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Category Archives: Photography Lesson
I’m often amused when I shoot the sunset and there are other photographers around. As soon as the sun dips below the horizon line, they fold their tripods and pack up their gear and head home. Sometimes it’s when I just start shooting.
Twilight is a wonderful time…sometimes. It really can be seen and used well in the desert, especially the low desert that is surrounded by mountains. When you shoot around mountains, the twilight period is extended by 1/2 to a full hour because the sun will set behind the mountains, but still has not set below the horizon.
It’s a time when the light gets soft and colorful but it also gets flatter and less contrasty.Sometimes this is good and you can use it to your advantage. Nature itself, tames the dynamic range of our scene. So in that sense, it really isn’t a High Dynamic Range scene. But really this is what we want to accomplish, have an end scene that can be properly displayed by our viewing medium.
During twilight though, there still can be a very high dynamic range scene. But it depends what you are shooting. The sky can still be very bright in relation to the ground area. If you are just shooting something and not including the sky the scene dynamics can be very low and easily captured. But if the sky is present in your image, especially if facing west. You may run into a scene that still surpasses your camera’s ability to capture it.
In this case I usually turn to a different tool to tame Dynamic Range, I will turn to a graduated 3 stop Neutral Density Filter. I accomplish my HDR with a piece of equipment rather than software. We still are just trying to end up in the same place, just a different method. Remember that the light level is very low at this time of day so you will be tied to a tripod especiallyif you want to shoot low ISOs a few seconds exposures are not uncommon
This past Saturday as I was headed home from shooting some Old Railroad artifacts, I was able to prove the above theory as I watch the twilight change the desert floor and the sky got it’s usually desert gradient of Purple to pink. I stopped and got these shots.
Only one used 3 Exposure HDR processing. And that one I think is the least successful, once again proving; If you need HDR to accomplish the shot , use it. If not…simply don’t. Your camera will work just fine on it’s own.
We get caught up sometimes thinking HDR is the cure all to everything. No matter the situation, shooting HDR will make it all better. But it simply does not. HDR allows you to capture the light our eyes can see and possibly our cameras can’t but it does not turn bad light to good.
This was hammered back in my head once again two weeks ago as I was out in Joshua Tree NP on a shoot. A friends I was traveling with called me over to see an area he was looking over down into the valley. It was a beautiful scene in front of me, but quite honestly the light sucked. It was an hour too late to shoot that area and no good light was getting down into the rock outcroppings, just a small area of great golden hour light was hitting the peak of one of those rock formations.
I took the shot more to appease my friend but thought well maybe something will come out of this. Measuring the light hitting that peak and then down into the crevasse below, it said there was a need for HDR so I did shoot a 7/1EV shot exposure and then went back to shooting my main subject that was loosing great light quickly the Natural Arch of Joshua Tree…and I think I was too late at that point
Getting back to base that night, I downloaded my cards and started culling through the shots of the day and I stopped at the above shot and thought I would see if maybe magically something would come of the image. I loaded the 7 Exposures from Lightroom into Nik HDR Efex Pro 2 and went about my normal procedures…and ,,,Meh, Nothing, It’s just a nothing shot. There’s some nice light on the peak to the left and a deep blue sky but everything in between is just flat nothing light. HDR captured it all perfectly but it was still bad boring nothing light.
Contrast that with a scene two days later when shooting the WindCaves of the Anza-Borrego desert where I had beautiful late day sun streaming into one of the caves and I used a 3/2EV Shot to capture that light inside the cave and also daylight outside the cave. All beautiful light and I used HDR as a tool to capture that. HDR did not make the light, it only made it possible to capture its range and with that…the beauty.
We can never forget that regardless of the tools we use, great photography still relies on certain principles…Number one; Great Light and Shadow
Hope that helps,
Check out a post I did at our sister site SeeNLearn.com about shooting landscapes with a telephoto lens. Yes even HDRs
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,
In our post the other day about shooting Mid-Day, Reader David Ames…who is also a good friend and a great photographer and also one of those people you just always say “What a great guy” when they walk away after seeing them. Asked this question:
I’ve been shooting quite a few custom cars lately using HDR. Getting these car owners out during the golden hour is pretty much impossible. Talking about specular highlights, these cars are more than shinny. What adverse effects if any would using a circular polarizer and HDR have. Probably going to test it out tomorrow at a car show but wanted you take on the subject.
