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Capturing Frost / Ice Patterns And Scenes To Create Interesting Abstracts

Capturing Frost / Ice Patterns And Scenes To Create Interesting Abstracts

Here are a few tips on shooting ice / frost this winter so you can capture interesting abstract shots.

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Close-Up

Frost might not be good for plants but it is great for photographers who are looking for winter scenes and interesting abstracts to add to their portfolio. 

Ice Patterns

When’s the best time for photographing frost and why?
Dawn shooting is the best time for ice and frost. Ensure you get there before the sun is up as there are fantastic opportunities to be had.

When you’re photographing frost does the sun always have to be behind you?
No, not at all, direct light and side light are extremely complimentary as the ice and frost glistens. Literally any angle is worth experimenting with.

How do you keep yourself and your kit dry and warm?
Wear two pairs of socks and quality gloves! Don’t worry about your camera gear at all, when going from warm to cold, but be prepared for condensation when returning home. Leave your camera in the bag to acclimatise.

Photographing ice/frost can produce grey looking images, how can you stop this happening?
Always check the histogram to ensure a healthy exposure and expose +1stop to +1.5stops to make the ice glisten.

Where are the best locations for both good landscape shots and more close up work?
Reservoirs, lakes, rivers and mountains (if you are lucky enough to live near them) are good as colder night time temperatures occur where water is present. Look for frost covered reeds, branches and places were water splashes as these can be dripping with icicles and interesting features.

What lenses are good for this type of work? 
A standard 90mm macro lens is your best friend when shooting ice and frost, but it’s also possible to get literally the same effect from a medium zoom and a full set of extension rings. These make a great macro alternative and considerably reduce the closest focusing point, especially on a budget.

Should photographers use a tripod/monopod for this type of work?
A tripod is utterly essential, as the best images are rendered in lower light levels. 

Do dark backgrounds work best?
They do help, but it’s not essential. As icicles are translucent, a darker background can help, but it’s all about trying things out. For example, try using a piece of card to change the background to suit.

How can post-production help?
Playing with colour temperature in particular is a good way to induce a colder feeling in your ice images. Play with contrast to deepen the tones and lift the highlights, as this will give greater definition to patterns and texture.
 

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Best UK locations for capturing Autumn landscapes

Wyming Brook

October 14, 2021

Four landscape photographers share their tips and recommendations on where to capture the best autumnal scenes in the UK


Ross Hoddinott

Portrait of Ross Hoddinott

Ross is one of the UK’s best-known professional landscape photographers, and the author of several best-selling landscape photography books, including The Art of Landscape Photography. He co-runs Dawn 2 Dusk Photography, which specialises in landscape photography workshops. Visit www.rosshoddinott.co.uk.

Golitha Falls, Bodmin Moor, Cornwall

Golitha Falls is a steep-sided wooded valley and a National Nature Reserve. It is located a short drive from the village of Minions with access to the reserve via minor roads from the A38, A30 and B3254. The car park is just north of Draynes Bridge and you can grab a drink or something to eat at nearby Inkie’s Smokehouse.

Golitha Falls

Once parked, follow the path along the River Fowey and you will discover various viewpoints of the river as it flows and cascades through the valley. The woodland is mostly beech and looks spectacular in late October and early November when autumnal colour is typically at its best.

A bright, but overcast day is best for shooting woodland interiors. Attach a polarising filter to reduce glare and reflections from shiny foliage. An exposure of roughly a second is a nice length for rivers and waterfalls – being long enough to create motion, while retaining texture and interest in the water. This is also a good spot for fungi, so take a close focusing lens and study the woodland floor for subjects.

Derwent Water, The Lake District, Cumbria

The Lake District is one of the most photogenic areas in Europe and is arguably at its best during autumn. Located close to Keswick (a great place to stay while exploring the area), Derwent Water is one of the area’s photographic highlights.

The east shore in particular is full of picture potential and is easily accessible. Park in the large Lakeside pay and display car park, walk past the Theatre By The Lake and explore the boat landings – a ‘classic’ Lake District scene.

Derwent Water autumn landscapes

There are photogenic wooden launches that you can use as foreground interest in your scenes, and attractive rowing boats grounded on the shore (during high season).

Cat Bells Mountain makes an impressive backdrop in wideangle views and during autumn the trees and mountainous backdrop are a blend of warm yellow and orange hues.

A short walk away at Crow Park, is a wooden gate and fence that provides good subject matter when partly submerged by high water. Walk to Friars Crag too and explore the views south to the jaws of Borrowdale. It is best to visit on a cool, misty autumnal morning, when mirror-like reflections provide added interest and symmetry… and there are also fewer people about getting in the way!

Bolderwood, New Forest, Hampshire

From late October until early November, leaves turn to gold and a wonderful array of fungi emerge on decaying tree stumps and fallen branches. Therefore, it’s worth carrying a versatile range of focal lengths, including a macro or close-up attachment.

Bolderwood, New Forest intentional camera movement autumn scene

One of my favourite spots is Bolderwood Arboretum Ornamental Drive, which leads from the A35 (Lyndhurst to Christchurch Road) past the Knightwood Oak to Bolderwood Deer Sanctuary, where there is a large car park and facilities. Dotted along this drive are other car parks.

Look for shapely, gnarled, and interesting-looking ancient trees that you can use to harness your composition. Early morning and late evening will often provide the most dramatic and warm light.

Bowerman’s Nose, Dartmoor National Park, Devon

A short distance from the B3387 that leads from Bovey Tracey to Widecombe-in-the-Moor is Bowerman’s Nose – one of Dartmoor’s most distinctive and photogenic outcrops. There are a few parking places along the minor road that runs from Houndtor to Langstone Cross in Manaton, close to the tor.

Bowerman’s Nose, Dartmoor National Park

However, the road is narrow and rough in places. Instead, I suggest you park at Houndtor car park and walk to Bowerman’s Nose, which will take you approximately 30 minutes.

This location works well in autumn, when the bracken carpeting the surrounding moorland is golden brown. Warm, evening light is best at this time of year, together with a dramatic sky. A 24-70mm wideangle zoom is a great focal range for this location and a Cloudy white balance will help exaggerate those beautiful autumnal hues. Don’t forget your tripod!


Jeremy Walker

portrait of jeremy walker

Jeremy is one of the UK’s most respected landscape photographers and is known for his eye-catching panoramas, moody black & white landscapes and dark, dramatic images of castles and ruins. He is the author of Landscape, his highly acclaimed first book, and is in great demand as a speaker, writer, and workshop leader. www.jeremywalker.co.uk.

