Villach was a good choice after all. I moved only about 20km to the west, but the weather is remarkably better here. Much less fog, much more sun.
Yesterday I spent insane amounts of time processing that image of a silly sign in Vienna, building layer upon layer until I was at 28. Stupid, huh? Well, my only excuse is that I didn’t have any other image and was curious if I could make it at least remotely usable. I may have managed that, but certainly not more 🙂
When I finally left for shooting, it was around 3pm, a sunny afternoon with about one hour to go. So far I don’t know all those convenient places around the corner, undoubtedly to be discovered soon, thus I sat into the car and played safe.
I took the street down south, about 10km by car, about 6km line of sight from home, over some hills and through a forest, and then reached Drobollach, a village on the northern shore of Faaker See, one of the many beautiful lakes in Carinthia. The village is situated on a small hill, overlooking the lake, and behind that, Mittagskogel, the most prominent mountain in Villach’s surroundings. You’ve seen it many times before, the last time here, but now we are much nearer and it is the pyramid shape as seen from Villach, that is normally associated with this peak.
From the very same point one has another interesting view, and yesterday the light was extremely favorable: To the north-east, prominently sitting on top of a mighty rock, there is the small parish church of Sternberg, another landmark that you have seen, once in a slightly tilted image.
Both images so far have been taken with the Nikon 70-300 VR at 300mm. I really love the effect that the compression has on the hills, especially under this dramatic light.
Maybe less than a kilometer further on, the street leading around Faaker See touches the lake, and for my convenience there is even a place to park the car. Small wonder that when I arrived, I found a woman taking pictures.
I changed to the Sigma 10-20, the sun was almost down behind the mountains in the west, and I had to hurry. For this image I climbed over the guard rail and crouched down almost at water level. The mountain in the background is Mittagskogel again. Quite a difference between 15mm (equiv) and 450 mm (equiv)!
From that slightly dangerous vantage point there was not much more to get, at least not with this lens, thus I got back up to street level and took some bracketed exposures of boats and landings during the sundown. I still have my tripod in the apartment (maybe I should get a third :), and it probably would not have done me much good anyway. I only had some minutes left and needed to go as near as possible to the fences, in order to get them out of view.
I took these images with the intention to run them through Photomatix Pro 3.1 and Essential HDR 1.0. Photomatix claims much progress in automatic alignment and the elimination of movement artifacts, while Essential HDR points to its superior tone mapping algorithms.
Of the five bracketed shots I have only tried the one that ended up as Image of the Day, and both programs failed. Both did a good job in aligning the handheld shots, but Photomatix produced ugly tone mapping results (at least when you don’t like the “typical” HDR look), and Essential HDR, while much better at tone mapping, introduced hard to remove artifacts at extreme highlights, where even the darkest exposure had burned out.
This is not a general criticism of these two programs. Both can produce extremely good results and have done so for me in the past, but under these exact conditions both failed. No problem when you have a fallback strategy.
I ended up developing the five images in DxO Optics Pro, letting the program correct lens distortions, and then combined them as layers in Photoshop CS3. The first step was to select all five layers, use “Edit / Align layers …” and crop the result. Then I have applied masks manually, added some saturation and contrast and cloned out a lens flare. Not so bad, I guess.