Manhattan Sunset

New York City skyline at sunset taken from Brooklyn

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Panoramas and sunsets always look right to me.  Silhouettes are nice, but if you get some interesting clouds, you’re all set.  This shot looks back at Manhattan from North 6th Street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.  I took this with my trusty old S90 (showing it’s age) and composited in Photoshop.

Demolishing the Highway 99 Viaduct

Is it weird to have a favorite deathtrap?  Any time I have a visitor in Seattle, I always drive them from the airport across the Highway 99 Viaduct.  It may be a deathtrap (well… no… it definitely is a deathtrap).  It may be a huge ugly freeway cutting through the waterfront of Seattle.  It may even take longer than interstate 5.  It may not be up to any sort of code, but the thing is, it’s got that view.

Everyone knows it has to go.  In the ’96 earthquake, the damage was significant and the state has been monitoring it closely ever since.  A similar freeway in Oakland pancaked cars and people in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.  Something needed doing.  But still – the view.

This is the poor man’s penthouse.  The only caveat is you can only see it at 50 miles per hour out of the corner of your eye.  Oh… and also it might kill you.  This morning, demolition on the southern mile was started.  The public got a chance to take a look from the top before it all comes down.  What you see is a freeway that probably outlived it’s useful life many years ago.

Through the expansion joints, you can see the lanes below.  Concrete worn smooth and metal chipped and rusting is the name of the game.

Construction crews are wasting no time here.  Even as people are strolling the deck, demolition is on.  I’m not sure what these guys were up to, but it was taking them a whole crew to do it.  Farther down, the bulldozers are rolling:

They’ve got 9 days to tear down the southern mile and reconnect a bypass route that traffic will be using until the end of 2015 as scheduled.  Since our wonderful political establishment has decided that the viaduct replacement will be the largest diameter deep bore tunnel ever built (like… in the world), the chances of things going as scheduled aren’t great.  Cross your fingers and hope for no earthquakes before 2017 or so.

Behind the temporary parking lot, they hung a huge banner from the viaduct.  Right in front of it, the jaws of death loom.  I thought that was fitting, but a little macabre.  So it goes.

Bend Panorama Done Right

Yesterday I put up this panorama I took in Bend, OR.  I was excited that it came out nicely, and when my computer barfed trying to edit this huge file, I just posted what I had.  Today I wanted to do it right, so here we go.  This one has the edits I wanted, plus click for the extra large and pretty version!

Panoramic view of Cascade peaks from Bend OR

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Today’s post comes with a bonus too – name those peaks!

Panoramic mountain view from Bend OR, with labels on mountain peaks


Ah… that’s better.

What You Can See From Bend


I’m calling this Panorama Version 1.  This weekend I was in Bend, OR.  One of my favorite things about the high desert of Bend is that unlike Seattle, you can really see.  There aren’t a lot of trees to get in your way and things in town are mostly flat, while to the West, the sky is ringed with mountains.  On the east side of town, Pioneer Butte rises a few hundred feet and you can drive right to the top, which I did for this shot around sunset.

Mountain peaks visible from Pioneer Butte in Bend OR


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I’ll put up a better shot tomorrow.  My main problem is technological – this is 8 frames stitched together and my computer barfs when it tries to do anything to it.  As for editing, I think I’m going to take out the little swipe of clouds in the top middle – it’s just too distracting up there.  I’d also like to label the peaks.  From left to right I know we have Tumalo, Broken Top, the Three Sisters, Mt. Washington and Mt. Jefferson, but I want to check with those in the know before claiming exactly which is which.  The radio towers in the middle are on Awbrey Butte, still in town.  More soon, including a bigger full-size shot!

Make Your Own Planet

It’s been a while since I posted any nifty little Photoshop trickery, but there has been something I’ve wanted to try out for a while – I just needed the right picture.  Your ingredients here are a panorama with level edgeswhere both the fore and background are pretty plain.  After getting this night shot at Greenlake a little while back, I thought I might have the raw materials:

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It’s really not too hard!  Hit the jump for the whole walkthrough!

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Night Panorama – The Revenge of the Stuck Pixel

Night photography can be pretty cool.  During the day, generally speaking, the human eye sees more variations of color and shadow than your camera, hence the reason for HDR and all that.  At night, the camera has the ability to accumulate light and color over time, which your eye can’t do, so in a way it sees more.  I don’t do enough night photography, but I got out the other night for this.

