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Monthly Archives: August 2012
So you love that Grunge look to your HDRs but then you post them to Flickr, 500px or your favorite Photography forum and get all kinds of He** for Halos around trees, buildings and other areas of high contrast. So what’s an HDRer to do?
Well take a hold of one of the controls in Photomatix Pro and use the He** out of it. The Smooth Highlights control.
What the Smooth Highlights control does is just as the name suggests, It smooths the area between a Highlight and a shadow or midtone so that it is a smooth gradation in tone and not an abrupt one that causes halos
We can see the results here using the normal Grunge Preset in Photomatix Pro 4.2
If we take the control up to 100 we see that it pretty much eliminates a good portion of the halos between the sky and the palm trees
Now we can also take the grunge look one step further with a Grunge preset that I did and have included HERE for download. That brings back in a little bit of shadow to the image still keeping that Graphic CGI look but bringing back in just a little tone
Any other haloing can be taken care of using the burn tool in Photoshop or an Adjustment brush in Lightroom. In Photoshop, set the Burn tool to Highlights and 10% and just some light strokes around some of the edges should do it, In Lightroom you can take the adjustment brush and up the exposure -10 – 20 and brush over the areas to even them out.
Just because it’s grungy it doesn’t need to look that way…I guess, he-he.
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No one remembers that song huh? It was by this little group called the Beatles. OK, enough music nostalgia.
Reader Duane W had a question on camera shake while ON A TRIPOD.
Duane wrote: I was shooting at the beach back in May and tried to pull off a shot. What I did not expect or plan for was the amount of wind in the evening. A storm was working up and the wind was gusting off the water about 20-30 mile an hour.
I love shooting water and getting that nice shutter speed about 1/4 – 1/6th of a second. That made the water perfect, but because the wind was strong made the rocks not sharp due to my camera and tripod shaking.
So thinking about it, there were a couple things I could have tried.
1. Creating wind block — I could have used my body, but not sure that would have created enough block.
2. I could have brought something to create a block, but that means I would be carrying something extra and may not always be an option
3. I could taken one shot for the water, then increased my ISO to get a higher shutter speed, then in post do a image blend
4. Stuck my tripod deeper into the sand might make it a little more stable, but with the wind gust I would still have some camera shake.
So are there other options that I’m not thinking of? With you shooting a lot around the beaches what have you tried.
It’s a great question and certainly a problem. But first I am going to let you in on a little known secret. Tripods HATE intermediate shutter speeds. Those from about 1/8 of a second to about 1 second
Its vibrations that LAST for that duration that will be most visible. That’s why things that have duration like that of:
- Pushing the shutter button instead of using a remote. (use a remote)
- Mirror shake from the vibration of it flipping up out of the way (use mirror lock up if you have shutter speeds of these durations)
- Or simply vibration you or the environment may have caused
So what are some of the cures? Well beside the above
- Add mass to the tripod. A lot of tripod have a hook underneath, hang something heavy like your camera bag to the hook, just don’t let it swing.
- Lower any mast extension you may have on the tripod, have the head sit right on the base legs of the tripod.
- Lower the legs of the tripod if possible
So you did all those things, the only other cure is shutter speed. Use a faster shutter speed OR…here’s a little trick. Use a SLOWER shutter speed, in fact a very slow one. 5 Seconds or more.
If the vibration is NOT constant and does not exist for the entire duration of the shutter, there is a good possibility the movement will not be recorded because it doesn’t exist for a long enough time to expose.
Here is an example. (I had to shoot indoors because it was the only way to get a long shutter speed)
The first 2 shots are at those bad shutter speeds and I introduced a vibration into the camera (I slapped it upside the head)
Now this one was 15 seconds long and I literally slapped it 8 times
So of course it will depend on the frequency of the shaking so it may not be a cure all but it may be an alternative and may as in this case give you some motion to the water, maybe too much. But it may work out in some cases if none of the other cures work.
Another thing you have to be aware of sometimes is the movement of your subjects themselves such as shooting wildflowers or trees on a windy sunny day. You may think. F/16 1/100 is a perfect exposure but you may get movement in those flowers you don’t want. So THAT may be a case where even in bright sun it is necessary to up your ISO to get a shutter speed that will stop motion.
