Biltmore Hotel

We visited the famous Biltmore Hotel in Coral Cables, Florida during our weekend vacation to South Florida last month.

Biltmore hotel

Biltmore hotel. Nikon D600 with Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G AF-S lens @ f/9, 1/200 sec, iso 400, 14mm. Lightroom post processing: exposure +0.33, fill light +60, vibrance +10, saturation +10.

We arrived late in the day for a quick self-guided tour. It was about an hour prior to sunset. The clouds were low in the horizon, acting as a light diffuser for the low setting sun and providing the soft, low contrast lighting for these architecture shots.

Biltmore hotel

View of the Biltmore hotel from the center terrace. Taken @ f/16, 1/320 second, iso 1600 @ 14mm. Lightroom post-processing: fill light +60.

Beautiful light for a beautiful subject.

Biltmore hotel courtyard

Biltmore hotel courtyard. Taken @ f/16, 1/125 sec, iso 1600, 14mm. Lightroom post processing: exposure -0.4, fill light +75.

I particularly liked the arch ceiling in the main lobby. Beautiful.

Biltmore hotel lobby

Biltmore hotel lobby. Taken @ f/5, 1/50 sec, iso 1250, 14mm, hand held. Lightroom post processing: exposure +1.25, fill light +20, vibrance +10, saturation +10.

It’s definitely worth a visit when you are in South Florida. Just park (for free) in the parking lot on the West side, walk in and have a look around. They do offer guided tours on Sunday afternoons at 1:30, 2:20, and 3:30 p.m. Call the hotel at (855) 311-6903 or email

Note to fellow photographers: With the Nikon D600′s excellent dynamic range, I used Lightroom in post processing to pull out the shadow details using the fill light setting, as noted in the picture captions above. When increasing the fill light, watch the overall exposure and compensate accordingly, as the fill light setting can cause portions of the image to be overexposed. For the interior shot of the lobby arch ceiling, I bumped up the vibrance and saturation slightly to give the colors a slight pop without over doing it.

[(Ô] HtL | like us on facebook

At the End of the Rainbow

Thunderstorms in Florida in the summer is a daily occurrence. Nothing unusual. This storm was a little bigger than usual as there were flood warnings throughout town. Just before sunset, however, it let up a little bit, enough for the sun to peak through before setting. And then this magic happened…

Rainbow after the storm

Rainbow after the storm. Nikon D600 with Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G AF-S lens @ 14mm focal length, 1/80 sec, f/4.0, iso 200.


After dinner (though not immediately right after), I was taking a dip in the pool while the rain was still coming down as a drizzle. After just a few minutes of my being in the pool, the evening sun peeked through the storm clouds low on the horizon and rendered the eastern sky a pretty orange glow. “Hmmm”, I thought to myself. I wonder if the light drizzle would render a rainbow. I turn around and looked east. Voila! There is the rainbow. I contemplated whether I should immediately get out of pool and grab my camera (as opposed to finishing up my swim before doing so). After a few seconds of hesitation, I got out, dried myself, and mounted the Nikon 14-24mm ultra wide angle lens on my Nikon D600 DSLR and went out to my front yard and began to snap away in the light drizzle. I took care not to get the front element of my lens too wet. The drizzle was not a problem with my camera and lens, as the D600 DSLR body has dust and moisture seals, as is the fully gasketed professional grade Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G AF-S lens.

Caution: Take care when shooting the rain with consumer DSLR bodies and lenses, as they do not include the same level of dust and weather seals and could result in premature failure.

In hindsight, I am very glad I took the opportunity, because in less than five minutes, the sun was lost behind the storm clouds again.

Tip: Never pass up a “Kodak moment”. They don’t always come, but when they do, they would surely go, and go quickly. Be prepared and seize the moment.

