In the Spotlight: Firefighter’s photos become works of art
by Denise Ellen Rizzo
Nov 09, 2012 | 6235 views | 8 8 comments | 19 19 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Amateur photographer Jim Haskell has been delving into the world of high dynamic range photography.  Glenn Moore/Tracy Press
Amateur photographer Jim Haskell has been delving into the world of high dynamic range photography. Glenn Moore/Tracy Press
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Jim Haskell composes a downtown scene through his lens.  Haskell is specializing in high dynamic range photography.  Glenn Moore/Tracy Press
Jim Haskell composes a downtown scene through his lens. Haskell is specializing in high dynamic range photography. Glenn Moore/Tracy Press
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Jim Haskell’s high dynamic range photograph of Barista’s coffee shop.
Jim Haskell’s high dynamic range photograph of Barista’s coffee shop.
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A high dynamic range photograph of Tracy fire truck 91 at the station by Jim Haskell.
A high dynamic range photograph of Tracy fire truck 91 at the station by Jim Haskell.
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At first glance, a picture of Barista’s coffee house hanging inside the downtown Tracy shop appears to be a painting by a local artist, but it’s not.

It’s a photograph.

The image was created using high dynamic range photography, and the artist is local amateur photographer Jim Haskell.

A fire captain with the Tracy Fire Department for 14 years, the 41-year-old said he has tinkered with semiprofessional photography since March 2011.

“I kind of got interested by a fluke,” he said. “I wanted a hobby. I needed something to do. I got a camera that I was not too happy with, and I thought, well, I should buy a new camera.”

Haskell went out and bought a Nikon DSLR D7000 digital camera and started experimenting with photos of his backyard trees and plants. But his first successful true HDR photo was that of the coffee shop exterior.

“I bought my camera down to Barista’s to learn more about it,” he said. “I was reading about HDR photography, and I said, I’m going to give this a shot.”

The result resembles a semi-surreal painting of the coffee shop’s exterior, right down to the ash-gray sidewalks, a parked royal blue pickup reflected in the windows and rust-colored leaves falling from the trees.

“I think it’s awesome,” said Ben Spragge, a barista at the shop.

He pointed out that the bicycle leaning against the lamppost in the picture is his.

“A little history of Barista’s,” he joked.

Barista’s owner Harish Patel said the picture is an intriguing conversation piece.

“I see customers’ reactions — ‘Beautiful’ and ‘How do you do it?’” he said. “My wife fell in love with it instantly.”

Haskell said he got a sense of what is possible with HDR photography when he first saw the website of photographer Trey Ratcliff in January. The website, www.stuckincustoms.com, showcases pictures Ratcliff has taken around the world in vibrant, surreal colors.

To make his painting-like photographs, Haskell said he meshes a series of five images of the same scene together. In that series, he said, is a top layer that is bright and overexposed, with a dark, underexposed image at the bottom layer and three moderate exposures in between. By using the programs Adobe Lightroom, Photomatix Pro, Tone Mapping and Photoshop, the photos are manipulated and transformed to Haskell’s liking.

“Every picture is treated different to craft its uniqueness,” he said. “Every picture is an experiment to see what is wonderful and magical.”

“I’m still learning, too, constant learning thing,” he said. “What I’m trying to do is achieve something that catches the eye, almost confuses the eye. Captures the light and adds dimension.”

However, not every picture looks good as a faux painting, he said. In portraits, for example, skin tones can be darkened too much. The best subjects, he said, are those that remain still, such as landscapes.

Since his first HDR shoot outside Barista’s on March 24, Haskell has focused his camera lens on fire engines, iconic buildings of Tracy and its water towers, Yosemite National Park, San Francisco, Central Valley barns, Hollywood, Venice Beach, Beverly Hills, classic cars — including his own 1967 Mustang — and, most recently, a stack of tires at Dell’Osso Farms in Lathrop.

“Anyone can do it,” he said. “It just takes the desire to learn something new.”

To date, he has taken more than a hundred photos, all of which are available for purchase $80 for a 12-by-18 inch print or $125 for a 24-by-36-inch print. Most can be viewed on the website www.flickr.com/photos/haskellimages, and anyone looking to buy a print can contact Haskell by email at haskell.images@yahoo.com.

• Contact Denise Ellen Rizzo at 830-4225 or drizzo@tracypress.com.

Comments
(8)
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monsterdad3k
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November 10, 2012
I'm surprised I actually like these. Not a real big fan of HDR or photo manips in general but these kinda have a cool look to them. Maybe cuz they are from T-town and Cali makes them more recognizable and gives them a local flavor.

Checked out your Flickr page with more images where us camera geeks can check out all the EXIF data and see what settings you used to make the image.

Anyway it's interesting to read about other photographers in town and how they are using their cameras. Thanks TP. Go Nikon!
RedHotChilliPeppers
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November 10, 2012
Was curious because several years ago I examined the work of one artist who took several still photographs some slightly out of focus, and then painted the same scene using all the photos to try to approximate a three dimensional look. Another artist superimposed 3 images to make a 3Dfinal image, but I think it required cameras at different distances to capture light from three different wavelenghths.

Anyway, it certainly is quite unique and fascinating. In fact, it appears that each picture is unique and that is essentially what draws you in. It reminds me of how things look after a rain, when light is filtered a certain way by the rainy atmosphere, and the colors are are an enhanced version of vibrant.
FFJIM
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November 10, 2012
@ Ornley- Thank you. If you haven't already, take a look at my Flickr page. There are a lot there. I also have a Facebook page. Keyword- Haskell Images. Feel free to "like" or subscribe and comment.

As for the art show, I didn't know there was such a thing.

Who hosts it or do you have any more info?

I have considered putting up a few pieces at The Grand.
RedHotChilliPeppers
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November 10, 2012
I think the art show OG mentioned is at the Grand.
Ornley_Gumfudgen
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November 09, 2012
Like ta see more of yer work. Are ya gonna display it somewhare like th annual art show they have downtown? Very good work.
FFJIM
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November 09, 2012
@RedHotChilliPeppers-

Thank you for liking my work. I can't make them 3D, but they do have a unique/entertaining depth to them.
RedHotChilliPeppers
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November 09, 2012
That is something else. Can you make it look 3-dimensional?
gregnvicky
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November 09, 2012
Great pictures Jim. Keep it up!


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