Cold Evening at The Bean

During the day, The Bean in Chicago is crowded with people, enjoying the wild reflections. It is insanely fascinating, such a large curved mirror, and I shot a ton of photos during both day and night of The Bean.--Jacob SurlandPhoto by: Jacob Surland. Buy limited prints on Licensed creative commons non-commercial v4.0. No derivative Work. Protected by

The Bean in Chicago is an insanly fascinating piece of art.

During the day, The Bean in Chicago is crowded with people, enjoying the wild reflections. It is insanely fascinating, such a large curved mirror, and I shot a ton of photos during both day and night of The Bean.

About the making of this photo

This photo is made from 5 exposure bracketed shots. They are shot from -2 to +2 with 1 step between each photo.

First I processed the shots to get the color balance I wanted. One of the problems with city night shots, is that colors tend to get all orange.

The bean before

This is the 0-exposure. It’s very orange and dull in the colors and something had to be done to bring it to life.

In this case I started by fixing the colors in Lightroom. I did that by adjusting the white balance, and afterwards adjusting the Split toning panel. The temperature I adjusted to match the temperature of the light in Chicago, and this is done by moving the temperature slider to lower temperatures.

In this case things began to look normal around 2.100 decrees celsius. If you are unlucky, there is no simple selection, because many different light sources, with different kinds of light bulps are in the frame. Then I would suggest to make virtual copies in Lightroom, and match the temperature for each, and then load all needed versions into Photoshop as Layers, and then blend them together.

The bean step 1 - white balance

Bringing the temperature down normalize the colors.

The result from the changed White Balance is a bit on the cool side. While I like some of the blue colors, I have lost the warm city light, which I would like to have some of. To bring it back, I use the Split toning panel. The split toning can add some color to both high lights and shadows.

The bean step 2 - Split toning

Splitning is used to bring back some warmth into the image.

I add some orangy / brownish color to the highlights. I use my gut feeling or taste to find the right amount. But the general idea is that the highlights should be warmer with a tint of orange.

To the shadows I add some purple. Again the purple is a blue, with some warmth in it, so to speak. And this way I add some warmth both to the highlights, and the shadows. You might ask, why I don’t I just change the white balance? Because the split toning allows me to target the highlights and shadows with different colors, and the result is different and more interesting.

I then synchronized the settings to all five shots in Lightroom, before I used my regular HDR workflow.

I exported the five originals into into Photomatix and did my tone mapping, saved the output file. This I opened along with the 5 original shots, in Photoshop as Layers.

Once in Photoshop I corrected the perspective and mixed the tone mapped image and the 5 originals to my liking. When I was done, I flattened the layers and saved it as a 16-bit TIFF file and reimported that into Lightroom. In Lightroom I did some final fine tuning of the colors. The sky had gotten more purple than blue, while during the tone mapping.

Chicago Theater on Sct Patricks Day – And the white balance

By pure random coincidence I arrived in Chicago on Sct Patricks day. I went for a walk and saw one of the landmarks ; Chicago Theater. Photo by: Jacob Surland,

 Nikon D800, Nikkor 14-24, ISO 400, 14mm, f/4.5, 1/25 sec

By pure random coincidence I arrived in Chicago on Sct Patricks day. I went for a walk and saw one of the landmarks: Chicago Theater. I would have loved to go inside, but on a short business trip, you’re not always allowed that luxury.

This photo is processed in Lightroom. The main things I have done to this photo is correct perspective and then change the White balance, and then do a little dodge and burn.

Some photos work absolutely best when the colors are as close to natural as possible, while others are quite different. In particular shots around sunrise and sunset really can change mood quite a lot, if you change the white balance.

Have a look at the before photo:

2013-03-17-Chicago-037As you can see a much colder and less interesting photo. Reality is probably somewhere in between my final photo and this one. The camera is trying to deal with both natural light in the sky and electric light and chooses something in the middle, not really working.

I changed the color temperature from 3200 to 5800 in Lightroom. That added the nice and warm colors. Chicago in March, however, is a cold experience and I learned that Chicago is not named the Windy City for nothing. It was freezing cold and my colleague had to buy a winter coat! The warmth of the photo does not reflect the actual temperature, but then again, I’m not in business of portraying reality exactly, but rather in the business of making photos that I like.

When you have these golden hour or blue hour photos, always try to make the photo a little warmer and see if you get something nice.  This is another example from just after sunset, in this case I made it colder and that also changed the photo dramatically.

White balance games

Chicago the day after Sct Patricks day

I arrived at Chicago at Sct Patricks day without knowing it. I knew about the basics, it's an Irish tradition, and that the river is colored green and there is a great party in the city of Chicago. I realized it when I saw people walking around with green hair and funny hats and everybody was so happy. I shot of the Millers Pub in Chicago with their Sct Patricks Days sign on. Photo by: Jacob Surland,

By chance I arrived in Chicago on the eve of Sct Patricks day and everybody wore green hats or hair and the city was partying. I of course have heard of this legendary day and I was also looking forward to see if they actually did color the river green. On my way up to the river I walked under the elevated railway and came by Millers pub and took a few photos. Later I got to the river and they sure had colored it green or rather super green.

About the processing of this photo

This one came out as a surprise to me and though it is a bit extreme, I like it. It’s much more like a painting Sometimes Photomatix does wonders for you. I processed this photo quite different than I usually do. I experiment with the things I learn and mix them together. This one is a cross-over of making HDR-like photos in Lightroom and then doing a real tone mapped HDR in Photomatix.

Initially I had 7 shots from -3 to +3. This is the -1 unprocessed:

Millers pub - unprocessed original

As you can see it is quite flat and the mood is far from the mood in the final photo. I had to shoot 7 shots, because it’s really dark underneath that elevated train and the sky is extremely bright in comparison, even though there were heavy clouds over Chicago that day.