And one last word Duane. If you didn’t have the shake in the one exposure and it merely is misalignment between the two exposures because of shake between exposures. Try Photomatix’s Manual Ghost removal on a large scale section of the image such as the rocks in this case. It can be helpful
Hope that helps,
I’ve been looking for a challenge. Something to really test me and I also wanted to really put HDR to the test. So I was trying to think what would really be a good candidate for HDR. So then I came up with the idea that a cave would be a great subject. Then I thought where am I going to find a cave? I thought about some of the old gold and silver mines but I must confess I have severe claustrophobia and some of them are pretty tight.
Then it finally hit me, there is a cave right where I do most of my shooting,La Jolla,California. I had forgotten all about it and hadn’t been in it in probably 12 years. So on Sunday I headed down there I had it all planned out in my mind. (Lesson I learned long ago, never plan a shoot, they never work out…hmmm)
You enter the cave through a little shop at the top of the cove. Down 100 dark, wet, slippery, mud laden steps with a handrail just as slippery. Finally you arrive at a boardwalk that takes you into the cave and an opening in the cave out to the ocean. It takes a while for your eyes to adjust, once going down the dark steps and then once again when you emerge out of the darkness to the sunlight coming through the opening. (Clue number 2). The opening looks like a profile of an Indian. That’s how it got its name Sunny Jim (the Indian) Cave.
The shoot had many obstacles to overcome. One was it was 90° outside and 65° inside so the humidity was high and it kept a nice fog on my lens, water condensates and drips from the ceiling on you. Next obstacle was that the boardwalk shakes with movement. So tourist coming up and down it plays havoc with long exposures especially those around 1 second that show shake the most (longer exposures actually are less prone) and finally what turned out to be the biggest obstacle ( which I didn’t know at the time it would be) The Dynamic Range of the scene. It measure 13 EV range from light to dark. I measured 15 EV outdoors and 2 EV in the darkest shadows. Add a couple more for the latitude of the camera and we have close to 15EV range
For those of you who are unfamiliar with EV or Exposure Value. 15EV is a Sunny Day 2 EV is the light you would have in the desert under an eclipse of the moon. Yes that dark.
Quite frankly it is at the edge of what the human eye can see in one look as was noted when it took time for my eyes to adjust (the range of the human eye is 24 stops with changes in pupil size, without adjustment,10 – 14 stops). I thought it would be a GREAT use of HDR, I later would find it was quite the adversary.
I shot away, when the tourist were sparse. I shot at ISO 200 because I was hitting my camera’s longest shutter speed limit at ISO100. My aperture was f/16 and I used 13 exposures from 1/250 to 15 seconds in 1 EV steps. This was following the spot meter on my Gossen DigiPro F. Histograms were looking good, LCD was not looking so good but it was hard to tell because it also became fogged. I shot a few different angles and placements and finished up in about an hour and headed home to see what I got.
I loaded the images into Lightroom and started to preview them. The highlight exposures were perfect for the ocean view areas. ISO 200 f/16 1/250 was perfect (basically sunny 16) Things were looking good through the 13 exposures till about the 7th exposure when I saw it. What would kill this whole project: Bloom. And I mean A LOT of Bloom.
Bloom is an area of diffusion and loss of detail around an overexposed area. Those of you that shoot in the studio and do High Key work with white backgrounds are familiar with it. When you use too much light on the white background you will get bloom around the edges of your model and it will ruin a shot completely. It’s just about impossible to get rid of in post and almost always means a re-shoot.
The bloom came from the opening to the ocea. When you have EV15 light coming in and you are trying to expose for EV 5 light or less, the spill and bloom is incredible. I simply did not account for it…well at least this much.
Here are the contact sheets for the two images I worked on
Give Up? Of course not
But of course I had to give it a try. Surely tone mapping could do something with it. So I loaded the 13 images into Nik HDR Efex Pro 2. Because of the range of lightness of the images, almost pure black to almost pure white it proved problematic for alignment so I turned it off completely, which isn’t always a bad idea if you are really set up on a tight tripod. I then set about to tone-map the image….Junk Total Junk. Not just a little bad. Hit the delete button junk. I tried again eliminating the last two exposures. Junk and junk again.
Every set was the same. This was a shoot that was beyond the capabilities of HDR as we do it. I pretty much gave up. But at the encouraging of my photographer friend Ken in Florida, He said “Just keep working it you’ll find an answer”. So later that night I gave it another try and then the next day and then the next.
