Urban Landscape + Lifestyle Photography


Finding new places to shoot in a growing Austin

Residential Development, Rising - Austin, Texas

Residential Development, Rising – Austin, Texas

I need to find new places to shoot in Austin. It’s easy to fall into set patterns and end up shooting in the same places all the time. I realized this when I posted my post Christmas color photos. I think the images turned out fine but they’re nothing new. Congress Avenue to 6th Street. It’s a route that I always take and I’m sure even the out-of-towners that visit this site are starting to recognize the same places.

Luckily, Austin is a growing city with new buildings and new angles to explore. I recently rediscovered the area around the Pfluger Pedestrian Bridge on the western edge of the Central Business District. I started to shoot in that area, especially during the day, but I’ve yet to apply my night-time HDR technique. I went down last week to see what I could find.

Seaholm Redevelopment - Austin, Texas

I must say that this part of town is really developing into a nice residential area. It’s quiet, for now, with not many bars and restaurants. That may change once the Seaholm Power Plant redevelopment finishes. Curiously there are several fitness related stores and gyms in the area. No doubt catering to its proximity to Austin’s Hike and Bike Trail.

Skyline from the Pfluger Pedestrian Bridge - Austin, Texas
Gentle Curves of the Pfluger Pedestrian Bridge - Austin, Texas

The Pfluger Pedestrian Bridge is also part of the Hike and Bike Trail and it connects the two halves of the trail on either side of the river. The bridge affords some nice views of the growing skyline but it also works well as a leading line that curves its way towards the new residential towers.

The Residences Beyond - Austin, Texas
Sandra Murida Way - Austin, Texas

I also explored around the bridge from ground level. I managed to find some atypical angles that worked especially well with the wide-angle lens on the Pentax Q7. Austin is growing large enough that I need to get off the typical routes to find new and interesting compositions.

Well Lit Park - Austin, Texas
Bold Red Sign, Seaholm Power Plant - Austin, Texas

A park separates the residential district from the new Seaholm redevelopment. I remember seeing the glowing “City of Austin Power Plant” ever since I moved here more than 20 years ago. The plant was shutdown in 1989 but the building stood proudly, undeveloped for all these years. I had a unique opportunity to photograph inside Seaholm 4 years ago. It was years before redevelopment but plans were then being made to use this structure as a centerpiece. It’s nice to see that the redevelopment is now in full swing. It’ll be fun to photograph once it reopens and perhaps the developer will let me shoot the same angles that I captured 4 years ago.

A Train Runs Through It - Austin, Texas
Two Towers - Austin, Texas

The bridge you see over the park is not the Pedestrian Bridge. It’s a larger rail road bridge that carries freight and the occasional Amtrak train. A train passed as I was shooting this, which you can see as a blur atop the bridge.

There’s still raw undeveloped patches which, no doubt, will be nicely integrated in the neighborhood. This brightly lit tower is nearing completion and there are plans for a lot more residential and office towers. The 2nd Street District will eventually connect to this area and bring a much-needed east to west pedestrian flow.

Under the Train Tracks - Austin, Texas

Beyond finding new places to photograph, one of my rationals for shooting here is to document the development. In a few years, this place is going to change tremendously. Nice to have the before photographs for historical comparisons.

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I took all the photographs with the Pentax Q7 in JPEG.

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The advantage of night-time HDRs: Just after the rain in Breda, Netherlands

Restaurants around the Grote Church - Breda, Netherlands

Restaurants around the Grote Church – Breda, Netherlands

NOTE: I will be giving a free lecture on HDR this coming Thursday (September 25th) in Austin. I will discuss how I process my realistic HDRs and I will show you how I created the photographs on this post. Click here for the time and directions to the event.

Continuing with the night-time urban landscapes in Breda, here are some I created with my Olympus E-PM2. Unlike the photographs I posted previously, which I shot during a rain storm, I shot these on tripod and used my realistic HDR technique. Luckily a break in the rain allowed me shoot without fumbling with an umbrella.

The streets dried quickly so I didn’t get the same level of shine but the HDR allowed me to increase texture and dynamic range. And with the 22mm field of view, it gives a different kind of look from the 35mm on the Fujifilm X100S.

It’s interesting to contrast the two types of photography, the free form X100S shots vs. the more carefully composed HDR images on tripod. I enjoy both for different reasons. I like the unencumbered freedom of photographing without a tripod. It helps me to see and catch quick compositions from different angles. I put up with the tripod, hopefully, to improve image quality. The HDR processing allows me to increase dynamic range and boost color. And perhaps the tripod helps create more precise compositions.

Empty Seats at Cafe Sam Sam - Breda, Netherlands

Reds can be weak on digital and I complain about that on my Fuji X100S. The Olympus does a better job and with HDR processing and layer blending, I added extra richness to the red neon. I find that HDR works great for capturing neon which can easily blowout unless you greatly underexpose a single exposure image.

Chanel Woman Watches - Breda, Netherlands

I made several different compositions to get the woman’s face to reflect in the puddle — to add foreground interest. Whenever shooting with a wide-angle, it’s especially important to have something interesting up close. And if you have things in the mid-ground and background, it leads the viewer’s eye deep into the frame.

Well Proportioned Street - Breda, Netherlands
Well Proportioned Street - Breda, Netherlands (black and white)

Here’s my favorite street again, which I shot several times during the day and night. The color version looks good enough, though I got some funky colored lens flare. I think there is something more compelling about the black and white, which looks more mysterious plus It also de-emphasizes the flare.