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I was pretty pleased, reviewing on the camera.  Pleased enough that I forgot about the downsides.  Doing things in the dark is just difficult.  I generally like shooting things a bit farther away, because it’s really hard to tell what is and isn’t in focus.  If you have more distance between your camera and the beginning of your subject, it’s easier to get enough depth of field to get them all sharper.  I did bring along a flashlight to check focus up close, but… it becomes a pain.  I also stepped in a lot of goose shit.  That’s just how it is.  This being Greenlake, I wasn’t even worried about getting mugged for my backpack full of camera lenses.  All was good, right?

Well… yes until I got home and saw a line of blue across all my shots:

All.  The.  Way.  Across.

You don’t see it in the panorama above because they have all been laboriously removed in Photoshop.  After I found the problem, I immediately shot a few more pictures with other lenses, batteries, whatever – I wasn’t happy about this.  They’re all the same, including with the lens cap on.  Any aperture, ISO speed, whatever.  I did some research.

If you want to get technical, this is called a stuck pixel or maybe a whole row of them.  It is slightly different from a hot pixel, which would be white all the time.  All that matters is it is going to ruin my pictures.  The internet is rife with folk remedies about taking off your lens, setting your camera to manual cleaning mode (where the mirror flips up) for a few minutes and then turning it off and reattaching your lens.  Maybe it works for some people, but it didn’t do anything for me.

Since hot or stuck pixels (at least a couple of them) are nothing new, there are some other options out there.  Some cameras have options to use a dark frame (basically a picture taken with the lens cap on which should contain light only on the problem pixels) to cancel out the noise in the good frames.  The theory is that since the bad pixels are always in the same place, you can map them and work around them.  I’ve yet to find any software that works correctly with my camera and since I’m a few weeks past the grace period on Canon’s warranty, I’m still unsure what happens next.  I see a lot of healing brush in my future!

How Photoshop Won The Panorama War

When I started talking about panoramas, there was some question about how you might turn a few pictures into one.  You didn’t need a tripod, but it was strongly recommended.  A bubble level wouldn’t hurt too.  Care needed to be exercised.  Incantations were recited.  If you took a picture of water buffeted by the wind, god help you.  Back in the day, I used Panorama Factory.  It crashed a lot.  I spent hours mapping little dots from one picture to the next.

Starting with Photoshop CS4, Adobe changed all that.  There was a panorama tool built right in, and it had a magic setting called “Auto”.  With CS5 it got even better.  No matter what you throw at it, it blends, warps, and just works magic.  The pictures always look good.  Always.  Here is my latest:

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Like before, I’m posting my panoramas at twice the width of most of my pictures so you can see a little of the magic in there!

This is a shot from the end of highway 270 on the north shore of the big island of Hawaii.  Stretching out to the east is the Waipio Valley.  From this side, near Hawi, you can drive only so far, and then you can hike.  The beach below is only 20 or 30 minutes, but you can go a couple days farther if you’re stupid brave enough.  It’s a beautiful place with lazy cows, fields of waist-high grass and the odd taro patch.  It might not be obvious but this shot is a bit odd.  I’m standing on a hill, shooting down and panning the camera diagonally – sort of inland + underneath me.  In the past, this just wouldn’t work.  You’d have to map every point in the panorama by hand, and at the end of the day you’d have a distorted picture that would probably lead to a lot of rending of hair and kicking of computers.  With Photoshop CS5, you just hit go and wait.  I’d like to say I miss the old days when things were hard, but I don’t – at all.  Not only does this let you just take pictures and do what you want to do, but it means you can shoot hand-held and with lesser equipment and still have something serviceable come out the other side.  Adobe, this time, I love you.


I never stopped loving big machines.  Cranes, bulldozers, all that.  One of the first words I ever heard my toddler nephew say was “excavator”, so I guess it isn’t just me.  Seattle actually has a pretty sizable industrial area, so getting a view of cranes, trains, etc, isn’t that hard.  Doing it without a fence in your way however, can be more of a challenge.

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I just stumbled on this “park” the other day.  The Port loves providing public access in a way that is so unfriendly and hard to see that you’d never know it was there.  This spot is hidden behind a huge stack of shipping containers, but you get a great view of the Duwamish river and the goings on.

I shot this with my little S90, hand held of course.  If you want to know the difference between a point and shoot (a very good one, but still) and a real DSLR with L-series lens and a tripod, compare it to this one.  I don’t know if you can tell at this resolution, but the fine detail is really incomparable between the two.  Even so, I had my point and shoot – I didn’t have my DSLR.  You can’t take anything if you don’t have your camera.