HDR is Here to Stay

Here’s a good article on HDR and how it relates to photography and even storm and news reporting. A pretty balanced and informative article. Give it a read.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/capital-weather-gang/wp/2014/08/14/is-hdr-photography-enhancing-or-defiling-how-we-see-weather-and-nature-photos/

Below is an example HDR in the article.

Capital Weather Gang HDR example

An example given.

Girls of Comic Con 2015

It wouldn’t be Comic Con without girls in sometimes revealing and other times just plain awesome costumes. The Wizard World Minneapolis Comic Con was no different with a mix of great costumes. The most popular costumes seem to be Black Widow and Harley Quinn usually with a Joker in tow.

Check out the Girls of Comic Con Gallery for more and higher resolution photos.

Wizard World Comic Con Minneapolis 2015, Harley Quinn Cosplay, Harley Quinn Costume, Girls of Comic Con, Sexy Cosplay, Sexy Costume Squish You Were Here

Here’s one of the Harley Quinn cosplayers at the costume contest. The roller skates are a nice touch and the hammer might be the best part with “Squish You Were Here” written on it. We’ll see more Harley Quinn in the upcoming Suicide Squad movie that’s in production with Jared Let, Will Smith and Margot Robbie as Harley.

Wizard World Comic Con Minneapolis 2015, Girls of Comic Con, Starfire Cosplay, Starfire Costume, Sexy Cosplay, Sexy Costume The Bandage

Not since Milla Jovovich wore the “Bandage” in the Fifth Element has there been a more revealing costume! A brave girl although with the pose I wasn’t sure if she was a bit shy or even had second thoughts about the costume. In the next photo however she’s on stage at the costume contest and seems very comfortable.

Wizard World Comic Con Minneapolis 2015, Girls of Comic Con, Starfire Cosplay, Starfire Costume, Sexy Cosplay, Sexy Costume Starfire taking a bow.

She probably had a few more requests for photos but for the most part didn’t seem to be flocked by guys. Maybe it’s a “Minnesota nice” thing and let’s hope Comic Con Minneapolis stays on the civil side. Some of the other Comic Cons have had some issues with people stepping over the line.

Wizard World Comic Con Minneapolis 2015, Girls of Comic Con, Girls Cosplay Girls in Action

I’m not sure what character she is supposed to be. If you know please comment so I can update the caption. I thought it was great how she got into character. That’s one of the best parts of Comic Con how the girls and guys all embrace the fun of it.

Wizard World Minneapolis Comic Con 2015, Girls of Comic Con, Black Widow Cosplay, Black Widow Costume, Sexy Cosplay, Sexy Black Widow Costume One of the most popular costumes…Black Widow.

Of course we can’t mention Black Widow without including one here. Here she is with guns blazing. Yes, I missed her face and no it wasn’t on purpose or because I was distracted. The lighting was terrible in the large conference room and I was just happy to get a shot in focus as she was moving.

There you have it. Another successful Wizard World Comic Con for Minneapolis. Check out the gallery for more photos of the Girls of Comic Con 2015.

Guys of Comic Con 2015

Back with Part 3 of Comic Con and it’s time to summon the heroes…the dudes. To be honest it’s sometimes hard to find guys that aren’t in Star Wars costumes but here they are.

Wizard World Comic Con Minneapolis 2015, Thor Cosplay, Avengers Cosplay, Thor Costume

Thor!

The Avengers rule these days. Here’s Thor on the opening weekend of the Avengers movie.

Wizard World Comic Con Minneapolis 2015, Ghostbusters car, Ghostbusters Cosplay, Ghostbusters Costume

A great Ghostbuster

There were a surprising amount of Ghostbuster costumes at the Minneapolis Comic Con. Although hard to pass up the photo op with the car. Which reminds me the Batmobile was there from the old TV show but you had to pay to take a photo of or in it. I can understand paying if you want to be in it. I’d much rather photograph the Ghostbusters wagon or the Delorean.

Wizard World Comic Con Minneapolis 2015, Captain Jack Sparrow Costume, Captain Jack Sparrow Cosplay, Pirates of the Caribbean

Captain Jack Sparrow

Here’s drunk guy #1. Seriously though he does a great impression of Captain Jack!

