It's a Carson Mansion Christmas!!

Finally some Christmas lights!! The Carson house has been haunting my photographic dreams ever since they put the lights up on it. Problem is, the only free time I have had to shoot it has been while it was raining and my camera is not exactly waterproof...  Well, the rain finally cleared up a few nights ago (at least for the night) and I saw the lights on my way home over the Samoa bridge & jumped at the opportunity.

I have been reading up on HDR and looking at examples online for quite some time & thought that the Carson Mansion would provide the perfect subject for an HDR photo, especially with the Christmas lights all strung up. So I grabbed my tripod out of the car, and my cross-screen filter (makes lights have four points) just for fun, and set up everything from 2-3 different locations in front of the house and to the side of it. I used my Exposure bracketing feature on the camera taking three pictures each time I pressed the shutter button (the first at my set exposure, the second a stop below, and the third a stop above) and planned to combine them later in Photoshop using the automate HDR feature. Below are each of the three images before editing:

I was surprised at how easy it was! However what was not easy was trying to get the picture to look as close to real life as possible. I got close enough to make me happy for my first attempt, but I might try coming back and doing it over again after I get a bit more familiar with the ins and outs of the feature. Personally, I think it looks a little Tron-ish but I did watch the new movie the day before I took the photo's so I'm sure that didn't help! By the way, GREAT movie- I really enjoyed the first one but the second was even better! Back to business- Below are the combined photos, which were then edited in the HDR feature of Photoshop:

I used the corss-screen filter for a few shots before I noticed that the four-points it was making around the lights were much larger and pronounced than I wanted. So I remembered my focus-stacking technique and used it here. I took one pic of the house with the cross-screen filter:

and one without the cross-screen filter:

 and then combined them as partially transparent layers in Photoshop. By making them transparent layers I could control the power of the four-points coming off the lights.

Location:  Carson House Mansion-- at the foot of M Street in Eureka, CA
Date/Time: 12/ /10
Subject(s): Long exposure, christmas lights, HDR, architecture
Notes: some photos used a cross-screen filter, others no filter, all taken with tripod and long shutter speeds


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