19 – One Above the Other

Sometimes even ultra-wide is barely wie enough. In the meantime you may know my fancy for weird angles, but this image was taken the way it was taken out of necessity.

This is a medieval cult room of the Order of the Templars. It lies below the courtyard of a castle and receives light through an opening in the ceiling. Directly below is a small pool collecting rain. The room is dark and has an apsis with an altar at its rear.

The atmosphere of the room cannot be properly acknowledged without seeing lighthole, pool and altar all at once. It took 10mm, a weird angle and Photoshop trickery and deceit to get the ingredients into the picture and properly distribute the tones.

18 – From the Garbage Can

Today at noon I went back to the park with the playground, mainly to get a perfect variant of an image I had already tried yesterday, and later at the way back to work I made some images of a red Ducati motorcycle, one of them quite good. After these about 30 minutes I was confident to have at least two or three good candidates, all of them in vivid colors.

I was wrong. In the evening, on my way home, I came by Gutenberggasse in Vienna’s 7th district. On the corner there was an open garbage can, one of the sort that are mounted on lamp posts. Normally they have a cover on top with only a small opening, but this one had the lid raised. I don’t know why, but somehow this attracted me, maybe because it looked different in a way. I put the camera on the garbage can, set the Sigma 10-20/4-5.6 to 10mm/f.8, held my breath and clicked. It took two exposures to get a sharp one.

According to the terminology of yesterday, this is again a (3), a weird perspective. What makes the image for me are the curves of the garbage can and its lid.

17 – Not in Color

I had three short sessions today, one on my way to work, one at noon in a park with attached playground and one on my way home. I think I’m getting the hang of this ultra-wide business now.

Basically you can use these lenses for three purposes:

  1. getting more into the frame
  2. gaining an extra foreground
  3. creating weird perspectives

(1) is the straight-forward and somewhat naïve approach, (2) is the orthodox way and (3) can be interesting, creative or plain rubbish, whatever applies.

“14 – Yesterday is Here” was (1), “15 – Morning on the Mountain” in a way was (2) and this is definitely (3)!

This is the first B&W image here. I shot the image on my way home, the sky was not yet fully dark, the street lights had this strong orange tinge, and although orange vs blue makes for nice color depth, the color version did not work. The orange was too muddy brown, the blue too dark, thus I decided for high contrast B&W.

Technically this is the image with Photoshop’s automatic white balance, a color mixer of mostly green and blue applied, a levels adjustment layer for darkening the midtones and two curves for modelling contrast. No masks involved. Sharpening at the end.

Of course one curves layer would have sufficed, but this is my way of working. I prefer small changes, one step after the other, sometimes going back and adapting one of the curves, sometimes toning the effect of a layer down with the opacity slider, sometimes using masks or blending options to restrict the effect to certain areas.

I had no tripod, thus I rested the camera on the railing directly behind the bicycle and hoped that I could hold it steady for 2.5 seconds. A side effect of the way I held the camera was, that I could not see through the viewfinder. It took me five or six exposures to get what I was up to, mostly because I wanted some lines to finish themselves exactly in the corners.

16 – Fire in the Sky

Did I say anything about being addicted? I’ve been on Dobratsch again, this time an hour earlier, well, at least according to the clock, as we changed last night from daylight saving time to standard time. I had camera and lenses in my new Lowepro SlingShot 200 AW, which is absolutely execllent. I shall buy another one for Vienna.

It was rather cloudy and at first I thought I would see nothing spectacular at all. I should be proved wrong quite dramatically! There are several good shots in this series, but this one captures the most magic moment, when rays of orange light streamed down the mountains like fire. I tried to change to the Nikon 18-200 to get a teleshot, but to no avail. The moment lasted maybe 30 seconds and that was it. You really have to click the image to see bigger versions.

Technically the image was rather complicated to postprocess in Photoshop as I had to drastically compress the dynamic range. The result holds all details in the highlights, sacrifices some contrast in the middle and rescues substantial detail in the shadows. I used Lab mode and about 10 curves layers, some with masks, some with blending options.

15 – Morning on the Mountain

Another morning on the mountain. Being there and watching the sun rise gets quite addictive. I had a morning and an evening session, the morning with a wonderful sunrise and the evening with a mediocre sundown. Let’s talk about the morning.

This image was shot after the immediate stress of sunrise, of not wanting to miss one magic moment, was over and I had time to experiment with the warm light of the new day on some very old wood.

