Trying New Things

General Thoughts
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Alter – Duke Chapel No. 1 — Duke University Campus, NC © jj raia

Ever since transitioning from film to digital, I have increasingly pushed what I had previously deemed unacceptable into what is permissible. In the 1990’s while photographing mostly in New Jersey, “the hand of man” in most cases, was simply not allowed into my landscapes. It was very problematic since most of my work was done in the pre-dawn or sunrise hours, and the intrusion of lights still lit from the night before was always a concern. Electrical wires, old tires in lakes, or any number of distractions simply made it more difficult to get the “untouched” look I was after. Shooting at a lake, there were many times when composing an image, I discovered a fishing float hanging from a limb, dangling prominently in the frame, forcing me to pack up and move on. But the technology of today allows many of these formerly elemental taboos to find their way into an image because they can be easily eliminated and the inspiration of the scene can still be recorded. I can distinctly remember once saying to myself when I saw a few tree branches intruding on the edge of the frame that I can take them out in Photoshop and thereby maintain the balance that was in the frame without necessitating recomposition. In addition, this same technology allows for expanded possibilities without any additional requisite hardware.

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1959 Chevy © jj raia

In the past year and a half, I have included panoramas, now having the ability to stitch several images together without the need of a specialized film camera necessary many years ago. In addition, images with light values that went beyond the capacity of the film to record were simply not even taken, but are now routinely produced using high dynamic range software to bring the extreme light values within a useable space.

Lately, I have made meager attempts of subjects that previously never even entered my consciousness. I actually went to a small antique auto show at a local park on a brilliantly sunny day and found myself like a fish out of water. There were many difficulties, the main one being my own reflection in the car I was photographing which a polarizer reduced, but did not eliminate. HDR didn’t seem to work for me that day, but I determined it was something with which I needed to get a deeper understanding.

A few days later I went to the Cathedral on the Duke University campus to try some more HDR images, but was informed that tripods were not allowed!! Attempting HDR imagery in the low light expanse of this architectural marvel hand-held was a daunting challenge to say the least. I have already come to terms with my inability to hand hold much of anything anymore, so I made every attempt to steady the camera against walls, fences or anything else that helped. Many of the shots I wanted required a lot of patience because of the steady stream of other folks also visiting. Although HDR seemed necessary when capturing these images, I found that several could be accomplished with the careful post processing of just a single frame from the sequence including the image of the alter at the top and the newly refurbished pipe organ above, right.

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Baptismal Chapel — Duke University Campus, NC © jj raia

The one thing I was after though, was to produce a few images that absolutely did not have the look and feel that so many HDR’s seem to have. Every attempt was made to recreate what might be considered “normal” lighting in the two images of the Baptismal Chapel, above and previously on the left. Currently, my main problem with the HDR software is finding the new image after it’s been saved. A few are still roaming around somewhere in the circuitry of my computer probably never to be found. But these two HDR images did manage to escape.

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