Monday, September 30, 2013

Refining my technique

After my initial steps into HDR imaging I've been slowly refining and modifying my techniques for creating the images.  So much so, that I now feel I have my "default" settings defined.  I can't say for certain that each and every image will have the exact same settings applied because that would be silly.  As each image is inherently different, the settings applied will need some tweaking.  So there will always be a couple of the settings that are only guidelines (in my notes) and they are adjusted to achieve the desired look on a per image basis.

Of course, while making these refinements I also modified some of my HDR images, including those from my last blog post - such as the Midland Valley Bridge image.  So here is the latest (and final) version of that image:

If you're waiting for me to reveal what these settings's not going to happen yet.  They're not exactly secret or anything, all adjustment settings within Lightroom, but they are what I identified (through experimentation) to be the most pleasing to me, so in essence they have become my "style".  If you spent a few hours in Lightroom and played with the various settings, you would likely find "my settings combination" but you may also find your own style in the process.  And to me, this would be much more preferable as it's better to do your own work than it is to copy what someone else is doing.

I can use these settings both on bracketed multi-image HDR sets and also on single (RAW) images to give similar results.  They have been tested on both types and give good results, dependent on the original image(s).

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Midland Valley Bridge in HDR

Here in Tulsa is an interesting bridge that some may not realize is/was actually a combination of a railway and pedestrian bridge.  The bottom level is the pedestrian bridge and the upper level was, until 1974, a railway bridge.  Now it is a part of the River Parks trail system and is in regular daily use by countless Tulsans and visitors.

You'll find the bridge at roughly 21st and Riverside in Tulsa, with a parking lot just to the east and foot access to the bridge via a concrete overpass over Riverside Drive.

Here are the photos:

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Going in circles

It's interesting (in a weird way) just how much it is possible to travel in such wide arcs, and even full circle, as we journey through life.  Here I am now, diving into the world of HDR imaging, yet only a short time ago I was not a big fan of the HDR images I would see posted online and generally avoided the whole style.

First a little back story, how for most of my time in photography I have had this nagging voice in the back of my mind that the photo does not do the scene justice.  That and the overall disappointment on my failure to have the two match up any closer than I could with the cameras and film I was using.  Even moving into the era of digital cameras, there was (is) that discrepancy between what the human eye can see/perceive and what the camera can record/capture.  With the current technology there is just no way that a camera can match the human eye in either seeing or capturing a scene.

Jump forward in time to just a couple of months ago and I found myself reading an article in a copy of the Adobe Photoshop magazine on editing landscape photos to (among other things) modify the histogram by adjusting the white point and black point - extending or contracting the dynamic range of the image.  On testing this out on some of my photos, I liked the overall look I was achieving and started using a modified version of this technique on my photos.  Pretty much all the photos I have posted in the last few months have received this editing technique and have modified dynamic range.  (anyone see where this is going?)

Time for another jump in time - now we're a couple of weeks ago.  I was checking out my G+ profile and saw several posts of photos from a photographer I did not know, called Trey Ratcliff.  They were photos he had taken at Burning Man and they had an interesting look to them.  So, being that I didn't know of him or his work, it was time to go check out his website.  Once there I found out he was a major player in the world of HDR imaging and that all the photos that had drawn me to his site were HDR.  Then I started looking through his portfolio and saw that his photos were not the garish, weirdly colored HDR's that I had seen online previously - and that had turned me away from the technique.  In fact, some of his work was not dissimilar to my recent edited photos.  Then it started to click, I was making very subtle HDR images where I was modifying the histogram and the white/black points.

Jumping forward to now, I am in the process of reading an e-book version of Trey's book - A World in HDR - and have his website bookmarked.  I had a pretty big moment of awakening when I read that he too experienced similar thoughts and feelings about how the photo and scene never matched - yay, I'm not alone in these weird thoughts and feelings of disappointment.  

So now, I've come full circle, from someone who didn't like or want to do HDR imaging, I'm now diving in and want to do more HDR.  I may finally be able to quiet that voice in my head, once and for all, and make a photo match the scene I see in font of my eyes.  

It's time to experiment and fully explore HDR, and to stop going in circles.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Experiments into HDR

While I may be late to the party, I've recently started taking another look at the whole HDR process.  I know in a lot of photography circles, the subject of HDR is a hot topic...and also that there are some really good, bad and downright awful examples of HDR out there!

My views of it have been rather mixed as I don't like the artificial look that a lot of people end up with in their images.  And then I see better images from more accomplished HDR photographers and like the extended dynamic range of their images.  Really, when it comes down to it, the best I can do is try it out for myself and if it works out, I have another style of photography to offer to people.  If it doesn't work out to my liking, I can say I gave it a try and just didn't like the outcome.

With that said, here are my first two attempts at creating HDR images.  I shot them this morning when the sunrise was underway, with my Nikon set to auto-bracket "+2, +1, 0, -1, -2" to give me a set of five images per HDR file.  Once I imported them to Lightroom I selected the five images and selected "merge to HDR in Photoshop".  As you can see, I didn't go for wild, extreme effects - instead I tried to keep it more subtle while still having the extended dynamic range in the finished images.

Now it's time to post the first two HDR images from me:

Hope you like them.  I plan on continuing my experiments in HDR photography, at least for now, to see if I like the style.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Recent photos and musings

It's been a pretty changeable time for me just lately.  There is the possibility of some pretty big changes coming my way in multiple ways and lots of little things too.  I'll update more as things change (or not change).

I recently found myself in Norman, Oklahoma again and went exploring the OU campus for interesting things to photograph.  At the time, I thought I had captured a selection of interesting subjects but on review later that day (and since) I have found that I have a few good photos and more than a few boring, uninteresting photos.  While technically sound, they lack any real subject or meaning so will not see the light of day on here or anywhere else - they'll just lurk in my archives as an example of what not to do.

Here is one I do like though, a different view of the football stadium's clock tower:

There's been some other things going on lately, one of which hit pretty close to home.  My 8 month old rat terrier, Amber, has been diagnosed with a condition called Legg-Calve-Parves Disease and will have to undergo surgery on her left hip that has essentially collapsed.  Regular readers should remember her from a previous post where I posted on of her portrait shots as she is one of my "regular" portrait subjects.  She's also a very active, loving puppy who is having to be kept relatively inactive to limit any further pain and damage to her hip.  Here is another portrait of her taken before her diagnosis:

I will likely be taking a lot more photos (and posting them here or on Facebook) of Amber as I document her path from now through surgery and on through her rehabilitation...until she's back to her active self.  Then again, I'll more than likely always take photos of her as she's such a great subject.

Other things of change going on lately - I recently purchased a Rogue Flashbender light modifier for use with my Speedlights.  However, for the time being that will be limited to my SB-600 until I get my SB-900 replaced, under warranty, as it quit firing on me this past weekend.  However, back to the Flashbender and what a wonderful thing it is.  Small (smaller than an umbrella or softbox), portable, highly adjustable and gives great lighting from small flashes.