I cannot believe it has been over 14 months since we were in China, seems like it was the other day. I still have thousands of shots to go through; it is kind of overwhelming, and then I have my wife’s thousands of shots as well! I think I processed these almost a year ago. Another couple from my archive.
This was taken near the beginning of Mt. Huashan. I was expecting the bus to drop us off up on the mountain, but it dropped us off at the very base of the mountain in a little town. The locals would point way off to the top of the mountain and laugh when trying to ask if we were anywhere near Mt. Huashan. It was pretty hot out and it was kind of daunting at first, but it sure was a pretty trail beginning at this point.
The Temple of Heaven at Beijing. I definitely struggled to clean up the sky and have it not look overly garish. The Beijing smog was in full force on this day!
Probably my last picture I will be posting for a few days. About to have my last grand hurrah in Tokyo with a friend and our camera gear. I really want to eventually move to Germany in the future, but I will be missing all of the sites to be seen in Tokyo and how easy it is to get around anywhere in the city. It is a photographers dream.
I sure loved out our visit to China, even Beijing was a lot better than I thought it would be, but man… I do not have fun processing the sky in my Beijing shots. Even at night it is kind of a dull grey and very noisy result. The sky in my posted image is still rather bland, but I had to use a lot of blur tool on the sky to clean it up. I would definitely look into getting a polarizing filter for any lenses you take with you to Beijing.
Cruising down a windy road amongst huge karst limestone formations jutting out of the ground like stalagmites reaching hundreds of feet high. The bulging eyes of a chicken are staring straight at me as it is in an old lady’s iron-choke hold grip, possibly about to be cooked and served to me for my nightly meal, some of the best meals I am about to ever have. We are on our way to Xingping on a small, yet intimate bus. I will let the scenery speak for itself.
From Xi’an we hopped on a 元320 one-way flight (roughly $193) to the South China city of Guilin. Our fellow passengers provided great entertainment. They are proof that using cell phones during takeoff, en-route, and landing will not cause a crash. I have also never seen people crawl over other passengers so they can get a better look out the window, but it was fun to watch! Once we arrived in Guilin airport we caught the shuttle into the city for 元25, which was about 20 minutes away. Make sure you get off at the bus stop, otherwise you’ll end up in some random place in the city. From the bus stop we caught a 元30 non-express bus into Yangshuo.
Yangshuo had some pretty landscapes, but anything the town touched seemed to just ooze tourist trap in a real bad way. We rented bikes and rode out to Moon Hill which was very nice (and extremely humid), but after being pestered by super touts, we decided to head into Xingping for the remaining nights since we read it was nice and quite over there. Xingping was only a 元5.5 ride from Yangshuo bus station, which was a real bargain because it magically transported us back in time about 100 years.
Xingping was an entirely different world, a special place that I kind of feel guilty divulging such a gem to the Internet. The streets and buildings looked ancient, but they were very well kept. In the evening, there wasn’t a single car, truck, or motorcycle; about as tranquil as a town can get. We stayed at This Old Place youth hostel. If you are around in the evening, grab a beer and your camera and head to the upstairs deck for one of the most amazing sunsets you will ever see.
The owner was extremely nice, he even upgraded us for no reason after our first night. When it was raining, we spent time on the front porch facing the street sitting in rocking chairs, 55-200mm lens in hand watching the interesting passers by. For eats, head down one of the alleyway streets to This Old Place restaurant.. Try the sechuan beef in spicy oil… Some of the best and definitely the freshest food I have ever had. The Li River also happens to be a short walk down the street, although, I cannot recommend the raft cruises; slow, noisy, and loud. I would get a bike or hike along the banks instead for better views.
After Xingping, we ended up back in Guilin to catch a bus for the rice fields of Ping’an, but that is for another post.
I had to go back into my extremely neglected archives so that I can vary my recently posted photos a bit instead of nothing but Turkey, I need to get away from work and go on a trip! That will be Thailand to meet my wife leaving in exactly in one week. This will be a second attempt at getting good pictures in that country as my first one was what prompted me to get a DSLR after my P&S became full of dust particles that ruined almost every picture I took the first time I was there. Anyways, here is another one of my favorite buildings–if not my favorite–in Tokyo, the Tokyo International Forum. The first batch I had processed I went really heavy on the orange hues for some reason. I have quite a few that I shot with a fluorescent white balance under these incandescent lights which gave a very blueish result.
