1 ½ Cups All Purpose Flour
½ tsp. Salt
½ Cup Shortening
3 Tbs. Cold Water
My two favorite things to do are Photography and cooking, so I always find parallels between them. So go with me on this lesson Continue reading
1 ½ Cups All Purpose Flour
½ tsp. Salt
½ Cup Shortening
3 Tbs. Cold Water
My two favorite things to do are Photography and cooking, so I always find parallels between them. So go with me on this lesson Continue reading »
In one weeks time I was reminded three times what one of my roles is as a photographer.
My first role is to make beautiful, interesting and compelling images that people would like to purchase and hang on their walls. Simple as that, I’m hopefully creating art and selling it as a business.
My second role – that I was reminded of this week – is as a documentarian. To preserve in photographs what once was.
I was first reminded of it in the wake of Hurricane Sandy and the destruction it caused all along the East Coast. Especially in my home state ofNew Jerseyand in particular the shore town ofSeasideHeights. The boardwalk and the ocean piers were all destroyed.
All too often I see HDR used as THE important element of an image. It’s not, it’s a process, it’s a tool. Lately when I post images I don’t even say, this is an HDR. It’s irrelevant. Just as what kind of camera did I use, or what shutter speed I shot at or what editing program did I use. They aren’t relevant to the end image. Just how you got there.
So I have been thinking about the above paragraph for a while now but what I didn’t realize was that my shoot this weekend would prove it to me.
Before I begin that tale, let me first explain what I believe is great photography. Great photography is all about the light finding great light and most importantly shadow and the placement of shadow with-in an image. Great photography is about having an artistic mind to see that great light and also the eye to place that subject of light within a field or more plainly stated, Composition. Once you have the eye for the light, shadow and composition, it’s having the knowledge to capture that and frankly, NOT F*** it up! This is , to me, the essence of great photography and what I will always and forever strive for. HDR is just one of the tools I use to get there.
I always say I never preconceive what I will shoot when I go to a certain area because the area always tells me what to shoot. This day was no different as I headed out to the Anza-Borrego desert in California. I had thoughts that I would like to shoot the Calcite Mine in the north-east section of the park. Just finding the trail to go off-road on was tough enough and once I got half way there, the trail took a turn for the worse, too tough even for my mighty blue steed and all I could picture was myself being on one of those Video mishap shows with my truck tumbling down a drop off to the desert floor below. So at that point I choose to turn around and look for something else.
I was told there were also some Slot Canyons in the area. So I set off to find them, a short distance away I found them and started hiking the trail. Aha, my best friend the desert had once again, told me what to shoot.
One note of caution. Never hike alone, always have sufficient water and food, NEVER hike in a slot canyon without first checking weather conditions. Even storms miles away can quickly fill a slot canyon with torrents of water that you cannot escape. And finally NEVER EVER EVER EVER drive off road without a minimum of a trail map but really GPS GPS GPS. Really…not kidding. I use a GPS enabled laptop with mapping software that can show some off road trails that a standard GPS unit for cars may not.
As I hiked into this amazing find not only did I think , here was my shoot I also thought here is my story or my next The HDR Image post. I was really excited. What could be a better post then talking about shooting a slot canyon? Because they have always been almost impossible to shoot the way you want because of the high dynamic range of clear blue sky down into the dark recesses. So I shot away, excitedly assembling the blog post in my mind as I walked along and shot. This was a very cool slot canyon with a lot of amazing rock structures to see. But as I shot, something was wrong. Usually I can tell just from reviewing the images and histograms when I will have a good image. Something was wrong but I just pushed it aside because I was excited about the story I wanted to tell.
When I got home, I started reviewing and processing the images and again, something was wrong. Ummm these…sucked. So I pushed the HDR process harder and harder well past where I normally would go. And they got more let’s say HDRy, but the didn’t get any better. Until I finally realized, this was a high dynamic range scene for sure, but in the majority of the scene, there was absolutely No Light or I should say, QUALITY light.
While there was a nice blue sky and some cool light on the peaks at the top of the canyon, The majority of the scene was extremely flat shadowless light. We may call this “Tonal” light. Which can be good for showing tones in an image. The problem was the canyon walls were very mono tones, not even the various tones of reds and yellow you may see at say Antelope Canyon, AZ. A lot was pink or gray mud colored rock. The rock was however full of texture. but to show that off you need “textural” light or light with high contrast. which at this time of day just wasn’t there. And me pushing processing in HDR to the max was NOT going to give me that. Even processing in B & W didn’t help, in fact it proved the point. On conversion almost everything in the image became the same tone.
So you may say, “Your friend the desert lied to you, there wasn’t a shoot there at all” Well actually there was. As I pulled my mighty blue steed up out of the ravine and back onto S22, the sun had just set and it plunged the desert into twilight. My friend told me, pull over, now it’s time. and with the beautiful light of twilight over the desert, I got these shots.
