginner when I took this. Yet after 10 months of grown experience I still am very proud of this image. My friend Perry really does play the guitar and he one day suggested to me that I take pictures of guitars, but I felt that pictures of just guitars was a little too plain for my taste. So I suggested he be in the pictures with them! This was my second portrait shoot for a friend that I had ever done but there are so many from this day that I still like. We went up to a state park on the Hudson River called Vanderbilt Estates. They have the most beautiful "Italian Gardens" there and that is the spot I took most of the pictures. This one in particular is of a building that had this random door on the side and it was up high with no steps. So I made him sit on the ledge holding the acoustic guitar- which is actually mine, he took his 2 other electric ones but I personally like the look of acoustic guitars in photographs better, I feel it’s more natural or mellow as opposed to the loud electric guitars. I got so lucky with the composition of this shot. The bricks to the right balance out the vines to the left and the little thing on the top corner of the door looks really cool- I’m not sure what it is though. I was holding my camera when I took this; I didn't own a tripod at this point. After I put it on the computer I turned it into sepia because I think the contrast between the highlights and shadows look better that way and it gives it warm tones. It also makes the texture of the grass and wall stand out so much more. I'm pretty sure I used some vignetting in this too because of the bottom corners but the dark spots in the top corners are mostly dark because of the brick that was on the building. Despite being one of my earliest works I am still fond of this shot, and so was Perry.

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Keep your eyes on the horizon


Back to a self-portrait! This isn't my most "popular" picture on flickr but it is my only picture that has made it to explore front page and has the most comments, favs, and views. (not that that necessarily means anything but I thought I’d talk about it because of that). This was taken at Long Beach Island, NJ around 6 in the morning. I woke up early on my vacation to take these and my dad was nice enough to come with me. I used my tripod for this shot and got into position, but since I had my dad there with me I told him to press the shutter for me when I was ready. The light from the morning sun was so beautiful and I loved how it was shining on the fence. This spot was at the opening of the walkway to get onto the beach, so once again I didn't get very far before I started taking pictures haha. The colors of the sky, sand and sea were amazing because of the morning light. But I made sure to get those sea grasses behind the fence in the picture because I love how it adds to it. I feel like it's such a simple portrait but it was taken at a beautiful time of day in a beautiful place. I made sure not to look at the camera because I wanted there to be a sense of wonder about what I was looking at and the title fit so well when I thought about it after I uploaded it to flickr. I only did a little processing to this, mostly with the cross processing effect. But I just had to leave it in color because of the gorgeous beach tones. This will always be a favorite of mine.


Thank you again Darrin for the opportunity to do another blog. I love what you do with your website and I'm so honored to be a part of it. If you'd like me to do any other posts about processing or something else I'd be more than happy to. Thank you thank you!
Sincerely,
Rikki

White Spider

White-spider

I have had a hard time recently adding new material to my site. It seams more and more that my day job, my part time job, and being a parent have all come into play in keeping me more and more busy. Recently I have invited some incredibly talented photographers that I have found on Flickr to share their skill with you on this site. They have had several great posts.

In the last few weeks I have thought about what else I could add. I have not been able to get out and explore the beautiful landscapes that surround the Wasatch Front. This brings me back to the original question of what can I do to add interest?

My answer has been to look in my backyard. Each and everyone of us has many interesting things right under our nose. All we have to do is look. Recently I spent a couple of hours looking at the small items that are in our lives every day, but that we so easily overlook.

This thought again came to me when I was in our backyard recently. I was watering the plants when I noticed this white spider come out from hiding. I quickly grabbed my camera and macro lens and this was what I captured.

I decided to spend more time looking for additional small items. In the coming days I plan on adding more macro shots that are found by looking no further then my back yard.

My advice is if you are having a hard time finding new subjects or finding time to get out and explore far away areas take some time to look at the exotic things located in your backyard.

