Sunday, February 27, 2011

Garfield Park ... as seen in HDR

It's always interesting -- fascinating, even -- to shoot at new places, but the one "horror" I have when I do go to someplace new is that I'll miss something. And if you travel a long ways for a shoot, it's dismaying to think you'll have to go that distance if you want to return to grab something you missed.

That's probably why I return so often to Garfield Park in Indianapolis. It's convenient, and I don't have to spend a lot of time getting back there if I know I missed something. But ... I also like to return there for the challenge of finding or capturing something new.

Yesterday's post on the Bean Creek water reflections and the lines/patterns of the bridge is an example. I've been in that park to shoot dozens of times in the past eight or nine years, and until Feb. 15, I'd never devoted a shoot to either of those objectives. Oddly, it was a spur-of-the-moment objective, as well. The thought didn't cross my mind until I came upon the bridge on my return trip from buying popcorn salt at the grocery (I know ... who goes to a grocery store just to get popcorn salt? Well, since I've now mentioned that item three times in recent posts, maybe the infamous popcorn salt shaker would make a good photo subject for a later date).

Central Indiana was doused with another 3 inches of snow during the Thursday-to-Friday overnight period last week, so I decided to make another visit to the park. This time, the idea would be to further explore one of my latest interests -- high-dynamic range (HDR) treatment. HDR is the melding of two or more images taken of the same scene, each captured at different exposures for the purpose of extracting optimum detail for the final, single frame. The images are melded during post-processing using special HDR software (I use Photomatix).

Many of the shots I grabbed Friday reminded me of scenes I took on Jan. 8, 2005, when I got to the park late in the morning after one of those "picture postcard" snowfalls -- you know, the kind where the snow sticks to whatever it lands on. It made for some beautiful imagery that day, one I have not seen but maybe once or twice since. Many of those shots you can find in the gallery at this link. The image that leads off this post is a variation of one of those shots from 2005, a vantage point slightly right of the original.

Friday's outing kept me mostly in the southern and western areas of the park, which happen to be where the majority of the park's attractions are located -- the amphitheater, the main playground, the pagoda, the arts center, the Burrello Family Center and aquatic center (of course, the latter would be of little use to me this day).

I used my Canon 7D body for all shots Friday; it was mounted on a tripod (when shooting for HDR, tripods are necessary to ensure motion-free stability for the multiple frames). To the camera body, I attached a cable shutter-release device to guard against possible camera shake from the mere touching of the shutter on the body itself. I switched between two lenses -- Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8, which is my walk-around lens, and a wide-angle Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5, a lens made exclusively for small-sensor DSLRs like my 7D. I also packed my PowerShot G12 in case I encountered a situation where I came upon a scene for which I wanted or needed a single frame. I never needed it.

As for camera settings ... I set my 7D to aperture value (AV), or aperture priority, mode (f/9), ISO 100 and used the cloudy mode white balance setting. When shooting HDR, it's important to have a stable aperture and white balance (you don't want your focus point or color changing among the multiple shots of the same scene) and an ISO setting for low noise (in HDR processing, detail from multiple images will be extracted for the one, final image, and that detail may include noise, so you want the software to find as little noise as possible). The shutter speed would be my exposure variable setting.

While I did revisit some scenes from that Jan. 8, 2005, shoot, I made a point to go to a "new" place Friday, a vantage point I'd never explored in my countless previous visits -- the railroad tracks and trestles near Pleasant Run and Pleasant Run Parkway and parts south of there. At the parkway trestle, I captured some shots of traffic stopped at the intersection of Pleasant Run and Pagoda Drive. Just south of there, I turned west to appreciate some vistas of Emmerich Manual High School that I'd never enjoyed before. Turning east from virtually the same point, I had an overlook onto the park's Burrello Family Center, a vista also new to me. The latter was slightly cluttered by branches from brush between the tracks and Pagoda Drive. Unfortunately, there is no unobstructed view of the center from that locale. I include a few of those frames here as well.

To view a more complete gallery of images from this shoot, follow this link.

Above: Lately, some of my more favorite landscapes are when I can spot trees and tree branches framing landmarks, such as this capture of the MacAllister Center for the Performing Arts amphitheater in the background.

Above: I was impressed with how HDR made the rusty-colored underbelly fur pop on this critter. I also was impressed that the chipmunk froze long enough for me to get off three frames for the HDR capture. Later in the day, this (or another) chipmunk came right up to me -- it was, literally, at my feet and, for a moment, stood on its hind legs to boot! -- as I was trying to capture a shot of "the tree" (which you'll come upon a bit down from here). Each time it moved, I tried to work the camera (remember, it was on a tripod, so this became a project) to capture an HDR shot of the chipmunk so close to me. Alas, it would not stay still, and eventually, well before I even came close to nailing the shot (and probably after concluding that I had no handout for it), scurried on to other business.

Above and next three below: I'd not captured any of these vantage points of the park's landmark pagoda previously. The above is a wide-angle shot, using the Sigma 10-20mm; the ones below were taken with the Tamron 28-75mm.

