Monthly Archives: February 2012

My Recipe – Reader’s Challenge

My Recipe,
Thanks to Miguel for reminding me, but I never said what I did on my version of the Reader’s Challenge
For my version, I used a recipe very different than my usual one and that is mostly because the sun was in the image.
I used all 6 frames and merged them in Photomatix which resulted in a 32 bit file with a Contrast Ratio of 31,880:1 fairly high and for sure a High Dynamic Range scene.
In Photomatix Pro 4.1.4 I used  Tone Mapping/ Detail Enhancer
Strength: 100
Saturation: 70
Luminosity: 10.0
Detail Contrast: – 5.3
Lighting adjustment: Surreal
White Point: .250%
Black Point:.524%
Gamma: 1.20
That got the basics there and the most important part being the sun having the brightness and shape I wanted. The rest I needed to finish in Photoshop.
I took it into Photoshop and cut off the Vignettes and cloned out the Sensor spots.
the next step was to work on the noise before I went any further and the image was a lot noisier than I Would have liked and it is probably from the -4 EV shot that only had the sun in it. May not have been such a good idea including it in the merge. Hmmm wondering now if I should have not used the -4 OR the -2EV and blended the sun in later…hmmm
Anyway, I turned Topaz DeNoise 5 and used the RAW Moderate setting.
Going back to Photoshop, I added a Levels adjustment layer to bring back some detail  and contrast to the Badlands area. and I masked it off the sky for the most part.
I then dodged and burned the sky as I saw fit and finished the image off using a High Pass Filter sharpening action I made.
And that’s about it. I’m not thrilled by it. It’s not an image I would sell and it was not the best image I shot that evening. I think this one was probably the best shot of the day. Light is just WAY BETTER.  Light is 90 degrees from the sun and about 10 minutes earlier and needed very little work in post
Anyway, thanks again to all that participated. We will be having more challenges soon and I’ll see if I can up the anty on the prize to make it more worthwhile

And the Winner is…

Well  it was a really tough decision and I like different images for different reasons and we have to remember everyone has their own editing tastes, which is a good thing. But after thinking all day, it came down to who made the image mostly as “I saw” which of course would have been a hard thing to guess.

But, The winner is…

Brian Randklev

 Great job Brian.

If you can just email me and let me know what prize you would like and your address

A 12 x 18 print of:

  • Your version Image
  • My Version of the image- Signed
  • Any one of my images at Fine Art America – Signed

Thanks to everyone that participated.

Just one final word. I’m a little mad at myself because I should have given you a better image to work on. It wasn’t shot great at all and that made it harder than necessary to produce a good image. Next time I think I will give an image that I know for sure was shot better and could produce a better image. Thanks again to you all for taking the time and having some fun with me.



Oh Yeah, This is my version, Not particularly happy with it. Was hoping to work more on it today but I was sick for most of the day…No excuses, it is what it is.


Readers Challenge – The Entries

Here are the entries for the HDR Reader Chalenge

Entry 1: Brian R

Peter I used images 3, 4, & 5

In lightrooom3 cropped the vignette off then processed in Photomatix 4.  Here is my settings: Details Enhancer,  Strength 94, Saturation 56, Luminosity 1.7, Details Contrast 4.6, Lighting Adjustment – Natural.  In PSE9 I clone dust spots and lens flare. Used Noiseware to smooth the sky.  Back in Lightroom used selection brush to increase the saturation on the horizion.

Thanks for the project.

Brian R

 Entry 2: Joseph B

Hey Peter, here is my take on your images. There are so many ways this image could’ve gone. Mild or wild. I guess mine goes more into the wild? It’s something different for sure. So, here’s what I did:
I used all six images
Here’s the interesting part, I actually used the Enhancer Painterly preset!
     Preset adjustments:
     Temperature: -4.1
     Saturation Highlights: 10
     Saturation Shadows: 8.0.
Here’s the main body of the work.
Exposure: -0.75
Fill Light: +33
Blacks: +5
Contrast: +35
Clarity: +40
Vibrance: +25
Tone Mapping: Darks +30
Sharpening: +25 @ 1.5 radius
Noise Reduction/Luminace: +15
Post Crop Vignetting: +5 on Color Priority
Crop (adjusted a number of times throughout – really should’ve waited to the end)
Photoshop Elements:
Spot Removal of dust spots
Clone some of the lens flares
5% burn on the ground area
Leveled the image
Added a graduated filter for the sky area with +0.78 exposure setting and color cast (purpleish)
Added a second graduated filter for the lower right corner with -0.39 exposure setting to bring down the brightness of the corner ground.
I looked at the image and saw the artifacts on the sides. I’m assuming this is some form of Peripheral Lens Distortion? Pincushion? I don’t get this with my 18-55mm lens at 18mm, but I’m also using a crop sensor so I assume I wouldn’t since I’m really at about 28.8mm. I looked at the exif data and saw that they were all shot at 17mm and the images all appeared to be well aligned, indicating they were shot with a tripod. However, there were some alignment issues observed when Photomatix processed the images. Therefore, the equipment mistake made I would assume would not be adjusting the camera settings for PLD correction? I think newer cameras can do that. Mine can’t so I’m not sure. If it isn’t that, the only other thing I could think of is some form of distortion cause by an attached filter since you’re at the lens’ wide end.
I did start thinking about PLD potentially being a problem towards the end of my play on your images. I took one of them into Lightroom and applyed PLD correction which seemed to correct most of it. Well, that was just damn smart of me, I do it AFTER I’m almost finished with the image, and well beyond recovery, so there was no way in hell I was going to start over! LOL. Instead I just cropped it out. I know, my workflow sucks. I need to work on that!
Oh, and THANKS for featuring my image. I’m STOKED!
Joseph B

