News and Views from Dave Wilson

Archive for February, 2009

Photomatix 3.1.3 Available

by on Feb.22, 2009, under Computer, Photography

I’ve just discovered that a new Photomatix update is available. Get hold of version 3.1.3 (with tighter Lightroom integration and the ability to automatically reimport processed images into the Lightroom catalog- yay!) here.

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Inner Space Cavern

by on Feb.22, 2009, under Photography

Inner Space Cavern

Inner Space Cavern, originally uploaded by David A G Wilson.

I spent a very enjoyable 3 hours in the company of about 30 other photographers from the Austin Photography Group this morning shooting in the Inner Space Cavern in Georgetown. Despite taking my flash, I ended up using available light for all the interior shots though I did get to use my new macro lens and off-camera flash for some shots of bats we found as we were about to leave.

The cave system at Inner Space is not as extensive as some others nearby (Natural Bridge Caverns near San Antonio come to mind) bit it is still very interesting and offered plenty of great photo locations. Normally, the owners do not allow tripods but we arranged a special tour early in the morning and had pretty much free run of the public areas of the system.

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Editing Phill Price’s Photo

by on Feb.21, 2009, under Photography

Phill Price, a photographer from London whose blog I follow, has issued an “Edit My Photo” challenge and placed one of his images into the hands of readers to see what they can come up with. I had a few minutes to play so here are my results. First, however, the original image:

I really like this image in its original form but, since I had to do something with it, here are the two versions I ended up with. If you’ve seen some of my other architecture images, you probably know that I enjoy high contrast and dramatic tone so the look of these will probably not surprise you much.

Both are derived from basically the same Photoshop file with the mono version merely desaturating the colour one. Starting with the original CR2 raw file that Phill provided, here’s what I did to get to each of the final images:

  1. Open the RAW in Photomatix and run the tone mapper on it to generate the basic image with rather more dramatic contrast and sky texture.
  2. Take the Photomatix output into Photoshop CS3 and also open the original CR2 file too.
  3. Run a High Pass filter on the original raw image and add this as a layer with Overlay blending to the Photomatix output. This strongly exagerates the contrast in the building.
  4. Add a layer mask to the High Pass layer and remove areas corresponding to the sky (to reduce noise which was increased by the high pass treatment).
  5. Add a curves adjustment layer to dramatically darken the image and paint gradients into its layer mask to affect the sky, darkest at the top left and fading out to the centre.
  6. Add a masked Hue/Saturation adjustment layer and paint out the red lamp on the front of the building which I found distracting.
  7. Add another curves adjustment layer to tweak the overall contrast upwards a bit.
  8. Add a final curves adjustment layer and layer mask to vignette the bottom and right edges very slightly.
  9. For the mono version, add a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer and pull the saturation down to 0. Normally, I would use the channel mixer for this but the basic saturation removal yielded an image whose tonality I was happy with so I left it at that.

Of the two, I definitely prefer the monochrome version since, to me, this is predominantly a shape picture. What do you think?

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Tack Room at the Living History Farm

by on Feb.20, 2009, under Photography

Harness and Disinfectant

Harness and Disinfectant, originally uploaded by David A G Wilson.

Back to the Sauer-Beckmann Living History Farm at LBJ Ranch for today’s picture. On my first trip there, I was sure that when I returned the tack room would prove to be the place that I would capture the best images of the day. The tones and shapes of the various harnesses along with the woodgrain backgrounds were absolutely wonderful and just begged for HDR treatment. When I got back from the shoot, however, I ended up rather disappointed in most of the shots I had taken here. They were OK but not fabulous.

This is one of the three that I am reasonably happy with. It was taken right next to the window (which is on the left) and the lighting was rather tricky, partly because of the large dynamic range but also due to the fact that the air was very dusty. This is a 6 exposure HDR and even then I’ve lost a fair bit of shadow detail. The final treatment tends to accentuate the dark atmosphere and I deliberately highlight the rather interesting can of noxious chemical sitting beneath the harness.

If you want to see what the whole room looked like and how a really good HDR of this scene can look, take a look at Jerry’s superwide version here

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This Week’s Publication

by on Feb.18, 2009, under Family, Photography

OK, so it’s not the front page of Texas Monthly but Drew was pretty chuffed to find this photo of him on the back of this month’s “Parent:Wise Austin” magazine. Regardless of the lack of photographer credit, fame or fortune, it’s a proud Daddy moment nonetheless.

For the story behind this photo, see my original blog posting here.

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Mozart’s Coffee Roaster

by on Feb.17, 2009, under Photography

Mozart’s Coffee Roaster, originally uploaded by David A G Wilson.

We discovered a rather nice new (to us) coffee shop this weekend. On Sunday morning, Nikki ran the Austin Half Marathon so the boys and I joined Papa John to cheer her on as she ran along Lake Austin Blvd. After the cheering, we retired to Mozart’s Coffee Shop where I found this very interesting roaster just inside the front door.

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New Photoblog

by on Feb.15, 2009, under Photography

My new photoblog is now online at While I post quite a few pictures here, I’ve had trouble registering this site as a photoblog on various catalog sites since many posts don’t actually include any image. The new site should allow this and offer me an excuse to start the process of transitioning most of my photography content off the WebArtz domains. I don’t plan to move this blog but will be shifting the main gallery site at at some point in the not-too-distant future.

This blog should remain pretty much the same as it has been up until now. I will tend to post images here if I want to write any lengthy description or provide technical details on how they were produced whereas the photoblog will contain minimal text and provide a more artistic look at my images.

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Wrecked Fire Truck

by on Feb.10, 2009, under Miscellaneous, Photography

Wrecked Fire Truck, originally uploaded by David A G Wilson.

What an excellent night of WordPress experimentation:

  • I fixed the RSS feed so that it now shows more than 1 entry,
  • I found a plugin that will let me post a collection of my most interesting Flickr images,
  • I added my various gallery and social networking entries to the main navigation bar and
  • I fixed the problem of being unable to post directly from Flickr (turns out you have to enable external posting using a setting deep inside the admin area).

All in all, a great evening. The only outstanding problem I have with the new blog is that I can’t import my blogroll without the mySQL database getting trashed by something in the WordPress Import code.

Oh – about this picture. This was a handheld HDR taken in Johnson City. I reckoned it would be hopeless but after using Photoshop to align and merge the exposures and Photomatix to tone map the result, I’m amazingly happy with the result – the colour and texture really turned out well. The shot was tricky since it was taken almost directly into the sun so the top left section was extremely bright. I darkened and desaturated it to keep the attention on the great colour and texture around the seat and pump controls. I wish I had removed that darned beer bottle, though. Maybe I’ll go back and shoot this again next time I am down that way.

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Photographing the Inauguration

by on Feb.10, 2009, under Photography

John Harrington has a fascinating post on his blog describing his setup for photographing the inauguration of President Obama. A great deal of work went into preparation for the critical 30 seconds during which the oath was being taken.

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