Evan Gearing's Photography Exposition

“parking garage views”

I-35 Upper Deck in the Morning Panorama

Morning traffic in Austin is a nightmare, or better yet, a “morningmare”!  It’s the worst.  The quicker you can get a jump on it, the better.  For that reason, I get on the road pretty early so I can beat most of it.  However, the rate that the city is growing, the traffic seems to get busier earlier and earlier.  Many years ago, Austin thought one way to combat the traffic woes was to put in an upper-deck on the expressway going through downtown that would have not off-ramps so drivers could take that option to help speed through.  It doesn’t seem to really help anymore.  But, just off the decks on the southbound side of I-35 near 38 1/2 street lies a new office building which went up and has an 8-level parking garage.  It’s free to go into and it has a great view of the decks.  That’s where I took this 7-shot panorama.

If you know what you are doing and have the right gear, panoramas can be pretty easy and fun.  For me, not so much.  But, I did learn a lot about panoramas after taking and processing this photo.  It still needs a little work, but for me, I think it works.  The things I learned are as follows:

1. To take a proper panorama, one must know the “nodal point” of the lens of choice.  The nodal point is basically the area “inside the lens where the light paths cross before being focused onto a film plane.”  That point is where you want the actual camera to pivot from while you take your shots for a panorama. That way, when it’s time to stitch your shots together, the stitching software can blend the shots together as accurately as possible.  Otherwise, you will get some wild and unfortunate problems from stitching to distortion (other than normal pano distortion, that is).  Also, to figure out the nodal point, you will need a proper head and/or bracket for your tripod.

2. If you can’t use a tripod or even if you have a tripod and not the right head or bracket, you can still take a decent panorama, but be prepared to fix a lot of stitching issues and perspective/distortion problems.  I ran into a lot of those with this shot, but a photographer out there named Klaus Herrmann, aka Farbspiel, who takes some great vertical panoramas (or vertoramas), has some great processing techniques that were invaluable.  His distortion correction video was a big help!  I learned a lot from that video and I also learned a lot from his “making of” videos.  However, if you watch those, be prepared to pause and play quite often because his techniques are quite extensive and he speeds up the vids about 10 times as fast as normal!  However, you can still get a lot out of them!  Those “making of” videos really helped me fix stitching problems.

3.  To take a good panorama, put your camera in portrait orientation, meter the main subject in the pano with your camera, note the camera’s aperture and shutter settings, switch to manual mode and input those setting accordingly.   Then take all the shots to compose the pano with those settings.  That way, you won’t have any blending problems in post-processing.

I guess those are the main things I’ve learned.  I hope you enjoy the shot and thanks for visiting!

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Top of Brazos Garage

I’ve been lacking as far as getting out to get any new content for the old blog here.  The weather’s been too hot and I guess I’ve been a little bit lazy as well.  It’s not that I don’t enjoy shooting, but I’m really trying to figure out some new subjects to shoot. Until then, I thought maybe I should put out something I took a couple of years ago when I was going around to different parking garages in Austin trying to get unique views of the city.  This was taken from the top of the Brazos St garage near the convention center and the Four Season Hotel.  It’s a different angle.  I always liked the shot, but I’m not sure if the angle works or not.  Maybe some of you could provide a little constructive criticism.  Or not. 😉  Anyway, let me know what you think and thanks for dropping by!


Impeccable Dallas

Impeccable Dallas

This weekend, Eileen and I went up to Dallas on Saturday to see a show up there. We went to see a show put on by a couple guys from a cable news outfit. I won’t bore you with the details about the show. However, getting TO the show was a scary adventure. It was at the Music Hall at Fair Park. Fair Park is where the Texas State Fair is every year and also home to The Cotton Bowl. It was only about 6 miles from where we stayed. But, we didn’t have directions so we asked the person who checked us into our room how to get there. She pulled up some directions off of Google, but those directions didn’t take us to Fair Park. The route took us by there, but we ended up off of Dolphin and Spring roads. You talk about a scary neighborhood. Imagine the south side of Chicago or maybe Compton, CA. Those places seemed like Beverly Hills compared to where we ended up. Needless to say we got the f*** out of there in a hurry! We proceeded to stop at a gas station to get directions and the nice gentleman working behind the bullet-proof protected counter told us two ways to get there; either take this one road or take the highway which was backed up due to Big 12 Championship traffic (I think). He recommended the highway because he didn’t like the neighborhoods. No sh**! Well, we took the first way anyway because we didn’t want to end up in traffic. That was a bad area, but not as bad as where we came from. AND, it didn’t take us to Fair Park, it just took us back to the highway. So, we got on the highway, found Fair Park and made it to the Music Hall. When we got to the Hall, we subsequently did a post-mission check of our vehicle for bullet holes, dents, and just general damage. Thankfully, none found. OK, we didn’t really do that, but looking back, it seemed like we should’ve. 😉