Birks of Aberfeldy, Scotland

The small town of Aberfeldy sits on the banks of the River Tay, about 30 miles northwest of Perth. Just to the south of the town and within walking distance is the Birks of Aberfeldy, a steep gorge with a fast-flowing river surrounded by birch, ash, and oak trees. The golden hues and tones are perhaps best seen in late autumn, although this is of course dependent on Mother Nature.

Birks of Aberfeldy autumn leaves

There is a car park at the site, just off the A826 although there are no facilities, and a well-marked circular path follows the river. Caution should be taken in the autumn as fallen leaves can make the footpath slippery.

The Falls of Moness can be glimpsed through the undergrowth and you’ll find a bridge crosses over the top of the falls. Possibly not the easiest waterfall to shoot, with better views of the river available nearer to the car park.

Savernake Forest, Wiltshire

Savernake Forest is approximately 4,000 acres of mixed woodland dominated by broad leaf trees, perfect for autumnal colours. Situated south-east of Marlborough in Wiltshire, it is easily accessible by car with plenty of room for parking, especially along the Grand Avenue.

Savernake Forest autumn landscape

Public footpaths and bridleways criss-cross the Grand Avenue allowing for numerous routes of exploration and is an ideal starting point as there are views along the road (more of a gravel track really) as well as the paths and tracks running in all directions.

There are also some mature oaks, a few of which are over 1,000 years old. Because the forest contains a variety of species of tree it is good for autumnal colour right the way through the season, but the oaks will be some of the last trees to lose their colour. Misty mornings are the classic time to visit but late afternoon with the setting sun filtering through the canopy can also be a delight.

Coed-y-Brenin, North Wales

Five miles north of the town of Dolgellau lies the forest of Coed-y-Brenin, covering some 9,000 acres and encompassing the rivers Mawddach, Eden, Gain and Wen. There is a visitor centre where there is a charge for parking; but free parking with toilet facilities, some exceptionally large fir trees and access to the boulder-strewn river can be had if you turn off the A470 at Ty’n y Groes towards the river – parking is just over the bridge.

Coed-y-Brenin

Although fir trees dominate the area there is plenty of colour with broad leaf trees scattered throughout the area and numerous paths lead into the woods. A mile east of Dolgellau there is a short walk called ‘The Torrent Walk’ and although not really part of the Coed-y-Brenin forest, is well worth a visit.

Waterfalls flow through deciduous woodland with a footpath on both sides of the valley, the south side giving better access to the river. Your best bet is to park in the layby on the B4416 just 100 yards south of the junior school. This whole area is best visited in mid-autumn before the trees become too bare.

Wareham Forest, Dorset

Wareham Forest consists of over 1,000 acres of heathland, marsh and forest. Although mostly consisting of pine woodland there are pockets of broad leaf trees scattered throughout the area but don’t let this lack of deciduous trees put you off.

Wareham Forest autumn landscapes

On a frosty or damp morning mist can hang around in the sheltered heathland and forest for a considerable time. Beams of golden light filtering through at sunrise is a Wareham Forest classic.

The main areas to visit are Bloxworth Heath, Decoy Heath and Gore Heath, all with ample parking. Miles of public paths, forestry tracks and bridleways give easy access to the woods which are at their best in the early morning, veiled in a layer of mist or fog. Pine forests can be shot at any time of year, but autumn brings with it the added bonus of bracken, glowing gold in the morning light.


Justin Minns

Portrait of Justin Minns

Justin is a professional landscape photographer best known for his atmospheric images of East Anglia. He runs landscape photography workshops both in East Anglia and around the UK. Author of the best-selling location guidebook Photographing East Anglia, Justin is currently working on a new guidebook, Photographing Essex. www.justinminns.co.uk.

Lynford Stag, Thetford Forest, Norfolk

Thetford Forest is the largest man-made lowland forest in the UK and although it is predominantly Corsican pine, there are some beautiful areas of broad-leafed woodland scattered through the forest such as this one opposite Lynford Stag. A 70-200mm lens (or similar) works well in the forest.

Lynford Stag, Thetford Forest in autumn

The longer focal length serves to both compress the distance between trees, creating a wall of colour, but also makes it easier to avoid distracting bright areas of sky in the composition. It is all about the autumn colour here so try and visit when the colours are at their peak.

The timing varies but usually early November in the mild climate here. Lynford Stag is a parking area on the A134, 5 miles northwest of Thetford (postcode IP26 5DE). Cross the road at the northern end of the car park and wander into the beech trees just north of the track.

Wyming Brook, Peak District

Tumbling through a wooded gorge in a series of cascades, Wyming Brook is a great autumnal location, particularly the first section which flows through deciduous woodland. A circular polariser filter is invaluable here for reducing glare from the wet rocks and leaves, resulting in richer colours.

For silky-looking water, experiment with ND filters to slow the shutter speed, although with light levels low amongst the trees, the 1-2 stop reduction in light from the polariser may be all you need.

Wyming Brook

With white water flowing amongst dark rocks, contrast can be a problem so overcast days when the light is even are best especially in mid-autumn when there are plenty of leaves still on the trees with a good coating of fallen leaves adding colour on the ground.

Wyming Brook is 5 miles west of Sheffield. From the bottom of the car park on Redmires Road (postcode S10 4QX) go right down to the stream, cross using the stepping stones and head left alongside the stream. The path can be slippery so wear good boots.

Loughton Camp, Epping Forest, Essex

Loughton Camp is a tiny but attractive part of Epping Forest’s 6,000 acres of woodland. There are many interesting viewpoints among the slopes and embankments which are the remains of a 2,500-year-old Iron Age fort now populated with beech trees.

Loughton Camp, Epping Forest autumn landscapes

Use foreground trees to frame the view or shoot a panorama to take advantage of the compression effect of a longer focal length while capturing the full width of the scene. Beech trees are slow to turn so mid to late autumn is best, either an early misty morning or on a bright overcast day.

Epping Forest is just off junction 26 of the M25. From the Mount Pleasant car park on Epping New Road (IG10 1JD) follow the main path on the right for 650m then turn right at the yellow-arrowed marker post. The path isn’t clear but head west through the trees and after 100m you’ll arrive in an open area of beech trees.

Flatford, Suffolk

Flatford is a pretty hamlet by the River Stour, celebrated in the paintings of John Constable. But photogenic as this cluster of thatched cottages is, it is the river we are interested in here. Winding its way through cattle-grazed meadows, the river is dotted with old, twisted willows and oaks.

