The Goodspeed Update

The Uses of SMS

Posted on July 5, 2007 at 8:40 pm

During my travels through South Africa, I was consistently surprised by the extent of coverage of my Vodocom cell phone. From the tip of the Cape of Good Hope to remote mountain passes over two hours’ drive from Cape Town, my Nokia cell phone always reported a strong signal.

Perhaps I should not be surprised - mobile phones enjoy broader use in South Africa than they do in the United States. While the U.S. market is much larger, its mobile penetration rate is around 77%, compared with over 80% in South Africa. The trend was noticed by the New York Times, who described in 2005 some of the myraid ways cell phones were changing life for poor Africans. When it comes to the internet, however, the country lags far behind the U.S. Despite recent growth, roughly 10% of South Africans are internet users compared with 70% of Americans.

Virtually all South African mobile phones support sending SMS text messages, and in general these messages cost less than a 1 minute call. The political impact of widespread SMS use around the world has been well documented, and most recently I saw this story about the use of SMS to organize opposition to a chemical factory in China. What I found interesting in South Africa was the host of SMS applications beyond one-to-one messages:

  • The newspaper invited responses to news story by SMS, and published the responses with the sender’s names in a regular column.
  • A fast food restaurant asked patrons to SMS the name of the branch and a rating of their experience (1 to 5). Similarly, the airport distributed a card with a series of questions on it, and respondents could either return the card or SMS their answers in a numeric format.
  • Car dealerships had signs instructing interested passersby to send an SMS and a salesman would answer with a call.
  • A soap company held a raffle - to enter, you just had to SMS the unique number on your box.
  • A late-night TV ad for a men’s sexual health supplement invited viewers to SMS “help” to their number to learn more.

It was recently reported demand for phones in China, India, and Africa has pushed worldwide usage to over 3 billion. Although SMS applications like the ones above may be driven by limited internet use, SMS enjoys certain advantages over both the web and voice calls — namely low cost, ease of use, and high mobility — that mean we should expect continued expanded use. What new applications have you seen lately?


New Central Library Plans ‘Shelved’

Posted on June 27, 2007 at 4:51 am

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According to the Examiner, the DC Public Library has launched $2 million in renovations to Washington’s central MLK Library, including such much-needed improvements as revamped bathrooms and elevators, new lighting, and new computers. Meanwhile, the Fenty administration tells the paper plans for a new downtown library have been shelved — for now. Elsewhere progress marches on: Rockville’s new library will contain 200,000 books in a new, 71,500 square foot state-of-the-art building. While the repairs at the MLK Library are badly needed, the entire structure needs an overhaul to address serious needs such as the ailing HVAC system and obsolete floor plans.

> Examiner: “D.C. Public Library to Begin Renovations at MLK Memorial

> The photo was taken shortly after the library opened in 1972. For more on library history see my previous post: What Will be the Fate of Washington’s MLK Library?

South Africa Trip Photos

Posted on June 17, 2007 at 6:04 pm

So far, my trip to South Africa is going great. I won’t have the opportunity to write much here until after I return in July, but I thought I would share a few highlight photos.

Our studio class is examining housing and economic issues in a small town about two hours from Cape Town called McGregor. Its boosters claim the town is the “best preserved 19th century town” in the Western Cape, however it is also facing a serious housing crisis.

The town sits nestled in a mountain valley:
McGregor

Here’s are the five studio team members, as well as some students who have been working with the South African Heritage Resources Agency to document the town history:
Group Photo - McGregor

McGregor is something of a mecca for so-called “earth building” technology in South Africa built using adobe or cobb. This home was being built by a local business owner using local materials (the earth is from the site) and local people with experience in the building techniques.

Earth Building

This man is stomping cobb:

Cobb Building

These are historic homes, perhaps 100 years old:

McGregor Traditional Homes

Here is a government-built toilet, shared by the residents of 5 tin shacks (not seen, to the right) and the home to the left. These residents are lucky, many shack residents have no plumbing whatsoever.
McGregor Bathroom

In McGregor, perhaps a quarter of the total population live in tin shacks and pay roughly $20 a month to the land owner as rent. Millions more live in massive shantytowns surrounding Cape Town, Johannesburg, and other South African cities. (More on this later)

We worked with the students to survey the community and consider the design and location for new government-subsidized housing:
Planning

After spending a week in McGregor, we have returned to Cape Town to start work on the report.

