Archive for the ‘Mike Criswell’ Tag

Inland Sailor – An HDR Collaboration Project   19 comments


The HDR Collaboration Project: In each round, one photographer provides a set of image brackets to the group, and we apply our personal style in post-processing the set. The person who provides the brackets posts the results, and as most would agree, it’s fascinating to discover how each contributor ‘sees’ the same scene. 


Oh, the guff I took over this one!

As we were emailing each other for the latest project, I asked the group what genre of brackets they’d like this time. A mighty chorus of one chimed in with “waterscape.”  So be it: Let’s see what I’ve got in the library.

One potential bracket set had 11 frames, but with a heavy sun flare and dust spots, I thought it would be more effort than they’d like to endure. Another composition was decent, but nothing all that spectacular.  “Okay, I like this other one,” I thought as I uploaded my chosen bracket set to DropBox.

What I’ve learned is that one should never present a paltry three-bracket set to these Big Guns without expecting a lot of ribbing about a simple -2/0/+2 EV set. You’ll see how they processed that sad bit of information in their comments below each picture. They’re all friends, so I don’t mind giving them a place to vent their rage.  🙂

So, why I did I have the audacity – the unmitigated gall – to present only three exposures to this pool of talent?  Allow me to explain:

We were in Maine, on Mount Desert Island, one of the most scenic places I know.

Many died that night. Four, in fact. There were horrible cracking noises, much gnashing of teeth, moaning, slurping… and a good bit of drawn butter. Susan and I had gone to the southwest side of the island to Thurston’s Lobster Pound, one of the best in the area. We were all over those lobsters like crazed squirrels on a feeder. (If you’re unfamiliar with a lobster pound, it’s a restaurant directly on the docks at the waterfront, where lobster boats unload their daily catch. The bugs go into holding tanks near the cash register, and you can choose, name, and give last rites to your dinner before it gets hauled off to the steamer. You can’t get a fresher Maine lobster.)

We finished dinner and went back to our campsite at Somes Sound, then decided to go out onto the camp’s dock to catch the setting sun. This dock was a challenge in the best of circumstances. Made of aluminum sections, it extended about 80 yards over the water, but as you walked it, it wobbled back and forth pretty badly. By the time I got to the end, I figured it would be best to flop on my belly and get low for stability. There was no way to stabilize a tripod there, and besides, I wanted a perspective as low as possible to the water.

That taught me another lesson: Never roll around on your belly after filling it with a bunch of lobster.  Being in a bit of discomfort, I set the camera to bracket and fired off a quick, handheld set of three.

Most of the photographers here routinely take bracket sets of 5, 7, 9, and 11 or 13 is not unheard of. When the chorus of indignant howls came up from the group, I told them, “Suck it up! Go back to your roots.”  We all pretty much started our exploration of HDR with minimal sets of three, so I thought it would be a good exercise to revisit that idea. As it turned out, the three frames provided plenty of dynamic range to keep these pros happy, and in my opinion, they all did a fantastic job, expressing their individuality on a fairly classic situation.

Following are the versions from myself, Mike “TheaterWiz” CriswellJim DenhamScott FrederickMark GarbowskiJacques “FotoFreq” GudéMark Gvazdinskas, and Bob Lussier. Each photographer represented here has a body of work that speaks volumes to their talents. Please be sure to visit their sites by clicking the links associated with each name.


Inland Sailor by Rob Hanson :


Inland Sailor by Mike “Theaterwiz” Criswell :

Inland Sailor by Mike 'Theaterwiz' Criswell


“Thanks for the cool brackets Rob, I really like the scene, they actually came together quite nice, and a nice steady hand I might add.

“I ran all three brackets through Photomatix, although it faulted out and asked where the other 6 to 9 brackets were at, after I got past that hurdle I went through some normal fixes, then decided I wanted to do something a bit different with the processing, at least different for me. I used OnOne Perfect Effects and only perfect effects. I had about 3 different versions and finally decided on this one. Although I do not remember the exact effects I used, I know a few were from the landscape presets and I added a cloud texture as well. I was having so much fun with the different effects and how to use them I was happier creating that taking notes. After I was finished with OnOne I chose a different crop, to narrow the field of vision a bit, I liked the result. Thanks again Rob!”


Inland Sailor by Jim Denham :

Inland Sailor by Jim Denham


“What a beautiful scene Rob has presented for us. A gorgeous sunset over a calm inland bay. Fantastic Rob – thanks for sharing!

“In the normal banter that takes place amongst this group, a few folks were giving Rob a hard time for supplying an image with only 3 brackets and, in response, Rob said, “Suck it up; go back to your roots,” and that’s what I did. No presets, only some layering in Elements and final touches in Aperture. I loved the sky and wanted to darken it up a bit to bring out the colors. Also loved the rocky shore to camera left and wanted to make sure it stayed illuminated and sharp. I thoroughly enjoyed this set Rob, thanks for taking care of us this round!”