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How to make double tone mapped HDR photos

Bean at Night The Bean in Chicago is an awesome pieace of art. Though I only had very little time in Chicago I managed to get by it three times, the last time was at night time. The bean is a huge mirror built in steel, and then shaped like a bean. Everything reflects in the bean but in strange ways, because of the curves. It's very fascinating.

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The Bean in Chicago is an awesome pieace of art. Though I only had very little time in Chicago I managed to get by it three times, the last time was at night time. The bean is a huge mirror built in steel, and then shaped like a bean. Everything reflects in the bean but in strange ways, because of the curves. It’s very fascinating.

The photo is a 5 shot HDR shot with my Nikon D800 and the Nikon 14-24mm lens, which I love to death. When I processed this photo I made both a tone mapped version and a double tone mapped  image in Photomatix Pro and then I have blended them in Photoshop. The double tone mapped image I have primarily used for the ground, because it emphasize the texture and details.

Double tone mapped HDR images are often very easy to recognize. They push the image beyond a natural looking image, into a much more painterly world. They start to look like paintings rather than photos. Some like this, others don’t. I do like it. But exactly what effect you get when you double tone map an image, depend very much on how the light was when you shot your photo. A city night shot like this of the been, is excellent for double tone mapping. Here are some other examples of double tone mapped images:

The Royal Stables

The spider at the gates of the old Citadel

University of Copenhagen

As you can see they have a look and feel in common. That is the because of the double tone mapped image made in Photomatix Pro.

What a double tone mapped image does, is to exaggerate the texture and details enormously, which can look very cool if applied to all of an image, but you can also use it much more subtle, like in the two images below. In both I have applied a double tone mapped image to both on the rocks in the foreground and to the house in back ground, but the rest of the images are mostly other normal tone mapped or maybe just even one of the original shots.

Church of the Good Shephard

The old hammer mill

As you can see, they are very rich in detail on the rocks as well as on the houses. This is because of the double tone mapped.

How to make a double tone mapped image

The idea of the double tone mapping is that, you first do one HDR photo and tone map it in Photomatix using the option “Tone map” and “details enhancer”:

Step 1 Single tone mapping

and the image that you get from that process, you tone map too.

Step 2 Double tone mapping

This is simply done by pressing the “Tone mapping” button once more. A side effect of the double tone mapping is, that you get a lot more noise (grain) into the image and a wildly saturated image. The noise you have to clean up with a tool, but not necessarily all of it. The noise adds some of the grittyness to the image, which is part of the effect.

Step 3 double tone mapping

As you can see this is wildly saturated, so I slide the saturation slider to the left. I also do that to the luminosity slider. The Luminosity slider is very potent now, and I select something that I like, which is usually on the far left. And this is the result I get:

Step 4 double tone mapping

When you try to do this, try some of the other sliders too, and see how they affect your photo. When you are done, you have your double tone mapped image.

The way I process my photos, I will only use a portion of the photo. I never use what I get from Photomatix 100%, I always mix a bunch of images into the final image. I have a pool of candidates, the double tone mapped image is just one candidate.

If the double tone mapped effect is too strong, I will only mix it in with perhaps 50 or 75% opacity (see my tutorial on blending and mixing layers in GIMP or Photoshop).

This is the basics of double tone mapped image. You do need to have Photomatix Pro to do that. If you use this coupon code “caughtinpixels” you get 15% discount, and you can Photomatix Pro here.

Chicago Michael Jordan Steak House Stair Case

On the first floor of a sky scraper on the magnificent mile in Chicago we had a great big american steak, that doesn’t get any better, at Michael Jordan Steak house. It was superb. While sitting there, I was looking at this fantastic hand painted ceiling of a kind of African style. I took a picture of that (to be published later). While taking that shot, I looked down the hall way to the area with elevators, which looked interesting too. I walked down there, and saw something more fantastic. I saw this Egyptian stair case on the first floor in a skyscraper – wow, how did that ever get there?

About the processing

This shot is a very typical double tone mapped HDR photograph. You can see it from the strong enhancement of the details. When you do a double tone mapped HDR, the details are enhanced quite a bit, and you have to be careful not to over do it and you have to be aware that you are moving into a surreal zone. Many photographers don’t like this area, because it doesn’t portrait reality as it looked. No, true enough, but neither does black and white photos. A double tone mapped image is like a painting. I put no less work into making a double tone mapped image, than I do into making any other image. It doesn’t make it less good, than any other photos that it is a double tone mapped image and I like it, and many people really do. But some there are people who don’t like it.

This is the 0-exposure original image:

Michael Jordan Steak House Stair Case - before

#1 Notice how the details are enhanced, compared to this original photo. While this is an ok’ish photo, I like the double tone mapped much better. The rug on the floor also has got a lot more detail and texture. I like that in the final photo. A double tone mapped image is an HDR image that you created with Photomatix Pro, and that you tone map once more. This is easily done, by clicking “Tone mapping” once more in Photomatix. The photo goes complete crazy, and you have to turn down the saturation and the luminosity to achieve the desired effect.

#2 I have straighten the photo up. As you can see the lines are tilting, and that is because I was using a really wide angled lens at 14mm. And because I tilted the lens slightly upwards, the lines start to get really tilted. This is an effect, but also a nuisance, that you have to learn to handle. I straighten this one in Photoshop, by using Perspective crop tool, but I could also have done it in Lightroom, by using “Lens corrections -> Manual -> Vertical and horizontal” sliders.

The photo is a 5 shot HDR, that I merged in Photomatix Pro. I have tried making double tone mapped images in Nik HDR Pro 2, but haven’t had a lot of succes with the results.