Archive for the ‘grunge’ Tag

The Donkey Conveys   11 comments

The Donkey Conveys


Leaving Moosehead Lake in Maine, we found this relic on the side of the road, causing a quick turnaround to take some shots. Luckily, the owners of the property were nearby, and they allowed me to have a look around (but not inside, thankfully.)

I was a bit surprised when I went around the back of the house and found a donkey on a line. Yes, a real donkey. Although I tried to avoid him, he kept coming after me, either looking for a handout or a free portrait.

I didn’t have any food on hand.

_DSC5749 - Version 2


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I Will Survive | A Grunge Collaboration   10 comments

There have been a few collaboration projects between photographers lately, usually revolving around HDR processing. I always find myself looking forward to the results, as they can serve to inform not only those readers who see the finals, but the contributors as well. Today, I think, we serve up another good example of this, along with a couple of surprises.

For those new to the idea: A few of us got together online and agreed to participate in the project. For each round, one person in the group provides a set of bracketed images, then each photographer applies their vision and processing skills to the set. The final image from each contributor, along with processing notes and other insights, are compiled and hosted on the blog site of whoever provided the set.

This week, it was my turn to provide the brackets for a project we call a “Grunge Collaboration.” Round 1 is here. Although the brackets can start with almost any character — a sunny landscape, even — in this collaboration we’re going for a gritty, grungy look in our results. Participants are James Brandon, Jerry Denham, Jim Denham, Jesse Pafundi, Chris Nitz, and myself, Rob Hanson. (But wait … that’s not all!)

This set of brackets came from my happenstance visit to Legend Hill Enterprises near Fredericksburg, Texas last April. Legend Hill is a buy-sell-trade business, according to signage on a large trailer near the road. Once you drive onto the property, you find yourself surrounded by literally hundreds of old, rusted pieces of farm equipment in various stages of decay, spread over many acres. After getting permission to shoot there, Susan trailed me in the truck while I stopped every few feet to click off more sets, acting like the proverbial kid in a candy store.

With a slight chin nod to Gloria Gaynor, I titled this set “I Will Survive.” It seemed fitting to me, as this formerly glorious beast was sitting amongst other pieces that had not been quite so lucky. It just needed a little quality love.

One note: When these projects first started, we posted the images without any narrative. Sometimes it’s good to let images stand on their own without commentary. It rather quickly becomes obvious that everyone approaches post-processing from a different perspective, and while that’s a beautiful thing, we’re left with only that one conclusion: Everyone has a different vision.

This week I’ve asked each contributor to share information about what they ‘see’ in the image, how it affected them, what they were thinking, and how that vision led to the choices they made in post-processing. It seems to me that we can all benefit by finding out more about this thought process as we consider each image, sort of like peeking into the mind of the photographer.

I hope this approach helps others, and if any readers have ideas on how this sort of project could be even more useful, please drop a comment and let us know. We’d love to hear your ideas. If you could ask a contributor any question, what would that question be?

We also have a special guest contributor joining us this week!  Read on to find out who jumped in, and to see his cut at the project. As he’s one of the true grunge meisters, I really admire his processing work and on a personal level I value his friendship, so I couldn’t resist asking him to join in this week’s fun. After all, he “just loves him some tractor.” I must’ve sensed that.  🙂

Here is the original 0EV bracket that we had to work with:

Original 0EV bracket for the I Will Survive grunge collaboration project

0EV bracket for "I Will Survive"

And here are the final images for this project…

From James Brandon:

James Brandon's version of "I Will Survive", part of the grunge collaboration project

James Brandon's version of "I Will Survive"

“Big thanks to Rob Hanson for a great set of brackets to work with for this week’s collaboration!

“In some of these HDR shots, I feel that you can get lost in the image when everything from foreground to background is in focus. Thatʼs fine in some cases, but in this image I wanted to get rid of any possible focus on the background (the trees, the other tractors, the junk, etc). I used textures, vignetting, and onOne FocalPoint to create some confusion around the corners of the images to draw the focus to the tractor.

“Sure, the tractor is the obvious subject here, but the subconscious can still be led astray. I also opted for a slightly cooled down white balance. The reason being that images like this donʼt exactly make me feel all warm and cozy :-). A junk yard with old tractors signifies the end of the road for these things, and I just didnʼt feel like a warm color balance and bright cloudy sky did that justice.”

From Jerry Denham:

Jerry Denham's version of "I Will Survive"

Jerry Denham's version of "I Will Survive"

“I was very intrigued by the brackets. I really liked the number of options that were available to concentrate on. I was originally focused on the two headlights but then I was very drawn to the scars and scrapes on the center of the tractor.  I tried to do what I could to try and make both areas stand out together, but wasn’t successful. Being a grunge collaboration, I concentrated on the scars and scrapes.  I really tried to bring out the red color of that portion of the tractor.  I used Picasa to do some soft focus enhancements to try and direct a little more attention to those scars and scrapes.  Had a great time with this.”

