Now that it’s cold outside, it’s always nice to be able to take pictures of the Capitol Building from inside. I got another chance during a live shot from the usual Russell Rotunda. While walking around to our live location I looked out the window and from that vantage point the Capitol Building looked huge.
So I made it to the Jefferson Memorial and this was probably the coolest picture I took there. Inscribed around the interior wall is the following quote:
“I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.”
This quote is from a letter Thomas Jefferson wrote to Benjamin Rush Monticello in 1800 where he says that the constitution should not recognize a state religion. “The mind of man.” It just sounds so powerful, like something we should all be fighting for.
Another fun thing about this picture is that because the inscription bends downwards, it makes the top of the picture appear to bend upwards. I swear it’s an optical illusion and not some shoddy photoshop work.
I went out last week to take pictures of some monuments which I’m going to post as pictures of the day for the next couple of days. But I didn’t realize that to get to the Jefferson Memorial you have to park about a half mile away and then walk. On my way from my parking spot in the middle of nowhere, I walked under this bridge with train tracks on it with a train rolling by. I panickly ripped my camera out of my bag and set up my tripod so I could get a shot before the train was gone. It turned out really cool.
One of the cool things I get to do for my job is go on live shots and meet the people you usually only see on TV. This is Congressman Eric Cantor from Virginia. He’s the Republican Whip in the House of Representatives, and he LOVES to hate on the Democrats. In fact, that’s why we put him on television!
But he is always good TV, and he and his press person are super nice, so it’s always a pleasure to have him on to explain how the Dems are trying to take our American flags and replace them with the hammer and sickle. It’s true you know, Democrats love communism.
Whenever I go on a live shot I always wish I would have brought my camera with me because they always set up the lighting perfectly for great photos. This was the first time I’ve brought my camera to a live shot because in the past I felt weird taking pictures for fun while I am supposed to be working. I have gotten past that feeling, and it was worth it.
We do Congressional live shots in the Russell Senate building, in an area called the Russell Rotunda. It’s really a beautiful place, one of those buildings that makes you wonder why they were able to make such gorgeous buildings, when all we use now is dry-wall and metal panelling.
This is one of the parts of my job that I will miss the most. Getting to see TV actually happen is exciting, no matter where it is. And after it’s over you wonder how a cameraman, a sound guy, and I just worked for hours, all for 2 minutes of television. It’s fascinating.
Let’s start with two notes:
1) I promise that this blog will not become the, “Hey! Look at what I can do on Photoshop!” blog. AND
2) I also promise that I won’t HDR all my photos, even though I get an enormous amount of satisfaction doing so (not to mention they look so cool).
SMALL NOTE ABOUT ABOVE NOTE #2: I don’t believe HDR is a verb. It’s not like someone asked me what I was doing when I was taking pictures and I told them, “I’m HDRing! Mind your business!” But I will use it anyways as such.
So I wrote in my last post about how I was unable to use a tripod inside Union Station because of a rule dating back to Stalin. But because I had trucked the tripod all the way out there, I forced myself to use it. After I took my pictures off the handrail inside, I went outside and set up my tripod to HDR a fountain just outside the building.
It’s a relatively no frills fountain, but it does have some really nice statues above it. I shot what looks like a figurehead from an old ship from two different angles. Here are the exposures:
I used 3 exposures for each this time (instead of 5) because it takes so incredibly long (actually only about 2 minutes) to process these images when you have a lot of them to sandwich together. So here they are (just like before you can click on them for a bigger version):
So I won’t really go into depth about this but I love the way that these photos almost look like they were painted. In particular, on the first photo if you click on it to look at the larger version, look to the right of her head. A pigeon flew by during just one of the shots making it seems like the ghost of a pigeon stopped by and whispered to her, “that guy over there is taking our picture!”
I am getting slightly worried that I am stepping too far away from reality here, and I don’t want to lose my eye for good pictures that are not going to be HDRed. But it is always fun to know that I can do this when I want to have a little fun.
EDITOR’S NOTE: I tried using Photomatix to create HDRs with that over-expressive look but I just couldn’t get it to work for some reason. Photoshop wouldn’t let me save the pictures as a .hdr file, and I was getting good results without it, so I scrapped the idea.
So let me just tell you, this is pretty freakin’ cool. Last week I got a book about how to use Photoshop, something that I seriously have no idea how to work with. Well, in this book it has a chapter about HDR, or High Dynamic Range, photos. This is something that I have wanted to do for a while but have had no clue where to even start.
These HDR photos use between 3 to 9 shots of the same picture, but all with a different exposure, to give you a certain effect. Different exposures allow you to see different parts of the picture that you might not have seen because certain areas were too light, or too dark. When you sandwich them all together with Photoshop they allow you to see everything in the picture in a way that is impossible to view with just one shot, or even your naked eye. Here are the 5 shots I took that were later sandwiched together:
As you can see, on the really bright one you there are details on areas that you can’t see in the really dark one, and vice versa. Each photo is one “stop” apart from each other, but that’s something that’s super technical that even I don’t understand. This book taught me that my camera is advanced enough to do this automatically, all I had to do was change some settings and keep still.
You can also see that I set my camera on the handrail to keep it still. This is because it’s against the rules to set up a tripod in Union Station. A security guard stopped me from setting up my tripod because you actually need written permission from the building managers to take pictures there because it’s a privately owned building. Who knew?
But because of my complete lack of Photoshop skills I was fully expecting this not to work, even if I had step-by-step instructions in my book. Well, wouldn’t you know, it kinda worked! After some extra tweaking the final product came out pretty cool (you can see a larger version if you click on the picture):
This is a perfect example of how Photoshop can make your photos better. You could never get this scene directly from a camera. With a little extra time and love on your computer you get something that is really worth the effort.
If you are interesting, here’s a link to a Flickr group that just has HDR images that people have submitted. Some of these images are breathtaking: http://www.flickr.com/groups/hdr/
My friend Winna and I went to a huge prayer event in front of the Capitol building called Islam on the Capitol. There were thousands of people praying to Allah for peace and praying for the country. Although there seemed to be a little bit too many police there, the event was really interesting and made for some great pictures. I’m still going through many of them but you can see the ones I’ve processed on my Flickr page on the right.