2008.01.31

Icy Mountain

00.42.39 - Mark

I saw a comment online today (and I forget where) wondering if High Dynamic Range Photography was cheating or cheesy. I don't think either is a fair statement. Yes if you browse flickr for HDR photos then yes there's a lot of dreak - ugly over processed uninteresting photos, which, yes, probably fall into the cheesy category quite well. On the other hand, there's also plenty of well composed, planned out, carefully executed HDR stuff that is excellent. Yes, you can achieve some of the same results with simpler methods, but sometimes you can't. I've spent 20 or 30 minutes playing with HDR files trying to get great results, only to give up and turn to a single exposure that captured the shot just as well (and with out the signs of post processing)

The nice thing about HDR, and maybe one of the reasons that it's caught on, is that its a software problem and not a hardware one. What I can do in camera with my S3, and do well enough for printable results is limited compared to what a high end DSLR with premium optics and a full frame sensor can do in camera. HDR by merging and blending images lets you extend past what you can do with the camera hardware. Layer stacking is a similar example. Is it "cheating"? Only if you want to be a stuck up prick and call it that

A photographer who knows what they're doing can produce great images with any camera they arm themselves with - it doesn't matter if they made it out of a shoebox, electrical tape, and a pinprick, or if it's an example of precision European engineering. The tool is only as good as the user, and I suspect that there are a lot of people that skipped Photography 101 before buying a DSLR. These same people, who tend to argue that the cameras they buy are smarter then they are, are out there seeking out ways to take cool looking photos and the wide ranges allowed by HDR makes an easy target (as a guess these people also lean towards the overuse of photoshop to correct their photos)

It's kind of like "Grunge" graphic design. Some people did it well and created some amazing work, and then a slew of imitators popped up and were imitating without any foundation knowledge of what they were doing and drove the style into the ground. It's not the technique or style's fault that it's misused/overused/horribly distorted, it's the "artist's" fault.

Or we could just incite the long tail and agree that these things will find their own markets. Some people obviously like extreme HDR work with little scraps of reality clinging onto the image, while some people will use it to good effect, and others still will hold true to conventional photography or other random techniques.

Personally, I'll still shoot what I think is fun, and what I think will work, and when things turn out well I'll continue to post them here or on my flickr account and be satisfied. Speaking of HDRs:

Ice at Pilot Mountain HDR

Icy Mountain - View Large (2815 x 2106)



Pilot Mountain back in December. It's only been in the last few weeks that I've sat down and processed a large chunk of photographic back log, and part of that was getting a copy of photomatix to use instead of photoshop's HDR tools (which aren't that nice) or layer masking and blending (which is what I had been doing to decent effect) This one is a photo that wouldn't have worked nearly as well as a single exposure.

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2008.01.25

Night Pilots

00.16.11 - Mark

Night PilotsI've been meaning to try and do some long exposures with traffic for a long time, but Monday night coming back from the Piedmont Photography Club in Winston-Salem Monday night there was a full moon, so on my way home I pulled off onto an overlook of Pilot Mountain and took a few 15 seconds exposures. Some of them I'm going to try and blend, some are alright as standalones. The 15 second maximum exposure of my S3 really isn't enough to do really great long exposure photography, but it's sort of workable. Still it's one of those limits I've been really running into lately. I know that you can take great photos with a homemade pinhole camera and all that, and I'm still really happy with the Canon S3's (Hell, I've bought two of them, and I've sold 3 friends on them, 4 if you count the asshole that stole my first one) but I can think of a lot of cool things I can do with a DSLR I can't do with what in the end is still a point and shoot.

Night Pilots - View Large (2816 x 2112)

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2008.01.01

Pilot from the Parkway

22.20.45 - Mark

Somehow I've been in North Carolina for over 5 years and have only really be on the Blue Ridge Parkway once despite being mere miles away. I'll be correcting that in the future. Still sorting out my mess of photos, but for now here's a HDR photo of Pilot Mountain from an overlook on the Parkway in Virginia.

Pilot Mountain from the Parkway

Pilot Mountain from the Parkway - View Large (2806 x 1639)

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2007.12.13

Down to Earth

16.35.31 - Mark

If you haven't guessed by now I'm having a lot of fun making panoramic images. I'm starting to move past cool vistas however, and starting to work on composition. This one is on the Greenway Trail that runs next to Lovill Creek in Mount Airy.

Greenway Trail in Mount Airy, NC

Greenway Trail, Mount Airy
View Medium (3780 x 1024) Suitable for your on screen admiration.
View Massive (9712 x 2631) Suitable for printing wall murals.

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2007.11.30

Blue Skys

22.01.28 - Mark

The best part about living in a mountainous area is that there is no shortage of beautiful vistas. That said I'm sure I'll run out of stunning panoramic images. However that day is not today. This one was taken at Pilot Mountain a week or two before peak color, but there are a few trees that offered some color. I may crop this image whenever I get it printed (the left fence rail bugs me a little bit), but I'm having a hard time deciding where to make the crop, so for now I'm posting the cleaned up, squared off version.

