Oh, what a difference a daylight balance makes.

Simon_tungstHere are two more HDR's from last Saturday night, this time of the Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center, part of the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis, IN. In the case of the photo above, I set the white balance on the camera to the Tungsten setting, although often I will set the white balance with a gray card based on whatever weird lighting is on the scene.

Compare that with the version shot with daylight balance below. Both look pretty good, and it's a matter of preference, but I like the heightened contrast between warm and cool colors, as well as the deeper blue sky, in the tungsten version.


The software I use to create and tone-map HDR's, Photomatix, does allow adjustment of white balance, but I find that setting rather limited in the range of adjustments. Therefore, I always consider doing multiple exposure series at different white balance settings.

HDR with a little "Strobist" thrown in

East Gate-westate
Last Saturday evening, my friend Ron Wise and I did a little exploring on the campus of IUPUI (Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapois) for some HDR opportunities. I actually had an assignment from the University for some general photos of a few select campus buildings and some sculpture art on extended loan from museums.

One shot on my list was "East Gate/West Gate" a very large (about 25 feet tall) tubular structure that almost looks as though it could have been inspired by and M. C. Escher illustration. One of my acquaintances, who shall remain nameless, described it as "two ampersands in a coital entanglement." (Actually, that's a paraphrase on my part to avoid usage of a certain 4-letter verb which often doubles as an adjective.)

Anyway, where the client was no doubt visualizing a standard daylight photo, I wanted to explore this unique shape under night lights.

The result is at the top.

The building in the background is University Library, and an HDR image preserves detail in the lit interior as well as the exterior shadows. The metal of the sculpture did a good job of picking up the other light sources in the area, but with the camera still on the tripod, I added pops from a gel-ed Vivitar 283 to put some color into the image. Ron was pressing the shutter release and watching to be sure I didn't venture into the frame as I held a Pocket-Wizard-fired Vivitar 283. For these exposures, I used a much shorter shutter speed to capture mostly just the light from the flash and not a lot of ambient light.

I hit it from all four corners in separate exposures with both a red and blue gel, and also with a full CTO, which was effectively white light since my white balance was very close to Tungsten light. In post production, I layered two exposures with the blue gel at camera left and two with the red gel at camera right into a single image with the "Lighten" blending mode. This varied the colors from red to purple to blue. The flash image was layered over the HDR to impart the color onto the sculpture, again with the "Lighten" blending mode.

UPDATE: Here is an interesting video that gives a little information about the East Gate/West Gate sculpture, created by artist Sasson Soffer (1925-1973), and shows the process of moving it to it's current location by helicopter. It includes an interesting aerial tour of downtown Indianapolis.

Welcome Back, Steve

Steve Jobs, his razor stubble, and his black turtleneck will soon be returning to Apple's Cupertino Campus according to recent business news reports. That's not a surprise, as a late-June return date was announced at the time he went on his self-imposed hiatus. What IS a surprise is the he will be bringing with him a replacement liver.

My first gut reaction is some squeamishness. Not at the thought of swapped internal organs, but at the thought that investors may feel deceived about the severity of Jobs' health difficulties. Last we heard, it was a "hormone imbalance" and/or a "nutritional problem." It sounded like he needed rest and herbal tea, not an organ transplant.

I hate to say it, but I feel Apple may be lucky to elude SEC scrutiny over this. Especially after the last year, where Wall Street ran completely amok with opaque investment vehicles, deceptive and irresponsible loan practices, and probably outright lies to shareholders, the government and the public at large, we need transparency more than ever.

I respect Jobs' privacy and am sympathetic with him to the extent that I wouldn't want certain aspects of my health condition made generally known. Keeping a lid on this is understandable from a business standpoint, as there are always unreasonably wild stock price fluctuations every time Steve gets so much as a sniffle. It doesn't bother me that he kept personal health issues personal (especially since I'm not an Apple shareholder), but some investor-type people take this kind of thing seriously. Too seriously, perhaps.

