HDR Collaboration

Come Downstairs and Say Hello: A Collaboration


What?  Is it my turn again to host the HDR Collaborations?  Sweet, ’cause I’ve been waiting to share some really cool brackets with the likes of an amazing cabal of photographers many of you may know, like Jim Denham, Mark Garbowski, Mike Criswell (aka Theaterwiz), Rob Hanson, Bob Lussier, and… oh yeah, me!  Anyway, as I was saying, I wanted to share some brackets from a recent Urban Exploration trip to an old East German paper mill shut down years ago with these guys, ’cause I was just itching to see what they could do with them.  I figured my HDR Collaboration pals wouldn’t mind too terribly much taking a crack at working on a photograph at a location that not too many folks on their side of the pond may have the opportunity to visit, much less photograph.  And, friends, I’m telling you these cats rocked these brackets hard!!  Wow!! So, without much more blather from me, here is my version of the shot, followed by the amazing versions dished out by my HDR homeys!  And do yourselves a favor and check out their other stunning work over on their websites, which you can reach by clicking on any mention of their names in this blog posting.

Jim Denham:

How lucky are we to push pixels on a set of brackets from the Freq himself? And what a set of brackets to play with! Awesome work here Jacques, thanks for allowing us to play along!

The wall directly above the first set of stairs drew my eye immediately, the way the light from the floor above was showing off the paint peelage and greenish colors. I knew I had to focus on that spot! Cropped the image in a bit to bring that area more into the foreground and gain emphasis. Selectively applied the Clarity preset from Topaz Adjust to bring out the paint on the wall, then applied a heavy s-curve in Aperture. Also burned the shadows so that there was only the main light from the upper floor and the window light in the back of the frame. Even though darkened, I left that window a bit bright to add some depth to the image. Final adjustments were definition and sharpening to main stairs and wall, then a heavy vignette to darken the edges even more!

REALLY enjoyed these brackets and love the result! Thanks Jacques!

Mark Garbowski:

I look forward to these collaborations more and more because doing them juices my interest in working on my own images. Thanks for supplying this cool image, Jacques.  For this image, I started by making the Photomatix tone mapped version brighter than I knew the final result would be, knowing that I could always make it darker.  Leaving it moderately bright allowed me to selectively darken later using brushes.  Once I had the tone mapped version, the first thing I did was brush in the window from the darkest bracket because it was blown out. In fact, I even darkened the window beyond how it was captured in the bracket with the lowest exposure, and ended up deciding to make the window the central element of the image. I used the Nik Color Efex Midnight filter to brush in the selective darkening. Another Nik Cross Processing filter added an eerie blue tone, and by chance it left the area around the window mostly unchanged, but seemed to reveal that the blue light was coming from somewhere outside. Next I decided to go all in on and further emphasize the window using selective focus from OnOne’s Focal Point. I don’t know if it comes through, but I ended up telling a story with this image that I’m pretty sure is different from what Jacques intended. But then, that’s the whole point of this endeavor, isn’t it?

Mike Criswell (aka Theaterwiz):

What sweet lighting Jacques! What I liked about this set of brackest, and really enjoyed, is the many directions the light poured over the scene, and how much I enjoyed working with it while processing the brackets. Such a Sweet Set.

I approached this as any other set, but I knew the darkness and the light would play into my processing, knowing that Jacques shot the brackets, I already knew the brackets were good!. While procesing this and finishing it up, I look and wonder and I beg to ask, should I come down the steps from the creepy upstairs, or head up them to the unknown? Very cool Jacques, loved these brackets. These were processed in Photomatix, with my normal formula, some Topaz, OnOne, NIK, and Lucis…Thanks again Jacques!

Fun Processing times! Cheers from T-Wiz

Rob Hanson:


That should be all I have to say, but… Wow…

I had a feeling this was going to be a good set, and I certainly wasn’t disappointed. The thing I love about working with Jacques’ images is that they are already stunningly well done, even before post-processing. So much clarity and detail, and always a fantastic composition.

And the thing I like most about working these collaborations is that it’s like standing there with the photographer, looking through their eyes. Since we’re not in the same part of the world, I know of no better way of getting to know these people more closely, to directly experience their vision, and for that, I’m grateful.

For processing this image, I veered away from Photomatix Pro entirely, as I found the output to be too soft and flat for my liking. Instead, I used HDR Express from Unified Color to create the base file, and Unified’s 32 Float plug-in for Photoshop CS to tweak that result.