Koningin Wilhelmina Paviljoen - Breda, Netherlands

I’ve featured this building before, though the wide-angle adds the beautiful cobblestone texture in the foreground. I find it so well proportioned and the golden color beckoned me to shoot it against the blue hour sky. This is good example of how a HDR image can add a pop in color and shine compared to a single exposure (here it is shot with the Fuji).

Mysterious blending of old and new - Breda, Netherlands

I love the contrast of old and new. Both structures are well proportioned and complement each other. The curved roof adds that extra something that attracted my attention. I wanted a lot of shadows to add moodiness. HDR processing tends to remove shadows, which can be a mistake so I tweak my images to embrace shadows when I think appropriate.

Shopping District and the Grote Church - Breda, Netherlands

Finally I close with one of many shopping streets that lead to the Grote Church. The HDR actually helps a lot here. The church is no longer a dim structure in the distance, like you see here, when shot with the Fuji, which I underexposed not to lose detail in the store interiors. The HDR processing allows me to maintain detail in the interiors as well as the facades. The increase in dynamic range makes HDR worth pursuing at times, even if it means shooting with a tripod.

I hope you will agree that HDR can be a useful tool in your arsenal. Not as an end in itself but used for specific purposes. HDR doesn’t have to be an over processed mess that gives the technique a bad name.

Reminder: If you want to see how I processed these photos. Come see my talk this Thursday.

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I took the photographs with the Olympus E-PM2 with the 14mm f2.5 lens and the Panasonic wide-angle adapter.

If you find these posts interesting, please consider using my affiliate links for any future purchases.
Make sure to click on the photographs to a see larger version. Hover over the photos to see the picture details.

I’m giving a free talk on HDR in Austin and you are all invited

Broken Spoke - Austin, Texas

Broken Spoke – Austin, Texas

HDR has some passionate fans and strong detractors. Some call it Technicolor Clown Vomit, others think it’s the best thing since sliced bread. My view is somewhere in between. I think of it as a powerful technique to be used at appropriate times. I’m also lazy and want to do HDR in the easiest way possible way while maintaining quality and matching my “vision” of what I want.

My talk on HDR will discuss the capture process, the photography part using the camera as well as the HDR post processing on computer. Along the way, I will talk about HDR Myths and the best times to use this technique.

Of course, I’ll talk about equipment and tell you why the DSLR might not necessarily be the best camera. I’ll also show you a live demonstration of HDR software and the other steps I use to create my realistic HDRs.

Come join me at the September Austin Photographic Society Meeting for this free talk.

Time: Thursday September 25, 2014 from 6:30 – 8:30pm.
Location: Parish Hall, Episcopal Church of the Resurrection
Address: 2110 Justin Lane, Austin, TX 78757
Map: http://maps.google.com/maps?q=2110+Justin+Lane%2C+Austin%2C+TX+78757

Note: Parish Hall is East of the church building and its parking is accessed from Justin Lane. The parking lot entrance is directly across from where Muroc St. intersects Justin Lane.

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An Experiment from the Boardwalk

Skyline from the Boardwalk - Austin, Texas

Skyline from the Boardwalk – Austin, Texas

Looks like the new boardwalk on Lady Bird Lake in downtown Austin is going to be a popular spot for photographers. Officially, it’s part of the hike and bike trail. But it also works great for people who want an unobstructed view of the skyline. As you may recall, I posted my first photos from the boardwalk, last month. I was back there yesterday with a few of my photography friends. All told, by the time we left, we had 8 people shooting the scene.

I wanted to do something different from the last time, an experiment of sorts. It’s from the same location, but the changes in framing and post-processing makes it quite different, I believe. While it’s a HDR, extra processing brought out the color and stars above the city. If you click on the image, you might make out the stars in the larger version. While not exactly what I wanted, I like the color. I didn’t realize that even after blue hour, I’m able to pull out interest from a mostly black sky.

I used my Canon 6D this time with the 24-105mm f4 lens. My big camera, relative to the smaller mirrorless cameras that I usually use.

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The View from the Boardwalk

Skyline Sunset from the Boardwalk - Austin, Texas

Skyline Sunset from the Boardwalk – Austin, Texas

Austin recently opened a boardwalk of sorts. It floats above the river and forms an extension to the hike and bike trail that graces downtown. What’s good for the runners and bikers are also great for photographers. The architects thoughtfully created several areas that jut out, away from the traffic. Perfect for placing tripods.

My friends, Alex and Rusty invited me downtown to shoot the growing skyline. It’s a new vantage point that I’ve never seen. I thought it might be fun to shoot it with my old and new Olympus cameras, the 11-year-old E-1 DSLR and my HDR mirrorless workhorse, the E-PM2.

Skyline from the Boardwalk - Austin, Texas

I’ve talked a bunch about my new-found fondness for the ancient 5mp Kodak CCD. It has a color that’s different from modern CMOS. I’ve discovered that for longer exposures, even as short as 5 seconds, I would get hot pixels. My guess is that the heat in Texas adversely affects the CCD — I read that heat tends make them noisy.

I shot the first 2 with the E-M1. The next two are HDRs with the E-PM2. Once it got dark, I put away the old DSLR — I knew the images wouldn’t satisfy — the modern mirrorless took over. I zoomed out as night progressed. From a 52mm equivalent to 34mm, to 28mm and finally to 22mm.

Skyline from the Boardwalk - Austin, Texas
Skyline from the Boardwalk (wide) - Austin, Texas

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I took the first two photographs with the Olympus E-1 in RAW and post processed with Aperture 3. I took the next two with the Olympus E-PM2.

Make sure to click on the photographs to a see larger version. Hover over the photos to see the picture details.