Compositionally the small dark tree plays the role of counterpoint to the big chunk of wood to the left. It struggles to do so and in hindsight I wish it was a tad more dominant.

14 – Yesterday is Here

Sorry for the missing image. I had a busy day yesterday and simply forgot posting the IOTD. Lazy me, this means two for today, here comes the first one.

This is Wörthersee in Carinthia, probably our most beautiful lake, as seen from the tower atop Pyramidenkogel (which means “pyramid hill”, named for its form). I was there for sundown, but they close the tower only 5 minutes into civil twilight. I guess it is not administered by a photographer. Never mind, sundown was disappointing anyway.

The most important fact about this image is, that it was shot with my new Sigma 10-20/4-5.6. I had pondered quite a while about buying an ultra-wide lens and was always undecided between the Tokina 12-24/4 and the Nikon 12-24/4. Well, to be honest, the main points for the Sigma were that it was available right at the shop which the Tokina was not, and that it is incredibly affordable which the Nikon is not. Finally its range perfectly complements my Nikon 18-200 which both others don’t, and it is the widest of all. Quality is nothing to complain about. Is is sturdily built, very sharp, at least beyond f8 (I have not tried anything else yet, but why should I use such a lens below???), has next to no CA, even in the corners at 10mm, in other words: this is a bargain and I am very satisfied 🙂

13 – Sundown’s the Winner

Grr … the first time in days that I had the IOTD post ready before midnight, and just as I tried to submit, Blogger.com had a scheduled outage. It does pay that I copy texts to an editor before trying to post. Here it is:

145 images for today. Not shabby, even if all of them are variations of maybe 20 or 30 motives. It began in the morning when I drove up Dobratsch again, today arriving in time for the beginning of civil twilight. The sky was less dramatic than on Sunday but good enough. I’ll try it one more time on Saturday, and this time I’ll be there even earlier, as I want to go up further for some new perspectives.

It’s funny: I was not alone. During the hour of concentrated shooting I glimpsed another photographer, shooting the sunrise as well. When I finally decided the major drama was over and I could afford a break, I was alone again. I had not seen hin coming, I had not seen him go.

On my way down I reshot an image from Sunday that had an unfortunate merger between some leaves in the foreground and a group of trees in the background. I love it when I can come back.

The time around noon and the early afternoon was filled with Photoshop work and sleeping, before I left at 16:45 for Sundown on Wörthersee. Wörthersee is the best known lake in Carinthia (and there are many), but it is also mostly private property and you can only get to the shore in public baths (closed at this time of the year) and a couple of promenades. I decided for “Friedlsteg” on the northern shore between Klagenfurt and Krumpendorf. Not much foreground interest, but one of the best places for watching the sundown.

It was as tough job to decide about today’s Image of the Day. Finally a sundown image made it for the delicate red traces in sky and water.

11 – Crossing Time

It was a drab day in Vienna. Normally this does not prevent me from taking photographs, though it probably makes finding motives a bit harder. Not so today. I had no time at all, thus here we go with one from the archives. This is a door in Seidengasse, in Vienna’s 7th district, that’s where I live.

The atmosphere is a perfect match for today’s overall feeling. I have taken the image on October, 5th. I used the Sigma 30/1.4 wide open. I really love this lens as it is a “standard lens” on the D200, and it forces me to try harder on composition. Many of the images I take with this lens have somewhat strange angles and strong lines that frequently originate in corners. Actually the style I have at the moment in general, even with the Nikon 18-200 zoom, is strongly influenced by my working style with this lens. The images of the day numbers 8 and 10 are good examples.

What fascinates me in this image is the combination of Art Déco ornaments and Christian connotation. In fact it looks like a cross looming large above me, but at the same time, with the face at the center, it has a strangely heathen aspect. Along with the angle this makes for a disturbing quality.

10 – By the Hands of a Child?

That I am not an expert in botanics is a big, fat euphemism. I am completely ignorant. I can’t tell you what kind of seeds they are, but for sure they are in a most unlikely place. They look arranged, but who’s done it? A child? Probably, as this is near a playground in Vienna.

At first I didn’t even see them. It took the attentive eye of my companion who pointed them out. I have made two attempts, the first one focusing on the second seed from the front, but this one was better. It is not the seeds though, that make the image, it is the curve.