~wr~

This is an amazing entry from DCStep. He went on a trip of a lifetime and took the equipment and expertise with him to document in ways most of us only dream of. I hope you enjoy his blog as much as I do.
~wr~

Nature Photography on a Cruise Ship

Nature Photography and Cruising
By DCStep

I just returned from a ten-day cruise and land excursion to Alaska on the Diamond Princess and using Princess Properties (trains, buses and hotels) inland to Denali. This was billed as an “Inside Passage Glacier Discovery” tour, which meant that the ship’s captain took every opportunity to use inland waterways, ranging from the rivers and straits North of Vancouver, British Columbia to the river dead ending at Skagway, Alaska to the incredible fjords like Glacier Bay and College Fjord where active glaciers “calve” into the fjords.

Dreaming of the trip I imagined bald eagles, orcas, humpback whales, bears, glaciers and beautiful scenery, all visible from my balcony. (Do spring for a balcony if you can afford it. You can go out on the Promenade Deck for photography, but being cozy on your own balcony for hours at a time is much superior). All my dreams came true, but I wasn’t prepared for the beautiful send off from Vancouver as boats swarmed our big ship as the prominent skyline against the water with Whistler Mountain served as the backdrop.

Wildlife photography generally requires a long lens, but shooting wildlife from a ship amplifies the need for focal length because ships can’t really get into shallow water and/or stop for much wildlife. (Our ship did slow for whales and other sea life and did stop for the bear you’ll see later in the blog). Expecting this, I took my 500mm f/4 lens on this trip.

First, let’s look at a couple of shots using the 500mm lens for “scenic” images.
LionsGateShipsPassing
View on Black


The shot above of Lions Gate Bridge with a Holland America cruise ship and a tanker passing was taken with my 500mm lens on my Canon 7D. I’m guessing that I was around a mile away from the nearest ship. The compression of distance caused by using the super telephoto lens gives this image much of its dramatic impact. The long focal length also reduces the impact of smoke and atmospheric haze in this busy metropolitan city.

Here’s another image taken with the 500mm, taking advantage of the distance compression to compact a tanker, the Vancouver skyline and Whistler Mountain into a dramatic composition.
TankerSkylineWhistler
View on Black


Even though the subjects are relatively static in the past two examples, I’m still using my tripod to get the maximum sharpness out of my 500mm lens. I use a strong ballhead with a Wimberley Sidekick mounted to hold my 500mm steady while also allowing quick movement to follow opportunities like the image that follows.

BaldEagleJuvenileFish
View on Black


I doubt that anyone else on the ship actually saw this juvenile bald eagle catch a fish. About two-hours out of port, I saw a large bird cross over the ship and tracked it with my lens before I’d even identified it. As it neared the water I shot a burst of images and caught this image To give an idea of the distance involved, I had to crop this around 80% to get it this close, pushing the limits of reasonable sharpness, even with a 500mm lens. I don’t use my 1.4x teleconverter for birds in flight because I find it very hard to lock onto the bird quickly and follow it. With more practice I hope to develop the necessary skill, but right now the 500mm is about at the limit of my handling ability.

For the following image I had my 1.4x teleconverter mounted with the 500mm lens, equaling 700mm, and I still had to crop 50%. I’m guessing that the brown bear was around 300-yards away. The ship’s skipper did a great job of getting us close to wildlife and glaciers, but there’s only so much that he could do.

BrownBearWater
View on Black

The distances to wildlife when viewed from a cruise ship are the big reason to bring your long lens. Also, using the long lens for scenic images gives your images a different perspective. I still brought and used my wide angle lens, but this blog thread is about using the heavy artillery.

Carrying all the equipment on a trip is an issue to be considered. I bought a ThinkTank International carryon roller bag that holds two bodies, my 500mm lens, a 70-200mm f/4 and my 24-105mm f/4, plus ancillaries. It’s heavy when loaded, but it fits in the overhead bins on US and international flights. That and my computer case are my carryon baggage. I have a four-section Induro C414 (now the CT414) that will fit in a large suitcase, which I check with the airline. The 3-section tripods tend to be too long for most luggage. When buying a tripod, make its length versus your luggage one of the selection criteria.