So here’s what I came up with. Whether it works is for you to decide. What if I made two separate HDRs, one for the Highlights and one for the Shadows. I used the first 5-6 images for the highlight image and then the next 5 for the shadow image. I left out the last 3 or 4 exposures. They added nothing to the images. I brought each set into HDR Efex Pro 2 and threw everything it had into them. Still using the most natural settings in the HDR section and not much tone compression at all but concentrating on Exposure adjustments and then VERY liberal use of Control Points (6 -8) in every little section, especially in some of the bloom areas of the Shadow exposure still present
These are the two sets of image I used for the two final photos
I massaged them both to be the best they could be in Photoshop and then merged the two images together as a Blend in Photoshop using Layer masks. Yes, to answer you question I did try merging those two files in HDR Efex pro 2…ahhhh…no. Didn’t work
So dragging the Highlight image on top of the Shadow layer and then using a layer mask on the Highlight layer. I set about to brush and blend the two images together. Once I had that the best I could. I continued to dodge and burn to get the balance as best I could in the image and make it the most “As the eye can see” as possible. Perhaps it’s not quite as the eye can see since even with my eyes, there was some bloom around the opening to the sea. I tried leaving it there but it looked more like a mistake than intention
So here are the final images. I’m not sure they actually work. So far reaction on social media has been luke warm. So I think for all the work, nothing spectacular evolved.
If I had it to do again, I’m not sure what I would do differently. I had thoughts of flagging my lens with small paddles over where the opening to the sea is. Or instead of opening up the exposures,use my flash to paint with light inside the cave. Or shoot part during the day, part shoot at night or late evening. Dunno. All I know is sometimes… HDR is not enough.
Achieving a Natural Looking HDR in Nik HDR Efex Pro 2
Today I am going to take you through the steps that I use to achieve a natural looking HDR for that “As the eye sees” look that I desire in an image. Everyone has their tastes when it comes to HDR and this happens to be mine. But while it’s a natural look it’s one that people struggle with most. It seems it’s pretty easy to get a painterly or grunged up effect but trying to get something that that look Photographic and not Graphic is a tougher road (Thanks to Joe Buissink for that line, I was captivated watching him on Creative Live today).
I think a lot of it comes down to trying to do too much. Even the software manufacturers have a hard time with this. In talking to the folks at Nik, it is a struggle to decide what to include in software and what to leave out. It’s a delicate balance.
I tend to err on the side of less is more and here’s why; when you give people a lot of options, they think they need to use them all. It’s like giving someone inexperienced, a rack full of spices and telling them to cook. They will probably overdo it because they think they need to. When really that delicate piece of fish just needed salt, pepper and a little garlic (always garlic I’m Italian).
But the other side of the coin is, when you do want a more Graphic looks, when you are going for the grunge, you may actually need more controls because as you go further towards the graphic side it introduces more artifacts that you need to counteract and you need the controls to do so.
So since we all don’t have one taste, we all don’t like the same food. The software manufacturers need to give more controls than one person with one taste may need.
I’m here to tell you what spices to use.
So let me take you through my steps to get a natural look. The image I will be working with is an image I shot at my favorite place to shoot,WindNsea Beach in La Jolla, California. It’s a simple 3 exposure +- 2EV shot, taken 15 minutes past sunset in the “Blue Hour” so the dynamics are not super high but high enough not to be able to get in one exposure.
Here are the 3 exposures
After merging, the file which was easy because it was shot on a tripod and also because of the greater aligning abilities of HDR Efex Pro 2, I opened them in the tone-mapping screen. The image is dull and pretty lifeless at this point. As opposed to how I work in Photomatix. I first am going to work on the tonality of the image before I work on the HDR effects. I can go back to them as I need but I want to establish a good tonal range first. This is very important to a natural image since grunge effects seem to be very midtoned and we want to avoid that. We want a white – white and a black – black and even midtones.
I 1st brought up the contrast to get rid of some of the initial flatness. I also brought up the shadows and the highlights a tad. For making these adjustments I use my eyes but I also use the histogram. I want to see the range of tone move to both ends of the display without clipping at either ends. Now knowing when this was shot helps me a bit in knowing how the histogram should look, the center group of tones is slightly to the left and that’s fine. It’s not midday or a bright scene. If it was and my histogram looked like this it may mean I need to up the exposure control a bit. There are not a lot of highlights in the histogram but neither was there in the scene.
