Dynamic Dirt Challenge

Walking the Plank

Last Sunday I was at Pineland Farms in New Gloucester, Maine shooting the Dynamic Dirt Challenge for Gameface Media. There wasn’t anything easy about this job but it was a hell of a lot of fun! After waking up at 4:30 AM, I drove to the race, picked up my memory cards, and then spent half an hour trying to get out to the obstacle I was assigned. Walk the Plank was three logs spanning a pit of muddy water about a mile or two from the starting line. I got lost a couple of times and turned around before wading through a marsh but arrived with time to spare. Immediately I realized that it was a very dark location and I would be maxing out the settings on my camera. I set up with a zoom lens and then discovered that both the volunteers and racers liked to stand directly in front of my shot. I didn’t much like the first batch of images and changed lenses to go wide. That’s when the skies opened up and the real fun began. Heavy rain turned the dirt to mud (how’s that for dynamic?), filled the pit with more water, covered my lens with rain streaks, and made the logs treacherous. Everything and everyone was wet. I sank in the mud, slid around, got eaten by mosquitoes, and walked away with some fun images to show for it. Oh, and I wound up with an awesome case of poison ivy! Enjoy!

Balancing Machine

Walk The Plank

Slow and Steady

Doom and Gloom

Threesome

Crawling The Plank

Orange

Thumbs Up

Not Recommended

Desperate Housewives

Walking the Plank

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Lightroom 6 & Real Estate

Bangor_Maine_Real_Estate_Photography_2 Shot Stitch

With the announcement of new features in Lightroom 6, namely HDR and Photomerge, I immediately wondered how useful they would be for real estate work. The short answer – Not Very. Less than a mile away, a new 4,000 square foot house hit the market with some astonishingly bad photos and I wanted to try something new. Check out the listing photos below and notice the blown out skies, lack of sharpness, color, or composition that would make the place stand out. The strangest thing about the listing to me was that they didn’t include a single photo of the interior of the house!

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What makes this property a little more challenging and thus more interesting to shoot is a combination of 1) the house isn’t meant to be viewed from the driveway side, 2) it is built at the top of a hill, 3) it has a large lawn, 4) a major road, a park, and power/phone lines are at the edge of the property at the bottom of the hill. Shooting with a wide angle lens at 10mm from the middle of the lawn makes the house look far too small, as seen below. If I moved closer, then the view of the house would disappear due to the angle of shooting up the hill. Even cropping in made it feel distant.

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At 20mm the images felt much better but weren’t wide enough to fully capture the landscaping. This was an opportunity to use the new PhotoMerge feature. Select two (or more) images, right click, and select PhotoMerge > Panorama. The result is a stitched image as a Digital Negative that retains all of the RAW data and a reason to stitch in Lightroom when possible versus exporting to Photoshop or PTGui. Helpful, yes, but outside of landscape photography, how often will it actually get used? The resulting stitched image is below.

Bangor_Maine_Real_Estate_Photography_2 Shot Stitch

In the midst of this, I tried out the new HDR function. Select your bracketed images, right click, and select PhotoMerge > HDR. Now, given the stigma surrounding HDR and the often bat-shit crazy tonemapping that defines the worst of it, I can hear groans about Adobe including this in their latest release. However, what it does stays true to what the acronym stands for – it merges multiple exposures into a single Digital Negative with a higher dynamic range than the original single exposure. The program is not capable of tone mapping and for the most part, the resulting HDR image is very similar to a processed/developed version of the middle exposure. Check the comparison below. It’s hard to tell the difference. In terms of using it for real estate, it may be helpful once in awhile, but window masking between exposures still needs to be done elsewhere.

Lightroom 6 HDR Real Estate Comparison

Enter the zoom lens. I wanted to emphasize the house and at 80mm I could shoot from across the street while keeping the power lines out of the frame. I dodged traffic, fired off a sequence of overlapping images between passing cars, and retreated. I stitched them together using the PhotoMerge feature and the uncropped result is below.

Panorama Uncropped

After cropping, I had what I was looking for. A decent image of the “front” of the house from an angle closer to level. My comparison to the the original listing image is below – it’s best viewed at full size. Blue sky and green greens tend to help any listing image look better, but also note how much more of the house is visible.

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Are the new tools in Lightroom 6 useful for Real Estate Photographers? Again, not really. The PhotoMerge features – HDR and Panorama – are aimed at landscape photographers. Saving the new files as Digital Negatives is great, however the tools don’t do what I would need. Rather than getting a crisp view through a window, I only get a little more detail and still have to dump the images into Photoshop for masking. Panoramas and image stitching is slightly more useful, but won’t often be used.

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Color Me Rad

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On April 26th, Color Me Rad descended upon Manchester, NH and I was there with Gameface Media to shoot the event. My assignment was to take pre & post-race photos at the finish line and stage area. A standard zoom lens would have been ideal if I owned one! I wrapped up my camera to keep the color out, slapped a UV filter and hood on the lens and proceeded to shoot the entire few hours with a fixed 50mm lens. Every time I needed to fit a large group in the photo I’d have to back up and without fail run into someone. Whether or not I was successful I’m still undecided on, but I think I got a few fun shots. Which is your favorite?

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Groomsmen

Mike & Mark Thompson

While a wedding might be all about the bride, some memorable images can be made when you have a group of guys that are just having fun. Check out a few moments with the groomsmen at the Thompson wedding…


The Very Serious Group Pose

The Everyone hold someone else's suspenders Shot
The “Everyone Hold Someone Else’s Suspenders” Shot

The Album Cover Shot
The Album Cover Shot

The Christian Rock Band Photo

Mike & Mark Thompson
Brothers…

The Simple Shot
Back to the Basics

The Thompson Men
and finally, The Thompson Men.

Other shots not seen here included the “Buns to Buns”, “Beard to Beard”, and the “Grab Your Junk.” Which one is your favorite?

Bangor Color Run

River Sunrise

As I walk down to the waterfront, all I am thinking is that I hope I don’t have to shoot purple again. It would be nice to have a new color to mix things up, but in the end, I’m stationed at the 4k mark and the organizers have decided that the color station will be purple. Sounds good, I guess. I protect my camera with a rainproof bag, some gaffer tape and a bit of duct tape, then proceed to walk around the race pavilion. The event is nowhere near as large as South Portland, however it is at least home. Armed with a monopod to ease the burden of running handheld all day long, I delve into another colorful race… The purple people eaters decided to completely cover me at the end. Note that the colorant tends to stain once it mixes with sweat. A few of the resulting photos are below!

Color Explosion

Man Vs Leaf Blower

Dust Angel

Running Through Bubbles

Purpled

Heart

Woah

Thumbs Up

Colorful

The Witch

Post Race

Beneath the Clothes

Orange Burst

River Sunrise

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