Sunday, November 22, 2009


HDR using PHOTOMATIX PRO (above)

Straight HDR from Photoshop CS4

"Best Normal Exposure" from the series. Non-HDR.

NOTE: This is an introductory article, not a comprehensive how-to with all the possible permutations. The best HDR effects also uses a Photoshop Plugin called Photomatix from HDRSoft. HDR with Photomatix or Photomatix Pro requires some patience fiddling with new software, and a willingness to learn a whole new dashboard of controls.

HIGH DYNAMIC RANGE (HDR) photography is a relatively new technique that is in demand. It can be simply photographic with added detail or illustrative with an exaggerated look. Ever since Ansel Adams worked with the Zone system in film days, we have been trying to force the camera be able to deal with the extended brightness range that our eyes can see. We can adapt to an 11 f/stop range while the best digital cameras can see about 5 f/stops. It still amuses me when people say they only want "what the camera saw." How limiting when they saw so much more. So what to do? Plan ahead and shoot with HDR in mind.

HDR requires Photoshop CS2 or better. I am using CS4. As of this writing it is not available in Photoshop Elements. HRD software may be available as a plugin or other standalone.

The technique works best with still life subjects or scenes without too much movement. The reason is that you are making at least three or more different exposures and allowing Photoshop to "stitch together" the tones. Too much motion beyond a waterfall may get totally lost. Set your camera to shoot in APERATURE PRIORITY mode.

Aperature priority is needed so the focus and depth of field does not change. You start with underexposure of at least two stops, normal and at least two stops overexposure. You can shoot additional exposures beyond the two stop range as well.

You can also set your camera to do this automatically by setting it to Auto Exposure Bracketing, (AEB in Canon cameras that have the feature). Drive mode should be Continuous Shooting, not One Shot. You need to shoot at least three to seven shots of different exposures. Get to be best friend with your camera manual.

Find a nice location that has lots of highlights and deep shadows. Set your camera on a tripod begin your exposure series. See my HDR gallery for examples.

When you are back at the computer after you download, identify the range of files you shot. Ideally you shot a minimum of three shots, perhaps more with different exposures. Start Photoshop and find the files using FILE > AUTOMATE > MERGE TO HDR. Allow time for processing, perhaps a few minutes and you will get the photo in the middle above. Nice but not startling.

If you want the illustrative effect from Photomatix seen in the top photo, you need to get the plugin or standalone program. Prices start at about $100 US and go up from there depending on version and bells and whistles. See for more info on what is best for you. For my version, I first load Photomatix Pro, then select the files from there. More on Photomatix in another post.

Click here to see more of my HDR work.

Sunday, November 15, 2009


There are of course, many ways to shoot subjects but they can be boiled down to planned shots, incidental, or shot in the normal course of observing, but there is a third distinct category I love: SURPRISE! These occur outside the other two circumstances.

And you need to have your equipment ready and WITHIN REACH. This means batteries and cards with capacity, camera available to pick up and use, not "safely" in a bag. I usually carry THREE sets of batteries. You will discover battery failure only when shooting. This will leave you hopefully with two sets of batteries ready to shoot.

The deer above IS inside the car. The camera was two feet away when she suddenly stuck her head in the window. Shooting was natural and the results show it. You need to be ready. Click here to see more from the day's shoot in New Zealand.


UPDIG - Forerunner in Best Practices, PRO TOPIC

The attached link is from John Harrington's Blog. UPDIG (Universal Photographic Digital Imaging Guidelines) has been around since 2005 as mentioned in the 2008 article and has been a pioneer in Best Practices and standardization.
Click here for more.

