Design General Photography Technology

A Photo Apart

On Monday and Tuesday of this week I had the opportunity to attend An Event Apart Chicago, the conference for people who make websites. There I got the opportunity to meet a lot of interesting people, hear some amazing lectures and learn more in two days than I have in a few years.

An Event Apart is a great way to refresh your thinking and get exposed to amazing new concepts in web design. I would recommend it to anyone who does any sort of web design or development work.

I’ve posted some shots of some of the presenters on my Flickr. Please feel free to check them out.

Many thanks to Jeffrey Zeldman and Eric Meyer for putting together a great group of speakers and an amazing event. I went last year and it was worth it, I’m glad I got the opportunity to go again this year.

General Photography Technology

Waveland and Kenmore in HDR

HDR or High Dynamic Range is a photography post production technique that seems to be very trendy these days. It’s known for yielding striking images full of color and detail not attainable through a single shot. I’ve been fascinated by the idea since I first heard about it a few years ago.

Basically, for those of you who are not photographers the idea is pretty simple. A digital image can only contain a certain amount of light / color information so tones above and below the acceptable range get clipped out, either appearing as pure black or pure white. What HDR seeks to do is to bring back that information by working with multiple exposures.

In short: you take three shots, one too dark, one too light and one even. Each one of those images will have information the others won’t. For example, one image might highlight the color in the sky and another might bring out the details in the shadows. By combining these three shots we can create one composite image with more color and detail than any of the originals.

For my first attempt I worked with a combination of tools from shot to upload. The first of which is my Canon Digital Rebel XTi and my trusty Canon 28mm f2.8 lens. I’m a big fan of this lens for it’s wide angle and relatively high aperture (the f2.8). The allows my camera to take in a lot of light very quickly with a lot of sharpness and crisp color. This is absolutely one of my favorite lenses.  Every Canon shooter should have something similar.

From there I loaded my images into Apple’s Aperture 2.1 software where I picked my three shots and did some conservative adjustments to bring out more detail in the images. From there I went into Adobe Photoshop CS3.

Now anyone who knows my photography most likely knows that I do everything I can to avoid working in Photoshop. These days I try to accomplish everything I possibly can inside Aperture. However I have not been impressed by what I’ve seen from the Hydra HDR plugin that is available for Aperture, so I decided to give Photoshop’s built in one a chance.

Much to my delight the feature worked as advertised. By loading in the three images it was able to create one 32-bit image with a startling range of color. Unfortunately not many programs can handle a 32-bit file so I had to convert it back down to the 16-bit range of the previous files. However, the ultimate goal was still accomplished. My one 16-bit file now contained a lot more color and detail than any of the three. Still the image started to look a little flat so, from there I did some basic curves adjustments to restore some contrast and moved the image back to Aperture.

Inside Aperture I did a little more tweaking of saturation and sharpness to make the image punch some more and there we have it, my first real HDR image is a success. (At least I think so.)

The biggest challenge in this process to me was shooting the photographs themselves. I had to make sure that, without a tripod, I kept my shots steady and without interruption from cars or passers by.

As a whole I’m pleased by the process and the results. I will definitely play with HDR imaging a lot more in the future.

General Photography Technology

Quick Thoughts about AT&T DSL

For a long time I have been a big fan of AT&T’s cell phone service. I have been with AT&T (then Cingular) since 2002 and have been extremely pleased.

However I do not share the same opinion about AT&T’s DSL offerings.  Here in Chicago my broadband  options are more than what I had in Brooklyn several years back (Verizon DSL or nothing). When I moved to Chicago I was faced with three options: Comcast, RCN and AT&T. I loath Comcast… my opinions of them could really fuel a whole other entry by themselves, so I quickly dismissed them. I had never heard of RCN so I dismissed them as well and that left me with good ol’ AT&T.

Since signing with them I’ve had random outages, suspected a few incidents of bandwidth throttling and read a lot of stories about them sharing customer information. But, in truth I have not once have I needed to call customer support so my opinion has been neutral regardless. However last night my internet dropped out without warning when I really needed it. Quickly a friend on Twitter confirmed that the outage was seemingly city wide. The outage was short but it was enough to piss me off and screw up my plans.  This left a sour taste in my mouth when I awoke this morning. Then I read something while updating my Flickr profile.  One sentence changed my opinion of them:

 You have a Pro account, at no cost as long as you keep your AT&T Yahoo! service.    

 Okay, so like Flickr Pro is only around $20 a year (and probably the best deal on the planet) and it’s a small contribution when you boil it down. But that said…. it’s enough to make me smile, bring me back to the neutral ‘meh’ I was at before with them and almost turn me into a promoter.

They found my weak spot. Photography is the key to my heart.


Lollapalooza Kick Off Party

Tonight I got the chance to have all access for photos for the Lollapalooza Weekend Kick Off Party at the Apple Store North Michigan Avenue. You can find my final pick photos from the event on my Flickr account.

General Photography

Just another day…

Spent some time with Gary Vaynerchuk and Jason Fried today, great guys, both of them.

Ended up going to Gary’s book signing this evening where he did a live recording of Wine Library TV. Had a good time all around. A few pictures can be found on my Flickr account.

Hope Gary enjoyed Chicago. Looking forward to seeing him again sometime in the future.