Palácio Nacional da Pena – Sintra, Portugal

Palácio Nacional da Pena - Sintra, Portugal

I’ve always liked castles and started collecting a series of castle sculptures several years ago. In a recent expedition to the dark recesses of the basement I unearthed several of them that had been boxed since our last move and thought they’d make good fodder for a post-processing project.

First up is the Palácio Nacional da Pena, or Pena National Palace, in Sintra, Portugal. It was built by King Ferdinand II between 1842 – 1854 around the remains of a 15th century chapel and monastery, and is one of the prime examples of 19th century Romanticism architecture in the world.

For this image, I photographed the castle against a black background, then cut the castle out and blended with a stock sunset image. I duplicated that layer and added a slight Gaussian blur and adjustment layers to reduce contrast and saturation. I added a new layer and pasted in the grungy frame with the blending mode set to multiply and used a layer mask to vary the opacity, then brushed in some additional scratches and grunginess. Then I added a layer at the bottom for the background and used some brushes made from torn paper images to create the ragged edges, and added a drop shadow and inner glow to create the illusion of depth.


Saturday Night at the Drive-in

Saturday Night at the Drive-in

There aren’t many Happy Days moments in life anymore, but every Saturday night in Manassas the friendly folks of Bull Run Street Rods cruise in to the parking lot of the Burger King out by the airport. Over in the corner of the lot is a little drive-in ice cream shop that sort of looks like it belongs in nineteen-fifty-something. They do a brisk business between the folks coming to show off their wheels and the folks (like me) who show up just to look. You can almost convince yourself that you’re back in a simpler time, even if it’s just for a bit.


Three RAW exposures (-2, 0, +2).
Luminance HDR 2.3.0 tonemapping parameters:
Operator: Fattal
Alpha: 0.37
Beta: 0.9
Color Saturation: 0.78
Noise Reduction: 0
PreGamma: 0.94

Enhanced detail in Topaz Adjust 5 and framed in Picasa 3.

Police Charger

Ran into this walking home from the Railroad Festival a couple of weeks ago. Maybe it’s the little kid in me, but I still think police cars are cool, and a police Charger is really cool.

Three RAW exposures merged and tone-mapped in Luminance HDR, then finished in Topaz Adjust 5.

P-51 Mustang

I didn’t get to see it fly during the show, but I did see it fly over my house on it’s way out of town the next day. There are a lot of single-engine prop planes flying around where I live, but nothing sounds like this. It growls like something out of a Tolkien story.

Three RAW exposures blended in Luminance HDR and finished in Topaz Adjust 5, then a little de-noising and sharpening in CS2.

Piper J-3 Cub

Facing the likelihood of being drawn into WWII, the United States formed the Civilian Pilot Training Program (CPTP) in 1939 to increase the ranks of America’s trained pilots.  The CPTP adopted the Piper J-3 Cub as it’s primary trainer.  Of the 435,000 new pilots who learned to fly in the program, three quarters of them were trained on the Cub.  By the end of the war, 80% of American military pilots received their first flight training in Piper Cubs.

This Cub, painted in the famous chrome-yellow-with-black-lightening-bolt color scheme, soars in the National Air and Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center in Dulles, Va.

On A Wing and a Prayer

I haven’t posted anything for a while.  Life’s been busy and there just never seemed to be enough time to sit down and work on a photo.  So the other night I stayed up after the dishes were done, homework finished, and the kids in bed, and took some time.  It was really nice to just sit down with no other distractions and play with this image I caught at a local air show recently.  Nothing fancy, just a few clicks in Digital Photo Professional, a couple in Photoshop, and here it is.  But it sure was nice taking the time to do it.

Incidentally, the lady standing on the wing is the ex-wife of the guy flying the plane.  Now that’s trust…and self-control.

Orrery at the Maryland Science Center

I have long been fascinated by orreries.  An orrery is a mechanical model of the solar system showing the relative movements of the planets around the sun.  Often used to calculate celestial events like eclipses, they were sometimes built around a clockwork mechanism so they could be wound up and, when let loose, the planets would revolve around the sun until the spring wound down and everything stopped.  Hmmm, there might be a metaphor in there somewhere.

Orreries have been around since at least the early 1700s, when one was presented to the Earl of Orrery, hence the name.  However, the remains of an orrery-like device were found in a shipwreck off a Greek island dating back to c. 125 BC.  The device was, incidentally, heliocentric.  Take that, Copernicus.

This orrery is on display at the Maryland Science Center in Baltimore, MD.  Well worth a day-trip to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor district, the Science Center is full of interactive displays that will educate and entertain kids of all ages.