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High Dynamic Range Photography gives you the power to produce perfectly exposed, noise-free images. You can capture and output a broader range of light than is currently possible using any other of today’s photographic techniques.

I promised to show you some high dynamic range ( HDR ) photography. Are you ready?

In order to produce a good HDR image you will need several things. First, you’ll need a high contrast scene in which you would like to capture the full dynamic range, or as close as possible. You’ll want to choose a scene without too much movement, ie. water, clouds, foliage in the wind. People are challenging to shoot for HDR images, but it can work if they stay still. You should use a tripod for the best results, hand held shots are challenging at best. Change only the shutter speed to achieve the EV’s you’re looking for. You don’t want to change the aperture because that will change your depth of field and that variable needs to be constant for your HDR image to work.

You’ll need to shoot three images, with different exposure values, although you can use less, or more images. The easiest way to do this is to use your camera’s auto exposure bracketing to capture the same image at varying exposure levels, to include all of the tones in your image. For example, use Auto Exposure bracketing to capture 3 images of a scene, one at -2EV, one at 0EV, and one at +2EV. You may need to include more exposures than this for your image. For instance, I used 4 shots to produce the image below. The images used to produce the HDR image below were shot with the following EV’s, +1EV, 0EV, -1EV, and -2EV. I found that adding a +2EV image was too much, that blew the highlights out, it really takes a judgement call as to how many images, and at what EV range you’ll need to capture the full dynamic range of your scene. I learned that sometimes less is more in this case.

An HDR image produced with Photomatix Pro and Detail Enhancer

An HDR image produced with Photomatix Pro and Detail Enhancer

Here’s the 0 EV image processed in Canon’s Digital Photo Professional software. I tried to get as close to the above exposure as possible. As you can see, no comparison.

This is the raw 0EV image processed in Canon's Digital Photo Professional

This is the raw 0EV image processed in Canon's Digital Photo Professional

If your camera has Auto Exposure Bracketing (AEB) that allows you to predefine the number of images and exposure variation for your set of images, and if your camera offers continuous shooting mode, all the better because you’ll just need to press and hold the shutter release once to shoot all the exposures for the set.

Once you’ve captured the images for your soon to be HDR image, you’ll need to combine those images into one image. You can use several different apps to do this, including; Photomatix Pro, FDR Tools, Dynamic Photo HDR, Adobe Photoshop, or Artizen HDR. Many offer free trials. Today I tried Photomatix Pro, to process my HDR images. In addition to the fact that they offer a video tutorial, I found the program to be intuitive, and it produced good results, once I figured out what each image needed. I processed various images of different exposures until I got something I liked. You do have to get familiar with the process. You get out, what you put in.

Using Photomatix Pro, I chose to generate one HDR image to begin with. It will allow you to batch process, but I’m not there yet. Producing one HDR image is easy, just press the button for one image (Generate HDR Image), a dialog box comes up allowing you to drag and drop your images, or to browse for the images you want to use to generate your HDR image. Once you’ve loaded your images, and you have chosen the appropriate options,  press Generate HDR. In a few seconds, it really doesn’t take that long on a newer machine, you’ll have your results. They WILL be disappointing at first. You see, the tonal range captured is too great for your monitor or printer to render, the image has to be “tone mapped”. Photomatix Pro offers several options for tone mapping your image. One option is to use the Details Enhancer, and the other is to use the Tone Mapper. The results you achieve with each will be quite different, see below for examples. The Details Enhancer will give you a more detailed, or painterly, or even surreal version of your image. The Tone Mapper will give you a more realistic photographic effect. The one you use will depend on the effect you’re after and the image your using.

If you save your “raw” HDR image you can then process it in different ways to see which results you like the best. I’m really excited about the possibilities available to photographers with this new technology. It can only get better.

Here are some examples of today’s experiments. I call them experiments. because I believe the possibilities are endless.

The same image using the Photomatix Pro Tone-Mapping.

The same image using the Photomatix Pro Tone-Mapping.

Two images combined and tone-mapped in Photomatix Pro.

Two images combined and tone-mapped in Photomatix Pro using Detail Enhancer.

By combining three different exposures in Photomatix Pro’s Exposure Fusion, I got this result. This is easier than producing an HDR image and it doesn’t require the tone-mapping step that’s necessary with a true HDR image.

I used Photomatix Pro's Exposure Fusion to create this image.

I used Photomatix Pro's Exposure Fusion to create this image.

This scence was very contrasty. Photomatix Pro did a good job.

This scene was very contrasty. Photomatix Pro did a good job using Detail Enhancer.