Entry 3: Robert Mc

1. Dirt on Lens, Filter, or Sensor
2. Cropped Picture to remove Filter Holder (?) on left and right of frame and tighten scene on bottom.
3. Removed flare on filter or lens from the setting (?) sun.
4. Was that Death Valley by any chance.
5. I used Corel PaintShop Pro X4 to process the files
Thanks for the challenge.
Rob Mc

Entry 4: Miguel P

Alright, here goes … With all of the texture in the rocks, I had a feeling I wanted to convert this to a black and white. I noticed that the lens hood must have been a little loose and therefore caused the left and right edges to vignette quite a bit. I decided right away that I would crop the image at the end to remove this.
1) I used Nik HDR to combine all six images and then tonemapped. I tried several combinations of exposures but decided that I like the result with all of the images the best. I tried a couple of the built in presets, but decided that I really liked the default with a couple of minor adjustments.
2) The next step was to take the image into photoshop to get rid of all of those sensor dust spots! I’m not surprised that they were present since you shot at f/22. I asked myself why not shoot at f/8 (where you would have gotten the same sharpness with the right focus), but then I saw the sun – the starbust!
3) Since I know that I wanted this to be a Black and White, I decided that it needed a bit more contrast. I was already in photoshop, so I added a curves adjustment layer. I used the black and white eyedropper tools to select the darkest and lightest sections of the image. This added quite a bit of contrast – too much for a color photo, but I know that BW images eat up contrast, so I kept it.
4) I then did a quick desaturation layer (not the best way to do a black and white, but I’m still learning!). The sky looked nice, but the mountains were a bit flat. I tried adding more contrast, but settled on a sharpening layers (which actually brought up the contrast in the midtones, just what it needed!). I added a layer mask so that the sharpening was only applied to the mountains.
5) The last thing I did was dodge and burn. I liked the trail on the left side of the image that led to the sun, so I dodged it a bit on a separate layer. I wanted to add a bit more ‘drama’ so I burned some of the ‘valleys’ on the right side of the image.
6) Last thing I did was crop the image to remove the edge vignetting.
That’s it!
Miguel P

Entry 5: Ann H

I’ve attached my take on your photograph.  I used #2,4 and 6 with Photomatix Pro.  My settings were Strength 90, Color Sat 75, Luminosity 5.0, Microcontrast 5.5, Low smoothing, Light mode, white point .457, Black point .092, Gamma 1.30.  Then I took it to Photoshop and adjusted the levels, did a 30% opacity multiply layer and cropped the right and left edges off.  I don’t know what that was, and hope that what you were referring to about the equipment mistake.  It looked to me like you were shooting through something and didn’t completely get it out of the way of the shot.
I’m anxious to see everyone elses adjustments, and really like this exercise!  Thank you!
Ann H

Entry 6: Stephen P

Here is my take at your desert (sunset?) scene.  I only used the middle 4 images of the 6, because the brightest exposure was unnecessary (the shadows were already all captured in the 5th image) and the darkest exposure didn’t change the result (I tried both ways).  It looks like you used a polarizer/UV filter with your 17-40mm lens, and at 17mm the edge of the filter showed up in the frame.  It also looks like you need to clean you sensor 😉
My process:
  1. Crop all images to correct for the filter
  2. Exported the middle 4 images to Photomatix Pro 4.0
  3. Tone Mapped to my liking.
  4. Saved this image.
  5. Tone mapped again!
  6. Saved this image.
  7. Brought both images into LR3 and processed, adding contrast, clarity, vibrance, and warmth.
  8. Cleaned up all the dust in the sky and the lens flare on the mountain.
  9. Exported 2 images to CS5.
  10. Blended the sky from the single tone mapped image to the ground in the double tone mapped image using a gradient mask.
  11. Added a little vignetting.
  12. Resized and saved.
I hope you like my result.  It may be a little extreme, but I think the detail in the mountains in the foreground needed to be shown off.
Stephen P

Entry 7: Duane W

What I did in review:
I only used 3 of the images (3,4 and 5) and processed them in Photomatix first, I had the image processed and by mistake I double processed the image and like what I saw.
Then used Photoshop and did some of my normal post processing.  Used Levels adjustments, Cropping, fixed Dust spots.  I then used some Gradiant layers to enhance the photo and midtones.  Then brought it into Lightroom and did some nosie correction and some other minor adjustments.
For the extra point:
I removed the black lines caught on the sides of the images.  What I think caused this issue is a sync issue and it captured the edges of the shutter curtains.  You may have had a flash or wireless transmitter on the hotshoe that was turned on by mistake, so it was trying to sync the speed and was off a little.
Thanks for doing this exercise. Have not been able to get out and do any shooting, so this was a good way to get back into my post processing skills.
Duane W