I have been working on the same shot to post to this blog for the past 3 nights in a row and sometimes spending as much as 2 hours on each attempt. Sometimes just staring at it wondering where to go from there. This is my 4th attempt.. I have never deleted more than 1 attempt before, but this time I just couldn’t figure out where to go with it.
The unique thing about this photo is the blue hue which is not HDR, DRI, or any color replace shenanigans. The problem is that I couldn’t decide if it had more potential than I was able to squeeze out of it. I tried HDR, DRI, converting those to B&W, straight B&W, B&W with selective coloring; then I finally decided on just some Lightroom adjustments off of the -1 exposure and a quick trip to Photoshop for some sharpening and cloning out of junk in the water. I am still largely unimpressed, but after all those hours, sometimes you just have to move on with your life!
This is the famous Itsukushima Shrine near Hiroshima on the island of Miyajima during high tide.
I just arrived back from a week long trip to Southern Germany for training where I gorged myself on schnitzel, schnitzel, and more schnitzel. I cleaned up every single pommes that was to be found on my plate. I think if you do the calculations I should probably be running about 300 miles to offset the surplus calories I took in during that trip.
I didn’t get a lot of time to take pictures with my new trusty steed due to lack of time and an ultra bland sky, so instead I’ll post this shot taken nearby the area I was in during my July visit. I might have a few keepers from this last trip, but I still have to load those.
Last Friday I found myself with a day off and thought it would be nice to go revisit scenic Anavarsa castle which is situated atop what must be a 1,000+ foot cliff. The first time we saw it we were on an awesome rock climbing trip at the base of the cliff, saw the amazing castle, and headed back the following weekend to explore the ruins. In the photo below, the little dots in the field below the cliff are actually sheep and cows if that helps give you a sense of scale.
It was humid as hell out and I felt like I was dying of aids for some reason, so you’ll have to bare with me since I wasn’t exactly in my happy photo place. Anyways, Anavarsa dates back longer than our recorded history from the area and from what I have been told, the ruins have yet to be excavated by the Turkish government. The history can be read on the Anazarbus Wiki, but the jest of it is that the castle and settlement below pre-date the Roman Empire and if you lived there prior to our times, you would most likely die in a battle or in an earthquake while being confused with multiple name changes to the settlement; all seemed to happen constantly to this site and it is absolutely remarkable to me that anything remains at all.
I will go back and take better photos to prove to you that a lot more remains than what my pictures present, but there is quite a bit of ruined structures from aqueducts, to arch-type gates, walls, and of course the remains of a very spread-out castle. I did play a bit with my new 70-200 bokeh cannon, but I am figuring out that zoomed in above 130’ish and above and wide open pretty much obliterates the background so much that I need to actually stop up to bring in some soft details to create a more interesting background.
This is a -1.33, 0, +1.33 exposure HDR that I then created 2 layers from. I converted the top layer to black and white and selectively colored the bottom layer. I then painted through the sky. The original picture has the hazy sky overlapping the horizon where the dirt is and that made for an incredibly blurry horizon. I set the clone stamp to about 58% opacity and lowered the flow slightly and created a nice crisp horizon by cloning the dirt in certain areas and the sky on top of the really blurry areas.
I think it fits because this entire valley looks like an alien landscape. They even filmed part of the original Star Wars here. One interesting fact about these particular formations in the shot is that they are used on I believe the 20 or 50 Turkish Lira bill.
I was talking to one of the guys that was on the Cappadocia trip and he had mentioned that for some reason, the sky in his photos looked bluer than blue is allowed to look. I have the same results, this photo below is an HDR of the sandstone merged in with the actual 0 exposure sky straight from RAW to JPEG, no adjustments. It looks like we were using polarizers or cheating it in post, but for some reason, the sky just seem uncharacteristically blue here in Turkey lately. Today I looked up to see what was going on and sure enough, it looks like you can almost see the curvature of the upper layers where that ends and space begins.