Moral of the story: Great photography will always be about the light. No amount of manipulation is a substitute for that. Your mission should always remain true to make a great photograph. High Dynamic Range does not = Great Light. HDR will not make great light. And sometimes a hike is just a great hike. Lesson learned.
Hope that helps,
* Unfortunately this post will provide more questions than answers, but they need to be asked
On Sunday I went to the beach and didn’t intend to shoot but it was such an absolutely perfect day with blue skies, white puffy clouds and intense emerald colored water, I knew I just had to shoot even if it was mid-day. It was that pretty.
Normally I wouldn’t shoot mid-day for a number of reasons all us photographers know. But I could see with my eyes how beautiful it was and it was surely something easily captured by my camera. To cut down on the glare of the beautiful emerald water, I placed a B + W circular polarizer on my 17-40 lens in order to keep the glare of the sun on the water out of the shot which actually helps to tame the dynamic range of the shot by not have those specular highlight. One look therough the viewfinder and I saw pure magic. The scene in front of my camera was georgeous.
Normally I don’t go right home and download my images, It may wait till late that night or the next day to review them. But I had the time and I was anxious to review the images that just looked so beautiful through the view finder.
So I downloaded them and opened the images and….What? are you @#$%iung kidding me? That’s what I got?! REALLY?!
I mean, it’s OK ,it’s visually and compositionaly interesting..but that’s NOT what I saw.
The clouds are dingy and dull, The sky is a Gray/blue mix. Where is that emerald water? Why are the rocks almost monotone and desaturated looking. I hate it . I would never show this shot to anyone.
So what DID the scene look like? Well… This
Now on this day I didn’t set up to shoot HDRs. I assessed the conditions and saw no need to and if there isn’t a need I won’t. Was it a full dynamic range scene? Absolutely. But was it beyond what should have been capturable with a single exposure? Absolutely not. So I shot one single exposure of the scene. So how did I end up with the second shot above? Using a little talked about feature of Photomatix pro. The Single Exposure Pseudo HDR with Tone mapping. In the past I haven’t been that fond of Pseudo HDRs. Whether it was making different RAW exposures and combining those or any of the number of Pseudo HDR programs out there, Topaz, Lucis etc. I believed if you wanted to do it. Just do it right, take the exposures.
But in this case I didn’t want to increase the dynamic range at all. The camera captured it fine and is confirmed by the histogram. The exposure is fine too, within LESS than 1/3 of a stop of perfect. It’s not the range from bight to shadow that is all wrong, it’s what’s in between. But by Tone Mapping the single image in Photomatrix Pro I was able to correct for what the camera just could not get right. But WHY do I have to?
This is something I have seen for a good portion of my over 40 years of shooting. In fact in the Mid 90’s I stopped shooting for a full year because of never being able to capture with my camera what I saw. But at the end of the year I saw what had become the problem; The popularity of 1 Hour Photo labs. With their automated processing and no real person looking at the images to determine the correct exposure of the print. That automation took away from what was shot and what the final print looked like. This became evident to me when I shot a scene of Christmas Light right at dusk and the prints I got back looked like I shot it mid-day. Was I that off? Fortunately for me the lab that developed them, printed on the back the adjustments they made to the image, that was when the light bulb went off when I saw the huge amount of Exposure compensation they applied to that print. I had a perfect exposure. They messed it all up. So I retuned to shooting.
But even with that and even with better labs that were more hands on with quality technicians. There still were problems. I still often would see beautiful things through the viewfinder and never be able to get them on film. I had and still do have high hopes for digital. Eliminating that person at the photo lab that knew nothing about the shot in the development of it was a hugely freeing thing for me. I could make sure that what I wanted was what was printed. But still what I shot was not what I had straight out of the camera. And I blame this on the engineers that designed digital cameras because I believe that the basis they used for development of a digital sensor was based on film for the model to how it should react and NOT on our eyes as a model
Now I do realize that the above statement is not wholly true. We do know that part of the sensor design was based on the fact that the human eye is more sensitive to Green than it is Red or Blue. This is why there are twice as many green photosites on a sensor as there are Blue or Red. I also fully realize that no camera sensor nor film is as sensitive to dynamic range as the human eye is. I get that, I know that. But there is something inherently wrong in the in between, the way our eyes place brightness value and color values in everything in between. Is it because we try to make sensor linear when in fact our eyes are everything but?
I don’t know the answer to these questions. I’m neither a scientist nor an engineer. I don’t know much about how our eyes physically work nor do I know a lot about optical design nor sensor or film science. I just know something isn’t right.