Entry 8: John Mac

 I used files 1-5. I Enfused them in LR3 and saved a TIF. I imported that TIF into LR4 Beta. I cropped the sides and applied these settings:

Contrast +35
Highlights -100
Blacks -5
Clarity +100
Vibrance +65
Lights: +10
Darks -10
Sharpening – Narrow Edges (Scenic) preset
Distortion: 100
Vignetting: 20
“Sky” above sun:
Exposure: -.33
Clarity: 30
“Foreground” below sun
Clarity 20
“Foreground” bottom 1/3
Exposure: -.33
“Central” area
Contrast 25
Flow 20 (not full density)
“Lead in Path”
Exposure -.33
Flow 20 (not full density)
Thanks everyone for submitting their great images for the challenge. You certainly didn’t make it easy for me to pick, nor did I make it easy for you. It’s really hard to edit an image that you weren’t there to see what the scene actually looked like, You could just get a few clues from the setting sun, but other than that, did you know if the sky was blue or hazy white? How dark was it in the crevasse?
Plus the other thing that made this difficult was that it was not well shot at all. It was shot just 5 minutes too late after the better sun light that illuminated some of the badlands was now gone as the sun got too low in the horizon and was blocked to the canyon area below my position. A shot just done a few minutes earlier was a much better shot.
Plus having the sun in the image always makes it harder, do you keep the Star pattern, as Miguel pointed out a result of using f/22, a aperture usually not recommended, or do you blow it out for more of an “As the eyes sees” effect.
So with the little you had to work with, you all did a great job.
OK, for tonight I will answer who got the extra credit question right. Which was” There  is a mistake in the image caused by a error in equipment, what was it?”
No one fully got it right but you were all on the right track. Again this is something too difficult for anyone to get. So yes, it was a trick question but you all did know mostly the reason.
Earlier in the Day I was shooting with both my 17-40L and my 24-105L and I was using a Cokin Grad ND Filter. Which made me take off the Lens shade on both lenses. Well later in my rush to get to my spot for the sunset, I grabbed the wrong shade for my 17-40 lens. so the longer shade from the 24-105 is what you see blocking the sides of the image and causing that harsh Vignette.
Well, it’s late and I’m going to make you wait till tomorrow or really later today to tell you the winner and show you my version of the image.
Let me sleep on this and I will tell you later today who won.
Thanks again everyone!

Lenses – Everything you need know to pick the correct one


I don’t think there is any question asked more at internet photography forums than” What Lens should I buy” and I don’t think there is more confusion than the answer that people get. There just seems to be a general confusion about lenses and why do we even have more than one or why do we have this one over that one. So I thought I would take a moment and talk about lenses. They are after all, our camera’s eyes. 

Crop Factor

Before we talk about anything, let’s take a moment and talk about “Crop Factor”. When camera focal length is expressed they are expressed in a length that would be in play on a 35mm Film Camera or a “Full Frame” digital camera. However camera with a smaller sensor APS-C or 4:3rds cameras have a crop factor to them that must be taken into account to understand how you will actually see using this lens. 

A 50mm lens on a Full Frame Camera or an APC-C camera is still a 50mm lens; however, the APS-C camera with its smaller sensor only sees a smaller area of the lens area. This is the crop factor. For most Canon’s this is 1.6x for most Nikons this is 1.5x and for 4:3rds camera this is 2x. So we multiply the Focal length times the crop factor and that would tell us what the lens would look like on a Full Frame camera. In other words it will have the same Field of View (FOV) 

So in our instance a 50mm lens on Canon 60D will have an effective FOV of  an 80mm lens on a Canon 5D MKII 

All the images in this tutorial have been shot on a Full Frame Camera (Canon 5D) and are expressed in full frame focal length. So you if you want a lens that looks like a  particular FOV that I have taken a photo of, make sure you know it will look different on your cropped sensor camera. So do the math to find the focal length that will look like it looks on your camera. 

Focal Length

Why do we have different focal length lenses? The first reason that comes to most people’s minds is “Magnification”. We have a subject far away so we want to bring it closer with a telephoto or we have something large in front of us and we want to fit it all in with a wide angle. But as I will discuss in a bit, that may not be the real or most important reason we choose different lenses, but it could be. 

Here are what different focal lengths look like standing in the exact same spot shooting the same subject.




We can see, if we wanted to photograph the entire cliff area from where we were standing, we would need a wide angle lens (17mm). But if we wanted to shoot the Lifeguard Tower and were unable to get close to it (As may also be the case when shooting wildlife that we wouldn’t want to scare away) we would need a telephoto lens (200mm). 

And that maybe all you need to know, but it doesn’t tell the whole story because that is not how we may actually or we SHOULD actually be shooting and what the real and major differences may be in Focal Length. 

The real difference between different focal lengths is not so much about Magnification as it is about Field of View and Perspective. 

Field of View is the width of the View that the angle of view provides with which the lens sees. A wide angle lens has a Wide Field of View, and a Telephoto lens has an increasingly narrower Field of View. We can see that clearly with the images above. and the Diagram below


Perspective is: the perceived relation ship of the background in our image relative to where our subject is. If we have a subject 30 Feet in front of a brick wall and we keep them at that distance. That distance never changes. But depending on Focal length, the perceived distance from subject to background will change as we increase focal length. 

