In this blog entry I’ll finish sharing my current HDR workflow. In the first part of this series I talked about camera settings, using Lightroom to process a bracketed set of images, using Photoshop to merge the bracketed set into a 32 bit per channel HDR file and tone-mapping with Photoshop HDR Pro. If you haven’t read part 1 you can find it here.
This blog will share the remainder of my HDR workflow including how I tone-map images with Lightroom 4 and how I use layers (in Photoshop) to combine the best parts of two different versions of an image. I’ll also about some of the more technical details of HDR photography. I’ll be using the same F-4S Phantom II images I used in Part 1 for this entry including the 32 bit per channel .tiff file I saved after merging a three shot bracketed set with Photoshop.
I’ve been creating images for a long time now and one of the things I’ve come to appreciate is the importance of post processing. There’s more than one way to process a digital image and there’s no one result that is always the right one. When we share our pictures with others they represent our own unique vision of an image (our photographic style) and I’ve used post processing on all of my images to create my own “signature style” of photography.
I’ve changed my thinking about what my final images should look a number of times over the years. And if there’s one form of photography where my post-processing has evolved the most it’s HDR photography. In this blog entry I want to talk about how I can take a single set of images and use them to create three or four different looks. Once I have a few options I can choose the best one or I can use layers, blend modes and masks to combine what I like most about different versions into a single final image.
Some of my favorite shots over the years have involved movement. I started shooting movement when I worked at Ford Design and I continue to explore new ways to capture a feeling of movement in a still image.
On my last trip into the Shenandoah Mountains to photograph the fall colors I decided to capture some shots of the colored leaves from my car (while driving 30 mph on Skyline Drive). For this blog entry I’ll share some of my current techniques to capture these kinds of shots in camera.
I love sharing my HDR images on Google+ (and other places online). Sometimes I mention the techniques I used to arrive at my final image and I’ll say: “and this image was finished in Photoshop.”
My personal thoughts about HDR photography and post-processing HDR images has been evolving for over five years now. The shot of the lathe (above) is a good example of how I like to process HDR images now and it looks totally different from how I processed HDR images in the past.
I got my start with HDR photography a long time ago when I was certified to operate the Spheron 360 VR camera for Ford Design North America. That is one super cool camera that really taught me a lot about 32 bit images. For his blog post I don’t want to talk about equipment, camera settings, using a tripod or tone-mapping software. Instead I want to talk about how I finish my HDR shots in Photoshop and I’ll be concentrating on some of my personal theories about color, contrast, sharpness and blur.
After two early mornings and one late night shooting the stars in the Shenandoah Mountains I’ve captured some shots that are among my favorites. My longest shutter speed exceeded 20 minutes of exposure time (the above shot is just over 18 minutes) and the best images were captured after 1:30am on a Sunday night. This kind of shooting requires serious camera technique since I’m sharing the shots pretty much out-of-camera (meaning they’re not getting much attention in Photoshop).
The Sunday night I ventured into the Shenandoah Mountains was the third trip I took and I was there only to shoot the stars. I wasn’t worried about the sun coming up before I was done and I wanted to see if any differences existed between shooting in the the early morning (starting at 4:30am) and shooting in the late night (starting at about 10:30pm). It turns out there are huge differences between the two times and those differences will be the subject of the blog entry. Along the way I’ll also talk a bit about the settings I used to get my favorite star trail shot to date.
Unintended consequences (also called unanticipated consequences or unforeseen consequences) can be defined as an outcome that is not the one intended by a purposeful action. Unintended consequences, for my photography, is when I am exploring one idea and I discover a whole new idea.
During my first early morning trip into the Shenandoah Mountains I wanted to photograph the sunrise and some fall colors. When I planned my arrival I thought I’d be sitting in my car for an hour waiting for the sun to come up. I arrived that morning and I saw the stars above me for the first time and I didn’t spend a single second in my car waiting for sunrise. I Jumped out of my car and began photographing the stars and learning a whole new form of photography (for me).
I’ve never tried to shoot the stars before from a location like this and once I started I knew I was going to run out of darkness (which was happening fast with sunrise quickly approaching) and that meant that I couldn’t do everything I wanted in just one trip. I proceeded to learn as much as possible on that first trip and I started thinking about a follow up trip. For this blog entry I’ll talk about my second early morning adventure into the Shenandoah Mountains and how I captured some of my favorite shots to date.
Part of my recent engagement photo shoot with Tom and Julie involved some very special wine bottles. You see, Tom used two bottles of wine he had made with custom labels including one that was his marriage proposal.
While planning the shoot we talked about using the bottles in a few shots but I also knew that these bottles had plenty of potential for other uses (like save the date mailers). So when the shoot ended Tom and Julie agreed to leave their special wine bottles in my care so that I could give them a proper photo shoot. But like all product photography, getting a killer shot of a wine bottle is a lot trickier than it sounds. For this blog entry I’ll talk a bit about the challenges I faced, my solutions to common problems, and I’ll share my thoughts on this unique form of photography along with some behind the scenes looks into my product photography area.
Recently I had a great engagement photo shoot with Tom and Julie. I had a few ideas and I knew that they had some ideas as well. Together we put together a nice mix of traditional studio pictures, some outdoor shots and some really fun shots. For this blog post I’ll share some pictures from the shoot and I’ll talk about the process I go through when I’m photographing new clients.
People that have known me for a while know how much I enjoy using shoe mount flashes to get different looks for my photography. While I often share my wilder shots I’m happy to report that I can take shots without flashes, light modifiers and colored gels. In fact, when I’m shooting for clients I start with simple shots and when I’m certain that I have shots that they’re happy with I’ll see if there’s some interest in pushing things into more creative places. Most of the time my photo subjects have grown comfortable enough with me near the end of a shoot that they’re willing to try some different lighting setups to see where the shoot goes.
To get different looks I’m big on using flash modifiers like grids, barn doors, softboxes and colored gels. I use velcro straps from Honl Photo and LumiQuest and I use gels from Flash Zebra, GAM and Honl Photo. I take a ton of gels with me on a shoot and to keep things organized I’m using Case Logic CD cases (I picked mine up for about $5 each at my local Best Buy). For this blog entry I want to talk about colored gels and some of the different ways that I like to use them on a shoot.
Recently I was asked to photograph a good friends dog, Jordan, who is getting older and having some health problems.
Shoots like this are crazy important to me and before the shoot I’m spending a lot of time thinking about how I’m going to get the best shot possible. No tool or technique is off limits for shoots like this.
When the time came to have the shoot we chose an outdoor farm location to give us plenty of options. While I definitely wanted to get some outdoor shots I also knew that I’d need some studio style shots to get the images I had in mind. So I packed up my gear and arrived on location to set up a mobile studio in one of the buildings on the farm.