Flatford landscape

Isolating one or a group of these trees and building a composition around it can be effective, using reflections if it is calm or perhaps the receding curves of the river to add depth. Dawn is the best time to visit when the river and meadows are often shrouded by mist. It is these conditions as much as the changing colours of the trees that make this a great autumn location.

Flatford is 10 miles southwest of Ipswich. From the National Trust pay and display car park (postcode CO7 6UL), walk down the hill to the village, cross the bridge and turn right through the gate into the field and follow the path along the river.


David Nixon

David Nixon

David took up photography in his teens, teaching himself the dark arts of developing and printing in the chemical era. He specialises in landscape photography in Northern Ireland and is keen to promote the variety of stunning views in such a small area. See more of his work at www.davidnixonphotography.com.

Mourne Mountains

The Mourne Mountains sit 30 miles south of Belfast. This range of granite mountains contains the highest peak in Northern Ireland. There are many trails and tracks year-round that provide unlimited photographic opportunity.

Mourne Mountains

For those not wishing to put on hiking boots, there’s still scope for picture taking and often spectacular sunrises can be enjoyed from Tyrella beach around the bay or closer by from Murlough Nature Reserve.

Access is easy and facilities are never very far away. The area has that ‘away from it all’ sensation no matter what season and in autumn the heather and russet tones of the undergrowth can be very attractive.

Glens of Antrim

Shaped by glaciers during the Ice Age, the nine glens are best reached by taking the spectacular Antrim Coast Road. Glenariff sits above Waterfoot. Within the 2,500 acres of the forest park lie several waterfalls which are at their best in autumn when the foliage turns golden.

Glens of Antrim

Ess na Crub sits at the lower end of the park. Follow the riverside wooden walkway up along the gorge, pausing at the top to take in the view of the cascading Ess na Larach.

Tollymore Forest, Northern Ireland

Tollymore was the first state forest park in Northern Ireland. Covering 1,600 acres it lies at the foot of the Mourne Mountains just outside Newcastle, a seaside town 30 miles south of Belfast.

Tollymore Forest in Autumn

There’s plenty of space for camping, hiking, horse riding as well as photography. Over the recent years this area has become popular as a film location, notably featuring in episodes of Game of Thrones. But for photographers the forest comes alive in autumn.

Down along the Shimna River which runs through the centre of the park, particular highlights include the Hermitage, a stone-built room set high above the river; the stepping stones, a great spot when the river is in full flow and a number of stone bridges, some more than 200 years old. Being so densely wooded you can shoot all day, but ideally when overcast to reduce contrast.

Ards Peninsula and Strangford Lough

Viewed from Scrabo Tower, sitting on a volcanic plug at the head of the lough there are uninterrupted views to Scotland, the Isle of Man and the Mourne Mountains. Autumn brings increased chances of low-lying morning mist covering the peninsula and compensates for the energetic short walk from the car park.

Ards Peninsula and Strangford Lough autumn colours

A driving loop from Scrabo down the peninsula takes you past Greyabbey and its ruined 12th-century abbey, the National Trust’s Mount Stewart, on to Portaferry and a short ferry crossing to Strangford with Castle Ward set high up above the village.


Further reading

15 tips for photographing autumn leaves

Get great autumn wildlife shots

Autumn glory: get your best ever autumn landscapes

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Capturing the real people behind mental health struggles

Capturing the real people behind mental health struggles

October 10, 2021

Alex Benyon, a wedding and portrait photographer who works a lot with Sony, has started an inspiring black-and-white project focussing on people with mental health issues


Can you give us a bit of background to this portrait project?
I was diagnosed with clinical depression in my early 20s. In my early 30s I was having a particularly difficult period and initially took up photography as a hobby – an outlet, something to focus on.

It immediately had such a positive impact on my mental health and I fell in love with it. I started with street photography, which I really clicked with, and it got me out into the fresh air. I have made some great friends through photography and worked with Sony, been to Ethiopia to shoot, etc.

I started to try and think of ways I could help others who have experienced mental health problems. I decided on this portrait project, where I would also interview people and get them to share their mental health stories in the hope it will help and inspire others. Or maybe just remind people seeing the project that they can ask for help.

Capturing the real people behind mental health struggles 1

Hannah

Why did you decide to shoot your subjects in this informal, relaxed way?
There are some great projects that have a very visual artistic representation of a person’s mental health problems, but I wanted it to be more about the person behind the label. Just because somebody has depression. like myself, it doesn’t mean we never laugh or smile!

There are physical sides to it, but the core of mental health problems is invisible. It’s been amazing over last 18 months with the pandemic how many people have started going to get help, but you can’t judge how bad somebody’s problem is based on face value. I want the images to break stereotypes but also to give the person to chance to share their story and to emphasise that it’s OK not to be OK.

Capturing the real people behind mental health struggles 2

Naomi

I also interview the subject on video; each portrait session has a 10 minute slot. On the website I get them to write their own blog entries, as it’s important that it is written in their own words.

My end goal would be to partner with a mental health charity like Mind and eventually have enough portraits and stories to collect in a book. I want to shoot as many different people from as many different backgrounds as possible. Everyone is affected by mental health issues, all over the world.

Capturing the real people behind mental health struggles 3

Justyn

How did you find your subjects?
I found people through social media, and some people I already knew… Maryam (below) did a brief documentary for the BBC about her mental health during Ramadan. I contacted her through Twitter.

Capturing the real people behind mental health struggles 4

Maryam

Lots of people are open about talking about their problems, some people aren’t, and that is cool. It can be a difficult subject to talk about. Returning to the book, if it was published I would like all profits to go back to any charity I worked with. This would feel like a full circle on my photographic journey.

Capturing the real people behind mental health struggles 5

Simon

Why did you decide to shoot in black and white?
It’s a mixture of things. I love black and white photography anyway… it’s less distracting than colour. You are immediately drawn to the eyes and there is nothing confusing the image. It’s a very pure aesthetic and is also flattering to the subject.

Remember, I am shooting people are who are ill, so while I want to capture the real them, I want them to like the final image, too. Furthermore, if somebody is ill, there might not be a lot of colour in their face, so shooting in black and white ticks all these boxes.

Capturing the real people behind mental health struggles 6

Peter

What about the editing process?
None of the images were heavily manipulated and there was no skin smoothing or hair tidying. Retouching images is not helpful for people struggling with body positivity. I wanted to show how people look. I used a simple one light set-up with a plain background, as I can replicate that anywhere.

Capturing the real people behind mental health struggles 7

Alex at work

What camera and lighting gear did you use?
I used a Sony A7R III and Sony 85mm f/1.8 lens and a Profoto P10 strobe with an OCF wide beauty dish. I also used a collapsible backdrop. This could all be transported easily.