From Jim Denham:

Jim Denham's version of "I Will Survive"

Jim Denham's version of "I Will Survive

“Love tractors, and this one’s got some serious grit to it! I wanted to bring out the rusty color and texture, so I used two Topaz presets – Exposure Color Stretch and Clarify – selectively, along with a high pass sharpen. The surrounding setting was eating up the tractor, so applied a selective focus and reduced the saturation to make the tractor pop out at ya!”

From Rob Hanson:

Rob Hanson's version of "I Will Survive"

Rob Hanson's version of "I Will Survive"

“I took some liberties. 🙂

“First, I found that things just felt better if I flipped the image, and in my view it seemed to change the composition substantially. When I first worked with this new orientation, it seemed that the tractor was pulling a curved line of wreckage through the junkyard. Perhaps this has something to do with how westerners read from left to right, but I now see a clear vector starting from the willow tree, moving left along the line of junk, to the leftmost tractor grille, and then along through the subject, sort of like a rusty conga line. I don’t know, it just works for me, and whenever I flipped back to the original orientation that feeling was lost. With the discovery of that circular vector, and wanting to place this guy in his rightful place, I chose not to ‘hide’ the background junk, as it now seems an integral part of my theme.

“In keeping with the grunge motif, I wanted a decidedly post-apocalyptic feel without making the overall composition too dark. By creating a gloomy, atmospheric backdrop in the clouds and tree line I feel that the composition gained more depth, differentiating the lighter foreground from the dark background. Desaturating the image helped contribute to the gloaming. For the subject, I wanted to retain all of that rusty, gritty texture, and seeing a face in the trapezoidal front panel that reminded me of “The Scream” by Edvard Munch, I selected this area for a bit of extra treatment to call out that detail.

“This little guy has hope, thinking that he has prevailed over all the other poor, unfortunate wrecks. His proud stance; his vivid colors; his clear, baby blue eyes peering hopefully into the darkness all suggest that he’s a survivor of the junkyard apocalypse. Let’s not spoil his day by telling him it’s over.”

From Chris Nitz:

Chris Nitz's version of "I Will Survive"

Chris Nitz's version of "I Will Survive"

“I sat on these brackets for a few days before processing them. The tractor had my attention, but I had no idea what I wanted to do with it. It was rusty, broken down, and no longer working hard for the farmer who once owned it. This once vital piece of equipment now sits in a field left to rot.

“It did not hit me where I wanted to go with this image until I was merging the brackets into an HDR image. When I did this, there were several areas of detraction from the tractor. It was not until I moved this into a black and white photo that everything fell into place. At this point, the decay and rot called out to me. It screamed light leaks, noise, and textures. The black and white conversion help in drawing the eye back to the tractor. Everything else is there to help with the decrepit feeling.

Thanks to Rob for providing this fun set of brackets to play with.”

From Jesse Pafundi:

Jesse Padundi's version of "I Will Survive"

Jesse Padundi's version of "I Will Survive"

“When I see scenes like this, I usually look for something specific that really shows how time has taken it’s toll on the subject. In a case like this, overgrown grass taking its grip on the tractor is a tell tale sign how just how long it has been sitting here. I knew I wanted to maintain focus there.

“Now to the coolest part. I have a tendency to see inanimate objects as alive. My imagination tends to run wild from time to time, so I immediately noticed how this poor tractor seemed to be crying out for help. The lights as desperate eyes. The front opening as a gaping mouth pleading to be used. You see it now, don’t you? Yes, you do. Well, there’s my vision in a nutshell.”

From our Special Guest Contributor (Can you guess who?)

“Hey folks; Jacques “the Fotofreq” Gudé, here!  Oh, how I love me some Tractor!!  So, when Rob asked me If I’d be interested in being surprise guest processor on his awesome site, I jumped at the chance.  Thanks Rob!

“Once I had Rob’s brackets to work with, I knew I wanted to focus attention on the front end of the tractor, including the massive, cool engine.  So I post-processed and looked at my results; I was not happy!  But I sent it to Rob anyway, and asked for some critique.  Man, am I glad I did that, because I could see he was finding some of the same weaknesses in my work that I was.  Well, that just will not do!  After all, I’ve got a reputation, right?  So, back to the drawing board.

“THIS TIME, I decided I was going for the look you get when you lighting an object under a full moon.  I also wanted to give the shot a 3D look, which I did by dodging and burning depth into the various components of the tractor using my Wacom tablet.  The moral of the story is, if you don’t like your work when you’re done with it, it’s probably not up to par.  Thanks, Rob, for the honest and very helpful critique!”


Thanks, everyone, for a great collaboration project!

Please be sure to visit the web sites for each contributor. You’ll find some fabulous images and insights there on a regular basis. All links above open in a new browser tab or window, so have at it.


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Influences   13 comments

An old, dilapidated farmhouse in eastern North Carolina, as seen through the front door.