Which is a great question.
Shooting cars is a very difficult thing to do and do right especially Mid-Day particularly because they are so shiny. Reflections cause a multitude of problems. From causing metering to be off from specular highlights, Reflections of unsightly objects into the cars, Balance of lighting in different areas of the cars and probably a few more I can’t think of at the moment.
Sometimes you can use these reflections to your advantage, such as getting a cool Gleam of the sun off of a chrome piece. and sometimes they just ruin the shot completely.
So let’s adress David’s question about the polarizer first.
The quick answer is Maybe; We have to know one fact about polarizer first. THEY HAVE NO EFFECT ON REFLECTIONS ON METAL OBJECTS. You can Google why not but they just don’t. So with a lot of Custom Cars especially from Days Gone By. Those cars have a lot of chromed or plated areas. The polarizer will have no effect on reflections on that part of the car. Metallic finishes that have a large amount of metal flake in them also may not be as affected as straight paint color may. And lastly polarizer work in relation to angles or planes. Mostly at 90 degrees to the reflective source at maximum and tailing off from there. And if we look at a car, we can see there are MANY different planes and angles to them.
So let’s look at a quickie shot I did today to see some of the effects.
The first image was shot with a polarizer at maximum in relation to the side of the vehicle (My Blue Stead)
Looking at the green arrows, They show that reflections in the window glass and the side of the vehicle have pretty much been eliminated.
Looking at the red arrows, you see that it had no effect on the hood because that is at a plane that is 90 degrees from the plane of the door. Also you can see that the specular highlight in the chrome of the headlight had zero effect from the polarizer.
The orange arrow shows the real problem area. The hot spot on the fender cause by a specular highlight from a point source light ( The sun) Because of the angle I shot at, that angle relates exactly to the opposite angle that the sun was to the car to me. Angle of incidence – Angle of reflection
And that was not an angle that was affected by the polarizer
Now if we look at this second shot, same shot but the polarizer set at the minimum for the side reflections or 180 degrees from the first shot.
Looks what happens to the side, how the reflections now appear, but then look at the hood, how the reflections have disappeared.
So the bottom line is, polarizers can help but you need to understand them and then JUST USE YOUR EYES. OK, I have a reflection here I don’t like, can I eliminate it this way or that way? Look and see.
Use of HDR Mid-Day
Yes it can help your mid-day image. If you look at the above images you notice a lot of harsh shadows and if you can use HDR to even out some of those shadows you may get a better final image. BUT HDR will NOT help tame reflection, in fact it may make them worse because it brings out detail. I’m sure you’ve seen some of those highly processed HDR’s of say totally chromed out motorcycles. Well you can see the detail in every tiny reflection there is. So there are some advantages to using HDR for the Mid-Day or any time of day automotive shoot. But you still need to be totally aware of reflections.
Here is an example of how a reflection can ruin a great shot…and I love this shot…but there is a reflection of another car in the side of the Spyder that makes me Cringe every time I look at it. But I couldn’t control where the car was and where the car reflected into it was.
So what’s the real bottom line here when it comes to shooting Automotive shots and reflections, specular highlights, Polarizers and HDR.
Because you are dealing with such a highly reflective object you have to be aware of all light sources and you have to be aware of everything that reflects into the object. This is just like doing highly reflective Product photography except you can’t fit it into a table top light box. And doing that type of photography it teaches us that we CAN NOT have point source lighting. It just doesn’t work unless we want a glint or gleam in certain areas
So what do you? if you look at a lot of great automotive photography, you will see two things. They shoot at dusk when we have eliminated the point source light of the sun. In the studio they use HUGE diffuser panels above in front of the lighting. They may be as big as and some time 2 to 3 times the size of what they are shooting. Then they add smaller diffused source light to put highlight where they want them. So you get nice even light without the hot spots that are a problem shooting during the day from specular light and point source light.