This is why I feel it is important for me to edit an HDR as soon after I have shot it so that I can remember how the scene looked to my eyes
I then added some structure just to bring out some of the cloud detail better in the sky. Again I may want to dial this back further later. Structure is a control you need to use gingerly (there’s those spices again) As much as I want a natural look I want to use a little Structure to bring out detail because I honestly believe it’s something cameras do NOT get right as I have talked about before. Adding some structure add some edge contrast to bring out areas that need that to look better than normal photography but too much and you’ve been taken over by the grunge side. I used 20%
I increased Saturation quite a bit but may need to pull that back later. I tend to go for a saturated look or actually I should say my clients do
At this point now I will go to the HDR section and again, I leave most of it alone. I do work with tone compression and I bring that up, after all that the basis of tone mapping. In this image I brought it up to about 50%
I will go through some of the other settings, (The 3 D’s) Depth, Drama and Detail but if they don’t make a difference for the better, I don’t change them. Seriously, leave them alone for a natural look. Nik went after a natural looking HDR and the factory settings achieve that look.
By now I have almost all that I want in the image but I’m going to use one more section, The Graduated Filter. At first I was like, Why did they include that but then I thought Duh, don’t you many times add a curves adjustment layer later in Photoshop and then just mask it to the sky to further refine the sky to foreground balance? Well using this tool I no longer need to do that. I applied the Graduated filter and just brought down the top exposure by -.37EV
And this brings the image to just about where I want.
Next I will finalize the image in either Lightroom or Photoshop; in this case, I used Photoshop. I like to finish an image always in these programs because quite frankly they can do things an HDR program was never designed for and also if I decide I want to push the image further in some direction, I can do so in a non-destructive manner in Lightroom or Photoshop using Layers. Some times when we push an image we may introduce some nasties into it like noise or moiré and if we do this in the HDR program we have to go back and go through the whole merge process again and I just am too impatient for that.
So in this case I brought the image into Photoshop and I first cloned out a few sensor spots using the spot healing tool. I felt the tonal balance was great so I left it alone. I found it had just a bit of noise so a quick run through Nik Define 2.0 took care of that and finally just to bring out the detail in the rocks and the sand so you get the feeling you could run your toes through it, I ran it through Nik Sharpener Pro 3.0. And my image was done.
Here’s the final result
I feel the colors are lifelike and true. The shadows are there – I think that is something people leave out in an HDR, is an actual black shadow area thinking everything has to be brought up to a midtone. To our eyes at the time there are areas that are totally dark so why would we not want that in the image? The highlight areas are as they were; they weren’t perfectly bright because it was dusk so if I pushed them to be it would have lost the look that was there at the time. You can see the effect of the afterglow on the houses in the background and the foreground sand. That’s how I remember it, it is “As the eye sees” but of course, they are MY eyes not yours
If you would like to play with this image I have included a link to download the three images at medium resolution. I have also included a preset of the settings I used if you want to use that as a starting point or just try your hand and see where you go with the image. Just remember, these are for your personal use and may not be used, reproduced or sold in any other manor. I retain full copyright of the image and I have a VERY good lawyer
Windnsea.zip *Note, there was an error in the preset for the original download, it has been corrected*
To download and try or buy Nik HDR Effect Pro 2 click the link below
For 15% off the Nik Collection by Google Which contains not only HDR Efex Pro 2 but 5 other great Nik Titles click through the link and enter coupon code: thehdrimage at checkout
Hope that helps
Friend of the HDR Image and Photographer Dale Smith wrote and asked; “Do you use a Hand-Held Meter and what do you think of them?”
Well Dale the answer is, yes I do use one and like them quite nicely. So let’s explore this question further.
First I’ll answer one really important question. Do I need a Hand-Held Meter to do HDR? Absolutely not. The reflective meter in your camera is more than capable of doing everything you need to do to successfully meter an HDR scene. But Hand-Held meter can make things easier in some instances and are also handy for other types of photography.
What are Hand-Held meters and how are they different?
The meter in our cameras are “reflective” meters. That means that they measure the light reflected off of our subject. They are calibrated to measure a midtoned object ( 18% or 12% gray depending on who you talk to) as such they are subject to some inaccuracies if your subject is not a midtoned object (see our sister site See N Learn article on advanced metering for more on this) But for the most part they work just great.
Hand-Held meters are different in that they measure the light source itself or “incident” light. They usually have a dome or “Lumisphere” to measure the light source accurately. They are not affected by the color tone of the subject so they can be more accurate. Hand-Held Meters can also be “Flash” meters to measure the light output of our flashes or strobes. This is the main reason I bought mine. A reflective meter in our camera is incapable of measuring that. And finally some models can also be used as reflective or Spot meters (measuring a small area of our scene). The funny thing is, this is most likely the mode we would use for HDR work so make sure the meter you buy is capable of this.
