Ghosts At Flatiron

Ghosts at Flatiron!!

A few weeks back I took nearly a 1000 images of the Flatiron building in Manhattan for an HDR timelapse.  After reviewing the images, I wanted to create the effect I felt with all of the passerbys ignoring each other like no one can see anyone else – like ghosts walking during the day.  Despite so many people around you, the city can be so lonely.  That’s the feel I wanted to create. To do this required advanced techniques which I share with you here!  Click on any photo for a larger/better view of it!

The first step was to find six images that were taken pretty close in time to each other (so the sun would be in about the same place in the sky), and that had pedestrians scattered about so that collectively they would “fill” the scene when merged.  Each image from the HDR sequence is the darkest of the 5 shot series and each is about 2.33 stops underexposed.  Through a little trial and error using the stacking software described further below I determined that 6 images “stacked” would make a good total exposure as if one properly exposed image was taken.  The six photos selected are show above.  Pretty dark!!

It’s pretty amazing the detail you can get when the six dark images are stacked.  The program used is freeware call StarStaX which typically is used to create star trails from timelapse photos.  However, you can use it for any creative stacking.  The above image is the raw output from “adding” in StarStaX the six dark images, and my ghosts appear, just like I wanted!!!  StarStaX can be found at

The above photo has been optimized in Photoshop.  The sky was too washed out in the initial image so I masked in the sky from one of the original dark images.  This is the exact photo that was then converted to Black & White using the Channel Mixer in PS3; however you can use your favorite conversion method.  The final black and white “ghost” image is repeated below  for easy comparison with the color one.  Which one do you like: color or black and white??  Does the image work??

This is not just a lesson in stacking, but in finding new uses for a tool that was created for another purpose.  These are only pixels and electrons – go ahead and experiment – you never know what you might create!!

You can learn more about the history of the Flatiron Building here:

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4 Responses to Ghosts At Flatiron

  1. Awesome Scott! Thanks for the link and how-to. I’ll give it a try!!

  2. Dennis Bishop says:

    This is certainly creativity. Thanks very much for the how-to and the link. Although a fan of b&w, I prefer the color version for the emotional response you were after. Wether it should or not, color seems to have a connotation of reality the ghost images more impact.

    This inspires me to put an idea I had about a time lapse I’d taken into action. I’m going to try it with the stacking program you used and the Photoshop photo merge feature to see if there’s a difference.

    • Thanks so much for the feedback Dennis!! I like your thoughts on the emotional response and color helping the feel of reality – good point! I look forward to seeing your comparison of photomerge and the stacker!

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