Check out a couple great examples of automotive lighting, These guys rock. Study what they do and try to apply it
Also check out Porsche’s Website under each vehicle they have images and wallpaper downloads. they have some great automotive photography there and if you study it you learn a lot
I also want to say, I am not an automotive photgrapher nor do I pretend to be. The above is just some common photography tips. Study and learn from the people that do it great.
As a final word to David. I totally get you don’t always have the option of shooting in the perfcet place at the perfect time with a $10,000 light bank above the car.
So look, use the tools you have whether that is a polarizer, HDR or just moving 10 feet to the left to tame as best you can the reflection and put them where YOU want as best you can. It is possible to shoot during the day. BUT you have to LOOK
Hope that helps,
- Camera – Wide Angle lens
- Great Location
- Camera on Tripod
- ISO 100 or 200
- f/16, 15 Second exposure
- When you hear the mortor fire, press the shutter
- Have a Hot Dog
- Happy 4th
Edit: c/o Sport Photgrapher Dave Hahn: “Don’t forget to pre-focus” (most likely with a wide angle you will focus at infinity AF turned off)
You can vary the Shutter Speed between 8 and 15 seconds, The longer, the more possibilities for multiple bursts being captured.
You can open the aperture up a bit if you need to expose the ambient light of the location more but for the condition I shot in and the exposure time of 15 seconds I liked the greater detail and clarity that f/16 gave. Opening up the aperture in this situation made the background too bright because of the city lights. If it is very dark where you are shooting you may want to open up the aperture just a bit
Experimentation is the key but these are some starting points
Anyone that’s been into photography knows, one of the most taught rules is “Never shoot in the middle of the day”. Even Scott Kelby during a The Grid broadcast a couple months ago during the “Live Critique” show that got a lot of buzz said so. To Paraphrase him. ” If you are a landscape shooter, there are two times a day to shoot. Other than that forget it”. And to directly quote him, talking about shooting during Golden Hours. ” That is the absolute most basic thing” , And, ”If you don’t do that, you can throw it in the trash”
Rutt rowww…Mr. Kelby, Did you just tell me I can’t do something? Not a good thing to do to this dawg.
But of course he is right and it also extends to portrait/wedding photographers and others. He’s right…well maybe he was right.
So why do we not shoot during the Mid-day? Well, the light is harsh, shadows are in the wrong place, colors are bad and I’m sure we could state a few more things and I guess we would be right.
But I’m going to say. We’re not.
Case in point. Saturday I took a drive down PCH ( Pacific Coast Highway) on a simply beautiful day. I pulled off in Cardiff by the Sea in one of the few remaining parking spaces that was left because it was such a beautiful summer day. It was about 1:30PM, certainly not a time of day we would shoot.
I got out, grabbed my camera and headed to the water. It was spectacular, the sky was a beautiful deep blue with white puffy clouds, the water a beautiful seafoam green. The sand a warm golden tone and the kelp washed ashore a sparkling emerald green. Wow how wonderful.
Snap went the shutter.
And I got this:
OK Mr. Kelby you’re right. I can’t shoot Mid-Day. The light is harsh, the color is bad, it’s all washed out. The dynamic range is multiplied by the specular highlights off water which can drive meters batty. It’s just an ugly day with bad light…Hey wait a minute! I’m standing here looking at it…
Umm…no it’s NOT. It’s FRIGGEN beautiful out!
So is the light really bad? Or, can our camera, as we knew them, just not capture it?
A flawed system
No matter what we may think, now or years ago. Digital or Film. Small formats or big honking 8 x 10 Large format. Cameras are a flawed system. They just are. They don’t see as well as our eyes and when you really consider that our “Human” camera is a system of both Lens (our eyes) and our mind that make up that system. They don’t even come close.
In fact our mind plays a huge role in how we see. Without our mind’s interaction, everything we see would be upside down and backwards. Our mind corrects for our eyes, the lens. We even use composition to do what our mind does naturally.
As a photographer, what can make us great or better than another photographer is knowing these flaws and how best to correct or compensate for them. It is, in some ways, what made Ansel Adam’s so great. Besides a great eye for light, composition and quite frankly shooting places that not many people could see without his photographs at the time. Mr. Adams knew and understood the flaws of his camera and film. It was the basis for his Zone System. It what made him know to expose a certain way, then process another and develop this way. To get the most out of a system he knew very well and knew if he didn’t do this he could not recreate in art what his eyes saw.
