Parthenon, Before and After

Before
Before
After
After

So here’s a post on the small things that add up, or, How To Remove Annoying Stuff That Buggers Up Your Photo.

 

On the left is the original.  Nice, but not really what I wanted in this shot of the Parthenon.  So what to do?

 

I could have taken a tripod, hidden until after nightfall, gotten the shot on a long exposure, dodged the authorities, and not gone to jail in Greece and had a crapton of explaining to do on why I was not back at work a few days later.

 

Or, PhotoShop.  A coin-flip, really.

 

The steps I actually took here were:

 

  1. Remove the scaffolding. This was the nastiest, and took a LOT of small-scale clone/copy work to remove.  Even so, if you look closely on the left you’ll see some repeated patterns that aren’t really natural, but can escape if you don’t know what you’re looking for.
  2. Remove the humans. They’re just clutter!
  3. Punch up the contrast on the marble in the foreground, so the Greek lettering stand out better.
  4. Deepen the blue in the skies. I did this by pushing the cyan tones into the blue range.
  5. Brighten the green on the grass on the ground.
  6. Reverse-fade out the marble, which at intermediate stages had gotten overly beige and not as stark and wind-washed as it ought to be.

 

All told it was about a half-hour of work.  Totally worth it though!

 

Happy shooting!

 

See more of my work at

Website: http://www.patricklcahalan.co.nf

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Blue Mosque

Blue Mosque I
Blue Mosque I

 

I visited here on a moody, grey-sky day, as you can see from the shot above.  This spot deserves a lot more acclaim and recognition than it gets, at least in the USA (same goes for Turkey as a whole, and Istanbul in particular).  It is a gorgeous work of architecture, both from the outside and within.

 

Blue Mosque II
Blue Mosque II

 

It’s set at one end of a park, with the Hagia Sophia (built by the Roman Emperor Justinian) at the other end.  The name Blue Mosque isn’t actually the official name – that’s the Sultahnamet mosque – it comes instead from the color of the tiles on the interior ceiling.  We’ll get to that in a moment.

 

Blue Mosque III
Blue Mosque III

 

Here’s the up-close view of the entrance leading to the park.  In this instance the grey sky bothered me, so I fixed in photoshop to the sky I thought this photograph deserved.

 

Blue Mosque IV
Blue Mosque IV

 

See what I meant about blue tiles?  Those come from the area of Iznik, in another part of Turkey.  This is the underside of the central dome, with four mammoth pillars holding it up (called “Elephant Feet” colloquially).

 

Blue Mosque V
Blue Mosque V

 

I got this shot from a nearby alcove where someone had left prayer beads on the rug.  I like the simplicity here.

 

By the way, no shoes allowed inside (they give you a baggie for them, and have shelves to put them on).  But the rug is wonderfully luxurious on your feet, which is especially a wonder given it’s trod upon by thousands of people every day.

 

Blue Mosque VI
Blue Mosque VI

 

This is the central worship area, off limits to bumbling tourists.  At It functions not too differently from a church, except that folks sit on the carpet instead of in uncomfortable pews (the latter, I think was invented as a device of torment in the dark ages – at least carpet is cushioned!).

 

Blue Mosque VII
Blue Mosque VII

 

And finally, here’s one of the Elephant Feet in context, with some people for scale.  The pillars are huge, seriously.

 

A fabulous place, and I’m glad I had a chance to see it.

 

Happy shooting!

 

See more of my work at

Website: http://www.patricklcahalan.co.nf

Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/patricklcahalan

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Piazza Navona Fountains

Fountain of Neptune

Fountain of Neptune 

This is a series of photos of the fountains in Piazza Navona in Rome.  This is the fountain of Neptune, with him spearing an octopus with his trident.  Here’s another view of the same:

 

Fountain of Neptune
Fountain of Neptune

 

There were 2 tricks used here.  One, we got here super early, before the crowds went nanners.  Which meant we left the hotel SUPER early, since we were south of the Colosseum, and it meant around a 2+ mile walk, with constant stops to photograph other stuff.  Two, lots of walking around the fountains to find desirable angles.

 

Fountain of the Four Rivers
Fountain of the Four Rivers

 

This is the central fountain, the Fountain of the Four Rivers by Bernini.  Here’s a closeup angle on one of the sides.

 

Fountain of the Four Rivers
Fountain of the Four Rivers

 

And a large-scale shot, with half the piazza in view in the background.

 

Fountain of the Four Rivers
Fountain of the Four Rivers

 

And finally, the fountain at the southern end of the piazza, the Fountain of the Moor.

 

Fountain of the Moor
Fountain of the Moor

 

This really is a lovely location, provided you’re there when it’s not crammed like a NYC subway station.  Going on weekdays will help, if you can manage it, as will waking up early.  But above all go, as it’s not something to miss!

 

Happy shooting!

 

See more of my work at

Website: http://www.patricklcahalan.co.nf

Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/patricklcahalan

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Shooting Around Crowds

Michelangelo's Pieta
Michelangelo’s Pieta

Shooting in a crowded area, when the crowd itself isn’t the object of your work, just plain SUCKS.  It’s a huge pain.  Case in point here: the Vatican Museums.

This is a slightly popular spot.  In the sense that a sea of humanity moving along like the tide of the ocean is a “small crowd.”  What it means in practice is, not much time to compose and shoot, and minimal (if any) chances on a re-do.  Doubly a nuisance given the world-class art and architecture that I was trying to capture.

da Vinci
da Vinci

Like I said, world class.  And unfortunately, very dark in most galleries, and flash is a huge no-no (like instant ticket to the place of fire – as it should be).  So I shot on ISO 1600, as high as I could stomach, and have to do a lot of painstaking sharpening and noise reduction afterward at home.  And that’s even with a private guide and getting in early!  I’d hate to think of just blundering about in there.

Caravaggio
Caravaggio

Clear proof that photographers are johnny-come-latelys when it comes to painting with light.  To think that people of his day thought he stunk!  Imbeciles, all.

Bramante Staircase
Bramante Staircase

But not all areas are crowded, if you plan ahead and are willing to shell out some money.  This is the Bramante staircase, made in the 1500s for Pope Innocent VIII, to allow him to ride his carriage all the way up to his palace without having to walk.  Lazy sod.

Historical note – the same Bramante that built this suggested that the Holy See hire Michelangelo to paint the Sistine Chapel, thinking that this sculptor from Florence was a hack who’d bungle it and make Bramante look good.  Oops.

More on crowds next time, St. Peter’s and Sistine Chapel edition!

See more of my work at

Website: http://www.patricklcahalan.co.nf

Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/patricklcahalan

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Pantheon

Pantheon Ceiling and Oculusc
Pantheon Ceiling and Oculus

Welcome to the Pantheon, the marvel of ancient Roman engineering.  Prior to the Renaissance, what you’re looking at is the largest dome in the world.

And frankly, even more than the rest of Rome, THIS put me in awe.  It doesn’t look like much from the outside (concrete stained with soot from pollution), but the second you pass the doors, it’ll take your breath away.

Think – without calculus, or calculators, or modern machinery, they figured out to coffer the ceiling to reduce weight and install an open center.  Mind the rain, though.

Pantheon Interior
Pantheon Interior

At one point it was converted to a church, and now is (more or less) a museum to Roman, Christian, and Italian heritage.  Also, free admission!  So it’s popular, and best to watch your wallet and camera gear.

Fit for a King
Fit for a King

This is the tomb of the first king of unified Italy, Vittorio Emmanuel II (bear in mind Italy was unified in the late 1800s, so this part isn’t all that ancient).

Cowabunga!
Cowabunga!

And here’s the tomb of everyone’s favorite Ninja Turtle, Raphael!

Oops, I mean “fantastic Renaissance painter” Raphael.  My bad.  Also a super-disappointing photograph for me.  There was an obnoxious crowd and bad reflections and funky contrast, and PS didn’t do jack for me.  Sigh.  Must mean I have to go back to Rome (again, sigh).

PS – don’t think to lie on the ground in the center of the building to get a wider angle on the ceiling, unless you want to get scolded by security like I did.  Really, we photographers are far worse than children.

See more of my work at

Website: http://www.patricklcahalan.co.nf

Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/patricklcahalan

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Discretion

So the other week I went to see Mission Dolores in San Francisco.  It’s a gorgeous old Spanish mission, with a more modern basilica attached to it (plus a cemetery dating to the mid-1800s).

However, given that the Basilica is still in use, a bit of discretion was required.  Meaning, no tromping about with a tripod, or firing off a flashgun, never you mind how handy those would have been in the extremely low light.

Nave
Nave

As such, shots like this one aren’t quite what I’d have liked, but they’ll have to do.  Instead, I chose to focus on the stained glass and smaller features.

Stained Glass
Stained Glass
Upward!
Upward!

And the artwork …

Artwork
Artwork

But hey!  At least the exterior establishing shot came out solid.

Mission-Dolores
Mission Dolores

And better that than irritating a bunch of folks in church.  Generally not a good idea …

Happy shooting!

