Posts tagged “HDR

Under The (Harbor) Bridge

Harbor Bridge flies high over the Corpus Christi Ship Channel and whenever I’m in this parking lot (Texas State Aquarium) I find this vantage  — and vanishing — point rather interesting.  I finally snagged a picture of it on our last trip.  It wasn’t prime time for photography but the cloud cover helped.  There are probably many interesting views and compositions to be had here.  The title comes from the Red Hot Chili Peppers song…I always think of it when I’m here.

The image is an HDR made from 3 frames.  Using HDR helped keep the sky in check somewhat and bring a *little* out of the shadows.  I always try to keep plenty of “dark” (i.e. shadows) in my HDRs.


Ruined Reflections

Ruined Reflection, Austin Skyline, Panorama stitched from 3 HDR frames, 45mm, f/8

On a still day Austin’s Lady Bird Lake (still Town Lake to me) is a great spot to shoot the growing skyline (note yet another construction crane gracing the view) and get great reflections off the water.  I met an out-of-town friend at Lou Neff Point this morning and was surprised to find that the lake was completely overgrown with a plant called Eurasian Water Milfoil.  In hindsight I might have expected it as we had seen a lot of milfoil while kayaking on the lake recently but even then I wouldn’t have expected so much of it on the surface.  Adding to the disappointment was that the forecast of “some clouds in the morning” wasn’t to be (until well after sunrise anyway).

Well, we were there and figured we might as well shoot some “stuff”.  We fought off the mosquitos and fired away.  I decided to shoot a panorama in order to increase the resolution a bit.  I shot 3 frames — each bracketed +/-1 stop — and used Nik HDR Efex Pro to create very subtle (IMO) HDR images.  Photoshop stitched them together nicely and I used several curves and saturation adjustment layers to tweak the final image.

Harbor Hotel At Rowes Wharf

Harbor Hotel Entrance 17mm, f/8, 5 exposures, ISO 100

Sometimes a wide-angle lens isn’t quite wide enough.  I took this shot at the wide end of my 17-40mm lens and it just couldn’t capture it all.  The entrance to this hotel is amazing and is visible from across Boston Harbor (see here).

I used 5 exposures to make this HDR but I honestly could have gotten by with only two or three.  As always I wasn’t trying to eliminate the shadows by using HDR but rather attempting to bring out some depth and tone down some highlights.  Notice that the building on the left out by the harbor just disappears into shadow — that’s how it should be as it really looks that way.  I used Nik HDR Efex Pro to create the starting image, then used a dark exposure to tone down a few of the bright lights.  There was a bit of masking for the couple standing near the left, a couple of tonemapping artifacts fixed up, and basic contrast adjustments.  One thing that bothers me a little is how the lights near the left doorway have quite a green tone while the lights on the right are rather white (I’m a poet and didn’t even know it).  I decided not to balance them out — for whatever reason that’s just the way they were (see original exposure below).

One of the Original Exposures



I was headed to my trolley tour stop in Boston when I spotted this picture.  Sun peeking from behind the building, moderate interest in the sky, sky and cloud reflections in the windows of the tall building, and dappled reflections of light in the short one.  As I took the shot I got a bonus lens flare and guy crossing the street.  It’s not an *amazing* scene, but pleasant enough IMO.

This is an HDR and naturally it bugs me that there’s a slight halo around that tall skyscraper.  The thing is, that halo is present in the original exposures too.  Despite the fact that there will be those who attribute the halo effect to “bad HDR”, I decided to leave it as is.  For those of you interested in one method of fixing this (particularly in difficult, detailed scenes), see Dave Wilson’s handy tips here.

The bright portion of the street (and the guy walking across) were masked in from a single exposure.  That exposure (fast shutter speed to freeze his motion somewhat) was tweaked a bit to match the scene as I saw fit.  Given that it was a bright, sunny day I wanted it to still look “bright” and I wanted the portion of the street at the left to remain in shadow.  One could argue that I should have used a slower shutter speed to show his motion but that’s simply a matter of personal preference — neither one is more correct than the other IMO.  Various curves were masked in all over the place as usual.

Take Me Out To The Ballgame

Fenway Park in HDR, 17mm, f/13, 3-exp, ISO 100

Here’s another view of Fenway Park which I processed as an HDR.  I took a bunch of pictures around the place a few weeks ago and am only now getting around to looking at most of them.  The back of the scoreboard provides a nice main subject IMO.  Ideally I would have gotten the foreground people at full height (i.e. head-to-toe) in these shots but my lens wasn’t capable of that at this tripod height (and I didn’t like the perspective with the tripod all the way down near the ground). I took lots of exposures (range of 7-9 stops…can’t remember) but only used three of them for this image.  Why only three?  Because I don’t mind a few blown-out highlights where “appropriate” and I certainly don’t mind shadows without detail.  In fact, my number one criticism of HDRs is that many people process them in a way which brings out far too much detail in the shadows and eliminates too many of the blacks.

Processing…After running the three exposures through Nik HDR Efex Pro I brought the image into Photoshop with the three original exposures.  I only ended up using two exposures: One for partially blending in the sky to help keep the colors reasonable-ish and the other one was masked in for the street and people (after an exposure tweak).  As always I used several masked curves adjustment layers (in luminosity blend mode because this image had plenty of color saturation already).  The jet contrail bugs me but I’d make a mess of it if I tried to clone it out.  Since I was standing below the sign and using a wide-angle lens the perspective (tilt on the sides) was rather extreme.  A quick free transform was used to stretch out the top corners of the image somewhat.  I didn’t attempt to eliminate all the distortion of course.  After this type of stretching with a free transform, the height of things (the people in particular) gets a bit squashed so I used a reverse crop and another free transform to stretch the image vertically and bring the people back to normal.  Maybe I’ll do a poor-man’s tutorial (the only kind I have the skills for) showing those steps in an upcoming post.

