Finding The Best Picture Of The UT Tower Ever [A Facebook Success Story]

It’s not every day that a jaw-dropping picture of the Tower simply falls into your lap. For me, it happened May 25, 2010.

There I was, scoping my Facebook news feed, when I saw that my friend Katie Sowa had commented on a photo of the UT Tower that her friend Randy Drevland had taken.

I didn’t know Randy, so I e-mailed Katie, and she put the two of us in touch.

I see a lot of photos of the Tower, I told him, but his had to be one of the best I’d ever seen.

Randy wrote back to say that it was probably the most thought-out photo he had ever done.

For this shot, Randy waited five days in April 2009 for the clouds to be just right. He used a technique called High Dynamic Range — three exposures of the same shot fused together digitally — to get the darks so dark and highs so high. It gave it that epic Middle Earth feel. (Full description of the process below.)

The photo was so good that we did decided to run it as a gate-fold in the magazine — basically as a centerfold. It came out beautifully, just about three months after I first saw it on my news feed.

Well, last week, I saw that same photo again on my Facebook, only this time it was within a photo of Randy, who now lives in South Carolina, actually seeing the printed photo in the magazine itself.

“It’s sad that I get more excited when a photo of mine gets published than when I publish a scientific paper,” Randy, who spent his years at UT earning a PhD in biochemistry, wrote in a description of the photo.

Randy very kindly agreed to let us use that photo again, so here it is. You should check out his other work on his Flickr page.

Here’s a full description of how Randy did the shot:

Nikon D80 with a Tokina 12-24mm lens with two Tiffen 0.9 ND filters stacked on top of each other. This cuts down the light that hits the sensor so at about 1 p.m. I could have an exposure of around 1 second allowing for the motion blur. I waited five days until the clouds were the way I wanted. Then it was just a matter of setting up a tripod and waiting for a class change around lunch time and hoping for a lot of students.

UT Tower



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