Sunday, September 15, 2013

Comparison Shopping

“HDR” (High Dynamic Range) image processing has a somewhat deservedly bad reputation.  If you know what I’m talking about, welll… you know what I’m talking about.

Multiple files of exactly the same subject combined with different exposure values and then tone-mapped to death can result in some really dramatic images that have very little in common with reality.

On the other hand, neither sensors or film can even begin to duplicate the dynamic range available to the human eye, so it’s a perfectly natural, century-plus old challenge to duplicate on paper (or on screen) a scene that a sensor (or film) can’t manage as a “flat” (read: “uncorrected”, “unmanipulated”, or even (gasp!) “un-Photoshopped”) file.

I shot one of those scenes today.  It was moderately bright, heavy overcast, with lots of detail in both deep shadows and bright highlights.

In a single shot capture (made in RAW mode), the result was flat, and only accurate for the mid-tones.  Deep shadows and bright highlights both blocked up.

Like this…


… which, honestly is not awful, but that’s faint praise.

So, I switched shooting modes in the camera, went to “ExtraFine” (or whatever it is that Sony calls the largest .jpg file available) in order to be able to take advantage of the camera’s build in HDR mode.  I have it set to a six-EV (six “stop” for geezers like myself) bracket, so I braced myself on the rocks along the riverwalk (the tripod having been left in the car on this bright-ish day), and blasted away.  Three files captured in the blink of an eye, and processed about ten seconds later. 

The result was the basis for the image that follows, with a few seconds worth of manipulation in Lightroom… the same basic adjustments that I make to almost any file prior to any sort of use, even just email.


Not a bad result, actually.  Though, if one looks carefully, some ghosting is visible where people were moving on the afterdeck and just about amidship, where a bos’n is going about his work.

I was quite pleased with it, but I couldn’t help but wonder if I couldn’t come close on my own using a single RAW file.  So, I tried again.  The original result is similar to the first shot above. 

Here’s the (somewhat) finished shot:


This last version required several adjustments and two gradient filters in post, but the final result was ready to be converted for web use in less than ten minutes.  I wasn’t holding a stopwatch, but it was quick.

So, I think I’ll keep trusting a single shot for daylight “HDR” needs, though I have no doubt that nighttime shooting is another story altogether.

However, if you don’t have Lightroom or another good RAW interpreter at your disposal and you DO have a Sony camera at hand with built-in HDR, steady your rig and fire away!  The results can be surprisingly good.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The New Normal

After nearly a year, the 17th Street dock is open again.  It was basically torn down to the bottom and reassembled in place.  The footprint isn’t changed much, but the feel definitely is. 

The previous iteration was decked with weathered timbers.  I never had any doubt about their soundness, but there was always a bit of an “at sea” feel when walking out there. 

That’s most assuredly not the case now.  The deck is solid, unyielding concrete.  Nothing moves.


The lightship Columbia is back in place, though her original replacement, a light buoy, is not yet, hence the uncluttered shot!

The Dock Deck

The cutter Alert, the lightship Columbia and the Queen of the West were all cooperative subjects.

Looking West

Maybe one day the shrouds draped over the sections of the Astoria-Megler Bridge will help identify the time span that they were taken in, but for me, they’re just an eyesore.


My luck was holding.  The bulker Global Saikai was on her way toward the bar as I was checking out the new dock.  The Connor Foss was already alongside before I could get the long zoom out.


This isn’t it, but I’m still trying for the perfect pilot transfer shot or sequence.  Clicking on the image will allow you to see more detail, but it still looks like “just” climbing down a ladder.  I’m fairly certain that that’s not what it feels like!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Not Dead Yet!

Life takes lots of turns.  Sometimes they’re good, sometimes they’re not. 

Mine has had a lot of good turns of late, but they’ve kept me from keeping up on blogs.

Even this shot is way out of date, but it does represent more of what I’m likely to shoot from here on out. 

I just completed a move.  Well, I’m now in just one residence… actually completing a move is complicated and very time consuming.

At any rate, I no longer have a stellar view from the porch. 

But I do have a nice walk downtown to see the ships that I watch creep under the bridge from either the living room or bedroom windows! 

This was shot a couple of weeks before the actual move, from a spot almost due north from where I’m currently seated. 


More than forty five years ago, when I was knee high to a grasshopper, this little patch of water marked the only way north to Washington from Astoria, and I remember it. 

We slid past these pilings after idling aboard the ferry on the way to my grandparents’ place in South Bend, WA.