Inland Sailor by Scott Frederick :

Inland Sailor by Scott Frederick


“This was a great set to work on by Rob Hanson for two reasons.  I don’t get a lot of chances to shoot scenes like this and our collaboration group has a tendency to edit grungier brackets, so this was a refreshing change! I had two runs at this image.  The first pass through Photomatix without the de-ghosting option enabled allowed some ghosting of the trees in the water to bug me a little.  So back through Photomatix to take care of that!  Also Rob shot this scene handheld with 3 brackets at 2EV spacing and I must admit, I was very happy with the results that these brackets 3 brackets gave me while tone-mapping.  Next was off to Photoshop CS5 for some lens correction to fix the distortion and CA, a little noise reduction with Nik’s Dfine and some sharpening with Nik’s RAW Pre-Sharpener.  Next I fired up onOne’s Perfect Effect 3 and applied a few filters before bringing the images back to CS5 to apply some Un-Sharp Mask to the boats, trees and rocks!  As always, I finished the image off in Aperture 3 with subtle contrast and brightness adjustments, curves and levels and some saturation adjustments!  Thank you Rob for hosting this round and providing this fun set to work with!”


Inland Sailor by Mark Garbowski :

Inland Sailor by Mark Garbowski


“Never apologize in this group. That’s the lesson from this round. Rob made excuses as he posted the image for us to work with this week, because it only had 3 brackets, and we greedy folks are used to a minimum of 5 and as many as 11. So of course we all teased him before we even looked at them. And of course there was no need for any excuses.

“I loved working on these. I first made a version that enhanced the original golden hour look, and did that mostly in Nik Color Efex 4. Then I created a blue version in the latest update of OnOne’s Perfect Suite. While still in that powerful new suite, I pulled the golden version in as a layer and blended them using the masks and layer feature in the suite. The end result is I flipped the image from golden hour to blue hour. My final move was to crop out most of the sky and foreground, emphasizing the elements of interest in the horizon and creating a bit of a panoramic feel.”


Inland Sailor by Jacques “Fotofreq” Gudé :

Inland Sailor by Jacques "Fotofreq" Gudé


“At first, when I saw this set of brackets, I thought to myself: Oh, No! A landscape shot!  I’m not a landscape dude.  How the heck am I gonna do this?  So, I left them there on my desktop, not sure what I wanted to do to with them.  Fast forward to about a week later, and I was in a Google Hangout with my boys, Rob Hanson and Bob Lussier, I believe a day or two before Thanksgiving.  Heck, I’d completely forgotten about these brackets, when Rob asked something along the lines of: “So, when are you two going to get those brackets done.  No rush, but I wanted to post them RIGHT NOW!”  Ok, so maybe not that moment, but he wanted them soon.  Turns out Bob and I were holding up the crew.  It’s done when it’s done, right?

“A couple days later (Black Friday), while most of America (probably exaggerating here, but not much) were out shopping, I found myself a nice “quite” corner in a Starbucks near my hotel and went to work.  I ran the brackets through Photomatix and HATED what I was getting there.  Dang!! What to do?  I know!  DRI (aka Dynamic Range Increase)!  Or at least I think that’s what they call it when you merge (or blend) your brackets together manually.  I’d done this once before, and loved the result.  So I opened all the brackets up in Photoshop CS 5 and went to work, painting in here and painting out there until I had a nice canvas to play with.  I was already digging what I saw and the tunes I was working with (First Hans Zimmer’s Last Samurai soundtrack, and then his Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s Ends soundtrack.) were REALLY inspiring me.  I used various blend modes to get particular looks I wanted as I my drawing hand danced around my Wacom table: here a brush stroke, there a stroke, everywhere a stroke, stroke).  A little dodge here, a little burn there, and I even learned a few new techniques in Photoshop along the way; that happens when you are after a particular look somewhere on your canvas and are not sure how to go about creating said effect, which is ALWAYS good.  Finally, and I was done, and I was digging what I saw.”


Inland Sailor by Mark Gvazdinskas :

Inland Sailor by Mark Gvazdinskas


“What a fun set of brackets, Rob! One of my favorite things to do when new brackets are dropped is to blindly put them into Photomatix and drool at the possibilities.