As I sat on my couch this morning contemplating this article. I looked at the morning light coming into my house Lighting up my Family room and my living room. My camera was beside me as was my laptop. Could I capture an image at just that moment, immediately load it into my calibrated laptop and would it look like what was before my eyes that moment?
Here lets find out.
Was this what I saw?
No, there is barely any color in the walls and they are a Sandstone Tan
The Red Artwork on the far wall, it’s dark and doesn’t look anything like what I am looking at.
Is there a red pillow on that couch? I clearly see it with my eyes. where did it go.
The sun is really showing the color of the wood in the TV stand to my eyes. It barely looks anything but black except for the foot.
Where did everything I see right now go? There’s nothing wrong with the exposure, the dynamic range again was captured except for some slight blowout on the floor molding from the sunlight. There was plenty of light coming into the room. Why is it NOT what I see?
But yet a quick and I mean very quick run through Photomatix Tone Mapping and I got this:
This looks EXACTLY like what I see before me. Why does my camera get this sooo wrong yet Photomatix get’s it so right. and again. I don’t think it’s a Dynamics problem. The histograms for these two images are very similar in each end of the spectrum. It’s what’s in between that just is handled differently
So Like I said in the begining, this post really doesn’t provide many answers if any. It is more just questions. The only thing I know is that I WILL use single image processing in Photomatix much more often. IF I know that what I got just isn’t what was there at least I have some recourse to the end result
The State of the Art – HDR
I hate HDR images! Whoa what? You have a website devoted to HDR images and you hate them? Yeah, well, kinda, I hate what has become the De facto standard for “That HDR Look”. Well hate is too powerful; I dislike them, for the most part.
HDR is a fairly new technology and whenever something new comes out people are not quite sure what to do with it. Let’s look back at another new technology that came out over 50 years ago. Stereo sound recordings. Before them everything was presented in Monophonic or just one speaker. Well we all know if we were listening to 4 musicians play, it would not sound like they were all playing from one spot. We might hear a guitar on our left, another on our right, the drums and the bass may be in the middle in front of us.
Then came stereo. Now the original purpose of stereo was to recreate more closely what it sounded like if we had musicians right in front of us playing and to recreate that soundstage. But because it was a new technology and there also was not enough other technology behind it to do it correctly, people didn’t know what to do with it and ended up doing things that really didn’t fit with the original purpose or mission.
Even the Beatles and their great producer George Martin didn’t quite know what to do. So some of their earliest attempts at Stereo put the instruments in one channel and the vocals on the other. Not really giving the effect at all that the musicians were playing in front of you. In fact George Martin hated the sound of these so much that many years later when he was remastering those albums for release on CD, he made them all in Monophonic because he knew that the stereo of that time was just wrong.
So what does this all have to do with HDR? I think the same thing has happened here. People don’t know what to do with HDRs and some things that aren’t really the original purpose or mission of HDR are become the standard for the “HDR look”.
So what is the original purpose or mission of HDR? Well, of course this is my opinion; we are trying to make a photograph that more closely resembles what we see in real life. And because the Dynamic Range of our eyes are much wider than a camera’s we can’t do that with conventional photographs, when photographing a scene that is wider than our camera is capable of capturing. Scenes that are not that wide in dynamic range are captured quite well using standard photography.
Here is an example of what I mean, it may be a little exaggerated but honestly it is not beyond what I have seen in HDR examples.
So I was there, I took the photograph. Is this what I saw? Did I see the deep dark gray scowly clouds? Did I see bright insets on the tower? Did I see haloing around areas of contrast around the buildings and trees? Did I see a mostly mid-toned scene or did I see one with full range from dark to light? Did it look CGI (Computer Generated Image)?
My answer would be no. But I still could get people to look at the above and go,”Coool!” because it was different and well what is expected from HDR these days.
However, I also had a lot of my photographer friends say to me when I told them I do HDR. “Oh, I hate HDR” I would reply, “Have you seen mine”, “No.”
Well here, look.
Most people would then say, I don’t like HDRs but I like yours. This example is more like what my eyes saw that day, White clouds, consistent tone to the building, no halo. Full range from dark to light. I’ve more closely recreated what I saw that day.
Is it perfect? Probably not. We really don’t have a great memory from things we see, our sense of smell is actually much better at remembering things. I also tend to go a little over on color saturation because the Buying public like it. Is that right? No, but I like making money too. So will I say is this exact? No, but it’s close.
Now because I believe in art and artistry, let me say this: If the first image or one like it is your “Artistic Intent”. It’s what you intended, then I am all for it. Go do it! But if it is because you “thought” that was the way it should be. Because you saw other examples of HDR that looked like it by even by some of the biggest proponents and originators of HDR . Or if you just didn’t know any better… then no, it’s not what the “State of the Art” HDR should be.