This shot of Tyler was made from three exposures. The scene was backlit and very contrasty before the HDR image was produced.

My friend Tyler stayed still for the three shots for his HDR image.

My friend Tyler stayed still for the three shots for his HDR image

This Osprey came out of nowhere to eyeball me.

This Osprey came out of nowhere to eyeball me.

How cool is that? I dropped by my usual haunt down by the Intracoastal Waterway this morning with my camera and 100-400 zoom lens to see what I could see. The tide was pretty low so I was able to walk north along the shoreline and past all the cool trees that lay out over the water. This is where a lot of different birds like to roost. I sometimes take them by surprise, which was the case with this poor Great Blue Heron, I think that’s what this bird is, although I thought they were more gray than this bird. Anyway, at his expense, I was able to get these two shots of him or her, in flight.

This is the Heron I scared to death, he was big!

This is the Heron I scared to death, he was big!

The same Heron a little further away.

The same Heron a little further away.

I walked along the shoreline, then in the water when I had to go around the big branches that hang over and block my way. I saw several birds in flight and got some shots, but they were too far off. On my way back, I looked up at the branch above my head, the one the Osprey usually gets, just to check for her, and I came across this Ibis. The angle made it a fun shot. I’ve never really been UNDER an Ibis before!

A view from under the Ibis.

A view from under the Ibis.

I decided to go and sit on the rocks to just watch nature go by. Next thing you know the entire branch I just shot the Ibis on, has a bunch more Ibis perched on it. I got some shots of them, they looked kind of artsy just sitting around on that branch. I decided to go in closer on the Ibis and walked out to the giant dead tree branch by the canal to prop the lens on, and shoot some more. I stopped shooting for a second, and just looked. All of a sudden, and I mean that, the Osprey arrived, she was stealth, she was just hanging out a few “floors” down on the same branch as the Ibis! I was so excited, she was right there. Looking at me. Close! I used the branch as a pseudo tripod and took about 20 shots of her, and I am telling you, she posed. These birds know I love them and they show off! I was not able to get any closer though. She wasn’t havin’ it!

Tah-dah! The Osprey finally came to look for me.

Tah-dah! The Osprey finally came to look for me.

Here's a photograph of her other side. She WAS posing.

Here's a photograph of her other side. She WAS posing.

I checked back in on the area tonight at around 5 PM. No birds, just people fishing, and only the Catfish were biting for them. The light was beautiful though. I wish I’d had my camera so I could show you the pink streaks shooting up from the eastern horizon as the sun set in the west. Next time.

Oh I promised to do a post on HDR photography, I took some shots for HDR images today. I’ll process them and post them tomorrow. Here’s a shot of one of the locations that I used to shoot for the HDR photos. It was contrasty. Wait until you see how it looks after HDR processing.

This location is I chose to capture the shots for the HDR image.

This location I chose to capture the shots for the HDR image.

Is this a Red Tailed Hawk or an Osprey?

Is this a Red Tailed Hawk or an Osprey?

This morning my special little area of the Intracoastal waterway was chock full of birds. The first ones I came across were the ducks, they really are quite friendly. They were pretty amusing today when I spied them listening to a barrage of bird calls, and they were loud. I think they were partying back there in the canal, it’s too shady to really see anything down there so I couldn’t tell “who” was making all the noise.

The ducks listen to the barrage of bird calls.

The ducks listen to the barrage of bird calls.

Then I looked up and saw a Red Tailed Hawk (I think, too much mottling on the belly to be an Osprey, right? It’s hard to tell from the photo) making a wide loop, high above my head. I immediately switched to manual focus, because auto focus just doesn’t seem to “get it” when you’re after a small spec in a solid blue sky, using 400 mm of magnification. I was able to get a few shots off before the bird flew out of sight. Only the photograph at the top came close to being in focus, and it’s also cropped pretty tightly. Here’s a shot of an Osprey from last week when I was able to get closer. It was a cloudy day too, that helps a lot with lowering the contrast.


My friend the Osprey hanging out on one of her favorite perches.

My friend the Osprey hanging out on one of her favorite perches.

The next visitor to the area was an Ibis. The tree he landed on, one of the Osprey’s regular haunts, is fairly high, so I wasn’t able to get in that close. I did get a great shot of the same type of bird several days before that was at much closer range. You can really see the detail in the birds features in that photo. This bird was watching me, more curiously I think, than from fright.

Today the Ibis was high atop a dead branch.

Today the Ibis was high atop a dead branch.

This is the image from several days ago, I think it was the same cloudy day I got the photo of the Osprey.

