The wife and I took a trip to San Francisco last Friday to check out the Academy of Science. What a blast! We spent 3 and a half hours there! We got there early, as we heard rumors that the planetarium tickets went fast. That was quite the trip across the galaxy and actually brought tears to my eyes. It felt as if I were teleported into the Universe amongst the stars and blasting around on a jetpack, and then I saw 1-200 other people in the room and my imagination was at bay :(. Sarah and I have been to many places in California, and this is in my top 5, amongst the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Hearst Castle, Highway One, and Half Moon Bay. Although I do love the Monerey Bay Aquarium, I feel the aquarium area at the Academy of Science may have the upper hand.
All of the images I shot were hand held. Many Aquariums, Museums, and the like do not allow tripods or even flash photography. In these cases it is imperative that you either hike up the ISO a bit or learn the art of being a Photography Sniper. Photography is much like shooting a weapon. In basic training and even now, you are told to aim small and hold your breath before pulling the trigger, the same is true for photography. I always aim small in the beginning to limit how much I have to crop later, keeping in mind the rule of thirds and the golden ratio, then click away. For HDR images I always capture a 5 exposure HDR, my camera allows it so why not? That being said I have to hold my breath through all 5 shots. It is not as difficult as it sounds with practice.
This is the roof of the Academy of Science. The port holes you see at the top are used to heat up the 4 story Rain Forest! It was really hot in there, Sarah and I both started to sweat after about 10 minutes or so, but it was worth it. The rain forest is also a butterfly sanctuary, they let them fly around freely, every once in a while a butterfly would fly past your face or land on a close by flower. They have an elevator at the top that you cannot enter without being checked for butterflies!
The Rain Forest area has a swamp section at the bottom with the largest fish I have ever seen. It is pretty trippy when you first look down, because you see people in the water. They are actually under the water, in a tunnel under the rain forest. The elevator takes you to the lower level, this is part of the aquarium. What you are seeing in this shot id the inside of the tunnel looking up toward the living roof. This type of shot would not have been possible without HDR. I could have brought out more detail in the dark areas, however, I felt it brought out more drama and a canopy feel.
This little guy was in the Galapagos Island section. Fascinating stuff. I cannot remember what he was or why he was in this vile, we will just refer to him as 13. I learned so much there and read more than I had expected to. Unfortunately I forgot everything about this little guy. I did a lot of post processing on this one. I am going to give a tutorial this Friday as to how this image was achieved.
The last thing we scoped out before we left was this giant Albino Alligator. Poor guy looks like a lump on a log. This is another one of those, “I Could Not Get Without HDR” images. It may not look like it but, the camera at a normal exposure would depict the gator almost pure white with no detail. While he (or she) was very white, there was still a lot of information in the highlights and shadows of the skin. 5 Exposures was maybe a little overkill, but as we have seen before, a 5 raw exposure HDR mitigates the amount of noise in the final processed image (less work in post processing!). If I have the capability for 5 I am going to use it! If you only have three that is just fine as well. I haven’t run into a situation yet where 5 was ABSOLUTELY necessary.