Filed under high dynamic range

Memories stored in a baseball park

Welcome to my old backyard. Before moving in February, I lived just across the fence from a place called Rolfe Park in Maumee, Ohio. It’s nothing much — just a few baseball fields, a playground, and some batting cages. However, I made a fairly regular habit of walking there because it was sometimes the only way I had time to go outdoors.

I used to do my best thinking on a swing set in the park’s playground. But then it was torn down, and I haven’t had any good ideas since. The photo above is the jungle gym that replaced those wonderful, rickety swings.

Before the swing set’s demolition, I would spend hours on it thinking about how I couldn’t wait for high school to be over because college was going to be “so much easier.” Then years later I would meander around the baseball fields thinking I couldn’t wait to finish college and get a job in the real world, because it was going to be “so much easier.” Now I occasionally stroll about, missing the simple days of high school.

Rolfe Park became something of a geographic repository for my ideas. Since it was a location mostly reserved for pensive mindsets, it became a way to store thoughts and memories within a part of space. By returning there, I can easily access all those years of introspection.

I remember walking out countless nights and looking up at the stars, wondering what my future held, marveling at the hugeness of the universe and thinking of how long it took all that light in the sky to reach me. I remember exactly what bench I sat on when I called up Alicia for the first time (I paced around for a good 30 minutes before working up the nerve to dial.) I went there in all seasons and in all moods. I trudged through the snow to think about all I needed to do to make it through a school year, and I rested on a bench during summer evening bike rides to watch the sun set.

About the Photos

Some of this post’s images are more attempts at that love it or hate it HDR technique, which I mentioned a few weeks ago. HDR, or high dynamic range, has gained some added attention in recent weeks because Apple implemented a significantly toned-down version for use with the iPhone’s built-in camera.

I’ve concluded there are two kinds of outcomes when people try to use HDR: either they successfully bind a wide range of contrast into a beautiful, surreal photograph, or they turn already-bad pictures into a nightmarish and flat mess of color. My hope is, of course, that the ones I’ve generated lean toward the former, but I’m still a bit on the fence.

In terms of the merits of the technique itself, as opposed to my application of it, my sentiments largely align with those of Trey Ratcliff, the editor of the hugely popular Stuck in Customs blog and one of the leading proponents of the technique. Cameras, he wrote, “are not good at capturing a scene the way the mind remembers and maps it.”

“When you are actually there on the scene, your eye travels back and forth, letting in more light in some areas, less light in others, and you create a “patchwork-quilt” of the scene. Furthermore, you will tie in many emotions and feelings into the imagery as well, and those get associated right there beside the scene. Now, you will find that as you explore the HDR process, that photos can start to evoke those deep memories and emotions in a more tangible way. It’s really a wonderful way of “tricking” your brain into experiencing much more than a normal photograph.”Trey Ratcliff

What are your thoughts on the HDR process — is it just a fad, or is it worth serious consideration as a new artistic technique?

Click a thumbnail to see the full image (pressing right/left on the keyboard lets you move through photos):

An old-timey town

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: