Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Tower Project

Week 27

This week I'm starting a project that shows the Calgary Tower from different angles, locations, lenses, times of the day and year, etc.

To see the rest (at least as it exists today) click here.

I did a series with the Seattle Space Needle but this idea is to return time after time...

Idea taken from Long-Term Project, pages 70-71 in the book 50 Photo Projects by Lee Frost.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Christmas Theme

Week 26

It is really cold right now in Calgary, around -25 degrees C and although I have gotten out to photograph a bit it is a lot more pleasant inside. When it gets cold, rainy, or miserably hot then one way to exercise your photographic eye is indoors, in the house, and that is what I chose to do this week. And since it is getting close to Christmas, I had an array of seasonal things to chose from.

Now the thing about photographing reflective round things is that they are prone to hot spots and of course they reflect things you may not want in the picture. One solution is even lighting all around, another is to carefully place things to minimize reflection or at least have it where you want it. I chose even lighting.

I put down a sheet of white card to act as a seamless background and then moved my softbox right on top of it and surrounded it with styrofoam. My softbox is a medium sized Photoflex LiteDome and I used a Nikon SB-600 flash. The SB-600 can drive a medium softbox if the subject is moderately close. I stuck one more SB-600 inside this contraption and bounced it off the front styrofoam. The SB-800 on my camera was used solely as a master for the two SB-600s. Both SB-600s were in i-TTL mode with no further adjustment to flash.

The camera is a D3 set as follows ISO 200, aperture priority f/16, and shutter speed 1/30 second (why wasn't it at 1/200? because I forgot). I was at f/16 to increase the depth of field. I probably should have put it in manual mode to get more even exposure. Exposure compensation was set at +1 stop on camera to lighten up the background a bit. Then lens is a Nikon AF-S Micro Nikkor 105mm1:2.8G ED so I can get close.

Post processing was minimal. I cropped all of the photos square to the same size and moved them on to a background layer. Once on the background, I arranged them to taste, and using curves adjusted backgrounds until they were all about the same. Then I flattened and removed sensor spots on the background (I need to clean that sensor). The background looked too dark, so I lightened the exposure overall with an exposure adjustment layer until it was a bit brighter and that was it.

Idea based on Household Chores, pages 46-47 in the book 50 Photo Projects by Lee Frost.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Fake HDR (High Dynamic Range)

Week 25

OK, I'm halfway through this exercise now with only 25 weeks more to go!

This week I'm (kind of) blogging about getting additional dynamic range out of a camera using HDR - High Dynamic Range - which are digital methods of combining one or more photographs with different exposures. Well, actually I cheated and only used one exposure but more about that later.

Why would you want to do HDR? The potential need arises when there are high contrast scenes with very bright areas as well as dark areas with important details. The human eye can handle this pretty well but a camera only has so much range. HDR manages the trick by taking exposures for dark, bright, and in-between areas as needed then blending them.

There is software, with Photomatrix being a popular one, that will do the work for you and allow easy adjustment. It can also be done in Photoshop although I've not had great luck there. There is an example here of a photograph I took in Australia and applied HDR to in Photoshop. It isn't that great, the area around the sun is burned out even with HDR. Like I said, I haven't had great luck with it. I've also done it manually where I superimposed two exposures and blocked out the over or underexposed portion with a mask.

Here are some other considerations for HDR:
  1. It isn't reproducing what the eye sees - it is squashing exposures into a narrower range

  2. It can give some wild colors and not look very realistic

  3. It doesn't work too well if things are moving between exposures

But it can give some really neat effects when not overdone, although it isn't for everyone. Another way to handle high range is with a graduated filter, at least with some scenes where the sky tends to overexposure.

I personaly like the look when blended back. In fact, it is possible to get something of the look without using HDR and that is what I did on this week's picture. Click on it to enlarge and see what is going on. There is a lot of detail under the bridge for example that wouldn't normally be there and the clouds reflected in the glass of the building really pop. I've left some of the wild color as well as gritty detail that can occur when you use this method.

The tool I am using is a Photoshop plug-in called Topaz Adjust 3. It gives a range of effects with this being one of the cooler one. After adjusting the photo for keystoning (it is wide angle) I cropped and then applied the Topaz Adjust 3 "Psychedelic" filter, dialed back the layer, gave it a vignette, and sharpened. That was all.... The original photograph without adjustment is here.

The camera is a Nikon D3 set at ISO-200 with an exposure time of 1/250 of a second and a Nikkor AFS 14-24mm 1:2.8G ED mounted wide at 14mm with an aperture of f/8.

Idea based on Extend Your Range, pages 32-35 in the book 50 Photo Projects by Lee Frost.