I’ve packed this way for two trips and found that it works quite well. For trips where I don’t need the 500mm I use a regular sized backpack style camera bag and usually take two bodies, two lenses, the flash and other odds and ends. For some trips I travel light and take only one body and two lenses and use a much smaller handbag type arrangement. I still usually pack the tripod in my checked bag.

Other issues I was forced to deal with were vibration and wind. With a large lens, every vibration is amplified and the wind on the deck of a moving ship can grab a lens and shake it pretty good. To the degree possible, I positioned the tripod inboard as much as possible to still see and yet avoid letting the wind catch the end of the lens. To deal with vibration I kept the shutter speeds up over 1/1000-second when I could. When cruising, the ship’s vibrations are minimal in calm seas, but when the ship is stopped and positioning for us to see wildlife, like the bear, the side-thrusters can produce quite a shake that is visible through the lens. I waited on the thrusters to stop, but you could lift the camera off the tripod to damp this effect with your body, but then you need higher shutter speed to offset any unsteadiness due to hand holding.

What if you don’t have a 500mm lens and don’t want to rent one, then what is the minimum lens needed to get some really effective shots? I find my 70-200mm f/4 to be a workhorse. Here’s a shot of Margerie Glacier calving taken with my 70-200mm f/4 lens.

GlacierCalving
View on Black


This was handheld. We were too close to use the 500mm for this type of shot. I did get some details of the glacier with my 500mm, but this shot of the glacier “calving” into the Glacier Bay worked best with the smaller zoom. By the way, that blue tint is the actual color of the glacier.

Everyone trekking to Denali wants to capture something like this following image. I used my 70-200mm lens, plus the 1.4x teleconverter for this. We were 80-miles from the mountain at this point. I was extremely lucky that the mountain even showed its face, because there had been rain and clouds for two-weeks prior to my visit. I could have ridden the bus another 40-miles into the park, but probably would have come up empty because the mountain would likely be hidden again. Our bus driver saw this and pulled to the side at the first turnout so that we could get our shots. The window of opportunity was only around 30-minutes. I was there for another day and a half and never saw the mountain again.

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View on Black


For me, taking the inside passage up Alaska’s Southeastern coast and then inland to Denali was a “bucket list” kind of trip. In planning I couldn’t imagine going without taking the very best pictures possible for me, which meant bringing my best equipment, even if it’s bulky and heavy. I’m glad I did. Out of around 2,800 passengers, I only saw a handful of other “serious” photographers. Most others were shooting with point and shoot cameras and a few were simply using their iPhones. If you’re reading this blog, you probably want to stay at the higher end of the scale.

My wife and I took our ten and fourteen year old granddaughters with us on this trip; otherwise, I might have gone on a much smaller boat. I considered taking a photography workshop on a boat that carried only 28 passengers and crew. That would not have worked with the wife and young girls, so we elected this style of cruise. I think that it really did work out well. I looked at what the photographers on the smaller boat did on their cruise and envy them nothing. They did get some things that I didn’t and vice versa. The large cruise ship is a valid way to really see Alaska and document it with your own photography.

Here’s the URL of my Flickr site for anyone interested in seeing more of my images from this adventure:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/dcstep/sets/72157624407179225/show/

Happy shooting

Bolt



Bolt

Last night was incredible. The entire valley was filled with lightening bolts. We drove to the end of our street and set the van up so that the back was pointing to one of the storms. I held a cable release with the camera on a tripod. As soon as a flash went off I pushed the button. This is not an exact science, but it did work.

For this bolt I processed using Lightroom 2. I enhanced the colors darkened the exposure and then exported to CS4 and added a touch of Topaz adjust. I still have a few minor areas to fix, but overall the photo is pleasing to me. This photo has so much action happening that it is almost hard to believe. The colors of the sun starting to set, the rain, the shape of the clouds and the lightening bolt all add to a dramatic photo.

Thank you for visiting tonight.

~wr~

DCStep

Thank you for another fantastic post from DCStep.