To learn more about Alex’s project, see here


Further reading
How photography can help your mental health

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On Assignment: Techniques for Capturing Autumn Leaves

Photo of Autumn Leaves technique

Editor’s Note: Have you ever wondered how your favorite photographers capture the images they take? Digital Photo Pro’s monthly column “On Assignment” is where Canon Explorers of Light, past and present, share a backstage look at one of their favorite assignments and how they delivered the goods. This month we go On Assignment with outdoor photographer Rick Sammon.

When I was invited to contribute to this column, I thought about my most important assignments over the past 30 years: self-assignments. I feel as though they were important because I had to please my harshest critic and toughest boss: me.

Some self-assignments were harder than others. The assignment illustrated here, Autumn Leaves, was relatively easy. Nonetheless, I took the self-assignment seriously. What’s more, I’m sharing the fall foliage photo as it’s leaf peeping season in many parts of the country – and I try to share timely tips.

The Challenge

The main message of this column is to give yourself self-assignments from time to time. Be hard on yourself. Sure, look at the technical aspects of making an image. However, also see if your image captures a mood or feeling and conveys an emotion – the most important aspects of a successful photograph. Also, as Ansel Adams suggested, look into a photograph, and not just at a photograph. Ask yourself, “What do I see, and what will the viewer see?”

Speaking of Ansel Adams and before going on, I’d like to share with you a story told to me by John Sexton, one of Ansel Adam’s assistants. It relates to the image that opens this column. Here’s the paraphrased story: Back in the 1970s, someone on the East Coast writes Ansel Adams a letter: Dear Mr. Adams, I am a big fan. I have your books and some of your posters. You inspired me to go to Yosemite, and when I got there…it did not look like that.

I share this story because the photo that opens this column is not a 100 percent accurate representation of the scene. Rather, as Ansel Adams would say, it’s my interpretation of the scene. Read on to learn more.

My Self-Assignment

Capture the beautiful autumn colors and their reflection in my backyard pond in Croton on Hudson, New York.

My Pre-Visualization (an Ansel Adams technique) Thought Process

Use a wide-lens to capture a wide view of the spectacular scenery and use my camera’s in-camera HDR feature to capture the wide contrast range of the scene – before the light and colors faded in the late afternoon light.

The Behind-the-Scenes Story

My wife Susan and I have lived on this pond for more than 30 years. I pass it every day on my daily walks.

Seeing colorful autumn leaves, illumined by the late afternoon light, reflected in the still water was nothing new. However, on this particular afternoon walk, the combination of color, light and the perfect reflection made for the most dramatic view of the pond I had ever seen. I ran home, grabbed my Canon 5Ds camera and Canon EF 11-24mm wide-angle zoom lens, and ran back to the pond. I was chasing the fading light.

I photographed the scene using the automatic HDR feature that’s built into my camera (and many Canon digital SLR cameras).

My Favorite Shot

I only photographed the scene from two positions that afternoon. The photograph at the top of this story is my favorite because the foreground elements give a sense of “you are there” to the photograph. Those foreground elements also frame the pond, drawing your eye deeper into the photograph. Finally, everything in the scene is in focus, so the scene looks like it does to our eyes.

Basic Landscape Photography Tips

Most of my landscape photographs, as well as seascape and scenic photographs, show the entire scene in focus. For maximum depth-of-filed, choose a wide-angle lens (the wider the better), set a small aperture (the smaller the better), and focus 1/3 of the way into the scene.

To create a sense of three dimensions in a two-dimensional image, use a foreground element or elements. Shadows can also add a sense of depth to an image, as can photographing a subject from an angle (as opposed to straight on).

If a close foreground element and aperture combination don’t allow you to get everything in the scene in focus, you can use a feature in Photoshop called “focus stacking,” which lets you combine pictures taken at different focus points into a single image in which everything is in focus.

When it comes to composition, placing the horizon line in the center of the frame is usually a no-no. With reflections, however, that can work quite effectively. But generally speaking, if the foreground is interesting, place the horizon line near the top of the frame, and vice versa.

Important filters for landscape photography include a polarizing filter and ND (neutral density) filter. A polarizing filter can reduce reflections on water and foliage. It can also make a blue sky look darker and white clouds look brighter. I did not use a polarizing filter on my Kapland’s Pond shot because I liked the way the trees and sky were reflected in the pond.

A good tripod and a good ball-head are important for steady shots in low light. In this situation there was enough light for a hand-held shot.

The basic rule is not to use a shutter speed slower than the focal length of the lens, that is, don’t use a shutter speed slower than 1/100th of a second when using a 100mm lens. Image stabilization and vibration reduction lenses let you shoot at shutter speed one, two and sometimes three stops below that recommendation.

Photo of Autumn Leaves

Image Processing Technique

The above shot is my in-camera HDR image. I had set my camera’s HDR mode to EV O, EV +2 and EV -2 to capture the dynamic range of the scene. For a super colorful image, I chose the Art Vivid mode.

The HDR image looked awesome on my camera’s LCD monitor. When I looked at the image on my home monitor, however, I knew some digital darkroom work (a slight boost in contrast, brightness and tweak of the shadows and highlights) was required to reach my creative objectives.

If you compare this image above to the opening image for this column, you will notice (if you look closely) that the opening image is slightly cropped. You see, I have what is called OCD: Obsessive Cropping Disorder. I crop to eliminate distracting elements near the edges of the image and to create an image with impact. Another way to look at cropping: If somethings does not add to the photograph, subtract it with cropping.

Photo autumn leaves editing
This screen grab shows my three original in-camera RAW images from which the camera creates a high-resolution JPEG HDR image. The image on the bottom left is the in-camera recommended average exposure. As you can see, all the pictures lack dramatic color throughout the scene. The dramatic color was created by choosing the Art Vivid Mode.
Photo of fall leaves
Here’s a photograph I made from a different angle and when the sun was a bit lower in the sky. I used the same camera settings and processing techniques for this image. It’s okay, but for me, without the strong foreground elements, it does not have the same “I am standing there” feeling.
Photo of fall leaves
This is the un-cropped version of the preceding photograph. As you can see, a simple crop (OCD again) turned a full-frame image into an image that looks like a panorama. I decided on the panorama format because I wanted to crop out the dead space (open water) in the bottom left of the original frame.

Summing Up

Some people say that the hardest place to take pictures is in your backyard. I guess it depends, but I have seen a lot of beautiful photographs made in backyards. Keep an open mind. Look for the light and look hard for photographs. My guess is that you can make some great pictures close to home – very close to home.