While the possible appearance of deception may be troubling, it may also have been one of the smartest things Jobs could do for Apple to step down for half a year. Just as the L.A. Lakers' Kobe Bryan recently had the chance to prove he could steer his team to a national championship without Shaq, Apple has had six months to show they can run their business without Jobs calling every signal every day. Several new computers have been unveiled since Jobs stepped aside. Prominent Apple application suites like iLife and iWork have been updated and the development of the "Snow Leopard" operating system has proceeded apace and is on schedule for fall release. And, just a couple of weeks ago, a new iPhone was unveiled and sold a million plus units in it's first few days on the market.

The only possible clinker was the iPod Shuffle released back in March (which I previously discussed here and here), but just because it doesn't appeal to me doesn't mean it does not have a market.

The important thing is, Apple has shown it will not become the equivalent of the Scarecrow without a brain should Jobs disappear from the scene. Maybe now there won't be a massive selloff of stock the next time Steve has a hangnail.


Color Me Any Color - Yeah, Let's Gel!

I've stumbled across a few references recently on the web about ways to attach gels to portable flash. Most of the methods discussed are rather rough, referring to rubber bands or gaffer tape. It thought I'd share a way I've found to easily and securely attach gels to my Vivitar units.

090619_gel_1a.jpgThis simple, easy, and cheap method comes courtesy of plastic name tag holders. These are readily available at office supply stores, and many of you have probably packratted away a few of them already if you ever attend or work at seminars, sports events, or other credentialed or "managed access" events. The one's I've used measure about 3 1/4" by 4 1/4". Some have clips to attach to lapels or pockets, others have lanyards. It doesn't matter which you have, because we are only using about the bottom two thirds of the holder anyway (uncut and cut-down tag holders seen here).

090619_gel_3a.jpgFor the Vivitar 285/285HV (seen amber-gelled at right), you will want to cut the holder's height down to about two inches. Try to cut it for a rather snug fit so it does not want to slide out as you hand hold the flash in different positions or, heaven forfend, if you use the flash in the hot shoe and turn the camera vertically. Different holders have different degrees of "flex" so I can't give a precise measurement that will work with every tag holder.

Now, just cut some gels to fit, slide the holder into the diffuser/filter holder built into the 285/285HV, and you're good to go. The gels will be less prone to wrinkle and allow unfiltered light leaks, your gels will last longer, and no tape or rubber bands are needed.

I nip off the corners of the gels so they better fit in the rounded corners of the typical name tag holder. Think of it as releasing your inner Commander Adama.

If you cut the tag holder slightly too narrow and it slides out too easily, or if the holder begins to get some wear on it, a couple of thicknesses of Scotch Magic Transparent across the bottom (as I did on the 285HV gel holder above) should restore sufficient friction to keep it in place without causing you any noticeable light loss. And, sorry, but freebie sample gels are really not large enough for this method. You just may have to shell out for a few actual gel sheets.

090619_gel_2a.jpgMy preferred flash is the Vivitar 283, and this same method works with the 283's accessory lens/filter adapter. I have about six of these and if you don't have one yet, they are available on eBay for ten bucks or less. While you're at it, pick up a lens kit LK-1 (also around ten bucks) so you can concentrate the light where you want it and compensate for some of the light loss from the gels (see red-gelled 283 with "L. Tele" lens at left).

Gel holders for the 283's lens/filter adapter need to be cut to about 2 3/8", but again, this is a guideline. Cut it slightly large, test fit, shave a little more off as necessary for a snug fit.

Are you gellin'? I am SO gellin'.


But what about poor A-Rod?

Sarah Palin, continuing her dogged attempt to stretch her fifteen minutes of fame into 2012, last week expressed outrage at a joke made by David Letterman. Letterman had unleashed a quip implying that, during a Yankees game attended by members of the Palin family, Palin's daughter had been impregnated by New York third-sacker Alex Rodriguez.

In my opinion, the biggest problem with that joke, surpassing any offense to the Palin family, is that it's just not funny. In an apology by Letterman on Monday night, he called the joke "coarse," which I would characterize as an understatement. I think it was an honest mistake on Letterman's part to assume the daughter attending the game was famed unwed Palin mom, Bristol. (Poor Bristol. All she got at home was "abstinence only," so she and Levi didn't know they needed to roll on Mr. Trojan EVERY TIME.) Even if it had been Bristol at the game, the joke still wouldn't have been funny, but it at least might have had some relevance. In fact it was a different weirdly-named Palin daughter who was at the game, and she happened to be 14 years old. That effectively turned Letterman's jibe into a joke about statutory rape, and that's never funny.

