How Photographer Rick Sammon Shot the Blue Swallow Motel in HDR

Ora Sawyers

motel building

Photographer Rick Sammon utilised HDR images to seize the historic Blue Swallow Motel in New Mexico together the legendary U.S. Route 66. His concentration was on getting the foreground tones and temper in the backlit scene.

Developed in 1939, the Blue Swallow is one of the longest continually operating motels on the New Mexico stretch of Route 66. The smaller 12-device, L-shaped property is a well known sight on the freeway and is detailed in the Countrywide Register of Historic Sites

Sammon’s impression of the landmark was designed as a 7-prevent exposure sequence to file the climbing Sunshine at 8:30 am in March 2013. Sammon desired the viewer of his photo to be able to see into the building, but he also required to protect the particulars all around the Sunshine.

This image was built on Canon EOS 6D with Canon EF 17-40mm lens established at 24mm and f/22.

The resulting illustrations or photos have been compiled in Photomatix, a tone mapping system for HDR (Significant Dynamic Selection) images, just after which Sammon played all-around in Photoshop and with Nik Shade Efex.

Placing a Goal in Images

“I prepared to choose this image when I was in New York,” clarifies the NY-dependent Sammon, who is also a images and guitar trainer. “I checked the sunrise time to see wherever the Sun would increase on the day I’d be there… I had viewed many pictures of the motel, so I experienced a fantastic strategy of what I preferred.

“I wished to make a dramatic graphic of perhaps the most popular landmark on Route 66 for the include of my guide, co-authored with my spouse Susan, The Route 66 Highway Trip: Eat, Continue to be, Play and Shoot Like a Pro.

The Magic formula of Obtaining a Great HDR

“To capture the complete dynamic variety of the scene, retain using underexposed visuals [with bracketing] until eventually you have no “blinkies” on your camera’s Liquid crystal display watch, and continue to keep having overexposed images till you can see into the shadows in the graphic even though searching at the Liquid crystal display monitor,” writes Rick Sammon on his blog. “The better the distinction array, the greater the variety of photographs you have to have to choose.”

Photographer Rick Sammon
Photographer Rick Sammon. “This Costa Rica pink-eye tree frog will have to have read one of my Sammonisms: When you assume you are close, get closer!” he claims. © Susan Sammon

There was not significantly considered applied to lens focal length variety as this was all about coloration and the mood it designed. Sammon recognized modest particulars like the blue flowerpot that was there in entrance of the business setting up. The night time just before, the photographer asked the motel operator to turn his auto around to deal with him when he took the image with the solar rising from at the rear of.

Applying a Little Aperture for Sunstars

To get good sunbursts, Sammon shut down his zoom lens to its least aperture of f/22 and partly blocked the Sun with the motel indication for a much better sunstar impact and to avoid having extreme flare in the lens.

Whilst this is a backlit shot, the floor supplies plenty of fill gentle for the front of the vehicle, and the HDR pulls out depth from the shadows on the white auto. Also, when capturing at f/22 at this distance, there is no probability of illuminating shadows with a very hot shoe flash.

Possessing the neon lights turned on for this shot could have weakly registered, but Sammon required this morning shot to be entirely various from a individual night one, which had the neon lights on in all their glory.

“I waited till there had been no autos on the highway,” remembers Sammon. “But only a few autos handed through my shoot.”

Contrasting Tones for Visual Excitement

The juxtaposition of great blue tones of the signage and sky previously mentioned the heart contrasting with the warm pink tones under of the motel workplace supplies the distinction of clashing coloration strategies. This imparts visual pleasure to the image. Route 66 is all about colour, and this very same image, if accomplished in B&W, would not have worked as perfectly, says Sammon.

The photographer used only 50 percent an hour on this shoot — after he had made the decision on the demanded composition he wished, he established up a tripod and took the bracketed sequence.

motel building
Sammon watering down the concrete in preparing for the night shot © Susan Sammon

Sunrise or Sunset?

If the motel had commissioned the photographer, he could possibly have extra a model in “1960s clothing,” he suggests, and he would unquestionably shoot both of those sunrise and sunset. He has photographed this assets two times, 3 decades apart but only at sunrise and sunset on both instances.


In the sunset shot the photographer’s had his rental auto headlights illuminating the front of the parked vehicle, but Sammon says he prefers the dawn a single.

For all the effort set in, it was surely worth it, as Sammon tells us that his image of the Tucumcari, New Mexico-centered Blue Swallow motel image is unquestionably in his major 10 pictures.

“It’s not about HDR or depth-of-area or sharpness and so on,” Sammon tells PetaPixel. “Mood matters most.”

About the photographer: Rick Sammon, a Canon Explorer of Mild, has been a expert photographer of travel, landscape, wildlife, and lifestyle considering that he was 40 (now 71). He has published, photographed, and revealed 43 (not a misprint) textbooks on photography. Sammon appears to be to be a single of the most energetic photographers on the earth – dividing his time concerning generating photographs, foremost photo workshops, and making personal appearances. Sammon, who has photographed in around 100 nations around the world, started his skilled pictures occupation as an underwater photographer, generating 6 underwater books and primary scuba diving expeditions to the 7 Seas.

About the writer: Phil Mistry is a photographer and instructor based mostly in Atlanta, GA. He began one particular of the first digital digicam classes in New York City at The International Middle of Photography in the 90s. He was the director and instructor for Sony/Common Photography magazine’s Digital Times Workshops. You can get to him here.

How I Obtained the Shot is a weekly PetaPixel feature that is printed each and every Sunday. If you would like to share the story of how 1 of your finest or favorite pics was built, we would really like to listen to from you!

Image credit: Sammon watering down the concrete and Sammon with red-eyed frog by Susan Sammon. All other pictures Blue Swallow motel by Rick Sammon.

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