Getting back to my day at the beach
What my eyes actually saw was this:
Brought to you courtesy of…yes…HDR. High Dynamic Range Imagery.
So the “Rule” of photography of not shooting mid-day is not one brought about by our subject and “Bad Light” but it really was brought about by a flawed system that just wasn’t capable of capturing the light that was there. And while our lenses do a pretty good job of replicating our eyes, the sensor somewhat less as far as dynamic range goes. But the part that really is missing is that our camera is incapable of the manipulation our mind adds to this of putting together the range of luminance and color and in some ways boosting the midtones into the scene at an acceptable and pleasing level (The “Two Looks” theory).
Now don’t get me wrong, The Golden Hours are still an amazing time to shoot, as can be the Blue Hours (You forgot them Mr. Kelby) And I am not saying that HDR can make up for truly bad lighting situations. I still maintain it must be great light. In fact I will say that part of the day usually is not the best time to shoot. The 2 or 3 hour period leading up to the Golden hour when the haze and pollution in the sky increases. The angle of the sun is just in a bad sometimes in those hours. What I AM saying is. Look, Look around, does it look nice to your eyes? Then we should be able to capture that and HDR may allow us to do that or at least do that more often.
The truth is there are times that it is just is better to shoot mid-day.
What to shoot Mid-Day
A few examples of things that may be better shot Mid-day: Well we have the beach scenes that we already talked about. Think about the above scenes with a colorful umbrella in the image or children’s sand pails at the waters edge. Just be careful of specular highlights on the water. Take them into consideration when metering the scene. Remember what a specular highlight is; it is a reflection and in this case it is a refection of the sun which can be many times brighter than our ambient EV15 light of a typical sunny day.
Shooting in Canyon Areas or close to a mountain range. When you are close to a mountain range that the sun sets or rises over. You really can’t wait for the Golden Hour. In fact the sun may set behind them a good two hours before civil sunset.
Shooting in Slot Canyons can be even worse. There may only be a short window of time that a great shot is possible in slot canyons and the dynamic range can really be high from the interiors to the sky. Waiting till too late in the day can really yield some really poor results as was shown in this article I wrote last year.
Wildflowers: This is one that really needs consideration. One of the reasons we sometimes can’t shoot wildflowers during Golden hours is that a lot of flowers have not yet opened or start to close during that period. (Some flowers also close when it is windy and winds can increase towards sunset) And there are times shooting huge fields of wildflowers just looks great in the middle of a beautiful blue sky day.
But shooting wildflowers in the middle of the day do pose a couple problems. Ome that isn’t instantly recognizable if we do our usual HDR routine of measuring the Dynamic Range or brightness of the scene. At first with measuring the scene it may appear that it isn’t even that high of dynamic range. But our meters do get fooled with this and it’s one time we may be better off taking a shot and looking at our RGB histogram. One color channel usually blows out.
Most often, especially with, red, orange, Yellow flowers, it is the red channel. So shooting HDR helps with keeping this channel under control and giving us a much sharper image than a standard one because just like when we blow out all channels (white) it causes a great loss in detail.
But there is something that does get in our way of shooting flower fields with HDR. Movement. Even with a subtle breeze wildflowers move, sometimes they simply vibrate but that causes more loss of detail and sharpness. It makes it difficult enough with a single image because we have to keep the Shutter speed up to stop the motion. I often end up shooting at a higher ISO because even though there may be bright sun, using f/16 for my aperture yields a 1/100 shutter speed and I need much more.
Now, consider that, plus now you want to do multiple exposures? I think not. So this is an instance where I will recommend a single exposure but then using some of the tools we have with HDR and doing a Single Image, Tone Mapped.
No it is not a true HDR but what we are instead doing is something I alluded to earlier. How the mind puts together an image sometimes more so than the eye and we can simulate this by using tone-mapping to bring down the highlights till they fit and don’t blow out and then boosting the mid-range that our eye/brain combo gets so right but our cameras, as we knew them, get so wrong.