See more of my work at http://www.patricklcahalan.co.nf  and http://www.flickr.com/photos/patricklcahalan

 

Technique vs. Talent

Neptune Pool at Sunset, Hearst Castle
Neptune Pool at Sunset, Hearst Castle

The photo above is a fairly old one of mine.  This was maybe a year after I got into photography in any serious type of way.

I was at the point that I was shooting in RAW already, and post-processing a little, but I was far from good in composition or exposure, and frankly, my “take” rate of good photos vs. bad ones was lousy.  I maybe got 1-2 good ones per 50-100 of shooting.  And as I’ve gotten better my high opinion of what I once thought was good has lessened, as well.

However …

There is still stuff, like this, that even if not technically perfect, seems to hold up.

The framing is not perfect, I would have moved to the left and used a slightly longer lens length if I could do it again.  Nor is the contrast and lighting too hot (I would now have done multiple bracketed shots), nor is the processing (I would certainly use layers now in Photoshop).

But even if your old stuff isn’t perfect, it can actually serve a lot of good to go look at it long after it was shot.  You can see how far you’ve come, and more objectively analyze what was good or not, and how you can do better in the future.  That elapsed time since the shot is a great buffer for me, and allows me to be more honest with myself about my work, so I can still learn and grow, no matter how far I’ve come.

Happy shooting!

See more of my work at http://www.patricklcahalan.co.nf  and http://www.flickr.com/photos/patricklcahalan

 

Symmetry & Architecture

Rotunda
Rotunda

Symmetry can be a fun source of subject matter for architectural photography.  Arches, domes, columns, and so on can all be intriguing.  If nothing else, it’s one of the reasons why places like the Parthenon, Pyramids, Notre Dame, the US Capitol, etc. make for such great photographic opportunities.

By way of another example, from the inside of the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco.

Palace of Fine Arts, SF
Palace of Fine Arts, SF

Patterns and repetition have a great impact on the human sensory experience.  You’ll see it in printwork  and painting (see almost anything from M.C. Escher), nature (birds’ wings, snowflakes), and music for example (Bach, anyone?).  That same idea of pattern can be adapted to photography, even beyond just the architecture I’m delving into here.

But it needn’t always be 100% perfect either.  Slight variations can be interesting as well!  This one’s a little off center …

Rotunda (again)
Rotunda (again)

But I’m still fond of it despite its lack of perfect balance.  In fact, I think it adds a little dynamism, a little life, to what could otherwise have been too sterile.

Or in another case where the symmetry isn’t precisely bilateral (i.e. not straight down the center of the photo) see here.

Vista House, Columbia Gorge OR
Vista House, Columbia Gorge OR

You can play with this, and walk around outside and inside whatever your subject is.  Or even use people and crowds to create a symmetrical effect – think sidewalk crowds in New York City as seen from the center line of the street.

So get out there, and have some fun!

No post next week – I will be out shooting.  But it should yield some great results you’ll see soon!

See more of my work at http://www.patricklcahalan.co.nf

Cemeteries

SF Presidio
SF Presidio

Cemeteries have always held a fascination for me.  Beyond the obvious of being a reminder of our own mortality, I’ve found them to often be quite beautiful as well.  I’ve long held that I’d rather be sick and getting better in a cemetery than in a hospital (after all, it’s the hospital where the dying happens, not the graveyard!)

But cemeteries, particularly older ones, are fascinating to me.  More modern ones tend to be somewhat dull, with flat markers and not much style.

But the older, ornate stuff can be VERY impressive in both size –

Mausoleum at Mtn View Cemetery, Oakland CA
Mausoleum at Mtn View Cemetery, Oakland CA

– and in detail

Broken Eyed Statue
Broken Eyed Statue

As usual, the real fun is in the high-rent district of the memorials, and often the ones of atypical ethnic background are the most striking, as in these 2 cases.

Italian Family Crypt
Italian Family Crypt
Buddha Marker
Buddha Marker

War memorials and veteran sections can also be photographed well, given their symmetry and regularity

Civil  War Dead
Civil War Dead

And some stuff that would NEVER make it on a marker today!

Racist Much?
Racist Much?

Mausoleums can be fun as well, seeing these two examples

Mausoleum
Mausoleum
Mausoleum Rotunda
Mausoleum Rotunda

And statuary

Michaelangelo
Michaelangelo

As you’ve probably guessed, I’m a fan of using infrared for cemeteries.  The aged, haunted look – in my opinion – lends itself to the subject matter nicely.

Celtic Cross, Colma CA
Celtic Cross, Colma CA

But color can be great too!  Which is hence my next post, about photographing stained glass windows.

Now if I could just get to Paris, New Orleans, etc. etc. etc. …

See more of my work at http://www.patricklcahalan.co.nf