And most important, give yourself self-assignments from time to time, and don’t go easy on yourself during your personal one-on-one review session.

Postscript

The opening image for this column is also the result of what I call my “One-Picture Promise.” Let me explain: When you are in a situation, ask yourself, “What is the one lens/focal length, the one composition, the one set of camera settings I should use to get the best possible image?” If you think hard and envision the end result, I promise you that you will get a more creative image and have fewer outtakes.

Photo of a fall landscape
Keeping to my fall foliage theme for this column, I followed my “One Picture Promise” when I took this photograph near Telluride, Colorado. To capture the beauty of these “Dancing Aspens,” I got down very low to ground and shot upward. Info: Canon EOS 5Ds, Canon EF 17-35mm lens @ 17mm.
Photo of an autumn landscape
This photograph was also taken near Telluride, Colorado. There was really only one main position from which to capture the beautiful “S” curve that flowed through the scene. I chose it and made the picture, here, too, using my camera’s HDR mode: Info: Canon EOS 5Ds, Canon EF 24-105mm IS lens @ 98mm.

About Rick Sammon

Canon Explorer of Light Rick Sammon has published 43 books and has recorded 32 on-line classes. During the pandemic, Rick started the Photo Therapy Facebook group – a safe place for photographers to get motivated and to say inspired. Visit with Rick at www.ricksammon.com.

Canon EOL page: https://www.usa.canon.com/internet/portal/us/home/explore/explorers-of-light/explorer-rick-sammon

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ricksammon

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/rick.sammon

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ricksammonphotography/

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCwV3nBK5un3sysYxlPTLqkA

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7 Top Tips For Capturing Better City Skyline Photos

7 Top Tips For Capturing Better City Skyline Photos

Dubai

Photo by Joshua Waller

 

City life’s not for everyone but as the sun begins to set find yourself a vantage point where you can see most of the city skyline and you’ll soon have a photograph that may make you rethink your dislike for cities. One of the best times for photographing city skylines is when the sun’s begun to set so there’s still a touch of blue in the sky but the light’s not too harsh so make sure you’re on your chosen vantage point well before sunset. 

 

1. Gear Choices

Pack a wide lens for capturing the big picture and a telephoto for singling out individual buildings and pulling distant objects towards you on your evening jaunt. Taking a tripod with you is advised but do leave your flashgun at home and turn your on-camera flash off as if it fires, it can ruin your skyline shot.

Most cameras, even compacts and smartphones are capable of producing night shots of decent quality but if you’re planning on using much lengthier exposure times, you’ll want to pack a more advanced camera. 

 

2. Where To Stand With Your Kit

While on holiday (if you have a room with a view) make use of the balcony to give you a high vantage point of the city. You’ll also find buildings with observation decks, bridges to stand on and if you’re in a city such as Sheffield which has the peak district on its doorstep, try heading for the hills to give you a sweeping shot of the whole city. From high locations you’ll be able to capture patterns you can’t see at street level such as the lines street lights form as they turn on or the shapes created as city dwellers switch on their lights at home. Street lights look particularly good twinkling against the deep blue sky still lit by the setting sun. Just be careful where you meter from as you don’t want the sky or building lights to ‘blow out’. Keep an eye on your histogram and take a reading from a darker part of the frame. Another option is to take multiple exposures of the same view so you can combine them to create a shot with a balanced exposure where there’s not under- or over-exposed areas in the image. 

 

3. Taking Photos Through Glass

If you’ve got to capture your image through glass do check for marks and smudges that will spoil your shot. If you can’t remove them, experiment with your aperture to see if one particular f-number will remove them from the shot. You’ll also need to put the lens as close to the glass as possible and cup it with your hand, a cloth or whatever else you have that will reduce the amount of interior light reaching your lens. If you don’t, you’ll end up with reflections and flare could spoil your shots. 

 

Dubai

Photo by Joshua Waller

 

4. Depth Of Field 

You’ll want to use an aperture that gives your shot plenty of depth of field, around f/8 is a good place to start, and try to stick to lower ISOs where possible. You may find you need to adjust this to increase shutter speeds but if you’re using a tripod, longer exposures won’t be an issue. If you have it available, the depth of field preview button can help ensure your shot is sharp from front to back. 

Foreground interest can add another level interest and ‘fill’ empty space that can occur when focusing on subjects in the distance. However, do make sure it’s not stealing the spotlight and pulling the viewer’s attention away from the skyline. 

 

5. Shoot Silhouettes 

Silhouetted cityscapes are popular subjects and they work well against a plain but bright background. Even though they’re a little clichéd sunsets do work well particularly if it’s one that’s rich with colour. To create your silhouette you need to expose for the background and not the buildings you want to silhouette. You may need to fool your camera when it comes to metering as using the camera’s automatic metering won’t always give you the silhouette you’re after. Try half-pressing the shutter button while focused on the brightest part of your scene before moving back to frame the shot but this means your camera will focus on this and not your subject. Manual focus or using a smaller aperture can combat this problem. Talking of manual focus, you should consider using this even when not shooting silhouettes as it’ll always produce better results, plus auto-focus tends to struggle as light levels fall. 

 

6. Shots At Street Level

As well as getting up high working at street level can work well in the evening too. Try using long exposures (20-30 seconds) to set the dark sky and buildings against the streak of lights that come from the traffic as it moves through the city streets. You could even combine multiple traffic streak shots to increase the sense of speed and movement in your city shot. Another way to add a creative twist to your city skyline shots is by incorporating reflections from rivers, lakes or even wet pavements after it’s rained. 

 

7. Tall Buildings & Straight Horizons

Pay attention to your horizon and the angle of the buildings as you don’t want them to be slanting to one side of the image. A tripod with a spirit level can be handy although many cameras now have these or gridlines built-in. When home, check your city shots for distortion but this is something that can be easily fixed in image editing software. Playing around with the colour balance can enhance and evoke mood, too so don’t be afraid to experiment with this. 

 

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Capturing The Best Of Britain With Your Camera

Capturing The Best Of Britain With Your Camera

Capture the many castles, homes and other iconic structures that can be found in Britain with our handy 5 top tips.

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Architecture

Scotland

 

Britain’s bursting with structures and buildings that photographers are naturally drawn to thanks to their postcard-perfect looks and history. It also helps that many of the buildings are in locations that are perfect for a day out, making them subjects photographers can shoot and their families can enjoy too.
 

1. Do Your Research

It’s worth finding out who the home, castle etc. belongs to before you carry your kit out to it as some organisations have rules on what can be photographed, what they can be used for and what kit’s allowed inside. A quick phone call or a check on their website should give you the answers you’re looking for. Some places won’t allow you to use a tripod while others may have rules on the type of bag, if any, you can take in with you. There may also be a rule that says no flash photography is allowed so do keep an eye out for signs and ensure the flash built into your camera is switched off.  
 

