the blog of Seldom Seen Photography

Posts tagged “Union Station

Choices, Choices

When photography is exercised as an art form rather than an attempt to purely replicate a scene without any interpretation (which, of course is impossible, photographs cannot replicate reality – they are in 2 dimensions instead of 3, they are cropped and reality is not, etc. – this could be a whole separate blog by itself, but I digress), the photographer has a myriad of choices to make. Many choices are made when capturing the image – what lens to use, what exposure settings to use, what to leave in the frame and what to crop out, whether to use a high viewpoint or a low viewpoint, etc. And post capture, there are also a myriad of choices concerning processing – there are global adjustments for exposure, contrast, highlights, shadows, the white point, the black point, clarity, saturation, vibrance; cropping; distortion corrections; adding gradients or brush stroke or radial filters; etc. etc. and that is just in Lightroom; go to Photoshop and the choices explode seemingly exponentially.

For the capture side of photography, I’m a big advocate of trying out lots of different options when photographing a subject to really explore its possibilities (see this old post on the subject). Much is said about per-visualizing an image when photographing. And doing so makes a lot of sense and can make for a great image. However, don’t let that per-visualization get in the way of looking at a subject from different, non-per-visualized vantage points.

Okay, I have a confession to make here, I did not follow my own advice when capturing the images accompanying this post. I had one viewpoint in mind, went out, took the shots, and left. Call me bad. These images were taken earlier in the week at Union Station in downtown Tacoma. Union Station is no longer a train station but is now the US courthouse here in the city. Union Station is an iconic shot of Tacoma which I haven’t explored much before (so iconic in fact that I saw another photographer’s image of it hanging on a wall earlier the same evening I took this shot). And the fact that it is an iconic shot maybe why I neglected to cover it from other angles. So here’s so more unsolicited advice – when shooting icons, get the iconic shot out of the way, then try to cover it from other angles and get your own take on the subject (yes, I hear you, I should follow my own advice).

But even when you only get one shot, even the iconic shot, with your post-capture processing you can put your own spin on a subject by the choices you make. Here are four different interpretations of the same subject. Three are HDR images, processed initially in Lightroom, exported to Photomatrix, then re-imported and finished in Lightroom. The other is not an HDR image and was processed solely in Lightroom. If I decide to work on one or more of the images in the future, I may take it to Photoshop to make additional adjustments. The HDR images are made from a set of five images taken one f-stop apart.

The images represent choices for a single exposure of HDR, more realistic HDR and more “grungy” HDR, and distortion correction and cropping versus no distortion correction and cropping. No one image is correct, and no one image is wrong. None represent the reality of the scene as viewed by my eye (this scene, taken at night, is mostly lit from ugly yellow sodium-vapor street lamps for example). All are interpretations; all are artwork; all represent different choices. With these shots, I believe, at least to a small extent, I put my own spin on an icon. I think I favor the cropped, distortion-corrected version the best; but do like the other ones as well. Do you have a favorite?

Union Station - single exposure

Union Station – single exposure

Union Station - more "realistic" HDR version

Union Station – more “realistic” HDR version

Union Station - more "realistic" HDR cropped with distortion correction

Union Station – more “realistic” HDR cropped with distortion correction

Union Station - grungy HDR look

Union Station – grungy HDR look


Seattle Workshops and Photo Excursions

Irene is from Vancouver, British Columbia and is learning photography a little later in life than most. It’s too bad she didn’t take it up earlier, she has a great eye for composition. Earlier this month I taught Irene during a personal, one-day workshop for in Seattle. I also taught her during a workshop earlier in the year, and on this return visit she wanted to see a few spots she read about in my ebook, Scenic Seattle. Specifically, she wanted to visit Union Station, Pier 65, and the Seattle Great Wheel. Based on the weather conditions during our workshop and her personal interests, I also took her up to the University of Washington. At several of the spots, we worked on long exposures for a separate class on the subject she taking up in Canada. A few photos I took during the day are presented here to illustrate this post.

If you plan on visiting Washington State and would like personalized instruction and/or guidance, I offer personalized workshops for $325 per day in the Puget Sound area and $375 per day elsewhere in the state. I also offer workshop for small groups. Each workshop is tailored directly to your interests.

Still visiting, but not quite up to a workshop? Then consider purchasing my Seattle ebook, which sells for a mere $5.99. I’ve added a page to my blog which shows some sample pages from the book and allows direct ordering through PayPal.