That brings us to the picture. The hotel we stayed at was the Hyatt Summerfield Suites on Harry Hines Blvd. It was a very nice place and if you ever go to Dallas, I would recommend it. Just don’t get your directions to anywhere from anyone working there! They have a parking garage there which is about 4 levels high. That’s where this shot came from. It’s the view of Dallas from there. Just out of the shot to the right is the American Airlines Arena. I would’ve tried to shoot that, but it was obscured by trees, powerlines, etc.

This isn’t the greatest shot I’ve taken in the world, but I liked the way it turned out for the most part and I thought it might be worth throwing up on the old blog, especially since I haven’t gotten anything that new lately. Time get back out there!

Thanks for stopping by!

This shot was processed a little differently… I merged 5 brackets in Photomatix 4 and used the Fusion mode versus the usual tonemapping with details enhancer.  It looked better.  Then I opened it in Photoshop CS4, reduced the noise with Noiseware Pro’s Weaker setting and did some tweaking in Nik Color Efex 3.


Other settings include:

Camera: Nikon D300s
Lens: Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR II
ISO: 200
Aperture: f4.2
Exposure Bias: 0.00
Shutter:0.8
Focal Length: 34mm
Mode: Aperture Priority
Bracketing: 5 exposures with EVs ranging from -3 to +3 at 1 stop intervals
White Balance: Auto
Tripod: Induro AB0
Nikon MC-30 Remote Release Cord

From the blog at http://egearingphoto.blogspot.com


Austin Sunrise

Austin Sunrise

This is the shot I was after in my last post where I discovered a half ’52 Chevy Deluxe. It’s another one of my Parking Garage Views of downtown Austin.  This was on Henderson by Lamar and 9th.  It’s always fun to try and find some good skyline shots that haven’t been already published by other photographers.  At least I don’t think this view has been shot by anyone else that I know of.  Let me know what you think and thanks for dropping by.

This shot was processed as usual.

Other settings include:

Camera: Nikon D300s
Lens: Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR II
ISO: 200
Aperture: f4.2
Exposure Bias: 0.00
Shutter: 1/13
Focal Length: 36mm
Mode: Aperture Priority
Bracketing: 7 exposures with EVs ranging from -3 to +3 at 1 stop intervals
White Balance: Auto
Tripod: Induro AB0
Nikon MC-30 Remote Release Cord

From the blog at http://egearingphoto.blogspot.com


Half '52 Chevy Deluxe

Half Chevy

I’m not sure what the deal is here, but I saw this while adding more shots to my “Parking Garage Views” series.  One morning on my way to work I decided it was time to see if I could find more views of the Austin skyline and this time I headed west on 6th street to Lamar.  I turned right on Lamar and then another right onto 9th and then another right onto Henderson.  This garage was the first one on the left.  As I walked to the stairs to go to the top, this unusual sight befell me and I thought it very interesting.  I can’t imagine why someone would do that to a car like this one.  As a matter of fact, my friend and co-worker, Darrell Jourdan has one just like this, except it is whole.  I guess this is another one of those weird things that Austin is trying to be famous for but has yet to get there.

This shot was processed as usual.

Other settings include:

Camera: Nikon D300s
Lens: Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR II
ISO: 200
Aperture: f8
Exposure Bias: 0.00
Shutter: 0.8
Focal Length: 27mm
Mode: Aperture Priority
Bracketing: 7 exposures with EVs ranging from -3 to +3 at 1 stop intervals
White Balance: Auto
Tripod: Induro AB0
Nikon MC-30 Remote Release Cord

From the blog at http://egearingphoto.blogspot.com


7th Street Garage

7th St Garage

In an effort to keep this blog relatively fresh, I have to – obviously – keep putting out some new photos. One way I like to do that is to head to downtown Austin and try to find something to shoot. This time I tried to take a different tack on my parking garage series and actually get a shot of the inside of a garage. So that’s what we have here. I’m not sure of its photographic value as far as all the rules are concerned, such as leading lines, rule of thirds, etc. I’m not even sure if it is that interesting. Sometimes things I find interesting, others don’t and vice-versa. I thought this one was kind of interesting because of the air vent that travels along the ceiling. I thought it gave the shot a little uniqueness and sort of leads the eye around the shot a little bit. Am I in the ballpark on this or totally off-base?

