Fishing is what I’d like to be doing today…or any other day. I’ve been quite under the weather today and am feeling sorry for myself for not being able to get out shooting photos downtown tonight with my buddy Pete Talke. Life is still good though! 🙂
Photo taken at sunrise on the beach in Port Aransas, TX with a 50mm lens @ f/1.4.
I recently downloaded a trial version of Nik Software’s HDR Efex Pro. I’d been semi-disappointed in many HDRs I’d created in Photomatix and had heard many people say they’d made the switch to Nik. If you’re hoping for a complete review of Nik HDR Efex Pro I apologize in advance — I’m only going to give some impressions here.
First, a bit on Photomatix. It’s great software in many ways and I’ve used it to make many cool (IMO) images. However, in many of my HDRs of late I’ve ended up doing so much masking in Photoshop after tone mapping in Photomatix that I’m practically producing a composite of the original exposures. Photomatix often doesn’t handle motion to my liking — leaving way too much work to do afterwards. I’ll readily admit that it could be the user — I’m no wizard with Photomatix. It could also be that I’m getting pickier as time goes on. On the plus side, I find Photomatix to be much faster than Nik but I don’t process all that many HDRs so that’s not a huge factor.
I used Nik HDR Efex Pro to process all but one of the images in this post. For my own comparison purposes I processed another Hawaii coast photo — similar to the one at the top of this post — with Photomatix. It’s not completely apples-to-apples since I didn’t process the *same* photo but I ended up having to spend a ton of time in Photoshop fixing up the Photomatix image (basically ending up with a composite as I mentioned above).
As for the mechanics of using Nik HDR Efex Pro, it’s quite simple. In each of the images (5-ish?) that I’ve processed with it I’ve started out with a preset and tweaked from there. Of course I’m still learning all the sliders, etc. but I’m happy with it so far. I find the “control point” concept useful (it defines circles in which you can separately tweak portions of the image) but I would prefer that it worked more like the adjustment brush in Lightroom where you can choose exactly where the effects are applied. The final images here aren’t completely to my liking (some spots would get fixed if I were to spend more time on the images) but are illustrative enough for this post.
Our family was supposed to spend last weekend in Rockport, TX but were unable to go to at the last minute due to medical reasons. As a consolation I’m taking a few of the kids to the beach this weekend. The shot above was taken on our last trip. We had just watched the sunrise and my daughter shed her shoes and went wading. On a whim I got down low and took a variety of shots. I wanted bokeh for the artsy look, yet enough detail to still see my daughter and the pattern in her dress. Turns out that the widest aperture on my Canon 17-40mm (f/4) just did the trick. I made a quick attempt at cloning the letters out of the shoes but it was soon clear that it would take a lot of work to make it look realistic…above my skill level.
This was the second shot I took (out of maybe 50). In the subsequent images I framed the shot in all manner of ways — no sun or reflection from the sun, put the sun at the 1/3 point in the frame, showed my daughter completely, etc. I like this one best. In particular, I like the leaning subject (partially due to taking a step and partially due to the distorted perspective of the wide-angle lens) and the motion implied here. I also like the extreme highlight in the left corner fading into the darker sky on the right.
Experimentation – Silhouettes
When starting out in photography it’s always good to experiment with creative ideas. Experimentation is a great way to learn about exposure, lighting, posing, etc. You discover what works and doesn’t work and will certainly retain that knowledge better than if you had just read about those things in a book. You will also refine your own style as you try out ideas and develop a knack for particular things.
One great thing to experiment with is silhouettes. You don’t need fancy equipment — the sun, a lamp, or a flash can be used to create a silhouette. Soft, reflected light combined with shorter exposures often creates striking silhouettes in images. You might try posing someone under (or near) a streetlamp at night and then get down on the ground to shoot the silhouette. Another element you can vary is how much the silhouetted subject is exposed (as you increase the exposure you eventually lose the “silhouette” effect of course).
Here are a couple of images which I created on a whim to experiment with silhouettes. I created the first while out catching the sunrise in Rockport, TX (see some of my Rockport images here). My daughter happened to show up on the scene so I asked out her to stretch out her hand roughly in front of the sun. Not a great overall composition but it’s useful as an illustration here.
This silhouette of my son jumping on the trampoline was just an idea I had while sitting on the porch watching him jump. I got underneath the edge of the trampoline (be especially careful with larger children or you’ll end up with a concussion!) and fired away. The shot I set out to make was one of him jumping high in the air with his arms stretched out (I did get some of those). However, the way the sun flared out from my son’s hand in the following photo made this a favorite.
Have some fun and experiment with silhouettes. You’ll get some great shots, and hopefully learn a few tricks which will become a useful part of your photoshoot arsenal.