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Cebu City, Philippines

Built in 1972, the Cebu Taoist Temple is inside the Beverly Hills Subdivision. It was built by Cebu’s wealthy Chinese community at a time when temples were non existent. The temple holds several deities in multi-level Chinese style architecture within the vast compound. As the photos are proof, the temple is as colorful and clean as it can get. Much of the Chinese temples in Manila are the exact opposite.

The Taoist temple is open to worshipers and non-worshipers alike but must abide by a set of rules. Silence is definitely on the top of the list and photography is only allowed on the exterior but not inside the temple. Even the finer details near the doors and roof details are off limits to shutterbugs. For kids who like to side step the rules there are security guards around the premises who will whisper the rules.

The images below were shot handheld in a drizzle. 3 different exposures were captured as the sky was a washed out white with 1 exposure. So, to keep things short, all the RAW files were thrown into Photomatix and batch processed for good measure.

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The entrance way to the temple. No cars ares allowed inside.

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The grand view of the Taoist temple emerging from the entry way.

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The main building. There were more tourist than worshipers that day.

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The main building's front view. Remember, follow the rules: silence and only exterior photography.

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Details

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A view of Cebu City from 300 meters above sea level.

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Shooting a photographer shooting the Taoist temple

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The temple is not accessible by foot-rent a car or hire a cab. Make sure the driver waits until you finish or it'll be a long walk down.

Sunset A Day After

The Philippines has just experienced typhoon Bebeng (international name Man-yi), the second of the year and brought a mean 170 km/h winds. But one of the best times to shoot a sunset is after a typhoon has passed where rain clouds are still present to reflect the suns colors and strong enough winds have blown grey-brown pollution somewhere else.

PAGASA (Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration) uses its own naming scheme apart from the rest of Southeast Asia for typhoons (tropical cyclones). The list below are tropical cyclones for 2011.

  • Amang, Bebeng, Chedeng, Dodong, Egay, Falcon, Goring, Hanna, Ineng, Juaning, Kabayan, Lando, Mina, Nonoy, Onyok, Pedring, Quiel, Ramon,
    Sendong, Tisoy, Ursula, Viring, Weng, Yoyoy, Zigzag, Abe, Berto, Charo, Dado, Estoy, Felion, Gening, Herman, Irma, Jaime.  source-Wikipedia

Images were shot using Canon DSLR mounted on a ball head tripod. Images captured RAW, processed to tif file using various softwares (DXO Labs, Photomatix) and further processed to final upload version in Photoshop CS5. Do click images to view larger…

More on HDR here and here

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Captured right after the sun has just set into the horizon. 3 exposure HDR processed in Photomatix--Exif: EOS 7D, 17mm, f/16, 1/5, ISO 100, tripod mounted and remote triggered with Canon RS-80N3.

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Same view as above in portrait orientation. 3 exposure HDR processed in Photomatix-Exif: EOS 7D, 17mm, f/9, 1/3, ISO 100, tripod mounted and remote triggered with Canon RS-80N3.

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Captured a few minutes after the above images. 1 exposure HDR processed in DXO Labs-Exif: EOS 7D, 17mm, f/20, 5 sec, ISO 100, tripod mounted and remote triggered with Canon RS-80N3.

A Simple How to Technique

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Photo-realistic High Dynamic Range image do click on the photo for the larger view. A recent post: Subtle HDR-No Whacked Out Colors Here details a how to for a simple HDR. This post will deal mostly with manually blending or stitching 2 sets of HDR’s in Photoshop.

Always have the DSLR on a sturdy tripod and have the remote switch shutter release plugged into the DSLR (after DSLR is on the tripod to avoid tangled up wires). From the top LCD on the DSLR, dial in for AEB (Auto Exposure Bracketing). For Canon shooters that is just 3 exposures: -1, 0, +1. Try -2, 0, +2 for different results and choose high speed shooting mode again from the top menu so the 3 exposures will fire off without a hitch.

Now shoot the heck out of the landscape but on’t take too much time fiddling with the next 3 exposures. When the sun sets into the horizon color ranges vary greatly within a few minutes. Shooting fast can still get you different colors from the first set of exposures but they can be corrected in RAW to get the same tones.