Boston Skyline…Blue Hour

Boston Skyline At Blue Hour 23mm, f/8, 6 exp, ISO 100

Last weekend, after spending the day touring Boston, I walked across the pedestrian bridge (near the left side of the above image) next to Seaport Blvd which connects downtown to the old seaport district.  The bridge is part of the South Bay Harbor Trail.  I stopped for dinner and waited for the sun to set behind the city.  As I neared this photo spot I found that four photographers were already sitting there — tripods and cameras already set up.  I walked toward them and without a word stopped 10′ in front of them and pretended to set up my tripod.  Silence.  After a few seconds I turned and said I was just kidding and relieved laughter set in.  I asked if it was OK to set up just behind them and they were nice enough to extend an offer to make room in the middle of them if I wanted (I just set up behind and above them).

My intent was to bracket a bunch of exposures as it got darker using f/22 to get a starburst effect.  I switched to f/8 because (1) I really wasn’t getting much of that effect, (2) f/8 is good and sharp, and (3) my exposures were getting longer than 30 seconds and I was too lazy to start timing the exposures manually even though I was using a remote 🙂  White balance was set to daylight.  That’s somewhat arbitrary since I always shoot in RAW but it helps keep things consistent when viewed in the LCD.  I included a couple of straight-out-of-the-camera exposures below so you can see a sample of what I was working with.

On my flight home I plugged six exposures into Nik HDR Efex Pro.  My personal default is to use the realistic-subtle preset as a starting point 99% of the time and I tweak a bit in Nik.  Tweaking and saving complete, I took the Nik output into Photoshop along with a couple of the darker exposures and masked in a few spots which were still over-exposed after the HDR junk.  I toned down the colors in the water and burned the sidewalk darker a bit (more on the dodging and burning below).  Relative to colors, I did want an “HDR look” to this image but I sometimes find the reflections and colors on the water to be a bit overdone for my taste in these skyline shots.  I also dropped the overall saturation by 20 points to bring it back to realistic colors as tools like Nik HDR Efex Pro and Photomatix tend to saturate everything a lot.

Finally, since the perspective wasn’t too bad I decided to fix it by stretching out the top corners a bit and aligning the buildings with rulers to make them more upright on the edges (the SOOC images above do not have that correction).  If you do too big of an edit like this it can degrade the image but it’s fine for this one.  The final image turned out crisp and sharp at high resolution.

This screenshot shows my dodging and burning layer.  A trick I learned watching a Joe Brady video (something about Photoshop for landscapes sponsored by Xrite) is to create a new layer, fill it with 50% gray, then dodge and burn on that with black/white.  There’s no real need for that but the layer gives you a visual to show where you’re doing your adjustments.

Where Everybody Knows Your Name

Cheers! 17mm, f/10, 6 exp, ISO 100

Had lunch at the basement bar in Cheers on Beacon Street in Boston — the inspiration for the TV show and the place you see when they would show the outside shots.  It was a tiny little place and spots at the bar were coveted but I happened to come in at just the right time to get a spot.  There was also an upstairs bar which mimics the set of the show but frankly the room had none of the feel of what the show looked like…not very impressive.  Downstairs was the place to be.  While waiting for my food I set the camera on the bar and fired off some brackets.  Even though I used f/10 the DOF is really shallow due to the close focus distance.  I didn’t want super long shutter times given the movement of the bartender and the people seated on the other side.  f/10 was a decent balance (I shot brackets at f/4 and f/22 also and later picked what I liked the best).

In the gift shop they had this infant onesy.  Pretty funny when you think of the words to the theme song.

Colorful Fish of the Sea, Boston

Fish of the Sea, Boston 17mm, f/6.3, ISO 200

The sea and seafood are big attractions in Boston and for most of my meals during my visit I’ve tried to get some sort of fish and/or chowder.  Fitting with a seaside theme, I discovered this bit of art near the Boston Harbor Hotel on Atlantic Ave. while walking back to my car the other night.  In hindsight I should have taken a close-up shot of how this was constructed.  Essentially, it was made of a bazillion rough pieces of colored glass / acrylic — rather cool IMO.  I found the colors and the glow on the sidewalk rather interesting as well.  Oddly enough, I had walked right past this in the daylight and didn’t notice it at all.  After dark, however, it was very prominent.  Maybe some of you have seen this before but I hadn’t and that gave me the perfect excuse to post it — something out of the ordinary from Boston.

I used a tone mapped version of the image to get the sidewalk portion then (mostly) masked in the underwater scene from one of the original exposures.  I shot at ISO 200 because with ISO 100 I could never quite complete my exposures before people walked across the scene.  I had a thought to purposely catch passers-by at various shutter speeds but it had been a long day and I was ready to get back to my hotel.  Next time…

iPhone 4S — An Amazing Little Camera

iPhone HDR with a few Lightroom edits

I frankly haven’t been very impressed with the  iPhone’s HDR feature until yesterday.  The image at the top was taken with my iPhone 4S with the HDR option turned on, then edited quickly with Lightroom to add some contrast and clarity mainly.  I often try the HDR feature and don’t see a ton of difference.  This time the HDR option just happened to be left on from the last time I’d tried it but as you can see, the results are impressive for a phone camera.

Here are the straight-out-of-the-iphone images:


Straight-out-of-iPhone HDR

St. John’s Chapel, Tower of London

St. John's Chapel, Tower of London

There’s something amazing about a building which is still standing after nearly 1000 years.  This is St. John’s Chapel in the White Tower…in the Tower of London.  This image is from 3 handheld exposures — part HDR, part composite.  The dynamic range was extreme here with the dark shadows and the bright light streaming in the windows.