Macro Photography with Birding Equipment
I recently demonstrated how the birder photographer’s tripod, ballhead and high quality camera could be used for night photography if you just add a remote release and know how to deal with the low light. Now I’d like to discuss using the same tripod, ballhead/gimbal, camera and super telephoto lens for “macro” photography.
First, let me talk a little about what macro photography is actually. To me, macro is all about “life sized” images. So, if you view an image of a bug or flower, the subject is around as large as it is in real life, if not bigger. In the beginning, and I’m talking way back in the 1800s, a “life sized” or “1-to-1” image was an image where a bumble bee was the same size on the photographic plate as it was in real life. In those days, most prints were made either directly from the photographic glass or a contact print method, where the print was the same size as the plate (negative).
Soon, enlargers and film were invented and the prints stayed large and even got larger, but the definition of “life sized” still meant that the subject was life size on the negative, not the final print. This was a consistent definition, but didn’t relate to the final viewed image, which was usually a print. Today, the sensors for many point and shoot cameras are smaller than a bumble bee. Hence, the magnification ratio cannot physically be 1-to-1 to capture a whole bumble bee at the sensor on a P&S camera which is more likely .1-to-1 when producing a “macro” image. Yet, many of those cameras will produce pleasing “life sized” bumble bees on 4”x6” prints.
Canon makes a macro lens that can produce an image at the sensor with a 5-to-1 magnification ratio. If you think about a bumble bee and a sensor size of 35mm or smaller, you could only use such a lens at its maximum magnification to shoot part of a bumble, like the eye, and that would fill the image. I’ll call that “extreme macro”, which is a topic I’ll not cover today.
What I will demonstrate is how to use your birding lens to produce pleasing, “life sized” images (when viewed as 4”x6” print or “internet size”, for instance) that are stunning in detail when viewed full screen on a large computer monitor or a large HDTV.
BumbleBeeMacro
I shot this bumble bee with my Canon 7D with a 500mm f/4.0 lens and a 1.4x teleconverter and 25mm extension tube. Just like when shooting birds, I shot in Aperture Preferred mode at f/11.0, 0EV, resulting in a shutter speed of 1/1250. That’s exactly the same set up as I was using to shoot humming birds and goldfinches about 25-feet further away, except for the extension tube. This bumbler was at around 15-feet when I shot this particular image, but it’d been slightly closer, where the ET was needed. I’ve learned to take the ET quickly off and on the lens and hold it in my left hand while I shoot songbirds and hummers. An extension tube will prevent you from focusing your lens at infinity. In the case of my 500mm lens the maximum focus distance is reduced to around 10-meters.
This image is cropped some for composition purposes, rather than to get the bee large enough.
Technique for shooting bumble bees, song birds and humming birds is almost the same. I left the auto focus on because of the constant movement of the subject and the shallow depth of field. I was using f/11.0 for both birds and bees in an attempt to get the whole animal and some surroundings in focus. You can see that, even stopped down like this, the bokeh is creamy smooth behind the bee.
I use my tripod for steadiness and a relatively high shutter speed to stop movement of the subject. Because the subject is constantly moving I cannot use mirror lock up and a remote release like in my night photography demonstration, so I damp the shutter vibration by putting my left hand on top of the lens and pressing down. That and the fast shutter speed makes for a sharp image.
If I were shooting something static, like a flower, I’d use Live View (a Canon term for using the LCD on the back of the camera) to lock the mirror up and I’d use my remote release. This will allow a much longer shutter speed and smaller aperture to increase depth of field even further. Also, with a static subject I’d lower the ISO to further reduce noise. (My Canon 7D has excellent noise performance at ISO 800, so it’s not a huge issue). Also, be aware that static subjects are not always particularly static if there’s any breeze. Generally shooting a 500mm lens, you don’t want to go below 1/500
th second, but it’s possible to do quite well at much slower speeds with a locked down tripod, mirror lock up and remote release. Just take the wind into consideration.
One key to using your telephoto and super telephoto lenses as macros is to get as near to the minimum focus distance as the subject will allow. Getting closer increases the size of the subject in the final image. Yeah, I know, duh, but that’s what macro is about so I thought that it was worth repeating.
If you have trouble focusing and you’re near the minimum focus distance of the lens, teleconverter and extension tube combination, try physically moving the camera toward and back from the subject. If you’re right at the minimum focus distance and go just a fraction under it, then the auto focus gets lost. At the extreme limit of focus distance, where you get the maximum magnification, focus gets harder to achieve and you might even elect to go to manual focus. One advantage to telephoto lenses is that’s less likely to be an issue than with something like a 50mm lens, where the range of focus will be very small when an extension tube is attached. I’ve seen people write on forums, “This thing doesn’t work and I’m going to send it back” when they didn’t really know how to operate it by physically moving the lens/camera in and out from the subject.
Another key is realizing that adding a 1.4x, 1.7x or 2x teleconverter is not going to change your minimum focus distance much, if at all, and you gain magnification on your sensor and in the resulting image. Teleconverters are quite commonly used on super telephoto lenses to increase the “reach” of the lens to bring small, distant subjects closer. They’re also useful to simply magnify a close subject in the viewfinder and on the sensor, which is the usage that I’m describing now.
Also, if you have a choice between a high quality crop sensor camera and a full-frame camera body, the crop sensor will give you a larger subject in the final image. However, you must consider the final image quality of each. For instance, a brand new full-frame Canon 5D MkII will yield a better image, even after cropping to bring the image up to the same size, compared to a several generations old crop sensor camera, like the Canon 20D. With the current 7Dcrop-sensor model and the 5D MkII, image quality is very, very close. I prefer my 7D for this use because what I see in the viewfinder is closer to my final print for most of these type shots.
I’m not advocating that anyone go out and buy a very expensive 500mm lens just to use for macro photography. What I’m saying is, if you already own a super telephoto lens for birds and/or nature, consider using it as a macro lens. The bumble bee was shot from around 15-feet away, which is luxurious working distance for macro shooting of moving subjects. An extension tube is not a primary requirement, but it will allow you to get closer, or keep shooting as the subject moves closer to you. I’d do suggest that a teleconverter is a key to getting satisfactory magnification, such that your subjects might actually be larger than life, depending on your particular camera and lens combination.
I was using a 500mm lens for this demonstration, but 400mm, 300mm and even 200mm lenses work very well also, you just need to get closer for the same image size. Bumble bees, butterflies, dragonflies and other bugs are all quite tolerant at the working distances that any of these lenses allow.
If you want to see this bumble bee at full image size (way larger than life sized) and have a reasonably fast internet connection, you can see extremely fine details at the following link:
View the above image Original size


