The Art and Business of HDR Photography

The Art and Business of HDR Photography

I had a long video discussion about creativity, business, and my thinking on this world of photography. Here are a few topics discussed:

  • Micro stock photography and how this is basically slave labor
  • Employees and the team at Stuck In Customs and how we operate
  • Getty Images and how it’s highway robbery
  • How photography and making money can put unnecessary stress on relationships
  • HDR photography and how the brain experiences it
  • The future of photography in terms if HDR
  • How long it takes me to process photos

Thanks to Antonio Marques, Jim Goldstein, Dave Wilson, and Sean Galbraith and the team at PhotoNetCast.

Daily Photo – A Girl and Her Grandma in Beijing

As I came out of a museum, I saw this young girl sitting with her grandmother and reading books. They were sitting on a simple bench and there was a wall of bamboo behind them. The light was falling perfect, so I dropped down onto one knee and took a quick shot.

Do you like taking photos of strangers in public? Or maybe you have a bit of a problem with it? If so, I wrote an article last year called “Five Tips for Photographing People” (click link to read).

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This Week in Photo Interview

This Week in Photo Interview

Listen to the interview on Frederick Van’s Blog. We talk about all sorts of things:

  • The business versus the art of Stuck In Customs
  • Licensing photos and how Getty is a dinosaur
  • and self-publishing eBooks versus traditional publishing
  • The crowded market of camera apps

Coming to Switzerland – Any Suggestions?

I’m 85% sure that I’m coming to Switzerland this summer. I’ve been to Zurich and Lugano, but only for a short time. This time, where do you suggest I go? I’m looking for a picturesque, relaxing, and awesome place.

Daily Photo- The Teleporters

I’m not even sure which hotel in Beijing this is! (edit: comments indicate it is the Grand Millennium Hotel in Beijing) I was randomly walking around an urban area and peered inside some windows to see this. It looked so amazing inside — I had no choice but to go right into the lobby to set up! I was able to squeeze off a few rounds before security stopped me.

Security came up to me and asked, in perfect English, “Please, sir, you cannot take pictures!”

I responded by saying, “But sir, you don’t understand! I don’t even speak English!”

This left him confused for long enough for me to take another bracketed set. Then I left.

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Old Beijing in the Morning

Japan Charity Week Continues

Just around one day left, and we’ve broken $1,000 — great stuff. Now, get in there and bid! All the revenue goes to the Red Cross for Japan.

Daily Photo – Old Beijing in the Morning

I need some better photography-gloves, I came to realize on this particular morning. I’ve got some pretty good ones with the fingertips that flip up, but there are a few annoying things about them. I don’t want to bore you with all the details, but if there are ever any flaws, all you can do is think about them.

When I travel, I usually collect dozens (or hundreds) of textures from the environment. I like to re-constitute them back into the work itself from time to time. There’s no rhyme or reason for when I choose to do it… just whenever it feels interesting or right. Many of the textures I take don’t work or are not appropriate, but I do enjoy the process of going through them all.

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On Golden Borg

HDR Tip #6 – Don’t HDR People

High Dynamic Range PhotoThe week of HDR Tips continues with Tip #6: Don’t HDR People.

I still see this all the time… I used to do it back in the day too, so I’m as guilty as the next. It can be a cool effect, but, for the most part, it just makes people look dirty. And not the good kind of dirty.

It’s also a big problem with some of these HDR videos, no? There are a few of these floating around out there… and people always look really really really strange in HDR video, and I don’t really like anything I’ve seen yet in that department. Anyway, this is not about video… it’s about photos… and try to avoid the HDR temptation when it comes to people.

Ron Martinsen’s New Tutorial

Ron is a friend of the blog here, and he’s an avid user of a lot of the little things we sell. He just put up a new free tutorial that has a nifty trick, and made mention of the special Textures package that we sell. See his new tutorial here.

Daily Photo – On Golden Borg

If I had stayed a little longer in this area, I’m sure I would have been assimilated too!

Not only were all the little buildings perfectly modeled, but the insides of the buildings had little lights. Every few minutes, they would flicker and change, and the lights in the overall room would dim.

