Greg Benz Photography » Minneapolis based cityscape and landscape photographer; luminosity masking fiend

This the view of downtown Dallas from the Reunion Tower (which itself looks like a big ball on top of a stick).  The first thing that catches your attention at dusk is the neon green lights on the edges of this skyscraper.  It looks like something out of the Hong Kong skyline, or maybe Lex Luther’s new headquarters, but it’s actually the Bank of America Plaza.  Two miles of money green lighting on a bank, awesome.  Better yet, it’s there because a little girl’s passion.  Apparently the original lights were faulty and management decided to scrap the whole thing, but she liked the lights so much that she started a fund drive with one dollar and created enough support they reversed the decision and fixed the lights.


Downtown Dallas and the green Bank of America Plaza building from the Reunion Tower

The edge of the Trinity River under the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge is pretty spooky after dark.  The whole area is basically a flood plain, so there isn’t much in the way of anything down here but grass for the most part.  It’s wide open, with no people and very little lighting.  It definitely gives off a little bit of a shady vibe.  So I was keeping a watchful eye out as I walked around here, but it’s an incredible view.  The whole underside of the bridge is this futuristic grid pattern that looks like it comes out of the movie Tron – which is a pretty amazing investment considering how few people probably ever walk down here to see it!

Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge in Dallas

Dominoes are practically the national pastime in Cuba.  I thought the photos I’d seen before I went were perhaps just cherry-picked moments, but everywhere I went, I ran into scenes just like this!  There are all these groups of friends with makeshift tables out on the sidewalk playing.  It’s always loud, fast, and boisterous.   And they love to invite strangers to join them.  Super fun!  This particular game was one of many I passed in Cienfuegos while our bus stopped briefly on the road from Havana to Trinidad.  It’s an amazing drive.  When we left Havana, it was a 4 lane highway (2 would have been plenty sufficient for the traffic).  After that, things quickly move back in time, especially near Trinidad.  During the “special period” when Soviet Union fell and Cuba ran into very hard times, buses in this area were replaced by horse drawn carriages and are still relatively common for public transit.  By the time we were approaching Trinidad, I decided to play a little game and count how many of the next 10 vehicles we drove past weren’t modern cars.  As I recall, I saw about 1 “new” car, 5 old ones, a motorcycle, a horse drawn carriage, and my favorite…  a guy on a broken motorcycle holding on to the tail of a horse pulling him back to town!

New Game

Every time I see the Flatiron Building in New York, I’m completely awed.  It’s a 22 story triangle.  And as amazing as that is today, I try to imagine what it must have been like when it was built back in 1902.  That’s years before Ford created the model T.  I picture horses and hats galore, and this incredible building piercing the sky.

I spent a good hour making this image from four exposures.  I used Lumenzia‘s PreBlend to stack three exposures, a couple of light luminosity selections to paint back highlight detail for the windows, used the vanishing point clone tool in Photoshop to light up a dark window, evened out the sky  tone/color with a lights luminosity mask and darkening curve, added a vignette with Lumenzia, added the moon from another exposure (it was moving so fast that it was behind the building by the time the lights came on), and added some detail to the shadow side of the building using the pro contrast and bleach bypass filters in Color Efex Pro.  It’s funny, I used to use Color Efex Pro extensively, but I find myself more and more creating similar, if not more realistic, effects directly in Photoshop using luminosity masks.  I probably could have easily used some dark midtone masks to open up and add pop to the shadow side of the building, but sometimes I just like to play to see if I come up with something different using a variety of methods.  All exposures and filters were added as smart objects, for a completely non-destructive layered file, so that I might come back later and try processing it slightly differently.  Sometimes I find that my mood changes quite a bit after spending more time with an image.

Sky Piercer

People in Kansas City call this the Kaufman Center for the Performance Arts.  But it’s actually a shield generator from The Empire Strikes Back.  And it was as cold as the ice-planet Hoth when I was taking this photo before sunrise in December.  I would have gladly wrapped myself in a stinky TaunTaun over the fashionable but thin jacket I was wearing.

Have you seen the new Star Wars movie yet?  If you’ve already seen it, let me know what you think!  We braved the crowds last night, and it was awesome.  The reviews were right, Daisy Ridley killed it as the new star (and the new droid BB8 is pretty damn cute).  I just read that Daisy will make about 76x less than Harrison Ford (who also did a great job and should obviously be well paid for this movie).   Whatever her number was for this movie, you can count on her making a whole lot more in the future!

Kaufman Center for the Performance Arts, Kansas City, at night