Friday, December 21, 2012

My HDR Learning Curve

I'm having an early Christmas with my family this week, so thanks for being patient while I catch up on posts, guys! In the mean time, here's a little more botched-up Disney HDR for you. ;) 

I know now what I was doing wrong with these shots (I had a camera setting goofed up), so I hope to try them again the next time I'm out at Disney. Still, even though they're plagued with technical errors, I thought you fellow Dizgeeks might like seeing a few shots, if only because it's always fun to see crowd-free photos of the Magic Kingdom. (Well, fun for ME, anyway. It always reminds me of my Skipper days there, walking through the silent streets, and it never stops being magical, either.)

There's no real secret to getting people-free shots at Disney: all you have to do is stay past closing. They start clearing the park out around an hour past park close, and you can stay in the hub or on Main Street for an hour and a half or more. You'll see plenty of other photographers with tripods around, and it's kind of fun to see this whole other fan group emerge as the regular tourists slowly trickle out.

I'm pretty shy around the photogs, since I know practically nothing and end up staring wide-eyed when asked anything even remotely technical, but John will strike up a conversation with anyone toting a big camera. He's actually picked up a lot of tips and equipment recommendations that way.

This is my most true-to-life shot of the night; it doesn't have the typical HDR surrealness to it. It's also not very interesting, which is a shame; I think I failed to capture the real majesty of the Liberty Tree.

You can really see the technical problems in these next few, and I'm absolutely kicking myself for not getting those settings right:

Ug. So grainy. (But a neat view, right?)

And try to imagine how pretty this next shot would have been if I hadn't messed it all up:

John and I waited a solid 30 minutes to get this shot, too, poised over the timer, having countless takes spoiled by guests wandering down the corridor or in front of the carousel... Oh, the pain. 

(Don't worry, I'm not TOO broken up - I know we can always go back and try again. Heh.)

At least this black and white is a little smoother:

And I purposely made this next one surreal, since the graininess was killing it anyway:

My favorite shot of the night was actually the over-exposed version I took for an HDR pic:

Everything looks like colored glass!

And here's the resulting HDR of the same shot:

It's, you know, not great. But like I said, I'm learning, and sometimes it's fun to share the "failures" along with the successes.

Some of you have asked for tips or tutorials on HDR, but I think it's obvious from this post that I don't have any to offer personally. :D I can tell you I use a Canon 7D with a 17-50 lens, and I could probably show you how to take the bracketed photos necessary for HDR now, but that's about it. So, if any of you have suggestions for good online tutorials, please share them in the comments!

Today John and I are heading out to Epcot with my parents, and we'll all be toting camera bags and tripods. (So if you see a nerdy family standing around discussing F-stops, be sure to say hi.)

[UPDATE: I've had a few requests to add the black & white castle shot to my DeviantArt gallery, so you can see it here, and even purchase a print, if you like. Thanks for the kind words and for making my ego inflate, guys; it's the ultimate compliment to have someone request a print of your photo!]

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Open House!

Ok, guys, I think I'm finally ready, so...

Who wants to see my house?

(Because, really, it's not nerve-wracking at ALL to let the whole internet see your whole house and judge all your stuff and decorating skills and/or lack thereof. Nope. I am SO calm and at ease and please pass the eggnog.)

[slamming down glass]


Our tour begins here, in this gallery front room:

I'm especially excited to show you guys that back wall, because I just finished those gears two days ago!

John and I cut them from MDF at the same time we made the tree topper one a year or more back, but they've been sitting in the garage ever since. I based them in copper, and then used three different spray paints - a hammered copper, metallic bronze, and gold to create this finish:

 This one's a bit dark. The others have slightly more variation:

 That's an LED branch with peacock feathers left over from last year's tree topper in the vase.

Doo-dads. (Technical term.)

The art and clock are new, too. The clock was a recent gift from my parents' collection, and I bought the print here on DeviantArt (and for cheap! I love DeviantArt.)

K, now the other side of the room:

I don't think I've ever shown you guys my hot air balloon hooks behind the front door. When I bought them they were bright white and shiny, so I beat them up with a hammer, sanded them down, and slopped black glaze on to grunge them up. They're a real bugger to photograph, since there's no light over there, but here's my best shot:

 Here's the view from the front door:
We have a relatively small house (1400 sq ft) but this big open area makes it feel a lot bigger. 'Course, you ARE looking at the vast majority of the house right now. :)

Ok. So. Straight ahead is our back room, with the kitchen to the left and the dining room to the right:

 You've seen my dining room before, but here it is again, decked out for Christmas:

Alas, still no steampunk light fixture - although John's been drawing up blueprints for one just this week!

There's actually a plasma globe in that lantern next to my ray gun. It doesn't really show, but the purple streamers of light in it look really cool next to the gun. (The post the lantern is sitting on is just a painted piece of PVC pipe. )

This was the hardest - and last - vignette I put together. I scrounged through the house looking for anything fuchsia. (The star is sitting on a cup I hold my makeup brushes in, turned upside down.)

Here's the top of that cabinet:
 I like all the sparkly clear glass and silver. 
(The plexiglass NOEL is edged in silver glitter, so you can only see it clearly from an angle.)

Random close-up:

Sometimes you lovely readers will send me an antique key or two. I just want you to know they're all being put to good use. :)

I've had several requests this past year to post more pictures of my kitchen, so I did my best! Here's the side you've seen before:

And now the other side:

John and I gutted the kitchen down to the studs about four (or was it five?) Christmases ago, and rebuilt it all ourselves using Ikea cabinets. It's a really tiny galley kitchen, only about four feet wide, but I love it dearly. (If you're wondering where we keep the food, there's a pantry/laundry room through the bifold door at the end. And the ceiling is flat; the wide-angle lens just makes it look sloped.)

Further proof of how tiny our kitchen is: I can't actually stand IN the kitchen to take pictures of it. This was taken through the window over the sink. Note that we only have a two burner stove top over there. Note also that we don't cook, so this has never been an issue. :D 

We painted the wall finish ourselves, too. It's modeled after some ridiculously expensive tile of the same shape and colors.

And finally, our back room, complete with my treadmill desk eyesore:

See the giant tree through the windows? It's so big that you can stand in one place and see it through three of those windows. Pretty awesome.

When John and I bought this house (which is also our first house) it was high-gloss Pepto pink inside and out, with dark wood paneling and shiny pink ceramic tile throughout. Some day I should post before and after pics for you guys, because they're really fun to look back through, just to see how far we've come.

BUT, that's definitely enough rambling and pictures for now - and this is my last Christmas show-and-tell post, promise! I hope you had fun, because now I'm off to grab all the junk I had to hide in other rooms and strew it around the place again. (Just keeping it real, yo.)

One last night shot of my front room, since it's prettier with the curtains open:

 Mmmm. Glowy.

Happy weekend, everyone!