So here’s a good idea if you go to Shanghai or Beijing, or any of these Asian megacities that have city-planning museums. These huge models are great for scouting sunset shots from a nice perspective. I usually use Google Earth, but taking photos of downtown areas require some thought about the altitude of the shot. So, for example, you don’t want to go to the tallest building in a city to take the photo, because you actually want the tallest building to be in the photo. So that means you need to find a nearby building that is “high enough” that still has a good angle towards the big building. Also, preferably, you’d like that second building to be east of the big building so there is nice light at sunset. Well, there’s a lot of things to think about, and these models are a perfect playground for perspectives.

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Stone Steps in the City

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HDR Tip #5

The week of HDR Tips continues with Rick Sammon. Today, I called mine, Tip #5, Don’t Forget the Zooms. I have haphazardly used the word “zoom” in a plural manner that is both irresponsible and confusing. But that’s the way I roll.

Daily Photo – Stone Steps in the City

How do you guys feel about hyper-manufactured situations like this?

I don’t always know what to think. There are a lot of urban areas like this around Beijing where they create little natural-looking areas. They certainly look cool, and perfect in many ways. But, perhaps it is a little too perfect. No, that’s not the right way to say it. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but something doesn’t feel right about it. It’s almost because I can picture the designer deciding to put a tree in a certain spot or the selection of a certain shape of stone in another part. Maybe if the placement of items was truly accidental — true randomness — then it might look more natural.

But I see a lot of this in China. They have communities with giant apartment blocks. The new ones are all very modern and nice. And in the middle of them are fountains, small groves of trees, paths, swings, and everything. There are families out mucking about and enjoying it… but I wonder if it “feels” as funny to them as it does to me. I sometimes feel like I’m on a holodeck.

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The Terminal

Want some Awesome Aperture Presets and Goodies?

Do any of you use Aperture to organize your photos? If so, my friend Joseph Linaschke, has released some New Aperture Presets with my Textures. Really amazing stuff… After you follow that link, just click on “Adjustment Presets” and you’ll be in the right area.

Joseph plucked some of his favorite textures out of my texture tutorial package and integrated them into those presets. It’s a pretty dang simple way to use them!

Besides the presets, Joseph has all other kinds of goodies in there too… ebooks and a little bit of everything. He wrote that remarkable ebook for about the Canon camera, so he’s a real pro. His stuff is the EXACT opposite of mine! I’m Nikon/Lightroom, and he’s Canon/Aperture. But we get along fine… like ebony and ivory.

HDR Tips Continue!

High Dynamic Range PhotoHere we are on day 3 of a week of HDR Tips with Rick. Today’s Tip #3 is “Leave Some Mystery”.

You might remember this shot on the right from Nimes, France. It is of an old Roman colosseum where they still have bullfights and concerts. I was thinking about visiting my friend Fabien (the website designer) this summer to see Sting there. It’s supposed to be an amazing place to see live music.

Daily Photo – The Terminal

You guys know I love the Asian airports. I can’t quite figure out why they are all so awesome. I suppose that the government just pours a ton of money into them. But, I don’t really understand the economics of airports, even though I spend a lot of time in them. I know the airlines have to lease the gates, so that provides a regular income, but probably not enough to pay back the billion dollar pricetag to get it built. I’m pretty sure there is a lot of incestuous stuff that goes on… I know some giant Asian airlines are subsidized by the government, which in turn give money to airports that are owned partially by the government, and it all gets more messy from there. I suppose I’m just used to the government doing everything badly here.

This is one of the smaller terminals in Beijing. The main terminal is huge, and you get to this one after you pass through security. The floors are so glossy, I feel like wearing ice skates!

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The Saucer Section Separates

Star Trek: The Next Generation

Since today’s photo has a reference to the great series of yore, I thought I would share a few of these videos. You may remember this episode on the right. It’s one of those special episodes you just can’t get out of your head.
And who could forget the comic stylings of Geordi and his wacky sidekick Data? When those two get together, you never quite know what will happen.

Even better, when you mix in the softly-bearded Riker, he can take things to a whole new level of unexpected heights. That show was genius…pure genius.

The Saucer Section Separates

You know you were in for something special whenever the Enterprise got into one of those situations where the saucer section would separate from the warp nacelles. It always happened in the most extreme situations, and there was always a vital emergency. But the actual separation process seemed to involve about four minutes of special effects, which was surely long enough for the Borg to assimilate everyone.

What would have been better, in retrospect, was if the Borg would just assimilate the special effects department and modernize it a bit.

Can anyone figure out from where this photo actually hails (ahem).

