Covered Bridges of Chester County – Phase 1 – DONE
After many hours of work on this project, I am happy to announce that I have completed the First Phase of this project!
Back in October of 2009, when I took my first pictures of Bartram’s Cover Bridge in Newtown Square…
I knew I liked covered bridges…
I had no idea that it would become this obsession!
Than, almost a year, to the day, I completed my Chester County Covered Bridge captures.
Generally, I posted them to Flickr, and would then add the images to my blog.
Initially, my website was based on DotNetNuke, but as I got into blogging more, the blogging options within DNN, were just not worth the cost.
For a while I was using the DotNetNuke blog module, but on two separate occasions, while doing some maintenance work in the background, my blog blew up.
Needless to say my productivity was very low during this time.
I did learn a lot about.net nuke during that time, but the direction I was moving, was not going to allow me to thoroughly investigate all the functionality of DotNetNuke.
A little over a month ago, I decided to start from scratch again.
But this time in a totally WordPress environment.
Thankfully, I had most of my blog entries already in basic HTML format, so it was just a couple of nights of copying and pasting. I did have to redo some CSS coding, but that turned out to be fundamentally better for the overall look and feel of my website.
You might call this an evolution in my thinking of how to create maintain and operate a website.
Be that as it may, I have learned a lot, and with the coding gods help, my site will stay up and running for a long time.
As for Phase One of my Covered Bridge project, during the journey, the effort seems to have paid off more than the actual goal.
During the adventure, I was able to find great websites that pointed me in the directions of the bridges.
I used Google Earth and maps, to plot my coordinates into Maggie’s GPS, and I was off and running.
Having lived in Chester County for over 30 years, I thought I knew the area fairly well, but nothing prepared me for the beauty that seems to be uniquely Chester County’s.
It is very hard to believe that one can drive down a major road such as Route 30, turn left or right, travel for about 5 to 10 miles, make another left or right, and then be bombarded with the beauty of rolling fields of corn, hay or tobacco, and in between the fields, beautiful barns and silos of all colors, and of course the Covered Bridges.
I was also amazed that most of the bridges were in good condition, especially in these economic times.
Of course the more heavily traveled bridges such as Rapps and Knox-Valley Forge need a little work, but it is mostly cosmetic, i.e. a couple of nails and a good paint nails job, but who am I to say…
This project was also my first real exploration into the realm of HDR photographic techniques.
I knew the basic concepts behind HDR from my work using Ansel Adams’ Zone System in my black and white work.
What was really new to me, was the software side.
In the past, I had tried to create HDR images with Adobe Photoshop CS3, but the scripts always crashed the application, no matter how many times I had tried.
Using Google, I was able to hunt down many HDR software packages, and from there, I started to explore.
The basic thing that I learned in using the various software packages that I found, was that it comes down to personal taste.
All the software applications that I used, allowed for some form of tone mapping, but the way you interact with the tone mapping controls, varies in some cases, significantly from one app to the next.
Another consideration, is what type of file format is used to bring the original captures into the software application.
The first application that I used, Picturenaut, is donation-ware, which was a big plus at the start.
The biggest obstacle that I had initially, was converting my DNG files over to TIFF, but within Adobe Lightroom I was able to easily set up an Export function to do the dirty work.
Once you are inside the application, it is just a matter of importing your series of images, the interface is a little bleak but I did like the fact that you had some additional tweaking features before import, such as EV settings editing.
There are a series of presets and I believe you can download more from the site.
I did have some problems with saving my files with a new name, but got around that by using the default name provided.
Even this renaming of files became a checkpoint for bringing that file back into my work-flow, but that is another subject.
I have seen the debates in regards to working with TIFF vs. DNG, and at the moment, I prefer to work with DNGs, namely because they cannot be edited directly, thereby taking on a template form for any future use.
Any actions you take on a DNG file, whether it be in Adobe Lightroom – which only modifies the metadata, or Adobe Photoshop – which will only let you do a “Save As”, your original image data is not touched or altered, either by accident or on purpose.
Needless to say this is a big plus.
The reviews that I was reading on Photoshop CS5, seem to suggest that it was a good contender for dealing with HDR captures.
I had to maneuver some things and was finally able to set up a VM so that I could give Photoshop a test drive.
Once I got the VM up and running, I realized that I was going to have some issues with speed. Needless to say if you do run Photoshop, running it in the VM is not optimal, but serves my purpose at the moment.
I was very happy to see that when I tried to import my DNG files, CS5 brought them in without issue and did not crash!
Another thing that I really enjoyed, was the ability to select your “key-frame” for your HDR rendering.
After working with Picturenaut and Photoshop, I decided to finally give Photomatix a try, which I have already reviewed.
In quick, I was very impressed with its speed, but it was very easy to see why, so many have indulged in the surrealistic side of the HDR spectrum.
after watching several of the online videos, after watching several of the online videos, I signed up for a 15 day demo.
It took several days to get the license number, but once I did I fired up the demo in my VM.
I should have taken the extra time to read the requirements… you definitely do not want to run this on a VM.
You are running an application on top of Photoshop CS5, hence the need for very powerful machine with a lot of RAM and a very good video card.
Of all the applications I played with, this one looks like the most fun, but I was not able to really use the application in my VM environment, it was just too slow.
Which do I use?
As mentioned earlier in this posting, it seems to come down to personal choice but more importantly, how much are you willing to spend.
Picturenaut is the only Free one in the group. It is definitely very powerful but the user interface seems to be a little bit more technical.
Photomatix runs between $99-$129, depending if you want the plug-in or not. It seems to have the largest user base at the moment, and is very well regarded.
Photoshop CS5 has definitely revamped it’s HDR thinking, but carries a heavy basic price, $199-$999.
HDR Efex Pro definitely seems to be the premier environment for working with HDR at the moment, but it also comes at a very premium price, $159.95, on top of the need of Photoshop, and good hardware.
So take your pick, they are all going to do more or less the same thing, it is up to the artist to figure out which tools are the best for them, just remember some of the most beautiful and lasting things have been built with the simplest of tools.
Just remember to have fun, while you are learning.
New Friends and Contacts
A basic foundation of this project, has been Flickr.com.
I joined Flickr in September of 2009, but did not do much with it until July of 2010, it which point I upgraded to a Pro membership, and that’s when things to begin to change.
As my images got invited to various Flickr groups, my contacts begin to grow.
I started with some local groups, then began to find specific groups for my interests, including Covered Bridges.
During this time, I received a great deal of feedback and comments that encourage me to continue on.
So thank you all for visiting my various sites and incarnations…
I thank you one and all!
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