So now knowing these two things, lets look at what happens to the look of an image when we not only change focal lengths but move accordingly to keep our subject framed exactly the same in every image (equal magnification) 

So looking at our images what do we see? Besides some angular distortions which I will discuss in a bit, the look of our subject remains relatively the same. But look at our background relative to the subject. As we change focal lengths from wide angle to telephoto the amount of background visible gets smaller and smaller. Also the perspective gets closer  from subject to the background as we move from Wide Angle to Telephoto

These are two things that you should keep in mind when choosing one particular lens over another as they can change the look of your image entirely. 

Focal Length Ranges and suggested focal lengths

These are only suggestions as I have shot Portraits with 24mm lenses and shot landscapes with 200mm. I have included the ranges in both Full Frame and cropped equivalents in parenthesis. 

Wide angle lenses: 14mm to 35mm (8mm – 24mm)

Normal Lenses: 35mm to 60mm (24mm – 40mm)

Mild Telephoto: 70mm to 180mm (50mm – 120mm)

Long Telephoto: 200mm to 800mm+ (120mm – 500mm+) 

Suggested focal lengths (NOT hard and fast rules) 

  • Landscapes: 14mm to 35mm Wide Angle lenses
  • Portraits: 85 to 135mm have been the portrait standard, many photographers are turning to 200mm as the go to portrait lens (on Full Frame) Popular Zoom Lenses for portraits are the 24-70mm and the 70 – 200mm
  • Macro: 50-60mm if you can get close to your subject i.e. flowers. 100mm or longer if you have a subject that would be easily scared away i.e. insects. Use TRUE macro lenses that have 1:1 capabilities and short minimum focus distances.
  • Wildlife: 200mm if you are shooting in a zoo or your backyard. For serious Birding or Wildlife in Nature 400mm+
  • Sports: depends on the sport and distance to subject: May be as short as a 70-200, But 300 – 400mm telephoto are the more common
  • Automotive: A wide variety depending on what you are shooting, Whole car shots will look good in Midrange lengths 50mm to 100mm. But for certain shots a wide angle looks great. Doing detail shots of parts of the care may bring back out that 50 to 100mm range
  • Architecture: Because we usually don’t have the ability to move back, wide angle lenses are standard faire. However if you are serious into Architecture you should look into “Tilt-Shift” lenses. These allow for correction of angular distortion when you are unable to shoot on a level plane to the building/room. I.e. shooting up or down on something. 

Angular distortions

Here is the same image shot at 17mm and also at 105mm. As we can see in the 17mm there is a lot of angular distortion. Sometimes it’s good to use that for a look or whimsy to our photographs. But other times we need to have something look as good and natural as it can. Thinking of this in a portrait role, using a wide angle lens close up to a person can cause distortions in the face that may not be appealing and will make an area closest to the lens look larger than it actually is, i.e. giving someone a big nose.  (Again notice the perspective compression in the 105mm image)

The Depth of Field Semi-Myth

Here are the 3 things that affect Depth of Field (DOF)

  • Aperture
  • Focal Length
  • Distance to subject 

All are absolute truths, however in practice, “The only thing that affects DOF is Aperture” HUH? Why?…

Why? Because we move.  

In practice we keep our subject framed the same regardless of our focal length. We move a distance equal to the change in our focal length; therefore the two cancel each other out. 

Look at these three image shot at: 

50mm at 5’ from subject

100mm at 10’ from subject

200mm at 20’ from subject 

Even though the DOF looks different in each image, in reality the DOF is, for all practical purposes, the same (there can be some slight differences especially as we get closer to the Hyperfocal distance of a lens/aperture) 

But why do they appear different? Why does it look like the 200mm has a shallower DOF? Perspective Compression: Because that lens focal length bring the background into closer view (even though the distance hasn’t changed) we can better see that the background is out of focus, even though it is  out of focus the same amount in the  wider angle shots. 

What to look for in a good quality lens

Lenses are rated on a number of things.

  • Build quality: Use of good materials and manufacturing
  • General Sharpness
  • Sharpness throughout the aperture range: ( Most lenses are sharpest stopped down a few click from their maximum aperture)
  • Chromatic Aberrations or CA: This is a condition where all the frequencies of light  don’t align correctly and it is seen as color banding at the edges of objects or edges of contrast
  • Edge Distortion: Some lenses will start to distort the image as you move to the outer edges of the frame
  • Focusing: a good, fast accurate and silent focusing motor
  • Constant Aperture: Better lenses will have a constant maximum aperture throughout the zoom range. Less expensive lenses will have a different aperture depending on how zoomed out you are. You will often see them expressed such as this. 17-85mm f/4-5.6. This lens has a maximum aperture of f/4 at 17mm and f/5.6 at 85 mm. As opposed to say the 24-70 L f/2.8 which has a constant aperture regardless of zoom.
  • Constant Focus Lens or a “Parfocal” lens. This is most often found only in high end lenses. This is a function where the lens maintains focus even as you zoom or change focal lengths
  • Vignetting: Look for lenses that do not vignette or have darkness near the corners or edges. Some lenses will only vignette at wider apertures so check at all apertures. Vignetting IS easily fizxed though and even some great lenses do do it. So it’s not always a deal breaker
  • “Fast Lenses”: Lenses that have a wider maximum aperture are called fast lenses because they let in more light allowing for a faster shutter speed. Most people want them because they allow for a shallow DOF. But they also have other benefits such as working in lower light, a brighter viewfinder and they allow Auto-focus system to work better. On most auto focus systems the outer focus points are sensitive or effective down to only f/5.6 light (Heavy Shade) The center Focus point is effective down to f/2.8 (dusk) but you can only take advantage of that if you have a lens with a maximum aperture of f/2.8 or better
  • Bokeh: I have to mention this because it is on everyone’s lips. But better lenses are said to have a better bokeh or quality of the out of focus area. I refer to it as Boke Ehh, more on that later

Zoom Lenses vs. Prime Lenses

There is always a big debate over Zoom Lenses vs. Prime lenses (Fixed Focal Lengths). I really don’t get into it. They both have their place and advantages.  