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Cape Town

We took the train to Simonstown to see the famous African penguins:

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African Penguins

Simonstown

As well as took a drive around the peninsula to visit the Cape of Good Hope.

Simon's Peak Pass

Cape Point

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Molo Cape Town!

Posted on June 1, 2007 at 8:49 pm

Tomorrow I’ll be boarding a flight to Cape Town, South Africa, where I’ll be spending the next month studying abroad. Our group will be completing a studio report on a small, 200-year old town outside of the city.

While Cape Town is renowned as a fascinating and beautiful place, I think I’d like any place where the top item on the city website is an announcement about the process of “updating and rationalising its spatial planning policies and frameworks, in order to simplify the planning environment and more importantly give direction to the City’s long-term development.”

I plan to write a bit here about the trip before I return in early July.

The photo was taken by my friend Michael at the Cape of Good Hope during his visit to Africa last year, and molo means “hello” in Xhosa, one of South Africa’s 11 official languages.

Planner, Scholar Inprisoned in Iran

Posted on May 31, 2007 at 4:20 pm

This from a friend:

FREE KIAN TAJBAKHSH
On May 11th 2007, Dr. Kian Tajbakhsh, 45, an urban planning expert and senior research fellow at the New School in New York, was arrested at his home in Tehran by the Iranian security services. He has since been detained in the notorious Evin prison and has not seen a lawyer or been permitted visitors. This comes on the heels of the sudden imprisonment May 8th of Haleh Esfandiari, director of the Middle East program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

Columbia University President Lee Bollinger released this statement:

Columbia University is urgently concerned about the safety, well-being and human rights of two Iranian-American scholars who are under arrest in Iran. Dr. Kian Tajbakhsh is an expert on urban planning who has worked for multilateral, international, and Iranian public organizations. Dr. Tajbakhsh earned his Ph.D. and Master of Philosophy from Columbia University, where he studied urban planning and sociology. Dr. Haleh Esfandiari is director of the Middle East Program at the Washington-based Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars. Both were reportedly detained and charged with ‘endangering national security through propaganda against the system and espionage for foreigners.’ These reports are deeply troubling to our university community, and we urge that these scholars be released on humanitarian grounds.

More from Woodrow Wilson International Center for ScholarsThe New School University… and Reuters: “3 Iranian-Americans Charged by Tehran With Espionage

Cleaning Up Diesel Engine Pollution

Posted on May 31, 2007 at 10:08 am

Like many urban residents, I am frequently blasted with diesel fumes from buses and trucks as I navigate city streets. Over the past four years living in Ann Arbor, Michigan and Washington, D.C., I have cleaned black film off the windows of my apartments. This pollution no doubt caused mostly from diesel exhaust. (In fact, the residences were all located immediately adjacent streets frequented by diesel trucks and buses.)

I have long wondered why our country had such regressive laws regarding diesel vehicle exhaust.

Anatomy of Diesel ExhaustThe long-term environmental and medical impact of exposure to diesel exhaust by myself and my neighbors has been well documented. Diesel engines emit a toxic brew of hazardous pollutants. It contains several proven carcinogens, and over 40 substances listed as Toxic Air Contaminants by the state of California. Diesel exhaust also contains high amounts of microscopic particulate matter (PM), which has been linked to asthma, lung cancer, and heart diseases. The illustration to the right shows how the pollutants are fused together in toxic little bundles ready to inhale deep into your lungs.

According to the organization Clean Air Task Force, all the nasty ingredients combined far exceeds EPA standards for acceptable exposure for most Americans. Their major 2005 report on the health impact of diesel exhaust concluded that nationally diesel exhaust posed a cancer risk 7.5 times higher than the combined risk from all other air toxics, and in the U.S. the average lifetime nationwide cancer risk caused by diesel exhaust is 350 times greater than the EPA’s “acceptable” level. (One cancer per million persons over 70) The broader environmental impact of diesel emissions is significant as well. Leaders in the Washington Council of Governments were shocked to discover in 2002 that although diesel vehicles make up only 3% of all traffic, they contribute 30% of the pollutants that cause ground-level ozone.[1]

After decades of crusading by environmental activists, the country is poised to dramatically reduce the huge volume of air pollution emitted by diesel engines. A long-planned EPA regulation that recently took effect has established the fixed path to cleaner air. The regulation is two-fold: it requires refineries to reduce the amount of sulfur in diesel fuel (reducing pollution from all existing vehicles), and requires new diesel engines starting with the 2007 model year meet stringent new standards. First created during the Clinton years, its implementation was delayed by a federal lawsuit by manufacturers which was settled in 2002 when the regulation was upheld by a federal judge. The EPA describes the impact these rules will have this way:

These programs will yield enormous long-term benefits for public health and the environment. By 2030, when the engine fleet has been fully turned over, PM and NOx will be reduced by 250,000 tons/year and 4 million tons/year, respectively. This will result in annual benefits of over $150 billion, at a cost of approximately $7 billion.

