Sunrise at the Trolley

Al Whitaker’s photo is a favorite in our annual contest.

Al Whitaker received an honorable mention for this photo, “Sunrise at Tommy’s Tonka Trolley,” in the City Landmarks category of our 2015 Lens on Lake Minnetonka photo contest. “People might not actually consider it a landmark, but go up to anyone around town and talk about the trolley, and they’ll know what you’re talking about. That makes it a landmark,” Whitaker explains. “Plus he’s got great ice cream.”

After grabbing some mini doughnuts and coffee on this particular spring morning last year, Whitaker remembers the air being cold, but the timing was just right for shooting photos on the lake with his Olympus E-M1. He says he enjoys taking his photographs in the blue hour of the morning and the golden hour of the evening, when lighting is the softest. “I post photos to Facebook showing people the morning that they slept through,” Whitaker jokes. “It’s another means to show people where I’ve been who might not get a chance to get to visit Lake Minnetonka.”

In order to get the painterly look that characterizes many of Whitaker’s images, he uses a technique called high dynamic range, or HDR, to merge a series of under- and overexposed images into one image. This gives his photos the tremendous detailing and picturesque coloring.

Citing Ansel Adams’ 20-step process of burning and dodging—techniques used to manipulate light and dark in darkroom photography—Whitaker, a hobbyist photographer, says that while he tries to keep as close to the originals as possible, HDR techniques bring out so much detail and intensifies the colors; “I’m not opposed to punching up the color.”

You can often find Al Whitaker’s gorgeous photos posted on Excelsior’s Facebook page.