Jul 142012

After a long break here’s the post for Wednesday at last. I’d been held up by too many images and no clear idea how to use them.

In the recent past I have tended to avoid those kitchen sink posts, because they tend to bury everything but the Image of the Day. Instead I’ve created separate posts, more than one for a day. It helps focusing the post, makes writing easier for me, though I think the two times I did it, nobody really cared. This time it’s back to the kitchen sink, for no other reason than that I’m lazy 🙂

In the two images at the beginning I was struck by symmetry. It’s not perfect symmetry, but it is a kind of symmetry that we encounter very often and ignore almost always. I kinda like it.

This would have been it (and in fact the Image of the Day is my favorite image in this post), had I not been in Salzburg for a concert of Hubert von Goisern. Hubert is one of the most interesting Austrian musicians, mixing traditional Austrian music with all kinds of world music and a heavy dose of American style Rock and Blues. He sings Upper Austrian dialect, so you may have trouble understanding him, even if you speak German, but you may still like his music. In this video you’ll at least recognize the melody 🙂

These images are not good examples of concert photography. I really should have brought the Sigma 150/2.8, this would have given me two stops over the Olympus 40-150, reducing ISO to 1600. The two images with Hubert and the bassist were taken with the 45/1.8 wide open and they are extremely tight crops.

On the other hand, using the big and heavy 150/2.8 would have been much less convenient and the camera would have been less easy to keep under the rain coat during the occasional showers 🙂

The concert ended too late to return to Vienna the same day, thus I had time for a night stroll through Salzburg.

Salzburg is a city on the edge of the Alps, a flat space with a river running between two big rocks, with steep mountains rising just behind. As long as you avoid the “rocks” (one of them with the famous fortress Hohensalzburg) and the mountains, the city itself is a fine place for casual cycling, and therefore I found a rich hunting ground.

Hubert von Goisern’s latest album is “Entwederundoder” (“Eitherandor”). The song that gave its name to the current tour is “Brenna tuats guat” (“But it burns well”), a song about how everybody knows that money does not grow on the meadows, but that it burns well, just as the food that we burn for fuel, while elsewhere people die of hunger. Here’s the official video. That’s also the lineup of the current tour.

Jan 052010

One of the nice things in winter, don’t laugh, it’s that the days are so short. Even a lazy sloth as I can see a sunrise.

Here we are with Sunday’s images. It’s late, I won’t make a second post with today’s, I’ll try to catch up tomorrow.

This weekend we made the second attempt at Michael‘s migration from Salzburg to Vienna, and this time we succeeded. Weather was with us. You may remember, the first attempt two weeks ago was thwarted by heavy snowfall.

Again I fetched the car, a Fiat Ducato Mark 3, on Saturday, left it over night in Villach, and at 7am I was already on the highway north, towards Salzburg. I had to cross the mountains, that’s where I made two short stops, not necessarily in the best places, just where it was possible, took some images in bitter cold, and then drove on.

I really wish I could have stopped wherever I wanted. I saw some absolutely breathtaking vistas, the snowy castle of Werfen in front of the most majestic snow-capped mountains, some winter dreams of magnificent beauty, but alas most of the time I was speeding along at 130 kmph with no chance to stop.

You have to take my word and the few images I was able to capture. I wildly enjoyed driving across the mountain range of the Alps, seeing all that beauty and even being able to snap a few pictures.

The actual migration took us till the evening, and there’s still a lot to do in Michael’s new apartment. Tomorrow night we’ll re-assemble his furniture, but most of the grunt work is done. Now, when I think of it, maybe I won’t be able to catch up tomorrow 🙂

The Song of the Day is the hauntingly beautiful “Alone With The Moon” from the 1998 Tiger Lillies album “The Brothel to the Cemetery”. Hear it on YouTube.

May 032009

This is the entry for Saturday, May 2. We made a short trip to Salzburg, the fourth-largest city in Austria, with a population of about 150.000, almost half of that of London, Ontario, almost triple that of Lancaster, PA, and about the same as Savannah, GA.

Does Salzburg with that size qualify as urban? You bet!

We didn’t stay in Salzburg though. We only fetched Michael, and with him we made a round trip through the valley of the Lammer, following an alpine panorama road over Postalm, down to Sankt Wolfgang, and then via Mondsee back to Salzburg for dinner.

River Lammer is a small tributary to Salzburg’s main river Salzach. It runs east to west, and not far into the valley, near Oberscheffau, it runs through a narrow gorge called “Lammeröfen“.