2. Castles

Holy Island Castle

 

From ruined hill forts to beautifully preserved country houses, castles provide majestic architectural delights for us photographers. For more tips on photographing castles, have a look at these guides where we share a few tips to help you take better photos of these fortified structures:

 

3. Stately Homes

Stately Home

 

Many Stately Homes found in the UK open their doors to the public, giving photographers the chance to capture interesting interiors as well as shots that show the extensive grounds and buildings. Take a look at our article on Photographing Stately Homes for advice on what to photograph and how.
 

4. Churches

Durham Cathedral

 

Small rural churches and grand cathedrals have decorated our nation’s skylines for a very long time and they’re well worth photographing. If you can, take your camera inside these magnificent structures (you may be charged a small fee) as they are often even more impressive on the inside.

ePHOTOzine has several articles on photographing churches, both on the inside and out, which can be found here:

 

5. Villages

Capturing The Best Of Britain With Your Camera 8

 

Even though this isn’t about just one structure, scenic villages are popular tourist destinations and they make good subjects for photographers. Picturesque streets and the famous ‘chocolate box’ style houses make them a worthwhile stop-off, plus there’s usually ample chance to capture a fair few candids too.

Have a look at ePHOTOzine’s Guide To Photographing Villages for more tips. For more architectural photography tips, take a look at ePHOTOzine’s technique section

 

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One Month, 5,000 Miles, 150 Photos: Capturing Autumn in Large Format

One Month, 5,000 Miles, 150 Photos: Capturing Autumn in Large Format

One Month, 5,000 Miles, 150 Photos: Capturing Autumn in Large Format 9

Autumn is something I never miss when it comes to photography. I may be working on other projects or other ideas, but when the leaves start to turn it’s hard to resist the urge to get out there and capture the vibrant colors.

This is the transition season when I shift from summer backpacking adventure to a month on the road in my van. It’s the last chance of the year to experience landscape photography without a heavy winter jacket so the warm afternoons, crisp mornings, and generally delightful weather are enjoyed as much as possible. After having all my film developed and the majority of it scanned in, it turned out this autumn was exceptionally productive, so it’s time to share the results.

One Month, 5,000 Miles, 150 Photos: Capturing Autumn in Large Format 10
Earth’s shadow over a mix of aspen and red sumac. Colorado – September 2019 / Chamonix 45F-2, Kodak Portra 160, 300mm Nikkor Lens, 1 minute at f45, 1 stop soft GND filter.

As usual, I started off my autumn in the Colorado Rockies. It was off to a late start this year which made for an extended backpacking season above the treeline. No complaints from me! Timing the annual fall trip is always a challenge as peak color can vary up to two weeks from year to year. My typical method is to keep that time of year flexible with no rigid plans. A lot of loose goals are set, but the dates and locations need to stay open so that plans can be changed as the season progresses.

One Month, 5,000 Miles, 150 Photos: Capturing Autumn in Large Format 11
Twilight glow makes for soft light and vibrant colors, a good option when skies are clear for days on end. Colorado – October 2019 / Chamonix 45F-2, Fuji Provia 100F, 210mm Caltar Lens, 1 minute at f32, 1 stop soft GND and warming filters.

Colorado never ceases to amaze me. In some ways, it seems I know all the best spots to see aspen turn color, but in reality, I know that is far from the truth. Just beyond every ridge is another valley full of surprises so my typical plan is to revisit old locations but always set aside some time for finding new ones. An entire lifetime could be spent in this state without seeing it all as once you get past the roads, travel is on foot and there’s a lot of ground to cover. It’s also hard not to revisit favorite locations as there’s always new light and conditions to create images each autumn.

One Month, 5,000 Miles, 150 Photos: Capturing Autumn in Large Format 12
Autumn colors reflect in the perfectly calm waters of a small lake. Colorado – October 2019 / Chamonix 45F-2, Fuji Velvia 50, 135mm Fuji Lens, 8 seconds at f32, 1 stop soft GND filter.
Velvia 50 4×5, 135mm lens
8 seconds at f22, 1 stop soft GND filter

This autumn was generally light on clouds and the first dusting of snow was running even later than the changing of the leaves. Mixed skies of blue and clouds along with fresh snow on the peaks always make for my favorite grand scenic autumn images, but sometimes you have to take what you can get. What this year did have going for it was incredible color in the forest. Aspens did their normal change to gold, but this year was of a particularly brilliant hue and mixed with bright oranges and near reds. There’s always something to photograph in the autumn so this time I spent most of the season shooting without any sky in the frame; just intimate views of the aspen forest. Days were spent wandering around backroads as well as taking long hikes to see different patches of forest.

One Month, 5,000 Miles, 150 Photos: Capturing Autumn in Large Format 13
A lone pine stands among the golden aspen. Colorado – October 2019 / Chamonix 45F-2, Fuji Velvia 50, 90mm Caltar Lens, 1 second at f32, no filters.

I’ve always felt that one of the best ways to bring the feeling of the aspen forest into a two-dimensional media is by making large panoramic prints that give you a view of just the trunks and perhaps some of the ground. There’s something about standing in front of a six-foot long print that takes you there into the moment. Leaving out the sky accomplishes two things: it removes the tricky part of the image that can’t be exposed deep within the forest and it creates a touch of mystery that lets the viewer fill in the scene with their imagination. It inspires you to think that it is just endless aspen forest no matter where you look.

The 4 x 5 film ends up being a great format for creating panoramas; with the massive amount of resolution available, a pano can simply be cropped out of the middle of the frame. Some people may prefer to use 6 x 12 cm or 6 x 17cm backs and use roll film, but I’ve found that using the whole sheet makes for the most flexible image afterwards. When it comes to printing, you never know if a customer might want a little extra height to fill a wall. There have been countless times when I was glad I had the whole sheet to work with. Even when making panoramas, it’s nice to have the rise and tilt available with a view camera to ensure proper perspective control over the aspen forest and maintain those perfect verticals.

One Month, 5,000 Miles, 150 Photos: Capturing Autumn in Large Format 14
A medley of autumn colors shown in a small puddle full of fallen leaves. Finger Lakes, New York – October 2019 / Chamonix 45F-2, Fuji Velvia 50, 210mm Caltar Lens, 8 seconds at f32, no filters.

