An old-timey town

Downtown Grand Rapids.

There is one place on Earth I feel I must visit every Summer for it to count as Summer. That place is Grand Rapids, Ohio — a quaint, old-timey town about 20 miles southwest of Toledo. I try to make at least one annual bike ride there, as it offers some of the most beautiful views of the Maumee River, and it’s a great distance for a biking day trip.

The area is frequented by fishers and boaters, who head to Mary Jane Thurston Park. Moreover, its downtown is an attraction for lovers of antiques, collectibles, and all the other knickknacks that people like my mother and aunt find irresistible.

After months of deferring this trip, my friend Josh and I at last set out for the town along familiar country roads last weekend. I toted along my brand new Nikon D700, armed only with a wide angle lens so as to lighten the load, just in case there were any good shots to be taken.

I shot some pictures of “downtown” Grand Rapids (one street), as well as several of the river and the surrounding area. One of my fondest memories of summers past is traveling to this town and watching the sun set over the Maumee. Sunsets aren’t easy to photograph in a way that’s original and creative, but I tried anyway.

You may have noticed the below photo has a somewhat strange look and feel to it. That’s because for some photos from this trip, I experimented with a post-processing technique called HDR, or “high dynamic range.” Some think this technique is bizarre, unnatural, or (after a few years of heavy popularity) hackneyed, but others continue to use it (quite successfully) for the majority of their photographs.

The sun sets over the Maumee. (An HDR image.)

HDR typically involves combining multiple images taken of the same scene that are all at different exposures. These images are meshed together in a way that allows the resulting composite to show a range of contrast that would probably be impossible with a single exposure. Some of the examples below use this technique; it should be fairly obvious which ones, but it’s also denoted in the image captions.

Click a thumbnail to see the full image:

3 comments on An old-timey town

  1. Amazing!!! My family meets me in Grand Rapids when I can’t make it home for a weekend. It makes a beautiful peaceful meeting place for us…gives me a chance to get outta Toledo. You captured it’s beauty. Absolutely amazing! Wonderful job!

  2. How do you hold the camera steady enough to take the exact same picture for HDR? And what about objects that are moving, like those birds – shouldn’t they be blurry or something?

  3. Well, ideally the camera is kept steady by using a tripod, which is what I’ve done for some more recent HDR photos. Obviously it wasn’t feasible to carry a tripod on a 40-mile bike trip, though.

    Thankfully, the software is able to align multiple images by matching up features photo to photo. That functionality is kind of hit or miss, though, and it worked terribly on several of the pictures I took at Grand Rapids.

    Moving objects would be blurry in an HDR (unless you used a single RAW image file and made multiple exposures from that). The photos in this set with the birds, however, are good ol’ fashioned single exposures. Actually, only three of these are HDR.

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