Irene at Union Station

During her workshop in Seattle, Irene wanted to visit Union Station. Here she is lining up a composition.

Suzzllo Grand Staircase

The Grand Staircase inside Suzzallo Library at the University of Washington

Seattle Great Wheel

Seattle’s Great Wheel and reflections in Elliot Bay

6D Impressions

Seattle Great Wheel

Sample image from the Canon 6D of the Seattle Great Wheel.

I’ve had my new Canon 6D for about a month now. Unfortunately, I haven’t had much chance to use it. I did do a portrait shoot a few days after receiving the camera, was able get out for half a day last Friday, and also carried it along on a day with friends on Saturday when we went to the Woodland Park Zoo. I’m not going go give a full review of the camera, there are many other blogs and websites that have already done that. In some of the reviews I’ve read, the 6D is getting bad marks for not having as many features as similarly priced cameras (the Nikon D600 in particular).

However, I am not the least bit sorry I upgraded to this camera (particularly when switching to Nikon is not a realistic option considering my investment in Canon lenses). Now, remembering that my opinion is biased by coming from a Canon 50D, I am really loving the quality of the photos coming out of the 6D. With the full-size sensor and the same processor as the 5DIII, the image quality is fantastic.

The two biggest issues I had with my old camera were noise and focusing. Considering noise, the 6D is exceeding my expectations. The noise level at ISO 3200 is quite low, producing high quality images. With my 50D, ISO 3200 produced images that I would never want to use them for any high-resolution purpose. I’ve read that the noise for the 6D is still low at ISO 6400, but I haven’t used a setting that high.

Focus is one of the issues the 6D gets downgraded on in online reviews. This is largely because the camera only has 11 focus points (instead of 39 in the D600, and 61 in the 5DIII). However, to me, thefocus ability of the 6D is a huge step over the 50D. With my 50D, I always had a lot of problems with the autofocus, particularly when used for portrait work. With the 6D, the focus is dead on every time. There may not be a lot of focus points, but those it does have work great. Further, the camera also focuses in very low light. Since I take a lot of night-time shots, I love this feature.

I also really like the built-in GPS. With images taken with my 50D,  I’ve tried to locate my images manually in the Lightroom Map module. No more; now the camera does it for me. Very sweet! The GPS feature does continue to use the battery when the camera is turned off, draining the battery faster. So I’m training myself to turn the GPS on and off. Seems, to me, like a small inconvenience for such a great feature.

The camera also has built in WiFi, and with an app from Canon, you can control the camera from your smartphone. Believe it or not, I don’t have a smartphone, so I haven’t tried this feature yet. However, I will likely be getting one soon and am looking forward to using it with the camera.

Another feature I haven’t heard much about in the reviews I’ve read, is the camera’s size. It is the smallest full-sized sensor camera available. It is considerably smaller than the 5DIII, and weighs about half a pound less. Considering how much my photo backpack weighs, I like this size and weight.

Overall, I’m very happy with the camera. I like its small size and lighter weight,  and the quality of the images are outstanding. If you are a Canon user and want to step up to a full-sized sensor, you should check out this camera. Sure it has some features missing that I’d like – such as more focus points and a second card slot, but considering the price difference between it and the 5DIII (the 6D is about $1500 less), especially when the 5DIII doesn’t have some of the features I want (such as GPS), I’m glad I got this camera.

Seattle's Union Station

The interior of Union Station in Seattle. The Canon 6D didn’t have much problem with the extreme range of contrast in this image. While I did shoot some HDR here as well, this single exposure (shot RAW and processed in Lightroom) is certainly acceptable. Images settings: 17- 40mm lens set at 29mm, f/8, 1/13 sec, ISO 200, +1 exposure bias

Gorilla Silverback Pete

Pete, the silverback male of troop 1 at Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle. He didn’t look particularly happy to have me taking his picture! I would of had a hard time with this image in my old camera, but the Canon 6D worked great. The focus is right on in this low light situation and the noise at ISO 3200 is not bad at all. Image settings: 70-200mm lens at 165mm, f/2.8, 1/60 second, ISO 3200, no exposure bias, small crop

Seattle Lions

Two of the lions in Woodland Park Zoo. Again the Canon 6D worked great in relatively low light, focusing spotlessly on the male lion. Image settings: 70-200mm lens at 200mm, f/3.2, 1/640 second, ISO 1600, no exposure bias, minor crop