Tuesday, October 30, 2012

I have always been fascinated by the potential of HDR. For those who are not familiar with HDR, HDR stands for high dynamic range. In short, when you take a picture the amount of information that can be captured in the image is limited by the sensor and its ability to capture the detail in the highlights and the shadow areas. The purpose of HDR is to get that information back.  Usually a photographer learns the limitation of his or her equipment and shoots within the limitations of the medium. Personally, I have used 8:1 and 4:1 contrast ratios for artistic effect. I blow out the highlights on purpose or use extreme contrast in post. When shooting portraits I prefer strobes to natural light because of the control I gain. Regardless to your method of shooting, the only way to get  for detail and color information is to use HDR.

Before I say anything else about HDR, let's make on thing clear. HDR is a tool. It will not make a crappy picture good. Only practice, study and dedication will help you take great pictures. Matter of fact, if you use HDR with no ideal on what your doing, you can make a good picture look like crap. So since this is my first attempt at it, I an being a bit conservative. I am sure I can bring out every single detail, but that is not my goal. My goal is to give my still life and architectural shots a little pop. As I get more comfortable I may push the images a little further. For now, I'm gonna take it slow.

HDR is usually accomplished by taking several shots of the exact same scene at different exposures. Essentially this is called bracketing. Cameras like the Canon 7D and Canon 5D Mark III have this function. Unfortunately, the Canon T2i doesn't. Fortunately if you run Magic Lantern software on your media you can gain this feature. I don't recommend bracketing manually, unless you are extremely steady and know that you can change the exposure (+/- EV) without moving the camera. Back to business. You should take one image overexposed about two stops, one underexposed about two stops and one shot properly exposed. You can use as many images as you like to create a HDR image. But, I think three shots are plenty. The rest is done in post. This can be done with programs like Photoshop and Photomatix. Just Google HDR processing and find what works for you. There are lots of tutorials and recommendations from the pros.    

The images I took where composed of three shots (2 stops apart). I used a Canon T2i, a 12-24mm Tokina lens and a tripod. I triggered the flash using the 2 sec timer on the camera. The camera was in AV mode with a neutral picture style. I'm sure that my images will improve as my skill increases. However, I think it is important to share now. The way a novice becomes an expert is by not being afraid to take criticism and not being afraid to try new things. So please share your opinion and your wisdom.

Here are my first two true high dynamic range  (HDR) shots.....   

Sunday, October 7, 2012

This is a continuation of the last blog entry. I combined one of the smoke images from earlier with two images of a gas mask purchased for a photo shoot. I thought the image came out looking like an obscure heavy metal album cover. So, I am posting it on my blog. I hope you like it as much as I do.

At the start of the day I expected to shoot some glamour shots for a model. However, after receiving a last minute cancellation, a change of plans was in order. Since my equipment was already set up, I decided to revisit smoke and water (splash/ stop motion) photography.

The first attempt at smoke photography was a good. However, I continually had to bump up the exposure in post just to get a decent image. Also, the levels has to be adjusted to keep the background black. So this time the strobe was increased to 1/8th power and the background was moved back 3 feet. By doing this, a cleaner image was  obtained. The next thing to do is to become more creative in post and use the smoke in creative portraits.

Here are the new attempts:

The first attempt at water photographer included using vegetables, a fish tank and a lot of water. This attempt involved less water, one strobe and a reflective surface. The purpose of the first attempt was to capture the motion of the water as the vegetable broke the surface. This time the goal was to capture the motion of the water as a single drop breaks the surface of the pool. As always, critical focus was difficult to obtain. However, I am certain that with practice the images will improve in sharpness and clarity.

(Note: Be careful what you use to bounce the light. It will show up in the surface of the water.)

Here are new attempts:

The same settings I used in the first attempts with smoke and water photography were used this time, except were indicated. The important thing to remember is that f-stops between 8 and 13 make critical focus easier. Also, manual focus should be used when ever possible (Being able to make fine adjustments to your focus can make a world of difference).