Monthly Archives: May 2010
On my birthday, this past January, I took the day off to spend photographing. It was windy and colder than hell (irony), so I bundled up and caught the 7:00 AM train for downtown (Nashville). One subject that I was dying to photograph was the interior of the downtown Presbyterian Church. I hadn’t been inside before, but I had seen a couple of photos of the Egyptian revivalist structure that were intriguing enough to peak my interest.
Although I arrived downtown in time for the good morning light, what I found was a feature-less gray sky that’s great for portraiture– not so great for cityscape shots. So I got all of them out of the way early.
I took the obligatory shots on the Shelby Street pedestrian bridge (I processed it in black and white with the hope that someone might mistake it for art).
Then I followed with a shot of the Nashville skyline that was so cliched I’m surprised there weren’t marks showing where to place your tripod legs. The shot was so dull that I had to jack it up in post production.
This puppy is more over-produced than an old Barry Manilow album.
I proceeded to the Schermerhorn Symphony Center with the hopes of grabbing some sublime shots worthy of any great photographer’s portfolio. I was fairly pleased with a few of them.
It was after spending about an hour there that I noticed the sign stating that photographs of the Center are for personal use only and not to be used for commercial purposes. Great, let’s move on.
So I went to Dunn Bros. to grab a tea (iced, no sugar) where I noticed the Head Honcho of the downtown Presbyterian Church (no, that’s probably not his official clerical title; and yes, I knew him from his picture next to an article he wrote in the local newspaper). I screwed up my courage and asked him if I could be allowed to photograph the interior of the church. He said to just enter from the side door. I entered the church unceremoniously and was directed to the sanctuary by a very pleasant lady who may well have been the true keeper of the domain.
What passed then was about an hour of mostly uninterrupted accessibility to this fascinating interior. I shot it from just about every angle I could imagine using every technique I knew. Then, I let the photos sit in my computer incubating until today (I sometimes have to put a little distance between the shoot and the post production just for the sake of creativity– it’s like making kimchee). This is the first result.
As this is my first pass on this shot, I welcome your comments, good or bad. Actually, I always welcome your comments.
Geek Spoiler Alert: if you want to dedicate the next month or so of your life to figure out all of the steps taken to produce this image, do not read the following technical explanation. Also, if you are not a geek, you probably won’t be interested.
The interior of the church is a high contrast environment that didn’t lend itself well to single exposures. The image above is an HDR (High Dynamic Range) Panorama. Using a tripod, I shot 4 different views at three different exposures. In post production, I merged the three exposures of each view using the batch operation in Photomatix (that way I knew each view was processed using the exact same HDR settings). I stitched together the four resulting HDR images in Photoshop CS4, opened the final stitched image in CS4, copied the background layer, filtered the copied layer in Topaz Adjust and tweaked the Adjust settings to bring out the details a little better. Then, I created a layer mask, filled it with black to eliminate the Topaz adjustments, and used a white foreground brush to bring the adjustments back into the areas of greatest interest– the pulpit area and the two crosses. Finally, I opened the edited image in Photoshop Lightroom 2 and tweaked the general and local exposures, color balance, and selective sharpening.
Whew. Yeah, that was a lot of work just to make the photo proximate what I saw and felt in that place. But I learned a lot in the process.
Sorry, no photo for today. But I couldn’t resist sharing some quality links. I swear I am not obsessing about the flood. I just ran into these articles while cruising the vapors for something else…don’t ask me what, I don’t remember. Oh yeah, I heard there were We are Nashville t-shirts for sale with all proceeds going to flood relief– that’s what I was Binging. At any rate, check these two out if you’d like to see some impressions from kindred outside spirits.
Have a dry day.
Later that day, I took my normal lunchtime walk, which happened to take an associate of mine and myself past the Farmer’s Market. A merchant at the market ran up to me and said “I have been looking for you!” As it turns out, his business had suffered some pretty significant flood damage, especially in the basement– which had been flooded all the way to the ceiling. He was just looking for someone to take some photos of the damage to submit to FEMA; and he noticed the Canon G11 slung over my shoulder. There were pallets of “dry” produce as well as multiple coolers of vegetables that were rotten and gave off a horrid stench.
So we shuffled around in the darkness, myself trying to take still photos and my companion taking video with the merchant’s camera. Even though I couldn’t see what I was photographing until the flash fired, the infrared focus of the G11 did a great job. I went home that night, edited and printed the photos, and delivered them to the merchant the next day. He was most appreciative.
I am sparing you the photos out of concern for the merchant’s privacy and because, as you can imagine, they weren’t particularly esthetically pleasing.
This past Tuesday was so odd that it has taken me 5 days to digest it– or, at least that’s my excuse for taking so long for this post. As you all know (or at least everyone in the Middle Tennessee area should know– there wasn’t such great national coverage of the event) two weeks ago we had a flood of “almost biblical proportions” (paraphrased from Treme). By some estimates, it was a 1000-year flood. The commuter train that I take to work everyday was shut down for a week after the flood due to washed out track and a partually-submerged train station. So I was quite happy when train service restarted last Monday.
Last Tuesday, I didn’t have any 8 AM meetings to attend, so I chose to take a more leisurely walk from the train station to the office. After the flood, Nashville received a welcome invasion of private disaster response teams. As you can see in my blog from a couple of weeks ago, pump discharge hoses were ubiquitous in downtown Nashville as merchants pumped the flood waters out of their establishments on to the street. The smaller hoses of the pumps are now being replaced by the much larger hoses of massive portable dehumidifiers. This was especially evident as I passed the Schermerhorn Symphony Center.
After shooting a few at the Schermerhorn, I headed up one block north and the first thing I saw was a guy transporting a fortune teller machine past the honkey tonks on Broadway.
I proceeded further down Broadway to pass the Mother Church of honkey tonks, Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, and saw a most unusual procession moving quickly past the beer joints of downtown Nashville.
So it was a pretty odd 15 minute walk to work.