Wizard World Comic Con Minneapolis 2015, Captain Morgan Costume at Comic Con

Captain Morgan

Drunk guy #2. One of the best things about Comic Con is how people get into character and this guy was all over it as soon as he noticed I was taking his picture. Well done Captain Morgan!

Star Wars at Comic Con 2015

It certainly wouldn’t be comic con without a bunch of Star Wars characters. This year it seemed to be mostly different varieties of troopers. Some from the old series and some from the new. I mean the old series being the newer series. Sorry we’ve just fallen into some sort of George Lucas paradox. Let’s not even mention the new new trilogy.

Star Wars Comic Con 2015, Wizard World Comic Con Minneapolis 2015, Steampunk Cosplay, Star Wars Cosplay, Stormtroopers, Clone Trooper

Star Wars vs. Steampunk

Well if you’re a steampunk fan don’t feel too bad. There’s nothing that can really beat Star Wars so this was inevitable. It was fun seeing all the people that wanted this photo op. If only there was someone with a Jar Jar costume!

Wizard World Comic Con Minneapolis 2015, Stormtrooper Costume, Blast a Trooper, Star Wars Cosplay

Blast a Trooper

Here’s your classic storm trooper pose. Well done!

Wizard World Comic Con Minneapolis 2015, Star Wars Cosplay, Padme Costume, Delorean

A Long Time Ago but Somehow in the Future

It’s not often you see Padme in a Delorean ready to go back in time. I guess if she was to drive a car it would be the Delorean as it does bare a resemblance to her starship. See, we learn a lot at Comic Con!

Check out all the Comic Con galleries.

Wizard World Comic Con Minneapolis 2015

It’s that time of year again for Minneapolis to geek out. Yes, it’s none other than Wizard World Comic Con. May 1st through 3rd comic book, movie and pop culture fans descended on the Minneapolis Convention Center. There was plenty to see from celebrities, booths selling various wares and of course the costumes.

The Wizard World Comic Con Minneapolis 2015 Galleries.

This will be a four part series looking at the best of the event. We’ll start with a general look and then take a closer look at the cosplayers including the ever present Star Wars costumes, heroes and dudes and last but not least the girls of Comic Con.

Wizard World Comic Con Minneapolis 2015, Weta Workshop

A very cool statue from the Weta Workshop.

As a photographer Comic Con is a wonderful place. People are there to be seen and they not only welcome having their picture taken they usually jump into character. Like the guy below who decided to go to Comic Con after being locked out of his apartment ;)

Wizard World Comic Con Minneapolis 2015, Ghostbusters

Okay, who brought the dog?

Many people coordinate their costumes with one of the most popular being Harley Quinn and the Joker.

Wizard World Comic Con Minneapolis 2015, Harley Quinn costume, The Joker costume, Suicide Sqaud Costumes

Harley and the Joker

Here we have Harvey Two-Face, Dr. Venkman and Black Widow.

Wizard World Comic Con Minneapolis 2015, Cosplay, Black Widow Costume, Harvey Dent Two Face Costume, Ghostbuster Costume

Awesome costumes were back again this year.

To view the general gallery or take a sneak peak at the other galleries follow the links below:
General Gallery
Star Wars at Comic Con
Heroes and Guys of Comic Con
Girls of Comic Con
I hope to take some of the characters and place them into other environments I’ve shot. Watch for that in the future as well.

SEA LIFE Minnesota Aquarium in the Mall of America

My alternate title would be Stingray, Jelly Fish and Sharks, Oh My! See the full SEA LIFE gallery.

I enjoyed a return trip to SEA LIFE Aquarium in the Mall of America. As a photographer I often hope these places will be empty so I can get good shots without a mass of people. On a Friday it was pretty busy but not so much where I couldn’t maneuver.

SEA LIFE Minnesota Aquarium in the Mall of America, Poseidon, Shark in Aquarium Poseidon just hanging out in the deep end.

The underwater statues are really cool to see. I wish they had a few more. They really should have a guy in a diving bell suit.

SEA LIFE Minnesota Aquarium in the Mall of America, Mall of America Aquarium Poseidon’s Trident

The sharks, fish and even a sea turtle can swim direcly overhead too. You can see more photos in my previous gallery here Sea Life Aquarium.

Moon Jelly Fish Room, SEA LIFE Minnesota Aquarium in the Mall of America Moon Jelly Room

The Moon Jelly room is one of the coolest areas. The lights cycle through different colors illuminating the jelly fish in the tanks.

SEA LIFE Minnesota Aquarium in the Mall of America This guy in front was really hamming it up for the camera.

If you will be taking photos be sure to bring a fast lens and prepare to shoot at high ISO. It’s lower light than you realize and some of the fish and sharks move pretty fast. Also get your camera as close to the glass as possible to minimize reflections.

Here’s the link to the official site if you’re interested in visiting.

Lightroom 6 HDR Comparison

Lightroom 6 is out and one of the new features is the ability to merge photos to HDR within Lightroom. There’s a bit of controversy about this as many people consider the results to be pretty blah. Blah being the technical term for not the fuzzy, radioactive tone mapped tour de force that other programs employ (at least their presets).

Let’s compare the differences between the middle (correct?) exposure and a few different HDR merge methods and then I’ll tell you how to best use the function in Lightroom 6. These were all merged with what I would consider conservative settings to get a natural HDR look much like what I believe Lightroom is doing. I then applied my common starting point preset in Lightroom for HDR photos. The preset I use is Highlights -100, Shadows +100, Whites +15, Blacks -15, Clarity +15 and Vibrance +15.

Middle Exposure – I did need to bump up the exposure to match the output of the other methods. It was only about 1/3 of an EV bump. Not a bad starting point for a high dynamic range scene.

HDR Comparison, Lightroom 6 HDR

Lightroom 6 HDR – Here we have what people are talking about. If you compare this to the middle exposure above there’s really not much difference.

Lightroom 6 HDR Comparison

Photoshop HDR – Next is Photoshop. I suspect Photoshop and Lightroom are processing the same way and could give you the exact same results. Photoshop has more adjustments which I believe is why it looks a bit different from the Lightroom output. Photoshop has less contrast here and also notice the difference between the sun to that of Lightroom.

Lightroom 6 HDR Comparison, Photoshop HDR vs Lightroom HDR

Photomatix – Contrast Optimizer (Vibrant) – It really flattens out the image and notice the exposure on the broken down dock shows more detail. It does have flaring issues shooting into the sun though.

Lightroom 6 HDR Comparison, Photomatix vs Lightroom, Contrast Optimizer

Photomatix 32-bit HDR – This has been my go to method for awhile. Instead of tone mapping in Photomatix I reimport the 32-bit file to Lightroom and then adjust from there. In this case you see the dock has pretty good shadow detail but it doesn’t suffer from the splotchy sky of the Photomatix Contrast Optimizer version.

Photomatix 32-bit HDR vs Lightroom 6 HDR, Lightroom 6 HDR comparison

Conclusion: I have a more natural style of HDR and I try to avoid the artifacts in the over the top HDR you often see. For me the Photomatix 32-bit HDR is still the best option. It has good shadow detail without introducing a lot of splotchy banding, halos or reverse halos (black smudges). The Lightroom 6 HDR output didn’t seem to be much better than the middle exposure which is probably why people are underwhelmed.

How to use Lightroom 6 HDR (and Photomatix 32-bit HDR): These two methods, and maybe the Photoshop method depending on settings, are really a starting point for expanding the dynamic range. After that you can add more Clarity in Lightroom or export to programs like Topaz Clarity, Color Efex Pro or back to tone map in Photomatix. Hopefully Adobe will add more options to the Lightroom HDR function so we can tweak to our preferences.

Final Tip: If you’re not happy with how Lightroom adjusts the sliders after creating the HDR just turn off Auto Tone when creating the HDR. It will leave the sliders at the default position.