No it is not a true HDR but what we are instead doing is something I alluded to earlier. How the mind puts together an image sometimes more so than the eye and we can simulate this by using tone-mapping to bring down the highlights till they fit and don’t blow out and then boosting the mid-range that our eye/brain combo gets so right but our cameras, as we knew them, get so wrong.
So get out there and experiment, try, look around. How do the conditions appear to your eye? If it looks nice, maybe it is nice. Maybe we just didn’t have the tools we needed before. But with HDR we do. I’m not sure that people yet understand the power that HDR enables us. Once we understand that as well as we did the limitations of our system, we may be quite limitless.
And images like this are possible. Okay Mr. Kelby, anything else you would like to tell me I can’t do?
Hope that helps,
PS For you portrait shooters, did you know it’s possible to shoot mid-day too? Not HDR but there are ways that you too can overcome the limitations of our flawed system have. Ask me.
Hi everyone, sorry I’ve been away. Had a new magazine assignment and that kept me busy this week. Sorry to neglect you.
Seeing that I started the week with a quick hint on composition I thought I should end the week talking about composition again. This time with a more complete guide to it.
I think it’s important to go over basic photography lessons because what I find is that all too often when shooting HDR, the HDR becomes the most important part of the image and we throw everything else out the window and we loose some of the essence of what makes a great photo…a great photo. HDR does not make a great photo, it only allows us to capture the full dynamic range of a great photo. If we make it first and foremost, we may just have a perfectly exposed…bad photograph.
So let’s look at a few things to looks for in composition that can help us achieve a better photograph. Nothing is etched in stone as some may lead you to believe and if you break one rule you may actually have just fallen into another one without knowing it and if the end result is something visually pleasing and adds to the image and captures an audience, then do it.
One quick thought on Rules of composition. Nothing in composition was man made. Man only quantified why something was attractive or pleasing to the eye. It wasn’t like the rule of thirds was invented when the first man wrote it down, it was merely that he quantified why something looked better that occurs, quite naturally
A foreground subject
For me this is just something I find to be really important and I tend to stress it more than maybe other photographers do. But I have heard that when choosing photographs for magazines a lot of editors reject images because they lack a foreground subject. After all we have seen millions and millions of shots of a beautiful sunset, but all that may be of interest is the beautiful sunset itself, we didn’t do anything to add to that and make it a beautiful PHOTOGRAPH of a sunset.
So, always, in the right situation have a foreground subject. A start for the viewer, Here, look here, see this, then move on as you are carried to the background and the rest of my photograph.
The Rule of Thirds
I don’t think anything gets pounded into new photographers for composition than the rule of thirds. We naturally like to center things and people that just start taking photographs often do just that. But it may not be the most pleasing and visual interest to our photographs. Placing our subject at the intersection of Thirds of the scene add better visual interest and balance to our photographs. If you have a horizon line in your image, place that at a Third also from top to bottom.
Golden Mean or Ratio
Based on a mathematical formula that appears in nature (Fibonacci numbers) – think Nautilus shell here – Golden mean is another way to place object within our scene in a pleasing way.
I’ve demonstrated it here using both a Golden Spiral and also Golden Triangles
We capture our viewers attention with our primary subject, then we use leading lines to draw the viewers eye farther into the image and our secondary subject. Leading the viewer to look where we intend
But leading lines don’t have to be so hard and obvious
Sometimes symmetry just works, sometimes it can be boring. But with the right balance, again, it can bring interest to the work
Balance and weighting
Even though it is obvious in the photo below that the cars behind our main subject are not the same scale as our subject, the weight of all those cars together equals the weight of our main subject
Use existing elements in the image to frame your subject. Again what we are trying to do is lead the viewer where we want. An image has just seconds to grab a viewers attention. We don’t want them to have to take too much time to find what we want them to find. They may just loose interest
Use Color and Brightness
Our eyes are drawn to certain colors, that’s why Fire Trucks are red. Certain colors make an object stick out, some make the object retreat. Use that to lead the viewer where you want. Also brightness or contrast draws the eye. So make your subject the brightest part of the scene to draw the eye too it
When our subject is yellow, our eye goes immediately there
But look what happens when we change that flower to a recessive color. The eye hunts for the subject
Mix up your orientation
Have you noticed something about a lot of my “Landscapes”?Tthey are shot in a vertical or “portrait” orientation. People assume that Landscapes are shot in Landscape orientation and portraits are shot in portrait orientation. The funny thing is my best friend is a great senior portrait shooter and we have always found we naturally go the other way. My hands when they go up to shoot naturally go for a vertical or portrait orientation, that’s the look I want most times. She on the other hand for her portraits will go for a landscape orientation. They just work for us. But it’s fun to mix things up even if you find it un-natural. Sometimes it just gives a different perspective on things
Notice, I didn’t center the horizon though
There is much to be learned about composition. But a lot of it depends upon how your mind works. Are you right brained (the so called artistic mind)? Or are you left brained (the analytical mind)? Right brained people tend to just see composition but not really know why. Left brained people, it will be more of a thought out process but they may not see it naturally. Both may get there, they just do it differently. Well, that’s my opinion anyway.