Pilot Mountain Panoramic

Blue Skies at Pilot Mountain
View Medium (3575 x 1024) Suitable for on screen staring.
View Large (9119 x 2612) Suitable for printing.

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2007.01.15

Someone please turn down the heat

22.19.33 - Mark

Right now, its about 63 degrees Fahrenheit outside. 10PM in the middle of January and its as warm now as it was six months ago. Earlier today I was riding my bike in a t-shirt and shorts because it was at least 70. In the last three months I don't think that the temperature here has dipped below freezing except for about two days a month ago.

In the same period of time, I've only seen snow twice once for maybe 15 minutes last week and the other time I wasn't even in North Carolina (Georgia back in November)

As much as I hate people complaining about how its "too cold", I expect it to be cold in the middle of January. I like how taking a deep breath of cold winter air bites at your sinuses, and you can taste the purity of the air. I love how when my lungs are taking in cold air I can look up and the sky is so crystal clear even the regional light pollution can't dim the night sky.

Can we please turn down the heat?

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2006.11.15

Second Sign of Winter

23.47.35 - Mark

The signs that winter is fianlly coming in vary from place to place, and even person to person. For me, I just passed the second major sign of winter today.

The first is the need to actually pull out a long sleeved shirt and wear it all day. I can make it for most of wall with tshirts and a light jacket, but a couple weeks ago we had a cold front that got me to slip on a long sleeved shirt for a few days.

The second sign I passed today when driving to and from class. That sign is enjoying the directional blast of dry, stale scented heat generated by a car's heater in the middle of the day. I can live without an AC unit in the car, but growing up with Iowan winters, you always checked to make sure the car's heater worked well.

I suppose the third sign is ice and/or snow. I suspect that that will hit my part of North Carolina in a few weeks. At least I hope.

The one thing I really miss about the Midwest (other than good pizza) is Winter. Mount Airy has more than one season, but I like to have something more than a week inbetween Fall and Spring.

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2006.10.13

Good Afternoon

22.42.58 - Mark

I love early fall. When the weather is good, there's a contrast between the deep blue of a cloudless sky contrasting the crisp browns, reds, yellows, and lingering greens that is so much more satisfying than winter, spring or summer days. Today, without question was one of those ideal fall days.

This afternoon I managed to drag myself out of the house to help a friend fix a computer but, selfservingly used it as an excuse to run down to Yadkinville for a round of disc golf. It was good to play a round after having my discs sit around doing nothing for over a month. While there aren't that many well developed parks in the area the Yadkin park was pretty nice, and had a nice course layout. Unfortunatly I don't know what par was, but I' sure I didn't come very close (65-ish)

Finally, I just got out and drove. I'm far from being a motorhead, but it's hard to deny that cruising around North Carolina's backroads isn't a pleasure all its own. Smooth roads bending around the hills painted by autumn is almost breath taking. Add some good tunes and life is simply put, very satisfying.

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2006.09.24

In hiding

00.58.07 - Mark

This weekend is the overwhelmingly fun ::) Mayberry days. Hence, I've been happily hiding at home playing with my Macs. I've argued before on here why Mayberry driven tourism is bad for the area, but the simplest fact is that it is slowly dying, and I'm not just talking about the fans. The fact is one of the "official" events for this year's Mayberry Days is a showing of the Da Vanci Code (because it was directed by Ron Howard). Trivially stupid things like pie eating contests, kid sized train rides, and various brunches make up the majority of the festival. These attractions are better suited for the county fair (which, coincidentally, is taking place this weekend as well).

It would not be so bad if they did some thing creative, like Hannibal, Missouri does with it's Mark Twain Days but we don't. All we have are a handful of businesses that slapped some Mayberry reference into their names.

I'm not against using tourism to improve the community's economy, in fact I'm in favor of it. In a few weeks another festival will bring in hoards of tourists and a sea of people will form on mainstreet. Fried foods will scent the air and you'll hear bluegrass and old time music all around town. Autumn leaves is the type of tourism Mount Airy needs. Rather than cater to a small group of people, autumn leaves attracts people from miles around, drawing on the natural beauty of the area and its culture. Lifestyle and environmental tourism is sustainable, since it attracts more than geriatric TV watchers and nostalgic baby boomers.

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2006.01.12

Should have...

17.36.13 - Mark

North Carolina Weather is a very, very confusing critter. Yesterday London might have been envious of the fog, which then froze overnight, but quickly thawed in the clear, mid-50 degree weather than was upon us by 10AM.

A little sad that I wasted it sitting at home. I've playing with the idea of taking ground school for a pilot's license, but I'm not sure how much I enjoy flying. I've only been up in a couple of private planes and those were years ago, so before I commit all of my Saturdays for 3 months I'd like to go up in a plane. Today would have been perfect. Oops. But I'm resolving myself. I'm going to fly this month.

Afternote - This post was prompted by the 5th or 6th small plane that's flown over today.

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