I wanted to shoot something this weekend but I really couldn’t be bothered to go outside – how lazy is that!

If fairness the weather was horrid, it had been raining all weekend and while you can get some great shots in the rain, you tend to get wet.  And I didn’t fancy that.  So I had to decided on an indoor subject.  James went to his high school dance and got all dressed up in a suit and I nearly posted a picture of him.  But he doesn’t really like being on the blog so being the respectful Dad that I am :-) I decided to do something else.

I hadn’t shot any flowers in a while so Abi and I went out to see what we could find.  We went to QFC and saw some Gerbera’s that had great colors.  So we brought those and got home to take some shots.

This really is one of the simplest things to shoot.  I have a small reflector that has a black cover so it can be used as a flag and put that on a light stand in the kitchen.  Then I put a single speed light in a small soft box in front of the flower and grabbed the camera.

I took lots of pictures from all angles.  As the flower was quite a long way from the black reflector, that never got any light and appeared SUPER black.  I tried multiple apertures and ended up liking a shot at f/16.  As I was pretty close to the flower the smaller aperture ensured a wider depth of focus and the flower just looked better.

I shot the flower in the middle of the frame showing all its petals and off to one side.  In the end I liked this shot where some of the flower was cut off, this was also Lisa’s favorite so it’s the one I’m posting tonight.

As it’s mid-winter break and the schools were out I decided to take that day off work and spend some time with the family.  We didn’t really have any plans but figured we’d decide what to do on the day.

Unfortunately the weather wasn’t that great this morning – it was really raining hard, and it looked like tomorrow and the day after were going to have the same.  So we decided to just hang out at home and have a restful day.  Later in the day the skies cleared and the sun came out so we thought we should go somewhere and take some pictures.

At 4pm Lisa, Abi and I hit the road and drove to Seattle.  We thought we’d check out Discovery Park and maybe get a sunset shot out over Puget Sound.  At first we figured this was a great idea, but then we realized (after we left home) that we were about to encounter the Friday night rush hour traffic.  Fortunately this wasn’t too bad and we got to the park in about an hour.

The park is pretty big with a car park and visitor center at one end and trails leading you down to the beach.  The challenge we had is that we reached the park at 5pm, the sun was due to go down at 5:30 and it was a 40 minute walk to the lighthouse.  So I went into the visitor center and convinced them into giving me a car parking pass for the beach :-).  With this we were able to drive all the way through the park down to the beach, park up and get some nice pics.

We stayed there for nearly an hour taking pictures.  I got a few before the sun started to set, and then more when the sun was down behind the Olympics.  There was a little cloud in the sky and this lit up beautifully with the sky turning red.

Lisa asked for a few shots of her and Abi in profile and silhouette looking out to the sea.  Some of these came out really well but most had Abi clearly showing the cold (the wind had started to blow now), but one silhouette shot of them by the lighthouse looked nice so I’m posting that below.

Unfortunately the sun was setting off to the west (as you’d expect) but we were south of the lighthouse so I couldn’t get both in a picture together easily.  The other picture was shot with me facing north, nicely capturing the lighthouse and the red clouds in the sky – but no sun.

After an hour we were all starting to feel cold and headed home.  Not a long time out but the sunset was very pretty and we got some nice pictures.  So here are my images for this week.

This one was shot facing north where I just caught the lighthouse.  The sun was low in the sky and turned the clouds red.  It looked amazing and was an easy shot to take.

This was the shot of Lisa and Abi standing by the lighthouse.  The sun had pretty much gone down by now but it still provided enough light to make a nice image (Lisa liked it anyway).

Very interesting day yesterday. Abi had a Gym Meet in Bellevue so we all went to that (I say all, I obviously mean Abi, Lisa and I – James stayed at home on his computer). Anyway Abi walked on at 4:30 in the afternoon and the competition finished at 8:30pm.

She did amazingly well and came first in Beam, Bar and Vault and second in Floor, and first overall with a total score of 37.1 a whole point above her nearest competitor. I suspect she was slightly disadvantaged on floor as she was the first person to compete, so the judges base other scores off her! Bottom line it’s always really better to go somewhere in the middle of the pack – that said she was amazing. (Very proud Dad)

What made the day especially interesting was the weather. I should call out that when I left home to go to the meet (around 4pm) it was dry outside. The day had been cold but clear, even with some lovely blue skies. Anyway while at the meet it started to snow.

When we left the gym the snow was sticking and the roads were just terrible. People where sliding all over the place, hitting curbs and cars and it was pretty dangerous.

Lisa and I were in different cars and I got out of their first and headed home. I got on the 520 freeway and the traffic came to a halt around 2 miles from the end of the road. We just weren’t moving at all so in frustration I followed some other cars who exited the freeway by traveling the wrong way off the 520 by driving up the on ramp.