Autumn in Colorado ended much more quickly than it came. A winter storm arrived with high winds and blew off most of the leaves while covering the peaks with snow. Part of the fun of fall is how fleeting it is. I took a few days at home to recover and resupply before heading out east for round two.

The lower elevations and warmer nights put the changing of the leaves quite a bit later in both the Great Lakes region and Appalachia. Out there you can find much more in the way of fiery oranges and bright reds in the foliage combined with the special look of a hardwood forest that you don’t find in the Rockies. The colors are deeper, the forest darker, the weather more often moody and wet. A completely new feeling fills my body and mind and changes the way I look for images.

One Month, 5,000 Miles, 150 Photos: Capturing Autumn in Large Format 15
A single red maple in a foggy forest. Shenandoah National Park, Virginia – October 2019 / Chamonix 45F-2, Fuji Provia 100F, 135mm Fuji Lens, 2 seconds at f32, no filters.

Another difference in this region is that I’m no longer in my backyard so the landscape is unfamiliar. In some ways I’ve become quite relaxed about location research over the years as I have more time to travel than I used to. I get ideas for regions I’d like to see but often don’t find exact spots before I get there. The goal is to get my feet on the ground and feel it out for myself, which results in varying levels of success.

I travel many more miles each day than when I’m close to home and I take fewer images as I have to find them differently, but in the end I still enjoy the process and the attempt to stay away from the popular landscape icons. The forests of the east are a place where this method works particularly well. It’s not as though you need to have exact locations planned out to photograph intimate forest scenes and it’s hard to know where the best color would be ahead of time anyway.

One Month, 5,000 Miles, 150 Photos: Capturing Autumn in Large Format 16
Hay Bales in a green field with autumn hills in the distance. Finger Lakes, New York – October 2019 / Chamonix 45F-2, Fuji Velvia 50, 135mm Fuji Lens, 4 seconds at f32, 2 stop soft GND filter.

From the Finger Lakes region of New York down through Pennsylvania and Virginia, I was repeatedly treated to moody weather that gave the forests an extra dimension. The mountains of Shenandoah were in the clouds almost all the time I was there, obscuring the distant ridges in varying thicknesses of fog and pulling me into close-up views of the chaotic forest. It’s a challenge making images that pull a viewer in, given such messy forests, but as photographers we have to organize the scene and make some sense of it. I try to find a grab: a lone tree of color in a monotone forest or an opening that makes you want to walk into the image.

One Month, 5,000 Miles, 150 Photos: Capturing Autumn in Large Format 17
A single pop of color shows through the mysterious woods. Shenandoah National Park, Virginia – October 2019 / Chamonix 45F-2, Fuji Velvia 50, 300mm Nikkor Lens, 2 seconds at f45, no filters.

Overall, I’m very pleased with the image that came out of my two long autumn trips. A full month of wandering and about 5,000 miles on the road resulted in 150 exposed sheets of 4 x 5 film. I hope you have enjoyed this selection of my favorites.

One Month, 5,000 Miles, 150 Photos: Capturing Autumn in Large Format 18
Brilliant foliage envelopes a peaceful stream. Pennsylvania – October 2019 / Chamonix 45F-2, Fuji Provia 100F, 300mm Nikkor Lens, 1 minutes at f32, warming filter.

Header image: The West Elk Mountains bathed in morning light make a great backdrop for vibrant autumn aspen. Colorado – October 2019 / Chamonix 45F-2, Fuji Velvia 50, 135mm Fuji Lens, 4 seconds at f32, 2 stop soft GND filter.


The article is courtesy of ELEMENTS MagazineELEMENTS is the new monthly magazine dedicated to the finest landscape photography, insightful editorials, and fluid, clean design. Inside you will find exclusive and in-depth articles and imagery by the best landscape photographers in the world such as Freeman Patterson, Bruce Barnbaum, Rachael Talibart, Charles Cramer, Hans Strand, Erin Babnik, and Tony Hewitt, to name a few. Use the PETAPIXEL10 code for a 10% discount off the annual subscription.


About the author: Alex Burke is a large format film photographer from Greeley, Colorado. Specializing in landscapes of open prairies and remote wilderness regions, he works with sheet film to capture images with endless detail and a unique color palette. Alex also aims to educate new and experienced film photographers through his blog and ebooks.

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12 Essential Tips For Capturing Images At The Edinburgh Fringe

12 Essential Tips For Capturing Images At The Edinburgh Fringe

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is a huge arts festival that runs in August and even though you need tickets for many of the shows at the Fringe, you can visit the Royal Mile for free where you’ll find plenty of street entertainers you can capture images of.

Due to the event’s popularity and the variety of things on offer to photograph, you will see all sorts of photographic approaches so there’s not really hard-and-fast rules to follow more like guidelines that’ll help you capture the best of what the Fringe has to offer. Also, although taking photos is fun do remember that you’re actually there to enjoy yourself so do take your eye away from the viewfinder occasionally and just enjoy the atmosphere.

 

Fringe performers

Photo by Cattyal

 

1. Lens Choices 

A standard zoom is perfect for the sort of distances you’ll be taking photos from. If you own a telezoom do take it, however, someone will more than likely get in the way if you’re using a longer lens so use it for tightly-cropped shots rather than trying to get a shot from a distance. Wides can work but make the point of getting in close to fill the frame and accept that you are going to get fussy backgrounds.

 

2. Know Where You Are Going

Pick up a guide as it lists times as well as locations of where things are happening, plus if it’s your first time visiting, there’s usually a handy map included to help you find your way. The best location is on the Royal Mile where you get street performers and artists promoting their shows with mini-performances.

 

3. Be Patient 

It does get bustling with visitors and performers coming and going all day but hang around for long enough and you will find something to aim your lens at.

 

4. Take Care 

Due to how busy the Royal Mile gets remember to take care of your possessions and don’t leave anything unattended. It can also get hot at this time of year, so remember to keep hydrated and you’ll probably encounter a sudden downpour, too so keep a brolly handy.

 

Fringe performers

Photo by  Cattyal

 

5. Payment For Performance 

Some performers would like a payment for posing and it is up to you if you want to make a contribution. Some of the shows are excellent and you might feel that a sample of enjoyable street theatre is worth some small change.

 

6. Be Polite 

As they’re performing in public, on the street they tend to not mind you photographing them. However, if the opportunity arrives, it is always polite to ask them if it’s OK to take a few shots. 

 

7. Capture Close-Ups 

As they’re passionate about their performance you’ll have plenty of interesting expressions and movements to photograph so get in close if the opportunity unfolds.

