Sunday, February 10, 2013

Conifer Grove for a stroll.

f16, 1/1600sec ISO 100
It was such a lovely evening that we decided a walk was a good idea, especially if there was a chance of a sunset over the water.  An acquaintance of mine had emailed me with some sunsets and was asking a few questions.  I thought I'd take the camera along with me and take note of what I did ... and didn't do when taking sunset shots. Bear in mind that this really was a evening walk with my wife, so I didn't take my tripod which os really something I like to use for landscapes and sunset photographs.

f16, 1/800sec ISO 100
Well, to be honest, I like to use the tripod wherever possible!  Anyway, back to the sunsets!  Often I find that what I thought I saw as the sun started to set, and what I captured with the camera are quite disimilar.  It's not a fault of the camera, and I suspect it's not a vivid imagination on my part, it's just the way the camera interprets the scene and exposes the frame for the available light.  Colours also tend to appear less vivid or intense as I remembered them, but much of this can be resolved when you get home.

f16, 1/400sec ISO 100
One of the reasons for taking the tripod is ensure that if multiple shots are taken there's a good chance I can line up the images if I was to blend any together.  I was told some time ago by an HDR guru that he takes seven shots at 1EV intervals when shooting into the sun, so that's that I did last night.  Down the left hand side of this post you'll see seven images at varying exposures and can see how the scene varies as exposure times are modified.  The one at 1/400 second is the one the camera thought was the "correct exposure".

f16, 1/200sec ISO 100
As you look at the images you'll notice how foreground detail is lost in the top shots, but preserved in the bottom shots.  However, sun, cloud and sky detail is lost in the bottom shots, but preserved to some extent in the upper shots.  The problem with this scene is the large variance in light levels that are difficult to capture in one image.  A "trick" sometimes used by photographers with digital cameras is to blend two or more images to preserve the details in the very light and very dark areas into a single image.

f16, 1/100sec ISO 100
This can be achieved by using layers in Photoshop and "painting-in" the lost detail in one frame with the detail from another, or, several frames may be combined "automatically" with HDR software.  In this post I used the latter technique and allowed Photomatix Pro to work it's magic on the seven RAW images you see on the left.  There was a little breeze last night causing a little movement in the leaves to camera left.  Fortunately, there is a reasonable de-ghosting feature in Photomatix to help out with this!

f16, 1/50sec ISO 100
Once in Photomatix you can play around with various sliders to get the effect you're looking for.  Very easy to get carried away with the effects.  I chose to keep the result quite natural in an attempt to recreate the scene as I remembered seeing it.  Well, apart from the lens flare in the trees to camera right!  Something I don't get with my eyes, but can sometimes add to the scene in certain photographs.  I then use the contrast, colour and sharpening options to fine tune the effect before loading the resultant image into Photoshop.

f16, 1/25sec ISO 100
Conifer Grove Sunset.  7 shot HDR image processed in Photomatix Pro.
The main reason for using Photoshop is to tidy up the edges - remember the shot was handheld, so the images won't align perfectly and you'll get some rough edges afte the images have been combined.  I'll also use a little lightening or darkening in certain areas before moving on to the next shot.  Sharpening will have a big effect on the final image, but can give a "grainy" effect if you're not careful.  Sometimes this is desirable, but not always.  The large shot below has just been cropped in Photoshop to sort out the rough edges, but otherwise it's as Photomatix would output the combined files.  I think, if you look at the colour saturation in the final image and the detail retained in the light and dark areas when compared to the seven shots above you'll agree it's an interesting technique to investigate and perhaps add to your arsenal of image processing methods for that tricky lighting situation.

Just in case the above image is a little too saturated for you, I've attached a monochrome HDR image taken on the same walk, just a little later in the day.  Any preferences?  Maybe message me and let me know.
7 shot HDR image processed in Photomatix Pro and converted to monochrome with Silver Efex.


  1. Lovely image. Photmatix Pro is a great bit of software. Gave myself a shock though when I tried the same technical process for a 4 second time-laps. I bracketed for an hour then asked Photomatix to batch process the folder overnight. The result 450GB of less hard drive space. Think I had better refine this technique a little!

  2. I'm delighted you like the image. You must tell me more about your experiences with time lapse photography Charles. There's something I'm thinking of doing that involves timelapse but I'm not really sure where to start! How large a time interval, what resolution of image to pick, ... If I want to camera to move, what's the best way to achieve this, etc. etc.