Anyway, this particular garage is located on 7th Street in Austin right behind the Driskill Hotel. There are lots of things to shoot there, but nothing beautiful. It’s kind of a grungy part of the downtown area. I have a shot of an alleyway with a bunch of trash bins that I will post in the coming days. They’re fun subjects to shoot, but some might think, “Seriously, trash bins and parking garages? Can’t you come up with something else?” Not right now. 😉

This shot was processed as usual except for a couple things… The light behind the pillar in the middle of the shot was rather greeen so I had to use Viveza to control that.  Same goes for the bumper on the Explorer on the left.  I also cranked up the saturation on the Explorer with Viveza and also cranked up the saturation of the overall shot with CS4 by about 21, um, percent, or Photoshop units…whatever they are.  In other words, I used the hue/saturation adjustment and cranked the saturation slider up by 21.

Other setting include:

Camera: Nikon D90
Lens: Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6D EX DC HSM Autofocus Zoom
ISO: 400
Aperture: f11
Exposure Bias: -0.00
Shutter: 0.3 Focal Length: 12mm
Mode: Aperture Priority
Bracketing: 5 exposures with EVs ranging from -2 to +2 at 1 stop intervals
White Balance: Auto
Tripod: Induro AB0
Nikon MC-DC2 Remote Release Cord

From the blog at http://egearingphoto.blogspot.com


Texas Capitol Dome Refurbishment and Photoshop Auto-Blend

Texas Capitol Restoration

Yawn, ho-hum. Or, in the words of the late, great Chris Farley, “Whoop-dee-friggin’-do!!”  It’s another shot of the capitol.  But, I’ve found a new vantage point to shoot from during my little self-imposed parking garage excursions.  From the Chase Bank garage at 9th and Lavaca you get the view seen above.  It’s an angle I haven’t seen yet.  And, with the scaffolding around the dome, it makes the shot a tad more interesting, even if it is another boring shot of the capitol.

Something else about this shot that I wanted to point out is in its processing.  I did the usual hdr stuff; I made two merged shots, one in Photoshop CS4 and one in Photomatix. Then I tone-mapped them both in Photomatix to see which ones I liked better.  I wasn’t particularly pleased with the results of either so I thought a LOT of masking was going to be needed, especially for the sky.  So, I brought in the one from Photomatix and layered in one of the brackets to start on the sky.  But when I was fiddling with the menu in Photoshop, I found something called “Auto-blend”.  I thought, “I wonder what that does?” and kicked it off.  It started cranking out all kinds of wild masks and things and what I ended up with was basically what you see above.  I did a little noise reduction, sharpening and color corrections in a couple of spots, but for the most part this is what came out.  I’m rather impressed as this was better than what I had from my tone-mapped shots.  The sky came out really nice especially around the scaffolding and the flagpoles.  Those types of things can be problems during the tone-mapping process as you HDR guys out there know.  I guess auto-blend has been around since CS3 but it isn’t something I’ve messed with. From what I’ve read on the web, it’s meant to be used in conjunction with “Auto-align” for stitching photos into a panorama, but it seems to work well for combining shots in layers as well. The following is from Adobe’s website regarding auto-blend:

Use the Auto-Blend Layers command to stitch or combine images with smooth transitions in the final composite image. Auto-Blend Layers applies layer masks as needed to each layer to mask out over‑ or underexposed areas or content differences. Auto-Blend layers is only available for RGB or Grayscale images. It does not work with Smart Objects, video layers, 3D layers, or background layers.

Among the many uses of the Auto-Blend Layers command, you can blend multiple images of a scene with different areas in focus to achieve a composite image with an extended depth of field. Similarly, you can create a composite by blending multiple images of a scene with different illuminations. In addition to combining images of a scene, you can stitch together images into a panorama. (Although, it might be better to use the Photomerge command to produce panoramas from multiple images.) 

Auto-Blend Layers applies layer masks as needed to each layer to mask out over‑ or underexposed areas or content differences and create a seamless composite.

It’s a pleasant surprise and something I will have to remember as I process stuff in the future. Another thing to play with!

Other settings include:

Camera: Nikon D90
Lens: Nikkor AF-S DX 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR
ISO: 200
Aperture: f11
Exposure Bias: -0.00
Shutter: 2
Focal Length: 75mm
Mode: Aperture Priority
Bracketing: 5 exposures with EVs ranging from -2 to +2 at 1 stop intervals
White Balance: Auto
Tripod: Induro AB0
Nikon MC-DC2 Remote Release Cord

From the blog at http://egearingphoto.blogspot.com