Prime lenses can be sharper for a lower price. Lighter weight, faster, less complicated designs therefore better quality, possibly less CA and Edge distortions. Their downside is that you may need to change lenses more often and also carry more different lenses with you. The downside of changing lenses often is that there is more chance for dirt to get on you sensor which can be a problem in tough terrains (Desert/Beach wind) 

Zoom lens advantages are, more available focal lengths in one lens/ less lenses to carry. Less lens changes. The disadvantages are; heavier weights, more complex designs which can lead to lower image quality. Higher Price 

Years ago it was clear if you wanted higher Image Quality, prime lenses were the clear choice. But with improvement in Zoom lenses lately, there may be little to no difference between quality Zoom and Prime lenses. The choice is clearly up to you. 

For me and the way I shoot and the conditions I shoot under I use a lot of Zoom lenses. I do however lust after a couple primes that I long to have in my kit. 

Image Stabilization

Image stabilization can be a handy thing to have in a lens. It allows for hand holding a lens at shutter speeds about 3 stops lower than you normally could hand hold that same lens without Image Stabilization. But it is not a cure-all for everything. It’s meant to help handholding shooting a relatively stationary or slow moving object.  

It doesn’t help at all on a tripod, in fact it is usually recommended you turn off IS when mounted on a tripod. It also will not help to stop motion of a moving object, only shutter speed or panning can do that. In fact some of the better IS systems have a Panning Mode so that the control gyros inside the lens do not get confused with the panning motion and make the image worse. 

It can be a nice addition to have if you need to hand hold in low light situations, but it is not the cure all for all motion artifacts

My two lens pet peeves 

“I want a lens I can get a lot of Bokeh with”. Bokeh and a Shallow Depth of field are NOT the same thing and the terms are not interchangeable. A shallow depth of filed is just that. Bokeh describes the quality of the Out of focus field or “Circle of Confusion” and no, Bokeh is not another term for circle of confusion either. It only “describes” how it may appear with a given lens. Better lenses are said to have a better or creamier “Like Butah” bokeh than lesser lenses. I think Bokeh has been given much more attention than it needs. If you are spending more time looking at the bokeh than you are the subject, you kind of missed the meaning of isolating the subject in the first place. But that’s me. 

“I always shoot wide open” Please stop, just stop. I’m not sure where this notion started but I suspect it is one of the many”Tog celebrities” that are on the wedding/portrait lecture circuit and are only two steps removed from a point and shoot camera where a shallow DOF wasn’t possible. (Shooting wide open: Shooting at the widest maximum aperture of the lens) But this insanity has led to almost every new photographer that has just purchased a Canon Digital rebel and the obligatory 50mm f/1.8 to scream: “Help, I’m having trouble focusing”. You’re not having trouble focusing, you have a DOF problem and until you understand how DOF works you will continue to have this problem when you “Always shoot wide open” 

Understand this. With a 50mm lens on a Rebel at f/1.8 and you are shooting a headshot of a person 3 feet from your camera, The total DOF (both in front of and behind the point of focus) is: 3/4s of an inch,  That 3/8th in front of the point of focus and 3/8ths behind. Which means if you have a person slightly, just slightly facing away from you and you focus on the eye closest to the camera, the opposite eye will not be in focus. If you focus flat on both eyes, the nose will not be in focus. Seriously, that is your artistic intent? 

Now you add to this handholding the camera with shooting wide open. When we stand, especially with a camera on our face, we have a tendency to sway forward and back. So you combine our swaying with a ¾” DOF and you can easily see why even that eye we focused on is not in focus. 

Now I certainly understand your intent, you want to isolate your subject by using a shallow DOF just like in this image right?


Oh, yeah, that image was shot at f/11. So much for “Always shooting wide open”  

Don’t get me wrong there is a time and place for shooting wide open. But “Always shooting wide open” tells me you do not have a firm understanding of Lenses, DOF and Photography. And also, don’t listen to everything you may hear at those seminars, they may not be any more knowledgeable then you are. 

Thanks for allowing me to get those two things off my chest 










Those are the basics of lenses and why we do use one lens over another.