Open Door Policy

Our experience is influenced by many different things: Who you are with; who is not with you; what the weather is like; where you happen to be; what music you have on your iPod; even what you last ate. Any number of factors determine how we perceive and interact with our environment. Considering that array of variables, it’s no wonder that each of us has a unique photographic interpretation of the world around us.

Because of recent influences of some friends who shoot amazing grunge images, I found myself on a search for Urbex in the area in which I live, which is decidedly rural. Here in the south, unused commercial buildings quickly become flea markets and antique (junque) stores. A small, empty metal building becomes yet another church. We have no abandoned asylums or penitentiaries that I know of. Finally, I found a target that met certain requirements: It was solo, with no other active buildings around. It was a real pile. There were no dogs roaming free. It was ‘right close’ to the road, and the front door was already open… That’s not trespassing then, is it?

As it happened that day, I was alone, which is unusual. Though my radar was up, I was more relaxed and less rushed than I sometimes feel. I had my headphones on — another unusual move, as I usually listen for barking dogs and irate farmers. Perhaps this change of factors caused a shift in my awareness, influencing my perspective. As I looked into the building, rather than just pointing the camera and firing off the brackets, I found myself wondering, “How would my friends see this scene, and what would they do with it?” I wasn’t alone after all! All the friends whose work I admire were influencing the moment every bit as strongly as the other factors. I decided to move into that feeling.

Rather than staying safely ‘behind the lens’, which is where many photographers seem most comfortable, I wandered further into the environment while the Promote Control was doing its thing. I considered the old building, its history, and the lives of those who had once lived there. I stopped to smell the musty air coming through the boards. I looked at details with curiosity, wondering who would have left their boots in the hallway like that. I took a deep breath to connect with what I was feeling, and how the building itself was influencing my experience there. I realized that the experience I was having was just another passing moment in the long history of that building, in that field. I tried to imagine what it was like coming down the stairs for breakfast before going out to work on the farm, or how I might have dropped my muddy boots in the hallway after a long day, or what the farm was like before the highway off in the distance was built, or if I could have imagined a day when a photographer would wander in uninvited.

My perspective became less that of a photographer out looking for a neat shot, and more about being part of the ongoing experience of the house and its people, even if I was there for just a few moments. Further, the differences between that day and an “ordinary” shooting day helped me to understand how the images I see and the people I communicate with on a daily basis can influence how I perceive an experience.

It seems to me that this awareness is one step toward being able to effectively communicate that experience to others through photography.

More on this later, I’m sure.

Nikon D7000, Nikkor 17-55mm f/2.8 lens at 23mm (34mm), f/9, 13 exp. 1/125 – 2s. HDR Express merge, multiple tonemaps, Nik Color Efex Pro

How To Get A Buff Booty   1 comment

A buffing machine for boots at Peter Limmer and Sons, Bootmakers, in New Hampshire

This machine will get your booties looking nice and buff.

Located in the main workshop at Peter Limmer & Sons, Bootmakers, in Intervale, New Hampshire. Many thanks to Peter for letting me drag my camera rig throughout his shop.

For another image from this location, see They Never Call

Click on the image to see it larger in a new window on my Buildings Gallery.


Processing: This image was derived from nine exposures taken using Promote Control and later processed in Photomatix Pro 4. I tried other HDR programs on this set, but the results were less than stellar, especially with a fluorescent glow around some of the highlights. I cropped it pretty closely, and then sent it for a grunge treatment with OnOne Phototools Pro, painted in some NIK Color Efex Pro Midnight filter (thanks, Fotofreq!), and finalized it with Darken/Lighten Center from NIK.

They Never Call…   4 comments

An old, grungy telephone at Peter Limmer & Sons in Intervale, New Hampshire.
You know how it is. You give someone your number, and…

Inspired by a recent Brian Matiash webinar, I used onOne Phototools to grunge this scene up a bit, only to realize that it was pretty darned grungy to start with.

This old telephone — and one only slightly newer — can be found at Peter Limmer & Sons, Bootmakers, in Intervale, New Hampshire. The shop is a a curious and eclectic sort of place… just perfect for HDR. They do make a great boot, and I’m happy that Peter let me get a pair as well as grab some brackets.

(If you haven’t seen the HDR of the homeless Limmers in my photostream, visit Consigned )

The phone looks cool when viewed Extra Large, so please click on the image above to see it Extra Large in a new window.

This image was derived from a set of eleven exposures taken with the Promote Control. This worked out well, as the lighting was very dim in the shop. I merged and tonemapped them using Photomatix Pro 4, settling on settings that Matiash had suggested in his recent “Grunge” seminar.

I used several different filter effects from onOne Phototools to set up the grunge look, as well as the slightly blue cast in the windows. Following that with NIK Color Efex Pro Darken/Lighten Center (one of my favorites) and then a little dark vignetting seemed to work well.  Last thing was to block out the phone number that had been written on the shelf.  I was going to put in 867-5309, but does anyone really remember that song anymore?

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