Hope that helps a bit. Like I always like to stress it is STILL all about good photography, we are just using a different tool to realize our artistic vision. But don’t make HDR the star of the show if there is not a good stage below it.
Hope that helps
My blog post: Shooting Architectural Interiors was featured in the Nik Software November newsletter where it came to the attention of LA photographer John MacLean. John commented that while I did okay with the HDR, I screwed the pooch on the shoot itself. And I did. I broke one of the cardinal sins of Commercial Architecture shoots. Angular distortions. Or more particularly, Keeping parallel lines parallel.
Now on an art shoot we may want to celebrate and in fact even play off these distortions, but in a Commercial Architectural setting, they are a big no no. What do these angular distortions look like? Well you may see them as Keystoning -the top of the object appears wider than the bottom (or the reverse) or we may see curvature distortions from using too wide of a lens and placing the object too close to the edges of the lens that have the most distortion.
As John also pointed out, how I should have corrected this was either to shoot level (Lens absolutely level) Or I could have corrected the mistake using the Lens Distortion correction in Lightroom (I believe ACR does it as well).
What the first part means is when shooting interiors or exteriors of buildings for that matter, We need to keep the camera level and not point up or down at what we are shooting We also may need to shoot centered such as when shooting a door or window, moving off of center will cause the side closest to the camera to appear longer than the side most far away.
Here are some examples…Of course I could not have shot at possibly worse time, The intense afternoon sun coming through my pergola and I had to Topaz the heck out of them just to make the shadows visible. But hopefully you’ll get the idea here. (I truly apologize for these shots but didn’t want to wait to shoot tomorrow since I am working on tomorrows post)
Here is a door shot low and not level (lens pointing up)
This one was shot from the side and not square to the door but was at least Lens level which isn’t always bad since we maintained parallel lines. But notice the perspective. How the right side seems smaller than the left side even though we know they are both the same height
This one was shot High, Lens pointing down and at too wide angle (Hey look, There’s me!) This is an example of how this may work if we were doing an art piece and wanted some whimsy to it, but would never work commercially
And the Momma Bear shot, Level and Square
If I was unable to shoot level due to circumstances, the best option then may be to use a tilt-shift lens to correct for the distortions. That’s an expensive option but one that may be looked into if you do a lot of architecture shoots.
But as John suggested there is another means to fix this problem post shoot and that is by using the lens correction section of the develop module in Lightroom (and ACR).
So I opened the image in Lightroom and in the Develop Module, scrolled down to The Lens Correction area
With this tool you can correct for horizontal and vertical shifts along with curvature problems with wide angle lenses. It’s a powerful and easy to use tool.
Clicking on one of the controls brings up a grid pattern on your image and you can drag the control until you get your lines in order. Clicking the box for keeping the crop will crop the image as you align.
So here is our before and after of the shot I used for the blog article
Thanks to John for bringing this to my attention.
To check out John’s excellent interior architectural work visit his website at http://www.johnmaclean.com/ He really does exquisite work.
Hope that helps,
Today we are going to look at yet another subject that can benefit greatly from shooting and processing in HDR-HighDynamicRange: the Automobile.
Automobiles are almost like shooting portraits outdoors, shot wrong and at the wrong time of day can lead to disappointment. So let’s take a close look at what it takes to get a truly pleasing shot. Today we will focus on setting up the shoot itself and tomorrow we will work on the processing.