When we reached that place, I decided to go in for a few minutes and take some images. At that time it rained, but Michael assisted with an umbrella. We payed 6€ each, which is quite heavy, but what you get is an excellently and unobtrusively built walkway through the most spectacular part, the so-called “Dark Gorge”. After a few minutes the rain stopped and we even got some rays of sunlight.

All in all that reminded me strongly of last year’s SoFoBoMo book “Tscheppaschlucht“. Given enough time, I can always pull off a book in such places. The variety is enormous, and this time I was only in for quarter of an hour with a single lens and a polarizer 🙂

In fact, the temptation was strong to say goodbye to “Urban Dreams“, return on Sunday, me, a bag of lenses and a tripod, pay another 6€, this time for six hours, take a hundred shots and be over and done with it. This way I could finish in two weeks.

But that’s nonsense. SoFoBoMo is no race and repeating last year’s tour de force is no challenge either. Still, this gorge is a nice place and I really want to return for an extended shooting.

We didn’t follow the river to the valley’s main community of Abtenau. Instead we took a small mountain road through an alpine region called Postalm, crossing over to Wolfgangsee, already in Upper Austria, one of the region Salzkammergut’s more beautiful lakes, best known through the operetta “Im Weißen Rößl“.

We took a coffee in Sankt Wolfgang, in its core a really picturesque village, but totally encrusted in its touristic infrastructure. It is far from high season at the moment, but when we arrived, the big parking area nearest the center (yes, there is more than one) was half full with private cars and tourist buses.

Actually the place reminded me strongly of places of pilgrimage like Lourdes with all their accumulation of kitsch and trash.

Anyway. Here’s an image taken with the fish and as usual corrected with Fisheye-Hemi™. This is the restaurant/hotel that claims to be the White Horse Inn of the operetta, and in fact didn’t contribute anything but its name.

The Song of the Day is “Take Me To The River” from the 1978 Talking Heads album “More Songs About Buildings and Food”. See them perform live in a video clip from the movie “Stop Making Sense“. Not only for the title, no, it’s as well for contrast to all the alpine kitsch 🙂

684 – Electric Ladyland VII

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Aug 292008

I spent the night in Salzburg and in the morning I took the train back to Vienna. This is some electric wiring over the place in front of Salzburg’s main train station. I took three images, but the first was it.

As always in this series: The Song of the Day is still “Have You Ever Been (to Electric Ladyland)” from Jimi Hendrix’ 1968 album “Electric Ladyland“.

Aug 292008

Welcome to the third installment of “Fine Art Explained“. This is a very irregular series of posts, in fact I do one when I feel I have to tell you something interesting and at least fairly original. I hope this is the case today, as I cover two techniques that I have used on quite some images recently, but not yet demonstrated. This is a Photoshop tutorial, thus if you don’t use Photoshop, you may probably lose interest about here 🙂

Today’s image has been shot on Tuesday evening in Salzburg. I was there for “Irmingard“, an opera (well, more of a parody) by the Austrian Brass group Mnozil Brass. Suffice to say it was excellent and very funny 🙂

The show took place at the Republic, a club in central Salzburg, a former cinema with a big hall in the back. I knew the Republic from some years ago, but neither had I known about its past, nor could I remember exactly how it looked like. I had a vague idea though.

I knew that I would not have much chance for photographing that day, thus I decided to try a wide-angle shot of the entrance area and, this being what came out of the camera originally, it turned out just like I had expected. It was already evening, the sky was still blue, lights were on inside and there were tons of people. The crane was a nice addition.

Right out of the camera the image was unusable. The sky was still very bright, everything else much too dark, and that being a wide angle image, I would have needed a truckload of strobes to light it properly. I decided to rely on my D300’s latitude instead.

What I imagined was much more color, especially more color variation, something that would really pop, and along with that a comic-like look, something vibrating.

The camera had been on automatic white balance. At least in the sky the color was not altogether wrong, but everything else had a bad bluish cast. In such cases I normally combine two versions from the same RAW, with different color balances and probably exposures. The first one was very similar to what came out of the camera.

The second was much warmer. I can’t remember by how much, but I guess at least 2000K, and I developed it much lighter as well.

I then layered the two and used a mask to keep the sky and the area near the edges cool. On top I put a layer “clean”, where I cloned out a piece of roof that stood in from the right edge. In general it is a good idea to put such a cleanup layer atop of all pixel bearing layers. Otherwise you would have to clone on all of them.

So far we have still a flat and dull image, but there is already much more color variation. Now let’s push color.

What do you do when you want to increase saturation? Well, chances are, that you do like I did until maybe a month ago, you use a “Hue / Saturation” layer and increase saturation. Here I have done something different, something that is much more akin to the effect that you get from the new “Vibrance” slider in Camera Raw.

