Too Cold to Feel Motivated ? Just Get Up and Do It !

So with the cold winter weather upon us, it’s been tough to get motivated. The lure of a warm couch and the remote control is way too tempting sometimes. I’ll sit around when I’m not at work and look around the house for something to photograph. There’s got to be something here that i can shoot, upload, edit and make look really cool, right?   Not a chance.   So, let’s see what’s on ESPN, HBO the History Channel?  Nothing.  So what do I do now?

Well….  I grabbed my coat, my keys and my camera and went out into the sub-freezing weather to find what I haven’t been able to find. The only problem was that I didn’t know what i was looking for. I crossed one of Pittsburgh’s many bridges and noticed that the Allegheny River looked like a smooth piece of glass. This is a rarity seeing as how there’s almost always some sort of breeze near the rivers here. So I made a quick left at the end of the bridge and headed for yet another bridge so I could get out onto Washington’s Landing (formerly known as Herr’s Island).

I made my way near the water’s edge and started scanning for a good shot. I was able to catch a pretty neat shot with the reflection of one of the Strip District’s old buildings as well as a good portion of the downtown skyline. The reflection looked great on the camera’s LCD. Next I braced myself against a tree and took a five-exposure bracketed shot of the scene to try out using the HDR (High Dynamic Range) feature in Photoshop. This feature blends multiple exposures of the same photo in order to bring out as much detail as possible from the shadows all the way up to the highlights.

Nikon D300s, 55mm, f/11, ISO 200, 5 exposures merged in PS CS5, HDR Pro

It’s going to take me a while to wrap my head around the whole HDR thing, but I think I really like the looks that are possible. Now I’ll always be looking for shots where HDR could make something great out of a dull, boring scene. I tried a three-exposure shot of the 40th Street Bridge from the north end of the island.This shot, as well as a few others from that afternoon can be seen on my Flickr page. By using the three exposures, I was able it bring some detail into the sky which would have been almost pure white if I had shot a single exposure.

After finishing up the work on the reflection shot, I pulled up a shot of Downtown Pittsburgh that I shot about a month ago and tried another HDR effect by using the HDR toning feature in Photoshop CS5. This feature allows you to apply tone mapping to a single exposure in order to achieve an ‘HDR-like’ effect. On top of using the HDR toning, I then opened the image in a Photoshop plug-in called Topaz Adjust. This is a neat tool that can transform an image with over a dozen creative presets. I just chose one of the presets and then made my own tweaks to fine-tune the image into the  painting-like image below.

Nikon D300s, 17mm, f/11, ISO 200, 1/250 sec, final editing inTopaz Adjust

So if you’re feeling a lack of inspiration or motivation, get out of the house and keep your eyes and mind open as you move about town. Something, somewhere will grab your attention. I can’t wait for the next time I have a free hour so I can pick up and go out exploring.


Thanks for looking,