Let’s take a look at a few popular meters. Meters are available from manufacturers such as Sekonic, Gossen, Polaris and others.
I own the Gossen DigiPro F. I bought it primarily to measure flash output but found it very useful in other situations. The reason I bought it over the similarly priced Sekonic L-358 was that it did flash. Incident and 1° spot metering without any additional attachments. I simply removed the lumisphere and it is a 1° spot meter. The L-358 is a fantastic meter but it only comes with the Lumigrid which gives 54° reflective readings and it requires optional spot metering attachments. The Sekonic L758 and the Gossen Starlite 2 Can do 1° and 1-5° spot metering respectively without extra cost attachments
The Gossen DigiPro F is a great meter the only thing I wish is that the setting steps for Aperture and Shutter speed were adjustable
Using a Hand-Held meter for HDR
Like I mentioned earlier Hand-Held meter are mostly known for their Incident light reading capabilities but we most likely will not use them that way for HDR. Measuring incident light is a great way to get accurate measurements for a single shot but we are taking multiple exposures and need something more than that.
I will say taking an incident reading may be a great way to determine your center exposure in an automated 3 Exp +-2EV series as it may not be affected by mis-metering our subject as I talked about in this article.
So let’s look at how I use a Hand Held Meter in determining exposures for an HDR series of images. Now normally I will use my Camera’s Built in reflective meter for this. Set to spot metering so I can pinpoint different areas of the scene. I scan through the scene and make notes of the shutter speed required for the brightest area of the scene and then I also measure the darkest area of the scene. Now I know I just need to connect those two readings with the EV steps that I choose 1EV, 2 EV etc.
Okay, so why do I need a Hand-Held meter then? Like I said earlier, you don’t. But I’ll tell you why it may be nice to have. For the most part from say 9AM to 4 PM the light is very constant, in fact it is usually so much so I could tell you what to shoot without even using a meter. But for the ½ before sunset to the ½ hour after sunset. The light actually does change quite rapidly. And a lot of times during this period I have my camera set up on a tripod and I am probably going to shoot the same scene and composition repeatedly but just at different lighting as the sun sets and then as dusk starts.
So if I have to either loosen the tripod ball head to take readings at different times or even take the camera off the tripod to take readings there is a good chance I may mess up my carefully composed image. I’ve had cases where I have totally messed up a straight horizon line because I was in a hurry after taking measurements to get it back on the tripod and shot in those 30 seconds that the sun is just at the horizon line.
This is where the hand held meter comes in handy. I leave my camera as is and I take reading as the light constantly changes and make adjustments to my exposure brackets as necessarily along the way and I never need to touch the camera other than to change my settings
In this series of images of a Lifeguard tower at sunset it was very apparent how different things can be in a short time period. When I first started shooting the maximum Shutter speed I needed was 1/500 as the sun in full view later as it was halfway hidden behind the horizon and into dusk my max needed was 1/30.
If I wasn’t able to quickly read the light through what turns out to be a quick and chaotic few minutes of getting the shot. I may have totally mis-exposed the scene. Either getting some exposures of total blowout or total blackness both of which add nothing to our HDR
BUT, make sure you let THE METER tell you what the brightest and darkest areas are. DON’T assume anything. As the sun just above the horizon line you may think it’s the brightest object in the scene at 1/30, but it wasn’t the blue sky above it was actually at 1/60 at that point in the sunset.
So for the sequence you see to the left, I metered and started my exposures at 1/250 f/16 ISO 200 and ended at 1/4 second in 1EV steps. Easily changing my shutter speed between steps doing the aperture wheel rumba , 1,2,3 snap, 1,2,3 snap
And this is the final image, Imported into Lightroom and then exported into the NEW Nik HDR Efex Pro 2 (I’m not sure from my review people know how much this new version rocks!) for processing before finish work was done in Photoshop
So Hand-Held Meters; Necessary? No. Nice to have? You Betcha! They may not meter much better than your camera’s meter depending on the spot metering capabilites of it. But they can make things easier along the way.
Hope that helps,
Our friends over at Topaz Labs have just made August “Topaz Masking Month”
You may remember my use of Topaz Remask in this article Compositing the HDR Portrait It did a fantastic job cutting out our model Noelle.
If you would like to try your hand at composting an image of a model or even say an automobile OR if you just like to change out a boring sky for a dramatic one. Topaz labs this month will make it even easier.
They are offereing a 30% discount on Topaz ReMask just enter the code; promasker at checkout after clicking the link below
Now get out there and mask something!