Now,it’s very quiet at the ferry slip unless the wind is up.  Certainly there’s no line of cars backed far up 14th Street.  I do remember sitting there for portions of hours on end (life transpires at different rates, depending of the decade that you’re experiencing…I remember days, but minutes are a lot more likely)

I would never have imagined in that long-ago time that one day in the distant future that I would be living just a couple of blocks from where the brakes has been set.

And yet, here I am!  Easily within reasonable distance of several generations of ferry passengers awaiting their ride  north.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Reopening Night

The old Northern Lights Lounge at Baked Alaska ended its run on New Year’s Eve.  We were the last paying customers out the door that night.

The bar reopened last night, having been stripped to the bearing timbers and reimagined from the floor up. 

With a view like that one, you’d have to work really hard at having a truly bad space, and this one is more than just “not bad.” 

Being a trivia regular there, I still wonder how that’s going to work, but Friday nights aside, I think the space will work better for the typical customer.

There’s one thing they need to work on, though…

There was always an east-side entrance in the past.  It was a place where diners could come and go if on foot on the Riverwalk, and it also allowed patrons access to the catwalk to take photos of the river pilot boats and/or anything else that was visually exciting upriver.  At the moment, that door is an exit only.

The wait staff is very tolerant of me, and they let me back in if the lock latches behind me.  I think that door is an unrecognized asset, though, and I hope they decide to allow re-entry in the near future. 

Last night was pretty gloomy, but it was the first full day of DST, opening night, etc., so I just couldn’t resist stepping out into the mist to take a few shots of the Connor Foss in the Arrow 2’s old slip and coming back from a run at dusk.  It was drizzling aggressively all evening, so I was grateful for the 77’s weather-sealing!


I’m sure this has been an available view for a few weeks now, but I haven’t seen it before, and it’s a little jarring.  Not bad, really, just very different.  I’ve always thought that the Connor Foss was a good-looking boat, but she’s just not the Arrow 2!


After a pilot-exchange run, well after dusk.  I had to push the ISO way up, as it was very dim.  With the lens opened to f/2.8, I was still pleased with the final result, though it took some Lightroom work to make it happen.

ISO 1600, 40mm @ f/2.8, 1/200.  No crop, but considerable LR tweaking for noise and vignette.

Monday, March 4, 2013

A First Voyage?

I was drawn by good weather to Pier 1 this afternoon.  I’ve missed a lot of the visitors to the log pier, as the old dock opposite it has been in the process of being ripped up and (I hope) refurbished.

I picked my way across the exposed bents to get to a decent vantage point for the first time in months.

The ship that’s tied up, the Swakop, is especially shiny and new-looking, so I checked what I could find about her.’s info indicates her build date as 2013, and really, that looks plausible.  But there’s other info that indicates that she had a former name, and very few details are available.

I have to guess that the “former name” was a builder’s placeholder, waiting for the buyer to take possession and properly name her. 


Not only is the paint new enough that the crew probably still smells it, there isn’t a single chain-mark on her bow, and her anchor appears to have never seen a harbor’s bottom.  On top of that, she’s got that newfangled (and none-too-pretty plumb bow that’s all the rage in naval architecture these days.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Please Stand By…

My formerly reliable blog-authoring utility has decided that it no longer likes most of the photo file-types that I’ve been using for years.  It’s strange… I haven’t changed anything in the workflow in prepping them for web use, or file-type, or anything, really, but they still won’t display properly.  More to the point, the photos just don’t show up. Period.

It’s true that I haven’t been especially active for the last few weeks, but I’m surely not dead! 

The picture of the Arrow 2 on stilts took three different edit attempts to publish correctly, and that’s just goofy.

This is supposed to be fun, not work.  I’m exploring alternatives now.  I tried one on my other blog and all hell broke loose.  I ended up having to change the look of the entire publication, but it might have been worth the effort. 

Something akin to that may be in the offing here.  Suggestions are welcome.


Thursday, January 17, 2013

I Hope It’s Not a Bad Thing

I hadn’t noticed the Arrow 2 sitting high and dry prior to Monday, and even that was pretty much an accident.

Yes, if you know where to look for her, you can see her as you slip down off the lift span, heading east on the “new” Youngs Bay Bridge, but unless you’re a passenger, you should be paying more attention to the road.

But, there she is.  After 50 years of service, and after becoming (very probably) one of the most-photographed working boats on the planet, she’s perched on spindly blue stilts, awaiting her fate.


After all of these years of watching her and photographing her, Monday was the first time that I ever touched her.  Not knowing what her future holds, I was glad I got the chance.

She has a tremendous following.  I have very high hopes that she’ll end up on a more glorious perch somewhere nearby in years to come. 

For the time being, though, it’s rather sad to see this rugged workhorse out of her element with no clear future ahead of her.