Urban Northern Lights

I think I’m hooked on chasing the Northern Lights now. Getting out of the urban sprawl and bright lights of Minneapolis/St. Paul is a good idea when trying to get a good shot. On a weeknight and with work the next day you can’t always drive an hour or two though. I decided to try to get some shots from the outer ring suburbs and Stillwater which is only 20 minutes from St. Paul.

Minnesota Northern Lights. Urban Northern Lights, Aurora Borealis in Central Minnesota, Lake Elmo

The Northern Lights in the suburbs.

Seen above is the Northern Lights just 2 miles from my house. This is in Lake Elmo which is a short 20 minutes to St. Paul. There’s quite a bit of urban sprawl in the Twin Cities and therefore a lot of light pollution. This site has a bit of a gap in the lights looking north.

Stillwater Northern Lights, Stillwater Aurora, Central Minnesota Northern Lights

Stillwater Aurora Borealis

This location was a lot more difficult. Stillwater, MN is further away from Minneapolis/St. Paul but as you can see has many lights from the city. In order to deal with the city lights and try to gather enough light to get the Northern Lights I had to employ a little on the fly thinking.

As luck would have it I placed a small black cloth in the car for cleaning my car’s nav system earlier in the day. I went and grabbed the cloth and then it was mostly trial and error. I was using 8 second exposures and I held the cloth over the bottom to cover the city lights. I would count the number of seconds and right around .5 to 1 second remaining I’d remove the cloth. There was a clear break at the horizon so this worked nicely.

You could try to bracket exposures and composite later but you might still have flaring issues and probably a loss of contrast. Check out more images in the Northern Lights gallery.

Lightning Photography

We had a pretty awesome storm about a week ago. One of those thunderstorms with tons of lightning but not a damaging wind storm. There was a brief period of very small hail though which had me panicked a bit since I bought a new car in the last few months. Anything for the shot though right (as long as the car is fine).

See the full gallery here.

Lightning Photography, Minnesota, Lightning Trigger Photo, Thunderstorm

The lightning was dancing all across the sky.

First I’ll just remind you that lightning is always dangerous. Most of the lightning was actually a long ways in the distance. There wasn’t any thunder till the last few shots but that isn’t a guarantee the next strike won’t be at your location. I was actually using a window mount in my car. You should read the National Lightning Safety Institutes comments on what is/isn’t safe related to vehicles being struck by lightning.

Cloud to ground strike.

As mentioned I was using a window mount. If doing so you may want to turn the engine off to minimize vibrations to the camera. I was also using a Lightning Bug Trigger trigger by MK Controls. This senses infrared light an instant before the lightning strike and triggers the camera. Worked pretty well after increasing the sensitivity. I’d also suggest using manual mode on your camera. Underexposing by two stops (-2EV) seemed to work really well. Most of the lightning wasn’t blown out and with the flash from the bolt it exposed the foreground. You’ll need to adjust for time of day and ambient light at your location however.

Lightning Photography, Lightning bolts, Minnesota, Thunderstorm

An epic battle in the sky.

This last photo is a composite of three different strikes. I used Topaz ReStyle and Lightroom to make this hot/cold edit. A little different flare to it anyway.

Again be careful out there and check out the gallery for a few more shots.

Light It Up Blue

Went out to catch some blue lit buildings on World Autism Awareness Day. The Majorie McNeely Conservatory at the Como Zoo in St. Paul was lit as well as some buildings in downtown Minneapolis. See the full gallery here.

Light It Up Blue, World Autism Awareness Day 2015, Blue Majorie McNeely Conservatory

The Dome of the Conservatory Lit in Blue for Autism Awareness.

If you’d like to know more about autism and this cause you can visit Autism Speaks for more information.

A closer shot of the blue dome of the Conservatory.

Minneapolis was in on the act too with the Capella Tower and the IDS Center lit in blue. The Capella Tower rarely changes colors so it was cool to see the blue crown.

Light It Up Blue 2015, Minneapolis Skyline, Capella Tower in blue for Autism Speaks

The Capella Tower with the blue crown from across the Mississippi River.

Go here to see the rest of the gallery Light It Up Blue Twin Cities.

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