A few Helpful Links

To Learn more about DOF or actually a DOF calculator go to

DOF Masters

For reviews of Canon, Nikon and Third Party Lenses I really like the reviews that Bryan does


If you are still unsure of the lens you really want, I suggest renting it for a couple days and really know for sure


lens rental

Hope that helps


Alignment – When it all goes wrong


Something I have brought up in the past about over-shooting a scene –  taking too many exposures –  popped up last week in one of my images. I was shooting the ocean sunset and shot 6 exposures using AEB + EC (Auto Exposure Bracketing – Exposure Compensation) It’s a quick way to get 6 (usually 5 because one can be a duplicate) exposures of a scene without having to do much figuring.
When I got home I threw the 6 images into Photomatix Pro 4.1 and selected my usual alignment “Match Features”. I use this because often I have some complex objects in the foreground and I need them aligned as perfectly as possible.
I merged the image and what I got was this “widescreen” image. and you can see a misaligned  handrail on the right side.
What? I didn’t shoot widescreen! Going back and looking at the images I could see what the problem was as we can see here looking at the six exposures

The first two exposures are so under-exposed they have very little detail left in them for the software to find edges to align. (You can also have this probelm on an too over-exposed image that is totally blown out)
So the simple answer could have been to just eliminate those two exposures from the merge, they may not have had enough information – as is the case when people over-shoot a scene- to even be worthwhile putting in the mix.
So I did that and still using “Match Features” for the alignment mode, Photomatix perfectly aligned the image and did not crop off any part of the image
OK, great. But the truth is, the image did not have the color range I wanted especially in the dusk sky. So I went back and merged all 6 images again, this time choosing “Match Horizontal and Vertical shifts”. Because there was, even in the lowest two exposures a clear line for the horizon, this would be a good choice.
Using this method, I got a perfect alignment AND the full range of color and luminosity (and DR) that I wanted for the image.
Just another example that shows us that using the same setting all the time, even if we really like that setting, isn’t always the right choice. And that experimentation may be the best thing to do to achieve your final goal.
One final thing to note was that the image WITHOUT the two darkest exposures was actually darker than the one with all 6 images. (Both used the same tone mapping) this is because the software needed to bring some information down into the shadow area and it brought some of the midtones with it.
Hope that helps

Reader Featured HDR Image – Joseph B

Todays’ Reader HDR Image comes from our buddy Joseph Bowman up in Oregon

Here’s what Joe had to say about his image



     Haystack Rock – Cannon Beach, Oregon 

     Camera Info:
     6mp Canon EOS Digital Rebel (300D)
     Lens: 18-55mm kit lens
          – Hey, who says you need thousands of dollars worth of equipment to make an image you love!
     Manual, f/22, iso 100, @ 18mm
     6 shot HDR @ ss 1/5, 1/10, 1/20, 1/60, .4, & 1 second
     HDR Processing & Post Processing
     Photomatix Pro
     Photoshop Elements 7
Here’s the image: (Click to enlarge)
     About the Image:
     This shot was taken a little before sunset, at around 5:20 p.m. (my exif data is off as I haven’t reset the camera time). I put my camera on a tripod, set it as close to the ground as it would go, and I placed it at the edge of the small rock and tide pool in order to add some foreground interest. I set my camera to manual, figured out what my base exposure was, then adjusted for my six shots. I wasn’t sure if I needed all six or just three but figured it was better to have them and not need them. Plus, even with the camera set to iso 100, I was concerned about the potential noise that would pop up if Photomatix had to try to pull too much information out of the image. My Digital Rebel is HORRIBLE for noise!
   The image was processed in Photomatix Pro and “cooked to taste.” After Photomatix, I took the image into Photoshop Elements where I cloned out some of the lens flare at camera right and I cloned out the people, which was the most intensive part of the whole process – but overall not too bad thanks to the texture of the rock being so forgiving. I also burned some of the clouds to give the sky more drama, and I adjusted the vibrance and saturation levels to add pop to the sky and rock. The one thing I wish for this image is that I could have gotten a little wider than the 18mm in order to get more of the sun into the image.
Beautiful job Joe. Ahhh Cannon beach , when I lived for a short time in Portland, Cannon Beach was my favorite place to go on the weekends. Never got many good shots since it rained everytime I went. ( rainy Season) but I love the town and certainly love Haystack Rock.
Great job on the image. I love how you included some foreground interest, many would have just had the bare sand in front.
I know what you mean about the lens, 10-20mm lenses on a cropped Canon are the bomb for shots like this. The one suggestion I would make as far as your choice of aperture, I know you went to f/22 for maximum DOF. However you can get some softnesss in images from diffraction after a certain aperture depending on Sensor size. For a crop sensor like the one on Rebel XT you shouldn’t go past f/11 unless you really have to. With f/11 and a subject distance of 5 feet, which the seaweed appears to be. You would still have a DOF from 2.5′ to infinity even at f/11 AND a sharper image. If you had a subject say 1.5 feet, yeah you may have to push  it to f/22 for Max DOF.
Good job getting low! And this was a tough image to edit because of the ocean mist. You really pullled it together
Great job Joe on a beautiuful image from one of my favorite places on earth.

Edit my HDR – Challenge

Reader Stephen P reminded me the other day that I haven’t had you guys edit one of my HDRs in a while.

So I thought I would make it a challenge and a GOOD one.

I’m not going to make it easy on you. This is a very difficult fact it may be so difficult, I’m not even going to tell you if it is possible.

AND to make it even  more difficult, I’m not even going to show you My finished version of the image…if I even have one.

So for the challenge I have included 6 full resolution JPEGs of 6 exposures 2 stops apart. I want back a full resolution JPEG or one that is at least 2000 Pixels on the long side.