For comparison below is an image taking with a 105mm Macro lens. The below image is taken handheld. Both the above image and the below are Milkweed. Both images show incredible detail. While you don’t need to go out and purchase an expensive lens like the 500mm or the 105mm, equipment does greatly help you in getting the shot that you are after. If you don’t have the newest camera or the best lens then the best camera is the one you have with you. Learn to use it and push it to its limits and you too can take great photos.~wr~
DSC_5342

Timpanogos

Timpanogos Fields

Lately we have had lots of thunderstorms around, but none really hitting our town. Tonight was no different. I looked on the radar and a massive thunderstorm was heading straight for us. Then it died as it tried to go over the mountains. I was a little disappointed. I went outside to look and the light was absolutely amazing. The colors that were to the East were where the color of the sun was coming alive.

This photo was hand held and is a three stop HDR that was processed using Lightroom 2 and Photoshop cs5. I had set my camera to cloudy mode, but the colors were so wild that the sensor was fooled. I played with the color in Lightroom to simulate what it looked like. Then I tried to process in Photomatix, but it looked far to overprocessed. I then finished the HDR using CS5 and gave it the surreal look.

Thank you for visiting today.

~wr~

I will have Dave from DCStep on as a blogger this week. Again Thank you to Rikki of Rikkims on flickr for doing the last guest blog.