“I put on my “Kiss the Cook” apron and deep fried the heck out of this one.  The second I loaded the brackets I noticed the clouds and the reflection. I hated to take out the amazing detail in those gorgeous clouds but felt this was the perfect opportunity to do some practice in OnOne’s Perfect Effects. In order to give this a long exposure feel I first did a full strength radial blur layer. I then added a glow to the sky and water to give that glassy appearance. I always like the warmth I get out of my 10 stop and wanted to create a feel like that so went a little crazy with the colors here. I was going to do a sharpening layer for the boats as Photomatix always seems to take a bit of that tact-sharp feel out of the image, but decided to leave them be giving somewhat of a blurred effect as if the shutter was open for 30+ seconds and the boats would be rocking. Finally I added a pretty heavy vignette. All editing done within Perfect Effects and Layers. This software is just something else.

“All in all an absolute blast to work on this gorgeous set. Thanks for the opportunity to destroy your pretty shot, Rob!”


Inland Sailor by Bob Lussier :

Inland Sailor by Bob Lussier


“Thanks to Mr. Hanson for providing a great set of brackets to work with. And, from one of my favorite places to shoot Acadia National Park, Mt Desert Island, Maine.  I have probably driven past this little harbor dozens of times over the years but, unlike Rob never had the vision to stop and shoot it! So thanks for looking out for me, Rob!

“I used this opportunity to play around a bit with onOne’s new Perfect Photo Suite. I figured, since it was Rob’s image I would potentially be screwing up, I had nothing to lose! After running the three brackets through Photomatix, I pulled them into the Photo Suite. I ran the “Daily Vitamin” filter on it, which boosted the local contrast and punched up the colors a bit with emphasis on the blues in the sky. I then went to the “Glow” tab and added some “Deep Forest.” I really love how the shore, boats and treelike are mirrored in this image, so I wanted to bring back some of the contrast. I added one more layer in onOne and painted in some “lighten” tonal adjustment on the boats, dock, house and some of the rocks on the left shoreline.

Thanks again, Rob!”



Thanks for your entries, gentlemen. See you for the next round.


“Inner Beauty” – An HDR Collaboration Project   20 comments


Once again, the HDR Collaboration team came up with a nice variety of results given a single set of brackets! Players this week are Mike “Theaterwiz” Criswell, Jim Denham, Mark Garbowski, Jacques Gudé, Scott Frederick, Bob Lussier, and myself, Rob Hanson.

If this is your first time seeing the collaboration project, a few of us get together online and share one photographer’s HDR bracket set, applying our own vision, aesthetic and punishment to the pixels. Whoever provides the set collates the results in a blog post. Sometimes the processing is pretty straightforward, while at other times there are specific challenges involved. This week is one of those times, as I tried my best to throw a few curve balls into the mix.  Looking at the results, I find it fascinating that everyone seemed to take a distinctly different approach in handling the challenges, and that’s the beauty of the collaboration project: In one place, you get to see a number of different perspectives and interpretations of the same scene.

This photo set of an old Chevy was taken while on a day cruise through Walnut Cove, NC.  My head snapped around as I saw a number of old cars and trucks parked in an oak grove just off the road. Turning back into what looked like a small, private road servicing a few houses, I looked for someone to ask permission to shoot. Failing that, I started firing away at various scenes in this great location, hoping that no one would object. (Other subjects from this site can be seen in Dodge This!, Peelings, Nothing More Than Peelings…, and Found On Road Dead, Literally.) When I thought about it later, it was probably not an issue. Whoever owned the collection put it out by the road so that others could enjoy it.

This is what the Chevy looked like from the outside. Don’t ask me what the buzz-saw attachment is about — I don’t know, but I want one for my Prius!

An old Chevy truck with a buzz saw attachment sits in the woods near Walnut Cove, North Carolina

Inner Beauty -- Outer Danger


Moving to the driver’s window, I set the tripod as close as possible and fired off eleven exposures with the Promote Control, using a Nikkor 17-55mm f/2.8 lens at 28mm, f/6.3. Setting the focus point was difficult given the circumstances, so I honed in on the Chevrolet logo on the dashboard. This presented one processing challenge: Dealing with the out-of-focus window frame and steering wheel. It was also one of my first shots of the day, and I hadn’t noticed that I neglected to set the white balance from a custom indoor setting I had been using back to Auto!  All the original RAW files came out with a distinctively cold, blue cast, and this is what I gave to the team. As you’ll see, some of the boys made interesting choices with respect to these two conditions.

Please be sure to visit the blog sites for my friends… just click on their names and their blog sites will open in a new window or browser tab. They are a highly talented group of photographers, and I’m delighted to know them and share in this project. When you visit the sites, the very best way to stay in tune with them and our future projects is to subscribe to the blogs, so I’d like to encourage you to do so. You can also click on each picture to open it in a new window or browser tab.

Without further ado, here is “Inner Beauty” as seen through the eyes of seven photographers, along with each contributor’s notes about their processing choices. Please Enjoy!