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NBC Interview – Behind the Scenes

NBC Video and Behind-the-Scenes

Besides the video below, there is an extended article with more behind-the-scenes stuff you might enjoy. Jim Swift from KXAN here in Austin did a nice story on the whole thing. And, thankfully, he cut out the parts of the video where we REALLY look like idiots.

100 Cameras in 1 (iTunes link).

Is an Android Version coming?

If you scroll to the bottom of the KXAN Article the question came up and we addressed it there. I know you are excited about it! So am I, obviously! :)

Sunday Approaches…

The big video release is just two days away… It took me a small eternity to finish, but you’ll zip through the whole thing in a matter of minutes.

Daily Photo – Girl in Hat

One morning I woke up early to go visit the Summer Palace in Beijing. Since it was the week of the national holiday, I was not the only guy that woke up early. Around the outskirts of the palace, there were thousands of celebrants in all sorts of garb. And plenty of cute kids in fanciful headwear. I saw this little girl, so I got down to her level and took a quick shot with the 50 prime.

I hope this one is sharp enough for you… I know on Flickr sometimes I get a few photo-nerds that complain, “errr…you’re a little soft in the lower right quadrant.”.

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Austin PhotoWalk at SXSW

The Big Austin PhotoWalk – Don’t miss it!

Come join us at SXSW for great night of fun photography. All skill levels are invited! Join the Plancast event and/or the Facebook Event.  We’ll be meeting at the gorgeous and famous Driskill Hotel in downtown Austin, which has always been very nice to me in the past… so they get a big thumbs up in my book.

  • All skill levels invited – from beginner to beyond
  • Great prizes for you!  My friend Jack Hollingsworth is coordinating all of this, so more news to come
  • Is it your first PhotoWalk?  Don’t be scared!  Come along with whatever camera you wish.  There will be all kinds of coaches and other nice photographers to help you out.

We recently had an amazing PhotoWalk in London – check that one out and you can see a video, photos, and more.

Daily Photo – In Old China

I was nursing my cracked ribs at this point after my clumsy slip down by the boats. But I had a bit of that post-accident adrenaline that numbed it enough to keep shooting a bit. Also, I think I was a bit loopy because of the pain, but that can make for good artistic endeavors, I think. When I remember walking around this area, it’s all a bit more foggy than some of my other experiences, which are more crystal-clear. In some ways, I almost feel like I didn’t take these photos, even though I know I did. It’s strange thinking about it now.

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Time Frozen in the Ancient Village

Bad Internet Marketing

Because of the popularity of this blog, I get these emails just about every day. It is so crazy… I want any potential “internet marketers” that are reading this site to know that I don’t do paid-blog posts or any of that nonsense.

Companies send me FREE STUFF all the time. You should see my studio – I’ve got piles and piles of crappy stuff… everything from camera equipment to gadgets. I always tell people ahead of time that I only review it if I actually like it. This is because I am super-busy… and people are too busy to read 1000 reviews… so I just stick with the best stuff.

So, of the hundreds of things I have to review, I usually do only about one every two months. Don’t get your hopes up, marketers… and certainly don’t send me lame emails like this one I got a few days ago:

One of our major clients are currently working on making their website more visible in a particular Google search and we have indicated your site as a potential partner in this venture.

What we would like from you is a banner on the homepage and/or an article in the form of a blog post, product review or something similar. Our content is bespoke, tailored for your site and written by one of our professional in-house copy writers; we always ensure that content is relevant to both the client and the hosting site.

Daily Photo – Time Frozen in the Ancient Village

I feel like I’m in a hurry to take photos of all these ancient places before they become homogenized. I worry that in 10 years that every place will look like a typical street corner in Plano, Texas. Know what I mean? There’s nothing horrible about having a Home Depot and an Applebee’s within every five mile pod of super-structure, but it can lose a bit of charm after a while.

This is a famous old village in China where the legend tells of two phoenixes hovered endlessly, transfixed by the beauty they saw below. It’s located in the western part of central China’s Hunan Province. It’s called Feng Huang Cheng (“feng huang” being the Chinese name for the phoenix), and I’m happy I got to spend a few days wandering around its mysterious bits. This is a good overview of the city, and I’ll have many more from the insides coming soon enough.

BTW, if you are wondering how I made this… you may be interested in the textures tutorial.

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