I am also going to do this in two parts, a basic shoot and then an advanced set-up for those that may want to take this above and beyond.
Location, Location, Location
Shooting an automobile is as much about the background as it is the car itself. In the wrong environment the car will loose the appeal that we as photographers or more importantly the client, (Classic Car Owner, Auto Manufacturer etc) desire. So first we have to find the location; that may be a twisting mountain road, along the shore of the ocean or lake, In front of a cityscape, day or night or in our case, the oft used, desert dry lake bed.
For this shoot I chose the Clark Lake dry lake bed in the Anza-Borrego desert of California. My Favorite place to shoot.
My choice of locations and the desire to shoot HDR was confirmed today when I opened up Road & Track magazine and saw a shot of a 2012 Dodge Charger shot in HDR IN the Anza-Borrego desert. I regularly run into their team doing tests along the way from their Newport Beach headquarters to the desert. In fact, for inspiration for your shoot check out the better automotive publications and even the websites for car manufactures like Porsche and Lamborghini. They often have some downloadable wallpapers that have some stunning photography.
I choose the spot I wanted because having been there and shot many times I knew how the light would be at all times of the day. I knew at a certain time of day the lake bed would be pushed into shadow while the mountains behind it would still be lit and nicely lit come the golden hour. One note when shooting near large mountain ranges. You need to know that sunset behind those mountains can occur 1-2 hours before actual sunset depending on the altitude and your proximity to those mountains.
The good thing is that it provides for a very long twilight period where the sky provides plenty of light yet without any direct light on your subject. This is kinda of like working with a giant softbox in the sky. Plenty of soft natural light to make our subject look good. This lake bed has mountains on 3 sides so I knew I had to be there at 4PM even though actual sunset was 6:15PM but I actually was able to work past sunset with the aide of something else in the advanced setup of this tutorial.
Shooting earlier in the day is not desirable, the light is too contrasty with harsh shadows and even if we could capture that dynamic range it isn’t pleasing to our subject at all
So we want to shoot later when our subject is not in direct sunlight.
Place the vehicle in the location you want. Again this may take some pre-scouting so you know where the light will be at what time and location
Having a clean vehicle
This image is going to be sharp and full of detail so a clean vehicle is of the essence. Any blemish will show up. But, we may not have the luxury of a cover trailer to bring the vehicle to the location and it may get dusty just getting there or even while on the location if winds are high. If the vehicle is not your own, DON’T Touch it. Leave it to the car owner to clean. Any scratch you put into a $10,000 paint job will be your fault.
If the vehicle is your own or if the owner needs advice on how to clean the car on location, I recommend a California Car Duster to get the big stuff off and then wiping the car down with a Micro fiber cloth using a detailing lubricant such as Meguiar’s Car Detailer. This will prevent the tiny scratches you can get from wiping a car with a dry cloth.
Once the vehicle is clean and in place you can begin to play with your setup as the light gets where you want it. Don’t wait for the light to be where you want to start to set-up as the light will change very quickly and you may only get 15 minutes with each lighting scenario so you have to be ready.
You will need to determine angle and focal length for the shoot. In general we don’t want to shoot straight on to a side or the front or rear. We may want to have those shots as alternative angles but that won’t be our money shot. In general we want to be at a 30-45° angle to the side and encompassing either the front or the rear of the vehicle. Once we determine a general shooting area we need to consider the focal length we will shoot at.
Again I will go back to the “Portrait” analogy. Just as in shooting a portrait, we want to choose a focal length that is pleasing to our subjects face or body. We don’t want any part particularly emphasized, especially if it makes the subject look odd. We want as much beauty as possible and emphasize only the positive. For this shoot I chose my Canon 24-105L 4.0 IS. It gave me the range that best suited this shoot.
On my Full Frame Canon 5D, I like to use focal length of 50 – 70mm. On APS-C bodies this may be in the 35 – 50mm range on your camera. This gets me close enough to see the detail I want, yet still gives me the perspective I need to include a good amount of the scenic background. I have used up to 200mm at times but remember with a long focal length we loose the amount of the background shown due to perspective. If you are a fan of the Nifty Fifties ( Canon 50mm 1.8 – Nikon 50mm 1.8) This may be a great time to break it out.