The achievement is so significant even the National Resources Defense Council has praised them, saying “When fully implemented, these successes will add up to one of the most significant victories in a generation for public health and the environment … ” However, under the EPA rules millions of polluting diesel engines will remain on the road: the average age for diesel motors is roughly 30 years, with many lasting much longer. Studies have shown the cleaner fuel alone can reduce the amount of particulates by 14-50%, however that still leaves plenty of toxic pollution in the air.

The diesel buses operated by school systems and public transportation agencies will continue to impact particularly vulnerable young and elderly people for decades. A study completed by NRDC, the Coalition for Clean Air, and the University of California found school bus riders are exposed to four times the level of diesel exhaust than passengers in automobiles, and the exhaust levels measured were over 20 times higher than the standard levels constituting a significant cancer risk. The federal government has made grant money available for efforts to retrofit or replace old buses, but no nationwide policy has been adopted.

Many public transportation agencies operate large fleets of aging diesel buses that serve vulnerable passengers like children and the elderly. As of March 2007, our region’s WMATA Metrobus fleet is comprised of 29% compressed natural gas buses, 3% hybrid diesel-electric buses, and a sizable 68% standard diesel models. The agency will add 25 CNG buses in 2007 and 100 hybrid electric buses each year from 2008 to 2012. Although an improvement, with an fleet that currently includes over 900 diesel buses, even these new buses won’t completely replace the diesel fleet. WMATA decided in 2005 to stick with diesel buses instead of moving more aggressively to CNG, a decision roundly criticized by the Washington Post and other critics at the time.[2] The hazard from diesel exhaust is an urban planning issue larger than city buses. If planners seek to urge people to use public transit and live in more compact communities, they must ensure the air in these places is just as clean as the far-flung suburbs.

While it is clear fuel improvements such as biodiesel and low-sulfur fuel will reduce some of the worst pollutants, older high-polluting diesel vehicles will remain in service for years to come. Despite the lingering problems in the U.S., diesel exhaust is a serious problem around the world, where aging vehicles running on dirty fuels create unacceptable levels of air pollution in most world cities. It was in response to this problem that the Partnership For Clean Fuels and Vehicles was organized under the auspices of the United Nations Environment Program in 2002, dedicated to “assist developing countries to reduce vehicular air pollution.”

References
> Clean Air Task Force Diesel Campaign
> EPA National Clean Diesel Campaign
> UN Partnership for Clean Fuel and Vehicles
> NRDC: The Campaign to Dump Dirty Diesel
> Clean Air Initiative: Cleaner diesel
> Stanford University: “Study refutes notion that diesel-powered vehicles are better for the environment”

[1] Katherine Shaver, “Diesel Trucks, Buses Fueling Pollution Problem, Officials Say,” Washington Post, 19 December 2002, Pg. A13.
[2] “Battle of the Buses,” Editorial, Washington Post, 17 April 2005, pg. B06.

Ten Reasons WashingtonPost.com is Poorly Designed

Posted on May 25, 2007 at 3:58 pm

For too long, I’ve begrudgingly accepted online inconvenience, relying on Google and bookmarks to find what I was looking for. I’ve rationalized about the size and complexity of the job, assuming it would get better soon. I was wrong. I feel compelled to say it:

Washingtonpost.com is a poorly designed website.

Here’s ten reasons, in no particular order.

1. Popunder Advertising
Often when you load the homepage, an Economist or another advertisement will pop up, unless you’ve got a blocker running. It’s annoying and violates online best practices.

2. Bloated Code
The home page is over 600 kb in size, and contains multiple javascript and flash elements.

3. The Menubar
Although I noticed they recently enlarged it, I find the hover-over topical menubar ugly and hard to use.

4. Sprawling, Deep Navigation Structure
Website design convention says you should keep everything within just a few clicks of the home page. Although it may be all technically be within the 4 click minimum, I’ve certainly wasted more than that hunting for an article or feature.