Dokuz in Turkish mean 9. Doku without the z means “texture”… Çok kolay! This Turkish lesson is for my wife.. You need to study!
I must admit that I love a beautiful blue sky with generous amounts of cancer causing sun. After 2 years in Japan, my vitamin D reserves were completely depleted and I was not on track to get skin cancer as quickly as previously scheduled.
It is kind of fun and almost necessary to play around with the silhouette caused by the sun during the day time when you are looking up at all the raised sandstone features that dot the Cappadocia region. This one is a bit much with the blown highlights, but I still kind of like what it represents… The sun was shining!
Even the local pups in the area like to go outside and bask in the glory of the sun.
Okay, this feels good. I haven’t touched any of my photos for a very long time. I completely forgot how fun it was to go through and process each shot and go back into time when each shot was taken. I need to do at least one or two each day, there isn’t really any excuse. Tonight I kind of went all out compared to what I usually process, although, I felt kind of rusty in achieving what I wanted and just did everything really quick.
Last weekend I joined a group of local photo enthusiasts on a Cappadocia tour trip specifically geared towards photography. I kind of had my doubts since I have taken a tour once before and thought it was absolute crap, plus I have been to Cappadocia many times and kind of prefer to do things on my own. This tour surprised me though. We saw everything. It was relentlessly good!
Cappadocia kind of reminds me of back home around the the Southern Utah area. Southern Utah has some of the most unique scenery that you can possibly fathom, so that is a good thing. The biggest difference is that there is deep history associated with this area. The convoluted sandstone scenery is full of ancient dwellings carved out by hand and can be found everywhere in this region. I have quite a few shots of these dwellings, but why not just show you a modern, hand-carved representation taken by my new friend The Bokeh Maker?
Did I mention that my friend The Bokeh Maker is sharp as a sword even when wide open?
There are 2 fortresses that you can climb in the area. They are massive sandstone formations jutting up out of the ground like mother natures skyscraper. Thousands of years ago people decided to carve out room and pathways within the skyscraper up to the very top. Here are 2 HDRs taken from the largest one during an amazing sunset.
Here are some cool cats I found at the top of another “fortress”. They thought it would be helpful to hold my tripod legs to steady it while I was taking shots, thus transferring every movement of their body into my shots. It was fun explaining to them how this plan was not going to work… I did let each one take turns with my camera. They thought that was çok mükemmel!
If you are into pottery, or patterns of pottery to feed your camera.. I recommend a visit to Cappadocia.
And lastly, I promised a shot of me for my sweet, sweet wife. Turkey sucks honey! I cannot stand it here.. Don’t be jealous that you cannot be here yet. It was hot in Cappadocia and I got some dust on my sensor!!!
So I just realized it has been about 3 weeks since I have taken a picture or worked on any. I am being bad, I know. I am still living out of a hotel, getting over my initial sickness that most people get when they first get to Turkey, looking for a vehicle armed with very basic knowledge of the local language, and trying to stay in touch with my wife so neither of us end up going crazy being apart for so long.
Hopefully in the next few weeks I can start finding some time and motivation at the end of the day to get back into it. Until then, here is the last shot I posted to Flickr over 3 weeks ago. This is the Kintai-kyo bridge located in Iwakuni. Definitely worth the trip if you happen to be near the Hiroshima area!
I had a series of about 8 shots of this Itsukushima Shrine scene and all I had to do was layer the 0 EV exposure onto the +2 EV exposure and paint the bright areas through on the left side of the photograph and I would have had a quick shot that was natural and pleasing to my senses… No, I had to go and create an HDR version on top of the two other exposures, create a couple of other layers for different colors, LucisArt, and a few filters so I could selectively add them to each area. I seriously spent 2 hours trying to figure out were I was going with this and completely hated it, I was about to just trash it when I found the perfect Nik filter that suddenly created a look that I was happy with.
So here I am in Germany and I finally had some free time this weekend to cruise around the countryside and shoot the amazing rolling fields with such vivid yellow colors and wicked clouds contrasted by deep blue sky. Perfect shooting conditions. Today I have been sitting here showing one of my friends the process that I use with merging different HDR versions of the same shot with a DRI and then layering them together in Photoshop and this is the result.