I don’t like to use wider angle lenses because we start to get distortion in size perspective of parts of the vehicle that are closest to the camera and that leads to a less pleasing look such as this one shot at 24mm.
Also note this is a Standard Photograph in the natural light. It doesn’t have the Dynamic range we want with the blown out sky and no detail in the mountains
The same shot at 50mm provided a much nicer perspective for our vehicle. But again note how the standard image, while getting the mountains now better lit, plunges our vehicle into darkness. Good thing we know about HDR.
We’ve got our location, we’ve got our vehicle placed there, we have it clean and we’ve chosen our angle and focal length. So now let’s shoot our HDR.
I measured the Dynamic range and knew it was well within the normal 3 Shot 2 stops apart shoot. So I set the camera to Aperture priority and Exposure Bracketing and took 3 shots. 0,+2.-2
These 3 shots get the midtones, the highlight sin the sky and mountains and the shadows of the vehicle all covered.
Tomorrow in part 2 I will cover in its entirety the processing of these images.
The previous was our normal HDR shoot and will be perfect for almost everything we want to do. But there are conditions where we may need to take it to the next level.
In Photography we either need to “find the light” or “Create the light” I wanted to shot later into the actual twilight. The only problem with this is I loose some of the natural softbox lighting I get earlier in the evening, especially low on the body and into the wheels and tire area. So to fix that…
HDR + OCF = OMG
OK so let’s decipher those acronyms. We know HDR, High Dynamic Range. OCF is, Off Camera Flash. If two things are all the rage in photography right now it is HDR and OCF. So why not combine the two. OCF is a way to tame dynamic range. You use the natural or ambient light to light your background and then provide strobe lighting for your subject and in a lot of cases that is good enough to get the image you want, But of course not for me. I want to take it one step further.
Here is my Basic Set-up. Two Flashes on stands, One Canon 580EX and One Vivitar 285HV. And Cactus wireless triggers to fire the flashes remotely. I used 42” Shoot-through Umbrellas (I added the second after I shot this shot on the Vivitar). I also moved the flashes closer to the subject later to create a larger light source.
Of course we could do an entire lesson or website just on OCF, so I won’t. I will just show you some possibilities of using this set-up. But I will give you some pointers that can help.
- Make your light source as large as possible. This means having the lights as close to your subject as you can without being in the shot and also using a large diffuser to eliminate hotspots, This can be a Softbox or an umbrella or even shooting through a large diffuser, remember we are trying to evenly light a large object so we need a lot of nice diffuse light
- Watch for reflections. We are also shooting a highly reflective object so we have to watch for distinct reflections of the lights. We do this primarily by using “Angle of incidence, angle of reflection” Meaning if the light is at the same but opposite angle our camera is to the subject. We will see a reflection. So if the camera is at a 45° angle to the car, we don’t want the light at an opposite 45° angle to it.
One lucky part of doing this shoot for HDR, that would be a bad thing in regular OCF shooting, is that the flash takes a second to recharge. In a normal shoot this would mean some missed shots if you shot too quickly. I used this to my advantage because I only wanted the flash to fire on the 0 exposure shot. If I quickly took the +2,-2 shots afterwards the flash did not have enough time to recharge to fire. If I really needed to, I easily shut the trigger off on the camera after the first shot if I needed more time.
To give you an idea what the shot looks like lit by the OCF flashes here is an example. What should be noted here is this shot was shot well past sunset and it was in fact quite dark. If you look at the shot settings you will see that it is ISO400 f/10 and 1.6 seconds of exposure! But also note that the strobe light matches the ambient which is something we would want.
Tomorrow we will look at this image processed with the other two for our final HDR. I know this doesn’t really delve into how to do OCF. It’s not meant to other than just give you a feel for it and see if it is something you might like to attempt.
We still can get a great image using HDR alone so this may not be worth YOUR time.
So be back tomorrow for part two of this tutorial. Post processing where I will take you step by step on how I finished two images and the final results.
I know, you don’t want to wait, but my typing finger is sore.