Mike “Theaterwiz” Criswell says:

“Thanks for the great Rusty and Crusty brackets Rob, I enjoyed processing them. I wanted to do something really wild with this set but work and things slammed me this week, so I had to go for more traditional processing. Thanks for the heads up on the WB, that was a quick fix. I wanted to Highlight the steering wheel and dashboard, and all those juicy, rusty,cobweb covered details. I chose to crop this a bit and eliminate the rear view mirror and place the wheel and dash in a more favorable spot, at least as I saw it. I used my normal processing tools of NIK, OnOne, Photomatix and Topaz, bits and pieces of each. Thanks again for the brackets Rob.”

"Inner Beauty" by Mike 'Theaterwiz' Criswell


Jim Denham says: “Another cool set of brackets to manipulate this round – thanks Rob! Rob gave us the heads up on the white balance early on for this image, so that was the first order of business. After taking care of that, merging and tone mapping, the main thing I wanted to highlight in the image was the surface rust on the inside of the vehicle. I especially liked the radio sticking up in the front seat – reminded me of old days! Used the Spicify preset in Topaz Adjust to bring out that rusty color, then also applied the Portrait Smooth preset on the windows to take a bit of the clarity out and make them a bit more real with the age of the windows. It’s a cool shot for sure! Thanks Rob!”

"Inner Beauty" by Jim Denham


Mark Garbowski says: “It’s been a while since Rob supplied the image, so this was a treat. The white balance was way off, but the fix was easier than I feared. There didn’t seem to be a clean white or grey point to sample, but the rusted chrome “Chevrolet” strip on the dash actually sufficed and Aperture nailed the correction. I also wanted to soften the out of focus window frame in the foreground without changing Rob’s original focal plane. Apart from those issues, I wanted saturation on the wood veneer, and detail on all of the other interior elements. I tried to keep everything else minimalist and realistic.”

"Inner Beauty" by Mark Garbowski


Jacques Gudé says: “Man! It’s been awhile since I had so much fun working a set of brackets.  Thanks, Rob!  I love anything old and forgotten, and I LOVE trucks, tractors, and just about anything else on wheels.  As I have in the past, I really gave myself permission to go wild with this one.  My idea was to make this shot look like it was shot under a full moon, with the outside cold and scary, while the inside was lit by the warm glow of an old bulb flickering in the ceiling of the cabin. Once I wet through my routine of applying some of my favorite Nik Software filters, and my special sauce, I spent a few minutes burning in a couple of shadow areas to highlight some of the key elements of the dash, the steering wheel and the radio in the center console.  I was pretty dang pleased with how this one came out.  Your tastes may vary! ;-)”

"Inner Beauty" by Jacques Gudé


Scott Frederick says: “Thanks to Rob Hanson for supplying these great brackets.  I tend to shoot wide so It’s nice to work on some closeups!  I like the way he composed this shot through the window.  I just wanted to do a clean simple edit and make the colors muted.  I had a blast working on the set.”

"Inner Beauty" by Scott Frederick


Bob Lussier says: “Thanks to Rob for sharing his ride with us this week! I hope your moonshine deliveries weren’t late because you took the time to shoot your truck! Seriously, there is nothing like the Inner Beauty of an old car, and this one is classic. The challenge was the fact that the brackets were shot at the wrong white balance setting. I chose to mitigate that rather than embrace it. I warmed things up a bit after tonemapping. I also noticed the focus was sharper on dashboard, leaving the steering wheel slightly soft. That fact, I decided to embrace. I applied an Orton effect to help give the image a soft glow overall. Hope you like it!”

"Inner Beauty" by Bob Lussier


Rob Hanson says: “One of the reasons that I submitted this particular set is that doing so gives me an idea of how other photographers address distracting elements in an image. I was not disappointed, as I think the solutions and the distinctly different feel of each version shows how many roads there are to a great picture. The crew did very well on this go-around!

“After setting a new White Balance, I ran the set through various programs to see which would work best. As usual, I wound up using an amalgam of output from Photomatix Pro, HDR Express, and Photoshop’s Merge to HDR Pro. Each program has its particular strengths. From there, I found that the background foliage and trees provided too much of the same tonal range found in the cab — all brown — so I included some of the blue cast found in the originals, although I toned it down in terms of cast color and exposure. This helps to show that the truck is sitting in the woods, and at the same time, I think the bluish color works well with the tan and rust tones of the truck, and creates a spooky mood outdoors.

“Beyond that, work was done to draw one’s attention to the emblem and dashboard, the radio, and the door panel while minimizing the distraction of the other elements. I generally use Nik Color Efex Pro filters and Photoshop CS5 adjustment layers. A good dose of Nik’s Tonal Contrast and sharpening on those key elements helped to bring out the “ick” factor. I finished it off with a slight crop.”

"Inner Beauty" by Rob Hanson

Thanks for playing, everyone!  It’s always great fun, and very informative.


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