I read about this in one of the two photography magazines that I still buy more or less regularly, Photographie and DOCMA, the latter being a very Photoshop centric magazine about digital image processing, and actually by far the best that I know of. It’s German only though.

I did use a “Hue / Saturation” layer here, but I used it in “Soft Light” blending mode. Try that on an image, and really, saturation goes up even with the saturation slider on zero, but so does contrast. That’s simply what “Soft Light” does, and so far you could have used an unmodified curves layer as well. Now, to mostly cancel the contrast changes, increase the lower slider labeled “Lightness”. What I used was “Lightness +30”, “Saturation +40”, and because I didn’t like what this did to the highlights, I went into the blending options, split the white “Blend If” slider (by holding “Alt”) and dragged it all the way to the left. Basically this fully blends in the “Soft Light” layer in the shadows and not at all in the extreme white. The result is some lightening and an increase of saturation in the mid-tones. You see this best in the reds.

When you’ve done that on an image, check also what this does to your histogram. If it was intact before, it should still be intact, but a little bit pushed to the right. Why do I do this? Well, as I said, you could do something similar while already in the RAW converter, but doing it this way gives you much more control and flexibility. There is a case for opening the RAW file as a smart object, and while this gives similar flexibility, you have one drawback: changes in the smart object interfere with cloning.

The next two layers simply apply darkening curves. Both are masked, in order to restrict the darkening to certain parts of the image. The first is kind of a vignetting, …

… the second darkens everything but the people. Combined, they give depth and contrast, and they keep the eye where the action is. Now this already begins to sing.

To get still more vibrance to the people area, we add another “Hue / Saturation” layer in “Soft Light” mode, “Saturation +20”, “Lightness +50” this time, but now without messing with the “Blend If” sli

You may have seen the next effect that I have used in “629 – Electric Ladyland V” for the first time, and then in variations a couple of times since.

First we need a merged copy of the layers so far. Use “Select All” and “Edit / Copy Merged”. Use “Edit / Paste” to make the result a new layer atop. On that layer apply “Filter / Stylize / Find Edges” and desaturate the result. Now you have a white layer with black edges. I frequently multiply such a layer, and this works extremely well in very noisy images (see “448 – Down In The Hole” for a tutorial about that and “458 – The Long And Winding Road” for another example), but here I wanted those edges distorted in multiple ways. I duplicated this layer twice, and then I began to distort each of the three layers differently. One way to do that would be “Filter / Liquify …” with a big brush, and sometimes I do that as well, but normally I do the base job with “Edit / Free Transform” and by simply tugging from the corners, trying to keep the center mostly in place. Here the important point to keep intact is where the crane and the cable join with the roof. Finally I have put each of the three layers in “Multiply” mode, grouped them together and reduced the opacity of the group to 60%.

Please note that you may get a serious problem with your lights now. And really, some of the hardest edges are those around the lights on the building. Now that we have distorted the edge layers, those are even mis-aligned, and the result is, that the lights are hidden by a mess of dark lines. To salvage that, we simply apply a mask to the group of edge layers and hide the edges where we want the lights to shine. In this case I have also hidden the lines on the two main characters left of the center, this way setting another accent.

I could have left it at that, but decided to go for a more painterly look. For that I needed another copy/merged layer, but without the edges. I temporarily made the edge group invisible, did “Select All” and “Edit / Copy Merged” again, but instead of pasting into this image, I created a new image, pasted there and changed the result to 8 bit. I did that, because in the 16 bit mode that I normally use, I don’t have access to all “artistic” filters. I applied quite rough “Angled Strokes” and copied the result back atop the edge group. Here you see a 100% crop from that layer at 100% opacity. Then I dialled this layers opacity back to 60%.

Did I get any artifacts by going through this 8 bit intermezzo? Not really. First it could be said that the whole layer is an artifact and, more important, there is nothing wrong with 8 bit layers per se. After all, the final image will be an 8 bit JPEG as well. It is only that applying steep curves and other extreme manipulations to 8 bit images is dangerous and prone to produce banding. No problem here, and even less so, because by reducing opacity I have re-introduced the nuances from below.

At this stage I thought I was done and applied a sharpening layer (another copy/merged layer with luminance sharpened in Lab color more and an edge mask applied), but afterwards I found that I wanted even more color and light in the entrance area and on the people, thus I added another “Hue / Saturation” layer in “Soft Light” mode, and that is it.

There is no Song of the Day today, but I leave you with a trailer to Mnozil Brass’ 2006 operetta “Das Trojanische Boot” (“The Trojan Boat”). It starts weird but … well, it’s Mnozil Brass after all 🙂