Urban Landscape + Lifestyle Photography

Olympus E-PM2

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.

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



Black and White Hawaii: Why I created atypical images of Waikiki

Diamond Head from the Moana Patio - Honolulu, Hawaii

Diamond Head from the Moana Patio – Honolulu, Hawaii

I imagined dramatic golden sunrises breaking over Waikiki beach. That’s what I wanted to capture when I lugged by tripod and Olympus E-PM2 to Hawaii. It didn’t turn out that way.

Water in Motion, Waikiki Beach - Honolulu, Hawaii

I woke up early twice before the jet-lag diminished. What I discovered was the sun was hidden behind high-rise hotels and the glorious color was trapped behind these towers of concrete. On these two mornings, there were barely any clouds to add interest. The light was boring and my photos were far from my pre visualized splendor. The bottom line, I didn’t know the best places to shoot and I was at the mercy of weather and light. Using HDR is not going to overcome mediocre light.

Waikiki Hotels - Honolulu, Hawaii

While the subtle and muted pastels my attract some, I didn’t get the color that I wanted. Experimenting with black and white, I realized though atypical, they created dramatic images with contrast. I like these — they are more unusual. But I’ll be lying if I said I planned it this way.

Pool, Moana Surfrider - Honolulu, Hawaii

In retrospect, I should have gotten here earlier, during blue hour. Or better yet, capturing the blue hour after sunset. Ultimately, if I’m serious about beach landscapes, I need to research and explore. I didn’t have a car so I stuck to places within walking distance. But as you can see, I get bored of just beach and nature. I like having man-made influences. Perhaps I’m more attuned to hard angles instead of the organic forms of nature.

Sisters' Photoshoot, Waikiki - Honolulu, Hawaii

While I’m not a morning person, it was peaceful and more enjoyable shooting around sunrise, at least in Waikiki. This place is so tourist filled that the desolation of early morning works better for landscapes. There’s no clutter of people. The sprinkling of human forms add scale and interest but doesn’t overwhelm. Sometimes, you might even catch an amateur photo shoot by some sisters on the beach.

Sheraton Patio - Honolulu, Hawaii
Entrance, Moana Surfrider - Honolulu, Hawaii

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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.



Morning Blue Hour in Waikiki

Morning Blue Hour in Waikiki - Honolulu, Hawaii

Morning Blue Hour in Waikiki – Honolulu, Hawaii

I finally started organizing my Hawaii photos from a few weeks ago.

As you may recall, I brought 3 cameras on my trip and here are the final picture counts. The Fujifilm X100S with 2219 shots. The Olympus E-PM2 and TG-2 came in about the same with 899 and 963, respectively. At 4081 total images, it’s noticeably less than the 6,500 photos I took in the Netherlands. And out of the 4000 or so photos, a majority are family snapshots.

I didn’t do as much “serious” photography, opting more to both document and enjoy my family vacation. But as you can imagine, I did get some alone time. My keeper rate was lower than usual, however. I was probably more distracted than usual (or less determined, photographically) and didn’t see as well as I usually do.

I’m not a morning person, which usually works fine because the city life that I photograph is more lively at night. But due to the magic of jet-lag, I was up earlier than normal. Blue hour, which I often talk about, happens in the morning too. Here is a rare, for me, blue hour photo from paradise, snapped at 5:31am.

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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.

Make sure to click on the photograph to a see larger version. Hover over the photo to see the picture details.



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.



One of my favorite cameras, available for only $200, for the next several days

Golden Gate Bridge, Battery Crosby - San Francisco, California

Golden Gate Bridge, Battery Crosby – San Francisco, California

See this photo of the world-famous Golden Gate Bridge? I took it with the the Olympus E-PM2 with the standard kit lens. I just noticed that the camera and kit lens is now available for only $200 for the next several days. The Olympus OM-D cameras get much of the press these days but this budget priced E-PM2 has the same sensor and pretty much the same image processor. That means that the image quality is the same from this camera as the more expensive options.

How do you get the deal? Click on this link and enter the SUMMER20 coupon code when you check out. The deal ends on June 25, 2014.

There are good deals on other Olympus cameras and lenses too, including the OM-Ds. Just navigate around the site to find what you like, including the E-PM2 that I like so much. Inexplicably, the body only E-PM2 is priced higher than the one with the kit lens. So make sure to pick the camera that contains the 14-42mm lens.

Keep in mind that these are factory reconditioned by Olympus so these are not brand new. No problem. I’ve bought several factory reconditioned products and they work great. Olympus also gives you a 30 day money back guarantee and a 90 day warranty.

Here are some more photos I took that day in San Francisco. These photos are HDRs where I blend 3 images together in post processing on my computer. The newer Olympus cameras, including the E-PM2, have a really nice HDR bracketing mode where you can take 3, 5 or even 7 images. This makes it super easy to capture the images. Later, you use HDR software such as Photomatix to blending your pictures together.

I’ve often mentioned that the E-PM2 is my favorite camera for HDRs because of its small size and high image quality. Now you can get the camera at a really low price.

Wildflowers and the Bay at Sunset - San Francisco, California
http://www.atmtxphoto.com/Blog/Creative-commons/i-Skr2FJv/0/XL/san-francisco-ca-battery-crosby-stairs-XL.jpg
Golden Gate Bridge Up Close, Battery Crosby - San Francisco, California

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I took the photographs with the the Olympus E-PM2 camera with the 14mm-42mm kit lens.

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