This is the shot of the Ibis I got last week.

This is the shot of the Ibis I got last week.

I decided to get out of the water at this point because the tide was getting a little bit too high to be standing in with thousands of dollars worth of equipment. So I walked up along the dock to get the long view. Seconds later a flock of Ibis came flying over to the big dead branch in the water by the canal. Again, I should have stayed put on my rock, I would have been so very much closer. Live and learn. The antics these birds were displaying were hilarious. I had a great time shooting away. Check out the poses. Too darned funny, if you ask me.

You gotta love the crossed legs on this white Ibis as he comes in for a landing.

You gotta love the crossed legs on this white Ibis as he comes in for a landing.

This fellow slams it into reverse to prep for his landing. Flaps down, reverse engines captain.

He uncrosses his legs and spreads his toes to prep for landing.

He uncrosses his legs and spreads his toes to prep for landing.

Yes! Another safe landing and another job well done.

This Ibis mad a safe, graceful landing.

This Ibis made a safe, graceful landing.

Right after that, one of the brown Ibis and a Snowy Egret had a showdown for perch space. The Ibis lost, but not without a good effort. Birds are all about the highest and best location. Aren’t we all?

The Ibis takes a run at the Snowy Egret.

The Ibis takes a run at the Snowy Egret.

Ibis loses to Snowy Egret while competing for the best perch space.

Ibis loses to Snowy Egret while competing for the best perch space.

Next on the roster was my Osprey friend, I caught a glimpse of her at the top of a dead tree quite a way up the Intracoastal. I took a few shots, but she was too far away to get anything good. A short while later I saw her fly off her perch and head north away from me. Time to go home. I felt I had a successful day of shooting birds! Until my next post, which I will try to make on HDR photography, Bye! Happy shooting… M

PS. My site is still down, I am not a happy camper about that! They tell me they are working around the clock.

"My" Osprey hanging out high upon her perch.

"My" Osprey hanging out high upon her perch.

Mallards greeting me at the Intracoastal.

Mallards greeting me at the Intracoastal.

Today, as on most mornings when the tide is low, and even on some days it’s not, I go to the Intracoastal Waterway to see what’s going on. We have an area to the north of our property that is owned by the Army Core of Engineers, (I believe), and it will never be developed. Yes! The birds and wildlife are pretty happy about it too.

Within a short walk from home I can cross a small canal at low tide and get into the water and walk along the shore. It is so beautiful and unspoiled, except for some remnants of trash left by humans. It’s a very peaceful place in the morning, especially on weekdays when very few people are out pleasure boating. On most mornings there’s a lot of wildlife to see. I have been visiting this area for about four months, since I spotted a lone female osprey that apparently lives nearby. I can hear her calls from my backyard. I always run out to see her because ospreys fascinate me. She wasn’t around today. She must have gone fishing.

As usual I climbed out onto the rocks to perch. Several ducks came by to visit but other than that it was very quiet this morning. I propped my camera and my big, heavy 100-400 zoom on my knee and waited. And waited. And waited a little more. As soon as I packed up my stuff to head back, a small blue heron came flying in with lots of noise and flapping of wings. I said, “OK, I’ll stay.” I sat back down and unpacked my gear. This bird wanted to have it’s picture taken and wasn’t bothered by me at all!

While I was shooting the bird (not literally), I love birds, a school of small fish, at least 50 of them shot out of the water. I aimed my lens at them immediately, but it was set at 400mm and I was just too close for the camera to focus. Now that would have been a great shot. I hate it when that happens. Really! : )

Here are some of the shots I got today. I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed capturing them.

Have a great day!

Michelle

My Mallard friends, all females I think.

My Mallard friends, all females I think.

Image of Heron.

Heron on perch at Intracoastal.

The Intracoastal waterway this morning.

The Intracoastal waterway this morning.

Heron posing for pix.

Heron posing for pix.

Oh please don't go!

Oh please don't go!

I’m very happy to be part of this community and I look forward to sharing and learning.

I’m working on completing my website right now. You can visit it at, G2GVisions.com. I’m learning more and more about Dreamweaver and CSS as I go. I have been a print designer for over ten years, and print is not enough to keep you going as a graphic designer these days. Needless to say web design is not my forte. Yet. But it will be. I try crazy things, get frustrated and then figure it out. For me, that’s the only way to learn.

I’m also playing around with HDR photography. HDR stands for “high dynamic range”. The results you can get with HDR are fantastic. I will post some of my HDR shots here soon.

That’s all for now. I would love to hear from someone, anyone….