There were a few spots that I needed to address. I used another 32 Float layer to knock down the window glare and slightly reduce the luminosity coming from the upstairs area. Once I had achieved a good balance on the lighting, I warmed up the lighted areas with a Brilliance/Warmth filter from Nik Color Efex Pro. I wanted that warm light to be pouring down the staircase and in from the window.

In order to add more depth to the details and shadows, I then created a separate layer with Nik’s Silver Efex Pro and pushed both contrast and structure to high levels, then lowered the opacity of the layer to about 30% with blending in Hard Light. (Sort of like my Shadowmapping process.) From there, Nik’s Tonal Contrast, Glamour Glow, and Midnight filters were applied in succession, brushed in or out depending on my whim at the time. I also performed some Low Amount/High Radius sharpening, and finished up with Nik’s Output Sharpener, but dialed down the result so that the details didn’t get too edgy.

Wow. Thanks, Jacques.

Bob Lussier:

Jacques has a great eye for photography and is a master technician, so I knew this set of brackets would be near perfect, both aesthetically and technically. No shock. Its a great image. I also thought it could  be something I would take (the stair freak that I am) so I was eager to jump on it.

I love the distribution of light here. Especially the shadows creeping from the lower corners of the image, pointing to the base of the steps. I wanted to maintain the darkness there. I wanted to create a mood. I hope I was successful.

The only unspoken rule of this little game is, “thou shalt not cast eyes upon thy brothers finished product before finishing thine own.” I believe its also the 11th commandment, but Moses dropped the third tablet as he stumbled down the mountain.

Anyway, I always abide by that rule. I try to process the host’s image as if it were my own. I always finish it thinking, “I’ve nailed it!” I did that here. Then I look at the others and I’m blown away.  I’m really thrilled to be keeping the company I keep here.


Mama, I’m comin’ home…

Well, friends!  It’s Valentine’s Day, so today’s post had to be special.  I think by now most of you who follow my posts know that I’ve been, for some time now, part of an HDR collaboration with some of the coolest HDR cats out there, like Jim Denham, Rob Hanson, Bob Lussier, and Brian Matiash.  And now, we’ve added another amazing HDRtist to the mix, Mike Criswell (aka Theaterwiz)!  Man am I lucky to be part of such a perfect storm!  And what better way to welcome Mike, and to celebrate Valentine’s Day, than with an extra-special set of brackets I shot (and all of us post-processed to to our own tastes) as part of my continuing coverage of the awesome URBEX site known as Asylum “T”.

So, a little bit about Asylum “T”.  After World War II (I’ll discuss the WWII era and pre-WWII area on another day), this site, which is located in former East Germany, towards Dresden, was taken over by the Russians and used as a military hospital until around 1993, when the Russians turned it back over to the Germans.  What’s interesting about the former Russian installations I’ve have explored is that the attics and basements are full of little mementos of the former Russian occupation.  Take this attic, for example.  What you see here are the names of several Russian cities, from which those who left their marks hailed, as well as the dates the person was assigned to the installation, or when they rotated out.  With that backstory in mind, I felt that post-processing this shot to Ozzy Osbourne’s fantastic Mama, I’m Comin’ Home was a no-brainer.  Like Ozzy sings to his wife (bet many of you did not know “Mama” was his nickname for his wife), I can imagine these Russian soldiers, weary after years away from home, can think of nothing more than returning to loved ones, girlfriends, wives, and, yes, even mothers!  Happy Valentine’s Day!!

Post-Processing notes:  My favorite photographic  sizes 8 x 10 and 1 x 1 (square crop), so it should come as no surprise that I went with an 8 x 10 crop for this one.  Aside from that creative decision, I also chose to process this shot in a way that would bring the greatest attention to the text left behind on the walls and wooden beams by the Russian soldier.  As I’m also partial to the color red, and since it is, after all, Valentine’s Day, I also saturated and brightened the red paint (particularly on the nearest pillar) a bit.  To give the photograph greater depth, I carefully painted shadows back into the image in places where you would expect to se shadows, while still keeping just enough light on key bits in the darkness to let you know what you are looking at.  I wanted this to look as realistic as possible, yet with my own personal touch.