In response to the apology, Palin said, "Letterman certainly has the right to 'joke' about whatever he wants to, and thankfully we have the right to express our reaction. And this is all thanks to our U.S. military women and men putting their lives on the line for us to secure America's right to free speech."

Good job, Governor. It should have been a simple "apology accepted," but you were able to turn it into a morsel of patriotic red meat national defense rhetoric for the right-wing. Keep that up for three more years, and they might actually remember who you are in 2012 after all.

The person I feel sorry for most in this fiasco has been the one most ignored: A-Rod. Granted, he's not exactly the poster boy for marital fidelity, but he's done nothing I am aware of to warrant being painted as a connoisseur of jailbait.

Hey, Dave! How 'bout some love (and an apology) for A-Rod?


Giving new meaning to "rudderless"

The Republican Party is in serious trouble, therefore we are ALL in serious trouble.

I gave very serious consideration to voting for John McCain in '08 (compared to having given no serious consideration AT ALL to George W. Bush in '00 and '04). I did this mainly on the grounds that I thought a heavily Democratic congress needed the counterbalance of a Republican in the White House. But as the campaign wore on, the economy continued to worsen, due in large part to policies authored by Republicans like former McCain economic advisor Phil Gramm.

In the supposed masterstroke of the McCain campaign, a dingbat former beauty queen was chosen as running mate. And as election day neared, I could not escape the perception that Obama was young and agile, and McCain was old, inflexible and ineffective. After all that, I just couldn't bring myself to pull the elephant lever.

But I stand by my initial logic. Everybody knows the Democrats will destroy the country if left unchecked. Just like the Republicans did from '01 thru '06.

So I'm pullin' for the Republicans. I really am. But it's not looking good.

This is brought home by a Gallup poll released last week that showed that 47% of Republicans could not name anyone they perceive as "speaking for their party." Think of that. The winning candidate among the minority party is "none of the above."

John Dickerson of Slate.com points out that it's perfectly normal for a party to find itself with no clear leader after being shellacked at the polls as the GOP has been in '06 and '08. Just look at the Democrats in '94.

But the problem for the GOP goes deeper than a mere leadership vacuum. The top four people GOP faithful named as "speaking for us" ranked in inverse order to any sense of reason or logic. In a virtual tie for number one was crackpot, bomb-throwing radio entertainer Rush Limbaugh and occasionally ethically-challenged blowhard Newt Gingrich with 10% each. Both are better suited and better paid to speak into media microphones than in the well of the Senate, so their claim to party leadership rings hollow.

Next up with 9% is the smirking, fear-spreading, warmongering, shooting-friends-in-the-face-ing Prince of Darkness himself, Dick Cheney. One of the least-loved figures in a disgraced administration, Cheney inexplicably keeps finding microphones in his face. One wonders how many Republicans really perceive him as a leader and how many "just saw him on the television last night." Ranking even below Cheney is John McCain (6%). He is a welcome voice of reason in the Senate, but if his showing in the '08 campaign is any indication, his party leadership chops need a lot of work.

"Other" and "Nobody" combined for a total of 31% of Republican respondents, which beats the top 3 combined. Factor in "No Opinion" (29%) and you have a filibuster-proof majority.

Names that surfaced in the poll which actually make some vague sense as party leaders were former Governor Mitt Romney, Representative John Boehner, and the guy who theoretically IS the leader of the GOP, party chairman Michael Steele. Steele and Romney each got 2%, and Boehner got an asterisk, which denotes "less than 0.5%." By the way, this puts Boehner in a tie with George W. Bush in the poll. Make of that what you will.

Especially now that one party has a death grip on the reigns of power, we as Americans NEED a viable opposition party to foster debate and critical thought on the vital initiatives before us today. But sadly, right now the Republicans probably would be hard-pressed to muster the votes to get anchovies removed from the congressional pizza order. And this poll seems to indicate the self-identifying members of the party are, at least for now, selecting as leaders those who will only take them further down the path of destruction.