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Shoot 3 exposure of bottom half first as color and light will affect this part of the photo more than the sky. It is also easier to deal with the colors in the sky later on in post if colors do not match the bottom half.

Next, gently adjust your tripod and shift up-this is where live view (EOS 50D, 60D, 7D, 5D) comes in handy. Shoot the next 3 exposures to overlap the first set of exposures. Just include about 10-20% of what is on the horizon to keep as guide when manually stitching later on and for reference to color changes.

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Now that the 2 sets of 3 exposures are finished, grab a cup of coffee, a piece of pie and relax. Take in the beautiful view at hand and remember no 2 sunset scenes are ever alike.

Next put each set of exposures into your favorite HDR processing software (I use either Photomatix or Photoshop CS5) and process the 2 sets separately. Then save them as TIF files to be worked on later. Once the 2 sets of HDR images are ready open them up in Photoshop, stack them in separate layers, add a masking layer (to sky set) and align the sky layer to the bottom layer. The most accurate way to do this is set opacity on the top image at 50% and align using the selection tool (use the horizon/buildings as reference). Zoom in at 100% to make sure the buildings and horizon are aligned.

Once the 2 HDR layers are aligned carefully brush away the part of the horizon on the sky set to show the bottom (city shot) photo. The 2 layers will look seamless if a soft brush preset at 50% preset is used. Brush strokes should start from one end of the image to the next (left to right-right to left). This technique is easy to do once a few trial and error brush strokes are done. Don’t be disappointed by the first try. I had to work my way through this process all on my lonesome in 2007-as evident in the many holes in the wall punched through out of frustration-ok, this part isn’t true but that’s sort of how it felt.

One of the most important features in Photoshop is control Z. This shortcut is an ‘undo’ if a mistake is made.

Capturing the 3 exposures are the easiest part of this exercise. The manual blending brush strokes are the most labor intensive of the process (depending on detail of the horizon). Once you achieve your desired look all it takes is some adjustments in overall color to bring the 2 sets together.

Twilight at 6:30 pm captured on Canon EOS 50D at 24mm, ISO 125, tripod with ball head and Canon RS-80N3 Remote Switch (cheapest of the bunch).

Photo Realistic HDR

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The 5 (-2, -1, 0, +1, +2) exposures used to achieve a subtle High Dynamic Range through AEB mode (Auto Exposure Bracketing) with Canon gear. My preferred software either Photoshop or Photomatix but now a days post processing work has become less painful with Adobe’s much improved Photoshop CS5. Do refer to the supplied DSLR manual on how to set AEB.

Put the DSLR on a sturdy tripod and attach the remote shutter release. Best results if your DSLR have live view-saving a stiff neck and a trip to the masseuse. To make this technique less painful use AV mode and dial in an f-stop of 6.3. Auto focus on an object near the location of the setting sun. After achieving focus switch the lens focus mode to MF (manual focus)-to prevent lens from focusing on another object throughout the 2 sets of AEB exposures.

Two sets of AEB’s must be achieved. Since Canons can only do 3 consecutive exposures (AEB -,0,+) the first set of 3: -1, 0, +1 should be shot first. Then the next 3 exposures at -2,0,+2 will require you to dial in manually through the menu. Do this as quick as possible while keeping the DSLR on the tripod. Colors change every second as the sun sets further into the horizon faster than selecting a song on the iPod.

Once the initial 6 exposures are captured try the same process again after a few minutes to get different colors in the sky. Or just to do some practice runs in getting used to fiddling around with the AEB settings.

Upload the images unto your comp and start the HDR process. Use 5 out of the 6 exposures and since there are 2 identical -/+0 exposures in the 2 sets just choose one. Process the five exposures in HDR software and save as TIF. Don’t get trigger happy on the sliders in the HDR software. HDR brings out the high light and shadow details but keep it as realistic as possible. Open another window with -/+0 exposure to make sure the adjustments aren’t too far from the original (use artistic judgement here. There is no right or wrong just too much and too subtle)

Have fun and the best part is when your viewers don’t know a photo is actually an HDR. Twilight at 5:45 pm captured on Canon EOS 50D, EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM, ISO 125 with Benro tripod and Canon RS-80N3 Remote Switch.