Above and below: From inside the pagoda, above is the spiral staircase to the perch you see above. Access to the perch has been closed for several years now. Below is an HDR capture of the Garfield Park Arts Center, framed by the pagoda's ornamental fencing, that I first grabbed in single frame and posted (in a black-and-white conversion) in December after a heavy snowfall. As it turns out, the single- and HDR color frames don't vary a whole lot.

Above: I have several frames of this maple in autumn, and its orange leaves offer quite a spectacle that time of year, considering it's the only tree of any significant size along this stretch of the Pagoda Drive hill.  It didn't occur to me that HDR treatment could render this elegance to the tree without benefit of leaves. At the left of the tree, through the fencing, you get a glimpse of the aquatic center's snaking slide.

Above and below: Two "revisits" from my Jan. 8, 2005, shoot in the park, both taken from the Pagoda Drive bridge. Above, looking east, is the confluence of Pleasant Run (left) and Bean Creek; below, looking west, Pleasant Run flows under the railroad trestle to which I climbed moments later to grab the shots immediately below this.


Above and below: Two shots of Pleasant Run from the trestle, looking east. The shot above also includes Pagoda Drive; below, a closeup of a section of the stream immediately below the bridge.

Above: From the same point, only now looking west, a view showing a portion of the Manual High School campus on the left.
Above and below: I moved a little north along the tracks to yet another trestle, one overlooking the intersection of Pleasant Run Parkway (the road holding the cars) and Pagoda Drive, which turns into East Street just north (left) of this.

Above: I started to wend my way south again, stopping momentarily to turn back and capture this frame of the tracks as they lead to Downtown Indianapolis. If you can make out the railroad crossing warning device about halfway down, that's Raymond Street.
Above and next five below: Here are my "new" vistas of Manual High School -- and its no-longer-used football field -- as seen from the railroad tracks along the school's eastern perimeter (and the park's western perimeter). In a budget-cutting move, and because it claimed there was a lack of interest, Indianapolis Public Schools Superintendent Eugene White withdrew football as a sport at Manual and Washington high schools, effective this school year. In August 2009, I shot a semipro North American Football League game between the now-defunct Indiana Warriors and Chicago Wolverines at this field.   
Above: The bright red structure in the foreground is simply a storage shed.

Above: I took this capture to include the smoke billowing in the upper left corner.

Above: A radical crop of the football stadium's seating ... and the press box adorned in Manual's colors of red, white and black.

Above: This is the aforementioned overlook onto the park's Burrello Family Center.

Above: I paused to get a closeup of the railroad ties.

Above: I was impressed to find some conifers in the extreme southwest corner of the park.

Above: Not far from the conifers in the previous image is this cluster of deciduous trunks, whose contrasty color stripes caught my attention.

Above: One of the picnic shelters sprinkled throughout the park.

Above: HDR treatment introduced some pop into the few stubborn leaves clinging to the deciduous trees.

Above: I wanted to get an HDR rendering of "the tree," the subject of a recent silhouette exercise I stumbled upon, quite unexpectedly, during the return trip of a walk to the grocery (the so-called popcorn salt trip). The structure in bottom right of this image is the shelter depicted in more detail two pictures below.

Above: I tried capturing this railroad crossing signal along Southern Avenue from several angles ... and didn't care for most. This one was an exception.

Above: I wanted to get a shot or two in HDR of the neighborhood near the park. This angle looks southeast along Southern Avenue.

Above and below: I'm presuming this structure close to Southern Avenue at the southwest end of the park, at one time, was used to shelter picnickers. Its deteriorated condition, as evidenced by the closeup below, keeps the picnickers away ... even during picnic-friendly weather.

Above: A bench, telephone pole and street sign at Southern and Stanley. Notice the chains, apparently to ward off theft, to anchor the bench to the pole.

Above: A sidewalk along Allen Street, just south of the park.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Reflections, lines, patterns ...
and blue denims at Bean Creek

Two weeks ago, when I posted my shots from an early-evening exercise in silhouettes in Garfield Park in Indianapolis, I promised to come back and post the shots I took moments earlier around Bean Creek near the park's pedestrian bridge over the stream just west of the Sunken Garden.

It's taken me a while -- and four shoots later -- but today I'm posting those images. There aren't many, nor are they spectacular, but I post them in the greater objective of logging my shoots and accounting for my efforts.

If you recall, this was the night of Feb. 15, 2011, when I pocketed my PowerShot G12 before heading out of the house for a walk to pick up some popcorn salt at the grocery. The objective of this point of the shoot was simply to capture reflections in the creek and interesting lines and patterns on the bridge and the black metal bridge hand rails. As it turned out, some snow, footprints and the photographer's denim jeans and sneakers snuck into the pictures as well.

Above and below: Upstream (north) of the bridge, where the rocks and stones send ripples through the water.

Above and top of post (lead photo): Downstream (south of the bridge), all was clam -- and the reflections were tack sharp.

Above: I'm not planning, anytime soon, to use my feet to tell time. They show 1:50 p.m., but I know for a fact -- and the image's EXIF data verifies -- that it was a little past 5:30 p.m. on Feb. 15, 2011, when I took this shot.

Above and below: These won't be mistaken for Bigfoot.