Archive for January, 2012

Could You Take My Picture? (Or Three? Or Five?) ‘Cause I Won’t Remember.

January 12, 2012 Leave a comment

This week I made my first HDR photographs! What is HDR, you ask? Well, it stands for High Dynamic Range. Basically, where the human eye can make out differences in brighter and darker lighting at the same time, a camera is unable to capture those same nuances in a single exposure. An HDR photograph bridges this gap by compiling a single image from multiple exposures of the same view. To get as much lighting detail as possible, the pictures range from underexposed to overexposed. The end-result is a highly-detailed photograph that, in comparison, could be considered hi-def. At the very least, the picture is incredibly cool!

Now, I need to amend my first sentence. While I created my first few HDR images this week, the pictures I used for them were actually photographed a few years ago. What can I say? I leave projects unfinished all the time. In any case, I first found out about HDR photography back in the summer of 2008, from a desktop wallpaper art website called InterfaceLIFT. I was stunned by the clarity and surreal look of some of the pictures and had no idea what “HDR” meant, so I quickly did some research. Armed with a basic understanding, I immediately set out to try to duplicate the process with my pathetic digital camera. I only got half-way through, though, since I did not have the necessary software to complete the task, and so it wasn’t long before I forgot about the whole thing (read: “gave up”).

Flash forward to a few days ago. I got into a discussion with someone on twitter regarding an HDR app that a programmer was working on. The discussion quickly led to my checking out another person’s HDR photographs taken with the same camera phone as mine. The pictures were beautiful. Naturally, I wanted capture my own shots like them. Thus, I finally decided to finish my years-old project.

It turns out that compiling an HDR image isn’t so difficult—you just need the right software. While there are quite a few programs that can do the compiling and subsequent tweaking, the most important one is Photomatix Pro. Armed with the very detailed, yet simply-followed tutorial by Trey Ratcliff, I was shocked at how easy it was to make the HDR. When I finished, I thought these exact words: Why didn’t I do this sooner?! Incidentally, Trey Ratcliff’s website, Stuck In Customs, has some of the most beautiful and stunning photography you will ever see. After viewing his gallery, all you will want to do is grab a camera and take pictures for the rest of your life. Anyway, enough yapping and on to the pictures!

Essentially, the best way to capture the necessary shots for an HDR photograph, is to attach your camera to a tripod and set it to burst mode, with each image having an greater amount of light exposure than the last. My camera didn’t have a burst mode, so all I had going for me was that I had a tripod. Thus, I painstakingly took multiple shots of the same subject with different settings. I’ll be honest with you: I never had high hopes for the series. I just wanted to try to do it. Boy was I surprised!

Here are the images I used. (Click on the images for a larger view.)

And here is the resulting HDR.

Not bad, eh? Of course, as can be seen in my next pictures, the software can make almost anything look good.

About half a year after I took the pictures of that plant (a potted maple seedling, by the way, which I have since planted in front of my house), I was at a wedding in New York. The wedding took place at the Marina del Rey, which is located between the Whitestone and Throgs Neck bridges. My camera was unable to take decent nighttime pictures of the bridges, so I decided to take some time-lapsed exposures in the hopes that I might get something. Since I didn’t have a tripod with me, I set the camera on top of a low wall. The wall was not level, thus the angularity of the shots.

Here are the pictures I used of the Throgs Neck Bridge.


And here are two different HDRs I created by using different settings.

As you can see, a couple of tweaks to the settings can yield very different images.

Finally, here are the pictures I used of the Whitestone Bridge.

And here is the resulting HDR.

I think I like this last one the best. I’m not sure why, but I guess it’s probably because it looks the most real. Which is strange, really, since the whole “hyper-real” aspect of HDR images is what drew me to the form in the first place!

Well, I hope you like my humble (very much so) photographs. Perhaps I have even inspired you to try to make your own. If you do, however, do yourself a favor and don’t take three-and-a-half years!

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If It’s in a Picture, It Must Be True!

January 2, 2012 1 comment

Every now and then we experience something that calls up memories from long ago. When the memories are pleasant, we like to call that “nostalgia”—even when those memories come from a time when there was no internet. (Yes, I’m old enough to remember such a time. Rub it in, why don’t you?) A while back, my old friend Hillel Fuld (@HilzFuld) inadvertently reminded me of an event that occurred … 18 years ago?! NO, WAY! THAT CAN’T BE RIGHT! [checks date] Oh, man! I’m getting old!

This whole event started quite innocently, as most events do. It was a Sunday afternoon, and I was meeting a couple of friends to go out to dinner. We met up at Ayala Gross’s house. Back then, Ayala’s mother, Netty, wrote for The Jerusalem Post. As it turned out, Netty—who was writing an article on the effects of aliyah on teenagers—had scheduled a photo shoot for that afternoon, and needed her daughter to be in that shoot. “Don’t worry,” Ayala said, “we’ll still be able to go to dinner. We just have to detour for this first.” “No problem,” I said, and hopped in the car.

The photo shoot ended up being done on the top of the world-famous King David Hotel. To this day, I still don’t know why that location was chosen. Secretly, I think it was chosen for one reason: There was no escape. Anyway, once everyone got up to the roof and the photographer started setting up, Ayala turned to me and said, “Oh, by the way, you have to be in the picture.” Stunned, I looked at her and stammered, “Um … err … WHAT?!” “Please don’t be mad at me!” she said, “My mom doesn’t have enough guys for the picture and she really needs you to be in it.” I fled to the edge of the roof and looked down. It was a long way down. But there was a pool! Alas, there was no way the pool was deep enough. Sighing, I joined the group.

Now, I want you all to understand that I didn’t mind being in the picture. I actually had a good time being there. I was just bothered that I was never asked to do it. Also, I had a feeling that as harmless as it was, there was some way this was going to come back to haunt me. Damn you foreshadowing!

Several weeks later, the article was printed. I went to town to grab a bite to eat before heading over to my football league game. Everywhere I went, people were smiling at me, waving, and congratulating me. “How does it feel to be famous?” one person asked me. “Can I have your autograph?” another league player joked. I laughed and joked around with them, but inside I thought, “And so it starts.”

It wasn’t long before I started hearing from friends who said their family had seen the article in the international edition of the paper, and were wondering when I had made aliyah. The next time I spoke to my grandmother, she mentioned the article as well. Finally, a month after it was published, I received the call I was dreading.

“When were you going to tell me you made aliyah? I have to read about it in a newspaper?!” my mother asked (in a rather hysterical manner). So, I told her the whole story of what happened. When I finished, she didn’t believe me—even though she told me she did. It figured. Eventually, it took my coming home in the Summer to convince her.

Ah, nostalgia!

Categories: Uncategorized