I was experimenting with silhouettes early one morning in Kauai, HI. The camera was triggered with a wireless shutter release (was thankful I didn’t have to scramble back and forth through the sand and rocks using the self-timer). I’m sure that someone thinks that there’s only one right way to shoot silhouettes but my preference is to error on the side of slightly overexposing relative to a completely black silhouette. This varies based on the background but I want to make sure to get enough detail in the non-silhouetted portions of the photo. Of course I could composite multiple exposures but I find it simpler to use Lightroom and/or Photoshop to reduce the exposure in the appropriate areas to get a complete silhouette if that’s what I’m after. Often there’s no need for this extra work though — I usually can get I what I want in-camera (I did with this one). Shooting brackets isn’t a bad idea either if you’re unsure. The textures were added via OnOne Perfect Photo Suite.
While in Hawaii I managed to catch the sunrise most mornings (not necessarily for pictures). As the sun rose over this jetty in Kauai I stopped all the way down to f/22 in hopes of getting a nice sunburst — success. The lens flare effect (real — not added in post) is nice too. I had hoped to get more interest and/or color out of that rope in the rocks but it doesn’t add much unfortunately.
The image was processed in Nik HDR Efex Pro using 9 exposures. Lightroom was used for most of the touch-up and then Photoshop was used for curves and noise adjustments.
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.
I posted this picture a long time back in a post about candid shots but I decided to re-post since it’s one of my favorites. We were visiting friends in Rockport, TX and my son spent much of his time picking up little things on the waterfront. As the sun headed toward the horizon one afternoon I spotted him intently searching the beach again and grabbed this shot.
What have I come to like about this one? For starters, parents just like pictures of their kids. Second, he has that cute little look of concentration on his face. Third, from a photographic standpoint I like that there’s just enough of his face showing to include him personally in the picture as opposed to some faceless “subject” (umm, yeah…I planned that…sure). Finally the light and surroundings are just nice IMO. As always, there are a few things I’d change if I were planning/posing this but I won’t dwell on those 🙂
I processed this picture differently this time. I first cloned out a few things (a piece of plastic on the shore, a pole in the water, and a tiny clump of grass). I then used several curves layers to selectively adjust areas of the shot and to add some vignette. These layers were in luminosity mode since I wanted to pretty much leave the colors (which were very warm due to the setting sun) intact. In Lightroom I did a few more minor tweaks with clarity and very specific exposure adjustments.
Headed to Montana in 12 days with my wife and friends. The picture above was taken early one morning during our last visit to the Stillwater Valley in Nye, MT. Had a blast and can’t wait to get back there. Our trip to Montana in the summer of 2009 marked the first time I ever used a real tripod and head, and the first time I made a “real” attempt at taking “good” pictures. I had just read through Scott Kelby’s tips on landscape photography but forgot most of them of course. Nothing overly special about this shot other than the memories. Simple processing with curves.
I’d better start practicing rising early if I’m going to hit the sunrises — it starts getting pretty light by 5am up there. That’s actually one thing I miss from living up north; I love when it gets light very early in the morning as it really helps get the day going.
Desperate to do *something* photography-related I was going through some old bracketed exposures. I had the thought of looking through old exposures after reading Mike Criswell’s (aka Theaterwiz) blog (see this post: http://theaterwiz.wordpress.com/2011/01/13/rust-never-sleeps/).
I came across some brackets for this man-made waterfall I shot in TN a long time back and decided to do a little processing to see what look I could bring out in the rocks. I noticed that the center exposure was nearly a perfect exposure in the sense that almost nothing was blown out or unexposed. I decided to try tonemapping two versions — one using the two lighter exposures and one using all three exposures. After tonemapping each with the same settings, I processed them exactly the same way: blended the tonemapped layer with Topaz adjusted version of that layer at 50% opacity, added a saturation adjustment layer with +6 for the saturation, and a slight s-curve adjustment layer.
It’s very subtle and you may not really even be able to see much difference here on the blog, but the image using only two exposures has better color and contrast. The part of the image where the waterfall hits the rocks is more pleasing as well. Now, I could easily process the “poorer” image further and make it look almost exactly like the two-exposure version — mask in original exposures to get the water looking how I want and adjust color and contrast. However, no need for that if I start by tonemapping only the exposures which provide useful information. That turned out to be two exposures for this image — maybe I should call it MDR for “medium dynamic range”. Here’s the 3-exposure version. I don’t think you’ll see the difference on the blog but included it anyway for those of you with a discerning eye.
One might point out that possibly I didn’t choose a good center point to start with but in this case a brighter exposure wouldn’t have been useful either as I really don’t want to bring out any more details in the shadows. It was an overcast day and, if it weren’t for the brightness of some of the water, a single exposure would have done the trick.
Anyway, I thought this quick experiment mildly interesting and thought I’d share it. I was going to make a fancy split image thing for you compare side-by-side but it just isn’t dramatic enough to make the effort 🙂
Located west of Austin, TX (about 20 miles from downtown as the crow flies), Hamilton Pool is a favorite swimming hole for many Austin-area residents. It’s formed at the point where Hamilton Creek pours over a 50 foot waterfall into an incredible grotto.
Jim Nix (http://www.nomadicpursuits.com) invited me to go shoot at the pool this weekend. I’ve lived in Austin for 19 years, 9months, and some-odd days and I had never been to Hamilton Pool. Because of this fact (and of course because Jim’s a great guy) I took him up on the invite and had a great time going after some images. Got a bit of exercise too.
You can see Jim in the photo below. I saw him standing near the falls and I plopped down my tripod right where I was to capture an image which included him. I had seen incredible images of this pool but they didn’t have anything as a reference point to convey the true size. Including a person in the frame gives the viewer a real sense of how big this grotto is.
3-exposure HDR, center exposure 18mm f/14, 1/2s, ISO 100
On the drive out the skies were looking promising for HDR (lots of texture) but by the time we were there and set up they seemed to have turned almost to plain, gray overcast. I didn’t end up with decent skies in any of the shots I’ve processed at so far.
I’m not super happy with any of the images so far but they’re good enough for me to at least enjoy them. I was on a semi-strict timeline that day but I came away with some angles I’d like to explore further on my next visit. My hope is to visit again on a *partly* sunny day (want some awesome clouds to include in the shots). I would also like to visit in the spring when there are some leaves on the (currently bare) trees.
Here’s another shot of Jim working on some compositions. The foreground is busy with all those branches but I still like the shot because of how the focal length compresses Jim and the falls in the frame.
3-exposure HDR, center exposure 70mm f/20, 1/2s, ISO 100
And one more, a spot along the creek with some interesting water, trees, and reflections. I might have played with more angles here if it were not for my schedule.
3-exposure HDR, center exposure 24mm f/13, 1/13s, ISO 100