Send that image to pt (at) (you know how to fix that right?) The Deadline is Saturday February 25th at 12:00 Midnight PST

OK, here’s couple guidelines though and a few hints

  • There are 6 images, you may use all 6 or as little as 1, your choice
  • Since you have no idea what the image looks like when I was there I will give you this. It is a desert scene and there was a haze in the air in the distance
  • I made a major mistake with my equipment when I took the shot. You have to eliminate that mistake and for extra points tell me what I did wrong
  • You may use any program or programs you wish, however please provide a brief summary of what you did
  • This is for fun and learning. I retain full ownership and copyright of the image. You may use the images only for your personal use and may not be used in any commercial manner

And that’s it, the rest is up to you

OK, so lets take it one step further. If you thought, ehh why bother? Let’s put a little prize onto this. The winning entry (Judged by me cuz I’m king) will win their choice of the following:

  • Their image printed at 18″ x 12″
  • My version of the image printed at 18″ x 12″ – Signed
  • Or, any image of mine at Fine Art America Printed 18″ x12″ – Signed

I know Whopty Doo. What do you expect? I don’t have Trey Radcliff Bank 😉

So here are your files

 Edit This.ZIP

Ready, Set, EDIT!


Save your Post Processing Work, History and Presets etc

So you worked endless hours on a Image. Now you want to do the same thing to another image or you want to go back and fine tunes what you did but you can’t remember what it is you did in the first place. Today we’ll talk about how you can store some of that information in 4 different popular programs: Photomatix Pro, Photoshop, Lightroom and Nik HDR EFEX Pro.

Photomatix Pro

Now of course most of you know you can save a preset of your favorite Tone Mapping setting. Well if you don’t know, You can. Simply while in Tone Mapping Module, go down to presets and drop down to Save Preset and then Name it what you would like “My Killer Tone Mapping”  etc.

But did you know you can save the settings you used on EVERY image you tone map? Yes, Yes you can. After you tone map an image and go to save it. In the save dialog box there is a check box for “Save Tone-Mapping Settings” .

This will save the one mapping settings you used for that particular image as a .XMP sidecar file in the same folder that you save the HDR image in. When you want to use those same settings again. Simply open your 32 bit HDR Radiance image, or recombine the images you want for the image and then in the preset area of the tone mapping module, Drop down the list to Load Settings and open the XMP file that you want to use.


This is a little known feature of Photoshop that I learned from Eddie Tapp. Did you know you can save to a text file or right into the Metadata of your image (or both) every single click you did on any image you worked on in Photoshop? Well you can. Simply go to your Preferences ( Edit > Preferences or Ctrl/Cmd +K) and on the general Tab at the bottom, Check the box for “History Log”

Then  in Adobe Bridge, You can view every thing you did to an image or if you use the text version, check the text log for the file name you want to see. Now you can’t go back and change the history but at least you will know that you used a Levels adjustment with these settings and you can duplicate that.





































This of course is fairly well know but we will review it anyway. In the develop module of Lightroom, with the left panel flyout open, You can see the History of any image and the nice part is you can return to any state of  that history. If you want to save any particular state of editing to quickly switch between. Simply go up to “Snapshot” and add a snapshot of that state or any other state of the image.
















In Nik HDR Efex Pro. If you want to save a preset of what you may have done for an image. In the left Preset panel; Click Custom and the + symbol and add a preset with the name you want. It will then show it amongst your custom presets. If you want to load a preset that someone else has made, simply go to the bottom of that panel and click the arrow for Load Preset and navigate to where you have that preset stored and apply.







































































Hope that helps


Featured Reader HDR Image – Stephen P

Today’s Reader HDR Image comes from Stephen Presutti
(Thanks BTW to everyone that has submitted images this week, very cool!)

Here’s what Stephen has to say about his image:

This image was shot in the Piazza Navano in Rome, Italy.  The name of the church escapes me right now, I’m sure It can be found online. (Church of Sant’Agnese in Agone)  It was nearing evening, and the sky just looked amazing.  One of those time where you get small white clouds with a crisp blue sky behind it.  I knew any shot in this plaza that included the sky would look great.
Stephen used the folllowing equipment & processing
Nikon D7000
f/6.3 ISO 100
3-image handheld bracket by 2 stops
Tone Mapped in Photomatix Pro 4.1
Further post-processing in Lightroom 3 (Clarity, Exposure, Crop to straighten and center)
Here is Stephen beautiful image of Church of Sant’Agnese in Agone in the Piazza Navano in Rome, Italy ( Click for larger view)
Just for reference for the scale in the Piazza, Stephen included this image too
Beautiful Image Stephen. You did a great job on it and your were right to get that great sky in the image. There is just something about the skies and the light in Italy. I’m not sure what it is but it NEEDS to be captured. I was in this exact spot 7 years ago and I can attest to what a wonderful place it is. Of course I had no idea what HDR even was then.
Thanks for sharing such a great image and bringing back memories of a cool place and for sharing with us a sight that not everyone gets to visit…but they should.
To see more of Stephen’s work visit his newly updated website at

The above images are the sole property and copyright of Stepehn Presutti and may not be reproduced without permission, all rights reserved.
Thanks again Stephen. Send more if you get to some other great places!

