Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Bean. In the rain. Yesterday.

Cloud Gate

I stayed up way past my regular bedtime last night to photograph the Roosevelt University Jazz Ensemble at the Jazz Showcase in Chicago (the pictures are still sleeping in my camera). I budgeted an hour and a half to two hours to get downtown from Elgin since I was heading in during rush hour. I got there in a little over an hour. Amazing.

That left me with an extra hour to kill, so I headed over to Millennium Park to photograph the Cloud Gate sculpture, aka The Bean before heading over to the jazz club. The day was cloudy and misty, and I hoped that I could make the best of the atmosphere. Even with the overcast sky, the difference in brightness between the sky and buildings/Bean was too much -- exposing The Bean properly turned patches of the sky completely white. Exposing the sky properly turned The Bean too dark.

I had just finished writing an article this week for Digicamhelp that deals with how to solve the problem (it will be posted in a week or so -- look for it or subscribe to the site's RSS feed). I decided to take my own advice. I switched the camera to RAW format (this technique works with JPEGs, just not as well) and exposed for the sky. Afterward, you can adjust the dark areas with the Shadows and Highlight feature of photo editing programs like Photoshop. Free web-based editing programs like Picasa and Picnik also have this feature that can be used to rescue muddy shadows. Shoot at the lowest ISO rating as you can when you do this; it cuts down on digital noise (graininess) in the final image.

I took this photo a step farther and processed the RAW file into three JPEG files -- one at the same exposure, one at one stop brighter and one at two stops brighter and imported them into Photomatix 3.1, which blended the exposures together to get the result you see above. Photomatix is available as a free download, although the free version places watermarks of the name onto the finished image. A downloadable "key" is available for $99 which disables the watermark.

More of the Bean and my night of Jazz to come.

Photograph © 2009 James Jordan.


Erik said...

Absolutely beautiful and dramatic. You got really good results using a single file digitally adjusted and split.

It's driving me crazy...what is the vertical streak in front of the clouds at the center of the egg?

James said...

The entire Bean was streaked with rain -- you can see it just below the "equator" all the way around. I'm guessing the streak is rain passing on both sides of a foreign object on the surface ... pigeon poop, perhaps?

kelli said...

favorite picture of the bean EVER!
beautiful, Jim!