Post Production with Lightroom

"Rainbow after the storm" Lightroom post processing

“Rainbow after the storm” Lightroom post processing

I usually take pictures in raw format in order to get the most post processing flexibility from my images. In Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3, I used these settings:

  • temp (white balance) = 3954 (lowered from 4650, to get bluer sky)
  • exposure = 0 (unchanged)
  • fill light = 40 (from 0, to get more shadow details)
  • brightness = +50 (LR default)
  • contrast = +25 (LR default)
  • saturation = +40 (get to richer colors)
Basically, I used Lightroom to bring out the beauty of the colorful rainbow and details in the picture particularly in the darker areas of the image. I achieved this by tweaking the white balance (temp setting) to get a bluer sky and increased the saturation to get a more colorful rainbow. I increased fill light to bring out the shadow details. For comparison, here is the “before image” prior to processing.
Rainbow after the storm, original.

Rainbow after the storm, original.

Kind of gray and drabby, huh?

Finally, when I generate the JPEG image for exporting, I always choose the resolution of the target image (in this case 1000 pixels on the long side for this blog), choose 85% quality and sharpen for it the screen.

[(Ô] HtL | like us on facebook

Architecture: Florida Hospital East Orlando

The thought of hospitals conjures up all kinds of memories and emotions. For me, I am reminded of emergency rooms and urgent care and anxiety; birthing rooms and newborn nurseries and the overwhelming excitement and love for my newborn children, nieces and nephews; operating rooms and intensive care units and the worries that come with such situations. Surely, hospitals and the attending physicians, nurses, staff, and volunteers play an important part in our lives.

As buildings, hospitals are very functional. Some even have architectural flair. While function take precedence over form, there is still form. For example, take the new addition to East Orlando Florida Hospital. The new building is built with a gentle curve, serving as an architecture point of interest for the facility and a compelling architecture photographic subject.

Florida Hospital East Orlando is architected with a gentle curve.

Florida Hospital East Orlando is architected with a gentle curve. Taken with Nikon D600 with Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 AF-S lens @ 14mm focal length, 1/80 sec, f/13, iso 100.

In the shot above, I composed the flower bed into the bottom of the frame to give the image some foreground interest. Serendipitously, though it was late morning, the sun was positioned behind the building, leaving the building evenly lit with indirect light. I framed the sun into the shot to add a sun flare that diagonally stretches across the image (as if to remind us of the flowers’ need of the morning light). I cropped the original image using Adobe Lightroom with a cinematic widescreen aspect ratio of 2.4:1 for an epic effect, re-composing the flower bed in the bottom third of the frame (using the composition rule of thirds). Other Lightroom settings included temp 5333, +0.33 exposure compensation, recovery 100, contrast +50, vignetting -10. View the larger 1200 x 500 pixel image.

click to see larger photos

Playing with geometric shapes. Taken with Nikon D600 with Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 AF-S lens @ 14mm, 1/200 sec, f/11, iso 200.

In the shot above, I played with the geometric shapes. I composed the rectangular directory sign at an angle allowing my Nikon 14-24mm ultra wide angle zoom lens to dramatically distort it as a foreground compositional element. Its angular shape offers a sharp contrast to the curved building in the background. I cropped the bottom of the original picture to re-compose the elements in post production to a 16:9 aspect ratio. (Other Lightroom settings included temp 6253, +1 exposure compensation, recovery 100, contrast +50.) View the larger 1200 x 675 pixel image.

click to see larger photos

Nikon D600 with Nikon 50mm f/1.4 AF-S lens @ 1/800 sec, f/2.8, iso 100.

For context, the pull-back shot below shows the relative positions of the flower bed and the directory sign relative to the curved hospital building.

click to see larger photos

Nikon D600 with Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 AF-S lens @ 14mm, 1/100 sec, f/11, iso 200.

The point of this blog post: you never know where you will find your next architecture photographic subject. While of the most functional buildings can serve to inspire (and give hope) to its staff and occupants, these same buildings can be a source of inspiration for the amateur photographer. See larger pictures from this article.

[(Ô] HtL | like us on facebook