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On Boracay Island

Still have much photos to edit and post process. In the meantime, this is the full HDR version of my welcome photo (right sidebar).

Station 1 of White Beach on Boracay Island- Boracay is an island of the Philippines located approximately 315 km (200 miles) south of Manila and 2 km off the northwest tip of Panay Island in the Western Visayas region of the Philippines. In 1990, it was voted by the BMW Tropical Beach Handbook as one of the best beaches in the world and again in 1996 by British publication TV Quick as the world’s number one tropical beach.– Thank you, Wikipedia

Captured in May of o-ten. Shot in RAW, converted to tif in Canon’s DPP and further enhanced in Photoshop. HDR was achieved through CS5 HDR adjustment tool from 1 exposure. Canon EOS 50D, 17mm, ISO 100, f/16, 1/60 sec with circular polarizer (CPL) filter attached.

Notice the shadows-this was shot during high noon. It was perfect hot beach weather without any wind. Without the CPL the fine white sand of White Beach would have been overly over exposed. The CPL filter acts like sunglasses for the lens, darkens the blues and evens out the whole scene. As much as possible keep one in the gear bag. Without further ado- the before and after.

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Original straight from camera shot.

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Click for larger HDR version

Looking Back at September 2010

Various storm clouds captured with the most complicated setup being a sturdy tripod, DSLR, wide-angle lens and remote shutter. The DSLR was either an EOS 50D or EOS 7D (whatever was on hand) and lens used was mostly an EF-S 17-85mm f/4-5.6 kit lens. The landscape were all captured in RAW then initially converted to workable file in Digital Photo Professional (Canon’s native software). All images were then put through various adjustments in Photoshop CS5 to get the final versions posted. Some of the photos were slightly HDR’ed to even out the scene. Can you guess which ones?

Some past post on storm clouds here, here, here and some lightning here.

Here’s a tip: the real secret to getting a good sunset/storm/night sky is not an expensive DSLR (here’s lightning from a Canon G7 point and shoot) used but the post processing work done (RAW+Photoshop). For starters do a search on a good screw on CPL filters (B+W) or for shooters with some extra moolah- Cokin or Lee drop in filters.

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Sept. 5, 2010, EOS 7D, 17mm, ISO 100, f/5.6, 1/10 sec.

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Sept. 12, 2010, EOS 7D, 17mm, ISO 100, f/7.1, 1/200 sec. Originally shot in color but it was very muted and it was decided to convert to b&w. Always shoot in color and convert in post.

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Aug. 24, 2010, EOS 50D, 70mm, ISO 100, f/8.0, 36 secs, this frame was part of a series of lightning shoots that night.

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Sept. 12, 2010, EOS 7D, 17mm, ISO 100, f/7.1, 1/200 sec

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Sept. 21, 2010, EOS 50D, 17mm, ISO 400, f/6.3, 1/13 sec. This photos has a sunset(left), lightning glow(upper center), rain storm(directly below lightning glow) and an almost twilight scene(right). No elements of this photo was edited in PS. Captured as is.

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Sept. 6, 2010, EOS 7D, 17mm, ISO 200, f/5.6, 1/15 sec. A dramatic sunset right after heavy monsoon rains with the clouds reflecting whats left of the suns glow. This was captured right after the sun has just gone below the horizon.

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Sept. 19, 2010, EOS 7D, 85mm, ISO 100, f/14, 1/50 sec. Smog and the rainy atmosphere brings a dramatic dimension to the photo. The brighness of the sun is actually filtered by the thick pollution in Manila skies.

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Even if there are 300 gb worth of photos to edit and process, the holidays are still in my veins. Here is quick post from a recent commission. Sanctuario de San Jose in Greenhills getting a retro HDR treatment.

Have a great weekend!

New Years Eve Panorama

The panorama to end 2010 from a recent wedding I covered in Baguio-City of Pines, Philippines.

The interior of St. Joseph the Worker Parish Church captured with Canon EOS 40D w/EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5. 3 quick hand held frames shot while the entourage was prepping for the walk down the aisle. RAW processed in DPP and final output in Photoshop.

Have a great new years eve party!

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Click for large view

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