Visit UPDIG:

Saturday, November 14, 2009

ASMP Announces Digital Workflow Best Practices Site

ASMP is the American Society of Media Photographers. Exciting news for those who are serious about your digital work. Workflow is an important topic related to Organizing, Retrieving and safely Archiving images.
Check out the site below.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

NEWBIE: Basic Book on Digital Photography

I spent an hour today at the NYC 14th Street Barnes & Noble to see what the latest BASIC books on photography were worth recommending. There were certain criteria:

1. Short, as opposed to Encyclopedic. Beginners need a few topics to master, then get into the weeds of detail.

2. Emphasized traditional, essential conceptual photographic topics, rather than Megapixels or technology and marketing blather

3. Visually appealing and easy to follow.

4. "Inexpensive." A newbie is not going to spend $600 of the household piggy bank on learning RosettaPhotoGraphy if there is only budding interest in a potential fad.

There were a few that came close and only one hands down winner:

1. It is only 160 pages. Short.

2. Arranged by topics of:
  • All that digital stuff
  • Aperature
  • Shutter Speed
  • Light
  • Composition
  • Photoshop Digital Darkroom
  • Index
As a beginner, Peterson hits the required grounding of the principles of Photography.

3. Visually Appealing. Well laid out. Not a "technical slog" that will end up thrown out next year with the next release of Photoshop.

4. Inexpensive. List is $26 US. I got it for $21 minus my additional B&N discount. Less than that is nothing and would be worth every penny you paid. May be cheaper on Amazon (Link below) depending on shipping.


There are a couple of wildly successful standouts from a consumer standpoint in the battered Retail sector. Apple Computer and their Retail stores and B&H Photo's Event Space. Both organizations use a philosophy of offering FREE infomercial seminars to explain how to use equipment and software they sell. They appeal to all levels of experience, from Newbie to Pro.

I attended Rick Sammon's Lighting Seminar & Location Outdoor Shootout for the last two days along with 80 other Photographers. Yes it was free. Sponsored also by Westcott Lighting, B&H provided professional models and we spent from 11-12 discussing the plan to shoot for the afternoon. From 2 - 4:30 we shot using the equipment, assistants, presenters and models. You can signup for B&H e-mail alerts to find out about the Events at BHPHOTOVIDEO.COM. Hint: signup ASAP, prime seminars go fast.

Click here to see the results with models Veronica Rosa, Laurence Yang and Beatriz Carranza. Laurence is on the railing above.

Monday, November 9, 2009


If you have an Apple Mac, you may have found out that it behaves a bit differently than Windows. One difference is that you must first do a software EJECT command for a memory card or other "device" like an external hard drive before physically removing or disconnecting it from the computer. Many times, you will get a message that data on your device might be corrupted if you did not EJECT properly.

Most times, I have found that the data did not get corrupted. But here is a dirty little secret I just read. In Peter Krogh's the DAM Book, Second Edition, he has a tip that addresses this issue (DAM is Digital Asset Management).

He suggests that the NEXT CARD YOU INSERT might become corrupt. He recommends you save your data and REBOOT your computer to prevent corruption of any subsequent card inserted after the error message is observed. More on the DAM Book to come.

Friday, November 6, 2009


Ikelite has announced that they are offering an upgrade in their port locks to FOUR LOCKS instead of the traditional TWO. I have second hand accounts that say that some people using the new 8" dome have not secured their ports correctly and this resulted in flooding. The new four lock system should prevent this.

Ikelite is generously offering to upgrade housings by replacing the front of the housing for $150, this is the cost of a normal housing tuneup. As an option, they are offering to tune up your old housing back for $50.00. I have been using Ikelite housings since 1980 and never flooded a camera.

Click Here for complete details. It will cost from $150 - $200 for the upgrade.

Finespot Jawfish, LaPaz, Mexico.

Click here to see my Underwater Collection.

Monday, November 2, 2009

SUBTLETIES: A Sunset is not a always a Sunset

I found out the semantics of "Sunset" in Greece this last July. During the three hour hike from Fira to Oia in Santorini, I found out that sunset has a very different meaning to different people. I was after that special glow found just before the sun goes down and the purplish tones that appear right after sunset. Galen Rowell calls this the "Magic hour." To most people, sunset means pointing the lens directly at our nearest star. Since then I try to differentiate when I say I am going to make some Dusk photos.

See the rest of the series here.