Mike Criswell (aka Theaterwiz):

I was anxious to get a look at the brackets when Jacques told us what the title was going to be, I was not disappointed. The information he provided about the location was amazing and when I started processing this I wanted to convey that in my version of the shot. I really liked the gritty foreground and detailed ceiling when I first looked at the set, but the more I worked on the picture the more I realized where my vision was for this set of brackets. I wanted to focus more on the doorway and the amazing writing on the walls and column, this area really told the story of this location and I tried to accent those areas in the processing. I think I spent more time looking at different cropping ideas on this than final processing tweaks, and I had a hard time deciding on my final version. I let everything sit overnight and this ended up being my favorite when it was all said and done. Thanks again for the brackets Jacques, and thanks to the rest of the Collaboration group for letting me join in the processing fun.

Jim Denham:

Thanks to Jacques for supplying a great set of brackets and a great story behind them! I wanted to highlight the names and dates in the image, but didn’t want to overdo the processing – something simple and straight forward. There was a lot of space in the image and I cropped it down a bit to move the focus clearly on the concrete pillar and the wall behind. Used dodging and burning to further accent.

Rob Hanson:

Once again, Jacques donated a fantastic set of brackets for this round. I did all of my processing work before I got the backstory on Asylum -T, and found that I didn’t make too many changes even after I heard more about this place. This set also gave me a chance to do some overdue research on Ozzy’s career. Not being a big heavy-metal fan, I lost interest in Sabbath sometime after “Master of Reality” wore out (and yes, folks, I remember when it was released!)

With a tip of the hat to Jacques’ fantastic composition skills, I brought the crop in somewhat aggressively, strengthening the vertical lines of the columns in order to highlight the tall ceiling. I felt that this really brought attention to the column and brings us closer to the graffiti while eliminating what were, for me, a couple of minor distractions.

In a cold, dark, dingy Urbex environment, I think it’s a natural human impulse to want to escape, to go back to what is warm and comfortable. As I did with both Mark Garbowski’s recent “Uptown & The Bronx” and Brian Matiash’s “A Seemingly Safe Exit” collaborations, I lit the way out of this scene by providing warm and inviting light coming from the door. That gives us a choice to either stay in the scene to take in more of the graffiti, or to navigate toward the door to something more soothing.

I really enjoy working with Jacques’ brackets. They always confront me with things that make me think more about what I’m doing with an image.

Bob Lussier:

A set of brackets provided by Jacques is always guaranteed to please. This is no exception.

I kept the processing pretty straightforward. I tend to lean towards contrasty processing so this place that Jacques so expertly captured was perfect for me. I pulled back the saturation a bit and then popped the red graffiti.

Finally, I cropped it to an 8×10 format to help lead the eye across the floor and out the door.

Thanks Jacques, for the Valentine’s Day gift.

We love you too.

Brian Matiash:

It’s always a pleasure to work on a fine set of brackets, especially when they are from an HDR cohort.  Jacques has proven time and again that he knows how to get very compelling UrbEx images, so it was a treat to take a crack at this series.

I decided to crop the image a bit and get rid of some of the foreground.  I also kept the processing more on the colder, stoic side.  I want the viewer to feel chilly when looking at the graffiti on the stone columns.

My favorite part of the scene is that little bit of the door that you see in the background. There is something so wonderfully creepy about it.

Kudos for a fine set of brackets, my man. I truly enjoyed it.

Washed by the Water

Hey folks!  Great to be with you again, and I’m super pleased to share with you the latest results of the HDR collaboration between Rob Hanson, Mark Garbowski, Brian Matiash, Bob Lussier, Jim Denham, and me.  Yeah, baby.  Six guns strong and ready to rock and roll!  So what’s this all about?  Each week, one photographer in our team will share a set of carefully chosen brackets with the other team members.  Each photographer then post-processes the brackets according to his individual creative vision.  At the end of the week, the originator of said brackets posts the results on their blog for all to see.  What has amazed me most about working with these great photographers is how differently we all see things, whether it is on location while shooting, or back home when we post-process.  I should note that this set of brackets was my favorite of my recent shoot at the abandoned Asylum “T” because I’ve been hunting for a cool old bathtub to shoot forever!  So, without further ado, here’s my version:

Rob Hanson’s Version:

Mark Garbowski’s Version:

Brian Matiash’s Version:

Bob Lussier’s Version:

Jim Denham’s Version:

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