Featured Reader HDR Image – Tagg LeDuc

Today’s Featured Reader HDR  Image comes all the way from Slovakia and reader Tagg Leduc.

Here’s what Tagg had to say about his image

Where: Trencin Slovakia

Exposure: 6 shot at 1stop
HDR Software: HDR Efex Pro using Default to start then adjusted sliders to taste
Comment:  The location is overlooking the town center during the season of Christmas Markets
Here’s Tagg’s very cool image ( Click image to enlarge)
This is a really wonderful image, again I like the light because you can tell something special is happening on that street and I love that you did it in widescreen format it really helps the image’s feel.
Thanks for sharing that image Tagg and showing us your part of the world. I really like that.
To see more of Tagg’s photography, check out his website He has some really fantastic and a wide variety of  images on there. Love the vintage Ford Falcon!
The above image is the sole property and copyright of Tagg LeDuc and may not be reproduced without permission, all rights reserved
Thanks again Tagg

Just Steps to the Beach

Canon 5D

Canon 17-40L @ 17mm

3 Exposure AV Bracket. @ f/16 ISO320. SS .6, 2.5, 10 seconds

Photomatix Pro 4.14. Usual PT Preset

Levels Adjustment layer, High Pass Filter Sharpening Layer

Featured Reader HDR Image and Critique – Dale Smith

Today’s reader HDR image comes from Dale Smith down in Pensacola Florida

Dale’s Subject was Fort Pickens in Pensacola

For this image Dale used:

Canon 7D
Canon 24-70 L 2.8

He shot 5 Exposures and Combined them in Photomatix Pro and then finished off the image in Aperture and a little Nik DFine

Here is Dale’s beautiful image

 Well Dale, you didn’t leave me ,much to critique since you did such a great job. See this is what I am talking about, Dale did the first best thing you can do as a photographer – HDR or not- he found great light. Nothing could be more important.

Also look at something very subtle, the light coming in from the right, look at the tone of it, you can tell that it is sunlight and some of that reflected sunlight off the Lime wash  on the walls. And then a different warmer light down through the arches. In some of the other images that Dale has on his website, there are some even more dramatic examples of great light. But I think this one is the best overall because of the composition  compared to some of the other shots ( Not that they were bad, this was just the best composition).

What I like about the composition is that he has a symmetrical shot down the arches, yet he offset the arches in the frame. He just didn’t line everything up perfectly centered as most would have done. That add more interest to the image.

The processing is spot on and really give you the feel that you are inside those walls and how it would look to your eye. Good range to the tonality of the image.

So like I said, What’s there to critique?

Great job there Dale

To see more of Dale’s work including the rest from Fort Pickens ( And some mighty cool Blue Angels shots) Checkout his website at

The above image is the sole property and copyright of Dale Smith, Do not use without permission. All rights reserved.

Thanks Dale for sending in that image.


Featured Reader HDR Image – Ann H


Today’s reader HDR Image comes from long time reader and friend Ann H.

Here is what Ann had to say about her Image:

” I took this picture last winter, the truck was parked off the street on the edge of a small Midwestern town.  It was a pretty cold day and I had done some other shots and was sort of done, but wanted to get this when we were driving by.  I shot it out the window of the car without a tripod because I was done with dealing with it for the day.  It was 3 exposures done 2 stops apart with auto bracket.  I used Photomatix Pro, then multiplied the layer in Photoshop to get more color saturation.”

Beautiful shot Ann, I can’t tell you how many images I have taken out the car window either just because of conditions or by the end of the day of shooting, I’m just tired but I see that “Just one more shot” opportunity and you will always kick yourself if you don’t take it. And in this case you should be very happy you did. What’s interesting is to see the detail inside the truck through the rear windows, that would have never been possible without HDR.

Here is Ann’s Image “Truck in Snow”














Great job Ann, Love the colors in it and I LOVE old panel trucks

This Photograph is the sole property and copyright of Ann H and may not be reproduced without permission, all rights reserved


See folks, you too can have your image featured here so send them on in!



No one wants their HDR Featured here on The HDR Image?

Feature your HDR image here!















Surely you’re sick of looking at my HDRs. Feature yours right here at the HDR Image.

No critique, Just here to show to the more than 7 people that view The HDR Image from a 12 Mile radius…

Actually we have viewers from 49 states ( For some reason Vermont hates me) and over 100 countries around the world including Botswana!

So send in your Image as I have outlined HERE and get your HDR Image seen. I’ll even link to your Photography website if you have one. Think what that will do for your Google ranking.




The Trouble With Trees (HDR)

The Trouble with Trees  

Trees, those dastardly arch nemesis of HDR, especially in winter, devoid of leaves, waiting to strike havoc and fear amongst small children…and HDR artists.
What do I mean? Trees against a bright sky pose a big challenge to anyone doing HDR, and for a number of reason. The first and worst, is Haloing. A quite common occurrence in HDR when you have a dark edge next to a bright edge. The HDR program will try to lighten the dark object in tone mapping and when it does, it feathers or “Smoothes” the gradation to the adjacent area. If that happens to be a light area, it creates a halo.
 Now it’s bad enough when you have a dark building edge next to a bright sky, But now image 100’s  or 1000’s of branches or limbs against  dark sky. That spells  T-R-O-U-B-L-E