5. Non-intuitive Organization
Looking for D.C. area news? Just click on “Metro”. Except, if the story you’re looking for was published in an “Extra” section, you’ll need to hover over the “Local” button, click on “The Extras” (you better be a regular reader, as there’s nothing to explain what an “Extra” is), then click on your county. There you’ll find some local news, except any local news published in the metro section, or in the front page section, or the real estate section, or online discussions on local topics, etc, etc.

Interested in finding local columnist Marc Fisher’s blog? Unless you can remember his URL (http://blog.washingtonpost.com/rawfisher/), there are several options. If you are lucky, it’s one of the days the powers that be have chosen to post it on their homepage. If not, you can hover over “Local” and click on “Metro.” There will be a link to his blog there, except they only link to individual posts, so you’ll have to know it’s a blog. Another option? Hover over opinion, click on “columns&blogs.” Again, if you are luck they are “featuring” him, but chances are you will have to scroll down to a forest of huge pull-down menus, select “Metro & Education” then select Marc Fisher: Raw Fisher (you better know that’s the name of his blog). Did you count the clicks?

6. Feature Mania
Sponsored blogroll, mywashingtonpost.com, post points, slate, cityguide, traffic center, jobs, cars, real estate, school report cards, personalized alerts, day in photos, documentary video, etc, etc. WashingtonPost.com is a website for ever person at every point in their life, and each and every page contains hundreds of links to every other section reminding you of this fact.

7. Hidden Comments
Want to comment on a story? Sure, you are welcome to. Except the only people who will read it are the tiny percentage that will scroll below a “read more” box (sponsored by inform(tm)!) and click on the tiny text that says “view all comments.” By inviting comments before readers can see what others have left, they discourage the kind of conversations among readers that usually happen on blogs.

8. Express? Express Who?
They might be a wholly-owned subsidiary with a dedicated readership and original content, but the only way you’d find the Express website (or any other partner website, for that matter) is by scrolling all the way to the bottom of the homepage and clicking on “Express.” Again, you better be a local, because there’s nothing to tell you what it is.

9. The Most Viewed Mystery
Want to find a list of the “most viewed” articles? If you’re lucky, you’ll notice the tiny list (five articles only) on the side of some articles, or perhaps the tiny text box well below the fold on the homepage linking to a “20 most emailed list.” If you’re really lucky, you find this top 35 most viewed Metro articles list. What’s missing? An easy-to-find most popular page like the New York Times has.

10. Inconsistent Page Layout
The structure of the site’s various sections varies widely, and boxes containing features appear and reappear mysteriously. Even the layout of the ever-important main page varies day-to-day. Print journalists know the importance of perdictable layout to help readers find what they’re looking for - why this hasn’t translated into web design is a mystery to me.

What irks you? Or maybe you are one of the people that helped them win the “People’s Choice” Webby for best newspaper website in 2007?

Ballston Examined

Posted on May 21, 2007 at 2:12 pm

Ballston Mashup

I completed this essay for the final assignment for my urban design class. The assignment was to conduct an analysis of this block adjacent the Ballston Metro Station in Arlington County, Virginia. My study area is part of the “Ballston-Rosslyn Corridor,” a nationally-known example of smart growth. Along the corridor, the county has added roughly 40,000 residents, 20 million square feet of office, and one million square feet of retail — with only a negligible increase in automobile traffic, thanks to bus and Metrorail use.

In the Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C., adjacent the Ballston Metrorail station stands a collection of buildings far taller than any in the national capital. Reaching 10, 15, even 22 stories into the sky, these buildings contain offices, shops, apartments, and a hotel. Unlike most cities, however, this compact urban node has sprung out of the ground in just twenty years. 17 of the 19 buildings nestled in the area’s roughly 20 acres were completed since 1980. (fig. 1)

Fig. 1

Nothing existing here before anticipated the scale and character of the development. The two oldest buildings in the study area are at an entirely different scale than the new construction. The surrounding neighborhoods of single-family homes and garden apartments have different lot sizes, street widths, and building rhythm. County officials and private builders have chosen to deviate from the established urban patterns, deliberately striving to knit together new development into a new urban texture. All of the buildings here were developed under specific zoning adopted in 1979 in response to the construction of the train station. While this zoning has evolved somewhat since its first adoption, the rapid development of the area creates an intriguing case study in the urbanity created by a specific set of polices and standards. While boasting clearly urbane aspirations, the collection of buildings has not created a coherent urban space. My analysis falls into three categories: the area’s poor street void definition, lack of an open space hierarchy, and its streetscape inconsistency.