I then cut through back streets (witnessing multiple accidents) and got to the bottom of Novelty hill (we live up a big hill separating Redmond from Duvall.)

Needless to say I was keeping Lisa up to date on my progress over the phone, telling her the state of the roads, so she got to the bottom of Novelty around the same time as me. We tried to get up the hill but it just wasn’t happening, cars that were further up the hill from us had given up, turned round and came down. People told us the road was un-passable and there were too many abandoned cars from failed attempts.

Eventually (after not going anywhere for a while) we gave up too and turned round and tried another hill to get home. This also proved to be impossible and once again we had to turn around and head back to Redmond.

By now it was 10pm and we were hungry and tired. Lisa called the Redmond Marriott and got us a room and we headed there for the night. When she called they were at 40% capacity, when we got there they were nearly full. I called James and told him what was going on and he was fine, said he’d see us in the morning.

At 9am I got Lisa and Abi up, we grabbed some breakfast and headed home (again). We made it up Novelty Hill this time but had to pass around 60 abandoned cars that had been left on the hill. In some places the road was down to a single lane there were just so many cars!

Eventually I made it home and pulled up outside our house that was covered in snow and looked great, so I grabbed a picture of that!

I walked in the house and found James still on his computer in the same clothes.  Apparently with neither Lisa or I there he decided to stay up all night and play games – oh to be 16 again :-(

So today I’m posting two pictures. Abi on the 1st position podium and our house in the snow.

Like I said, an interesting day. :-)

Those that check out my pictures know that I like HDR images.  I know that this isn’t to everyone’s taste but I just love the way they look.  Anyway much to my frustration Lisa doesn’t like HDR photography at all and tells me the images look fake.

I definitely agree that HDR doesn’t work in all situations and you can easily overdo the processing (something I’m guilty of too sometimes).  When I got home I shot the house and bracketed 6 exposures – all one stop apart.

I then threw them all into Photomatix to see what it would produce.  The result was just horrible.  Sure the image had better dynamic range but just looked terrible.

When processing HDR the tone mapping tool (I like Photomatix) is just the beginning, you then need to stack the original images with the tone mapped version in layers in photoshop.  Then the work begins.  You manually blend layers together to produce the desired end result.

Then you denoise the image, add any filter effects (Topaz, NIK or OnOne provide great tools for this) and finally sharpen.

The image above took a while as snow and HDR don’t like each other :-)  This image was a combination of the six original pictures, the Photomatix tone mapped image, an HDR Topaz Adjust image and several NIK color effects filters.

I tried to keep the end result as subtle as possible – hopefully Lisa will like this one.

This picture however, I know she will like :-)  Abi once again in fist place – like I said above, very proud Dad.

This week I’ve not been very well, horrid cold with cough and incessant sniffing – you know the sort of thing – I even had time off work (quite unusual for me).  But I still wanted to post a picture this weekend but didn’t have anything recent.

Yesterday at work the ten thousand Microsoft Operating Systems Group (OSG) team members took to the soccer field to spell out a huge 12th man tribute for the Seattle Seahawks.  I was actually asked to stand on the roof of one of the buildings overlooking the field to take some pictures, but as I was off sick I couldn’t be there.  That was going to be my planned picture!

So here I was Saturday morning with nothing.  Also as it was raining outside and I still had the cold, I wasn’t going out, so I needed to shoot something indoors.

Being a little anally retentive I actually have a list of photo ideas that are categorized (yes I know this is nuts) into photography genre’s and locations.  So I hit my list and found and idea that I’ve wanted to do for a while – shoot a lightbulb with it’s filament lit up.

The goal is to have a lightbulb floating in the air with no visual support but with the filament hot.  I mean how hard can that be?  Well it appears the answer is “not very hard at all”.

To set up I placed a pop-up black backdrop against a wall, and attached a lamp holder to a light stand.  I plugged the lamp holder into the ceiling light that has a dimmer switch, that way I could adjust the power on the bulb so it wasn’t too hot.

Then I took a load of pictures.  I played with the dimmer and the exposure setting to get the best result – this took around 10 shots.  The image looked great but it was a little boring.  So I grabbed a single speed light and put a blue filter on it.  The speed light was shot at the backdrop with a little kiss of light on the bulb and the result was much better.

Now I had the bulb element.  Next I unplugged the bulb and suspended it unlit from the light stand and took some more pictures.  This got me the bulbs screw-in connector.

Finally it was time to hit Photoshop.  I selected the best filament picture and the best screw connector picture and blended them together.   The finished result is the image below.

This sounds like a lot of work but the whole exercise took less than an hour – from set up to pack away – this included the time needed to create the finished image in Photoshop.

So this is my picture for this week.