Fig. 2

A coherent urban space depends on a clearly defined street form. Considering the building footprints alone, in surrounding neighborhoods the streets are clearly defined by rows of single-family homes. (fig. 2) This system of what William C. Ellis has called a structure of voids. Moving to the study area the structure of voids transitions to a structure of solids, where each building has a unique shape, only loosely related to the adjacent streets. In order to visualize the structure of voids for the study area a rough, three-dimensional sketch was created. (fig. 3) The illustration depicts highly variable street spaces, quite distinct from the regularity in traditional urbanism. The visitor navigating these streets perceives the unfolding of a variety of spaces among buildings, not a street with a clear definition, beginning and end.

Fig. 3

To determine the cause of the irregular distribution of public space we must examine the underlying structure of the district. The study area’s 24 lots range in size from some similar in scale plots intended for a single-family home, to lots large enough to encompass an entire city block. (fig. 4)

Fig. 4

When developed under Arlington County’s zoning code, this variable underlying structure has profound design implications. The area’s zoning (C-O-A) requires 10% of the total site area for each building be landscaped open space. This provision guarantees the public open space will be found heterogeneously distributed throughout the area as each developer negotiates with county officials about what 10% portion of his lot will become public. In some areas this space has been coordinated to create larger courtyards, but the locations of these courtyards must be opportunistically located at the intersection of similarly sized lots. The result is a proliferation of awkward, ill-used open spaces, instead of the creation of larger, more coherent spaces. (fig. 5)

Fig. 5

The proliferation of landscaped space drains the potential vitality of the larger parks, which in another setting could perform the role as a district-wide focal point. An interesting counterpoint to the success of nearby Market Commons in Clarendon. This mixed-use complex contains most of the public space in the area, and sits just off a street that has been intensely developed creating a continuous street wall. (fig. 6) While the public spaces in Ballston were sparsely used on a recent visit, the Clarendon Commons was bustling with activity. Of course, the success of the spaces is also related to the distribution of commercial space – in Ballston it is concentrated in the large mall.

Fig. 6

Finally, county regulations also translate the variable lot sizes into a variable streetscape. In order to incentivize lot consolidation and the construction of apartments, the C-O-A zoning creates a hierarchy of allowable building heights depending on the primary use of the building and the lot size. Taller buildings can be built on larger lots, and apartment buildings can be built taller than office buildings. The result has been buildings over a considerable range of heights (fig. 7)

Fig. 7

Combined with the open space requirement, the result of the regulations is buildings of highly variable heights and configurations. Despite text expressing the county’s desire to cultivate street level retail, the policy regime creates an irregular streetscape both at the pedestrian scale and building scale. Lastly, the zoning code’s parking requirements mean the buildings contain over 7,000 parking spaces. While for the most part these spaces have been cleverly embedded into the buildings, the car entrances and exits create additional interruptions to the street level fabric. (fig. 8 )

Fig. 8

Although the district does not create the fabric of traditional urbanism, it cannot be said to be a failure. Meandering among the buildings, the visitor is invited to discover new urban spaces and stores and restaurants in unexpected locations. The city builders have achieved extremely high density in a highly landscaped, almost peaceful setting. While deviating from the traditional urbanism they espouse, their insistence on public landscape surrounding every building has created an alternate system, perhaps not unlike the landscape urbanism described by theorists like James Corner. As we leave Ballston, it must be noted this is an immature landscape in urban time. Only time will tell how its remaining underdeveloped parcels will evolve. Perhaps in that time the many young street trees (fig. 4a, 4c) will mature, and the landscape itself play an increasingly important role in defining more clearly the urban fabric.

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Defending the Capital

Posted on May 19, 2007 at 3:06 pm

Fort Stevens

Civil War Defenses of WashingtonDuring the Civil War, the U.S. government built 68 forts around Washington to protect the capital from Confederate invasion. Although little-known today, remains from these forts can be found throughout the city.

Here’s a short history of the “fort circle,” from the National Park Service:

When the Civil War began, only one fortification existed for the capital’s defense: Outmoded Fort Washington, nearly 12 miles down the Potomac, built to guard against enemy ships following the War of 1812. It took the rout of federal forces at Manassas in July 1861 to reveal how truly vulnerable the city was. Taking command of and reorganizing the Army of the Potomac, Major General George B. McClellan appointed Major (later brevet major general) John G. Barnard of the Corps of Engineers to build many new forts.

Selecting sites a few miles outside the city limits, Barnard’s engineers picked high points that overlooked major turnpikes, railroads, and shipping lanes. Natural fords upriver from the city, allowing the enemy to cross the Potomac during low water, spurred the building of more forts and batteries. Rifle pits filled the gaps. By spring 1865, the defense system totaled 68 forts and 93 batteries with 807 cannons and 98 mortars in place. Twenty miles of rifle trenches flanked the bristling strongholds, joined by more than 30 miles of military roads over which companies of solders and guns could move as reinforcements. Washington had become the most heavily fortified city in the world.

One of these forts — Fort Stevens — would be the place where the only time a sitting president had come under enemy fire. During the Battle of Fort Stevens in July 1864, Lincoln and his wife took a carriage to the fort to observe the battle. According to a popular legend, the president was told “Get down, you fool!” when coming under fire standing on the parapet. Today, the spot is marked with a commemorative memorial and the restored site contains several cannon and an interpretive sign.

Today, the forts have had mixed fates. The best-preserved is Alexandria’s Fort Ward Museum, where you can learn about life in “occupied” Alexandria during the Civil War and tour the fort. In D.C., the National Park Service owns several, while many others are in private hands.

Noting some of the many businesses, parks, churches, and even bus routes that have taken the names of these facilities, an online history of the forts concludes that “although many of the fortifications in the Civil War Defenses of Washington are gone or in a terrible state of preservation, they live on, even today, in billboards, marquee and street signs.” Below are a few photos of one site familiar to anyone who has ridden the Metro - Fort Totten.

Fort Totten

Fort Totten

Fort Totten

Resources

> [Online Book] A Historic Resources Study: The Civil War Defenses of Washington
> National Park Service: Civil War Defenses of Washington, D.C. and Civil War Defenses Historical Images
> Fort Circle Park National Recreational Trail
> Book: “Mr. Lincoln’s Forts: A Guide to the Civil War Defenses of Washington

The images are courtesy the Library of Congress. For complete provenance, click on the images.

Seeing More

Posted on May 15, 2007 at 12:39 am

If you’re like me, you’ve probably seen images like the one above before and chalked it up to a neat photoshop effect. However, a lot more than that separates Trey Ratcliff’s take on the Capitol Columns at the National Arboretum from my attempts. The image was produced through a process called High Dynamic Range Imaging. Originally created as a technique to create realistic objects in computer graphics, the technique essentially creates images containing more visual information than a standard, single-exposure photo. The result contains more detail in the dark and bright areas, more like how we actually see. Wikipedia explains how it works this way:

Information stored in high dynamic range images usually corresponds to the physical values of luminance or radiance that can be observed in the real world. This is different from traditional digital images, which represent colors that should appear on a monitor or a paper print. Therefore, HDR image formats are often called “scene-referred”, in contrast to traditional digital images, which are “device-referred” or “output-referred”.

This article explains some of the concepts in more detail. HDR photographs can be taken from real life by digitally combining several photos taken at different exposure settings, and the resulting photo will contain details from the lightest and darkest portions of the pictures as well as more color. The technique seems to becoming increasingly popular, and a recent tutorial published by Popular Science explains the software needed to create the eye-popping images is freely available. I also noticed a couple HDR photos have popped up as DCist photos of the day this spring.

I stumbled across the technique looking for photos of Ballston, of all places. A local resident and Flickr user sduffy had uploaded the photo to the right and several other particularly well done images.

District resident Jon Ross has created several images of D.C., including this view up 15th Street:

Another D.C. Flickr user experimenting with HDR is sunyata, who has created a set of some of his favorites. His style is a bit more subtle, as seen in this version of the fountain at Meridian Hill Park:

What’s your favorite HDR image?

More:
> Popular Science: High-Dynamic-Range Photography: A Guide
> “The Future of Digital Imaging - High Dynamic Range Photography”
> Flickr HDR pool