 

8. Crowd Or No Crowd? 

If there’s a big crowd or the street they’re on is particularly cluttered hide it by cropping in close to the performer. However, if the crowd’s having a particularly good time, having them in the shot can work well in an image with the performer. Alternatively, just capture an image of the spectators watching the show. 

 

Fringe crowd

Photo by David Pritchard

9. Speed & Position 

Shoot quickly, watch the background and move around to explore different camera angles.

 

10. Different Perspective 

Performance shots are great but don’t overlook capturing shots of performers scooping up change from guitar cases or moving position to set-up for the next part of their act.

 

11. Continuous Shooting & Focus 

Switch to continuous shooting but don’t be tempted to constantly machine-gun away. Instead, take the time to watch for the key moments that are worth capturing. Continuous focusing will help you maintain focus on the street performers.

 

12. Shutter Priority 

Consider using Shutter Priority so you can decide how much you freeze / add motion blur to action shots. To add crowd movement to your shot you’ll need a slower shutter speed and a support. Tripods take up too much space so use a monopod or even your camera bag as a support. Use a small aperture and low ISO to get the slower speeds you need. You may need to experiment to find the exact shutter speed that works but the beauty of digital means you can check the screen, adjust and take another shot.

 

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My Favorite Method for Capturing High Dynamic Range

A little-known technique in photography allows you to capture lots of dynamic range with better results and fewer downsides than traditional HDRs. I call it “AHDR” for “Averaged High Dynamic Range” photography.

AHDR isn’t a popular technique at the moment, but I’ll make a case in this article for why I think should be. Compared to traditional HDR methods, it gives similarly good results but works much better when anything in your photo is moving. It’s also just as easy and fast to capture as a normal HDR (actually a lot faster under some circumstances).

Also, feel free to call it whatever you want. I’m calling it AHDR in this article because I don’t want to type something like “the image averaging method of HDR” dozens of times.

What Is AHDR?

As the name Averaged High Dynamic Range implies, AHDR involves averaging images together in order to get higher than usual dynamic range. I’ve written about image averaging before and how I use it to get high levels of detail in my astrophotography. Check out those articles if you haven’t already.

Before I show why I prefer it over traditional HDR photography, let me first demonstrate how AHDR works.

Essentially, AHDR involves image averaging, which takes advantage of the fact that most noise in photography is random; it differs from photo to photo with no correlation. (Patterned noise is a different beast and obviously has patterns, but it’s minimal on most camera sensors.)

The noise in each image essentially “cancels out” when you average multiple photos together. The more images you average, the more it cancels out.

It’s easier to understand it when you see it. Here’s how a single image at ISO 6400 looks up close:

Single Image at High ISO with Noise
Single image, ISO 6400, 100% crop

And here’s how it looks after I took eight such photos in a row and averaged them in Photoshop:

Eight Image blend to reduce noise
Average of eight individual photos, each at ISO 6400, 100% crop

You may be wondering how this has anything to do with HDR photography. The answer is that the image averaging process substantially improves a photo’s dynamic range by shrinking the amount of shadow noise. The less shadow noise you have, the more details you can recover in the darker areas of a photo. The result – as with HDR – is that you can retain details throughout an image even in very high contrast scenes.

How to Make an AHDR

It’s very easy to capture an AHDR in the field. You simply take multiple identical photos of the scene in front of you. (A tripod is highly recommended, as with regular HDR.) Then, in post-processing software like Photoshop, you average the photos together. The resulting image has extraordinary levels of shadow detail that can be recovered using the standard sliders in Lightroom/Capture One/etc.

Something important to note is that AHDR does not improve highlight retention – only shadow detail. That may sound like a problem, but it really isn’t. It simply means that you must avoid blown highlights in your images at all costs, even if it means exposing darker than your meter recommends. Here’s another way to think about it: a traditional HDR involves (at least) a “centered” exposure, an “under” exposure, and an “over” exposure. By comparison, the AHDR method involves taking the “under” exposure multiple times.

Here’s an example of how it looks in practice:

Image Averaging HDR AHDR Diagram

One minor drawback with AHDR is that not all post-processing software has a way to average multiple photos together. You need to have specialized software like Photoshop or Affinity Photo in order to do so.

The method of image averaging is different in every software. In Photoshop, one way to do it is to load all your photos as layers, convert them to a single smart object (highlight all layers > right click > Convert to Smart Object), then go to Layer > Smart Objects > Stack Mode > Mean. If you don’t know how to do something similar in your preferred software, just search for a tutorial online.

How to Image Average in Photoshop

How Many Photos Does an AHDR Need?

While you may be concerned that AHDR requires many photos in order to improve shadow detail, that’s not necessarily the case. In fact, every time that you double the number of photos you capture, you improve the shadow detail by one stop (i.e. making it twice as good; half as much noise). 

A traditional HDR photo involves taking at least three pictures: one at the metered exposure, one that’s overexposed by a stop, and one that’s underexposed by a stop. The result is a two-stop improvement in dynamic range over what your camera sensor can ordinarily capture.

By comparison, an AHDR photo requires that you take four pictures for a similar improvement. Simply take the underexposed photo four times in a row, average the four photos in post-production, and recover shadow details with your preferred editing software.

That’s what it takes for two stops of shadow improvement. If you want to recover three stops of shadow details, you would need to take eight photos with the AHDR method. To recover four stops of shadow details, it requires sixteen AHDR photos. And so on, doubling each time.

And that’s the biggest drawback of AHDR – the large number of photos you’d need to take in order to recover more than about four stops of shadow details. Of course, very few real-world situations require so much shadow recovery. Most cameras have a base ISO of 100; four stops of shadow detail recovery is equivalent in dynamic range to a base ISO of 6.

But if you have to simulate even lower values like ISO 3, 1.5, or lower for whatever purpose, a traditional 7-image or 9-image HDR is the route I recommend, rather than taking dozens of photos to average together. It’s just a bit less hassle.

Proof of Similar Results Between HDR and AHDR

I’m sure that some photographers reading this are skeptical that the results of an AHDR image are similar to the results of a traditional HDR. So before I get into the benefits of AHDR, let me first demonstrate that the two methods are interchangeable in image quality under typical conditions.

Here’s a single image of a high-contrast construction pipe. I chose to expose for the highlights at the center, which resulted in very dark shadows:

Single Image of Construction Pipe
Single image

To capture detail in both the highlights and the shadows, you can take a three-image HDR as I described above: a -1.0 image for the highlights, a 0.0 image for the midtones, and a +1.0 image for the shadows. Here’s how that looks when combined:

HDR of Construction Pipe
HDR

Similarly, I can follow the AHDR process: Take four -1.0 images, average them together, and recover the shadows in Lightroom. Here’s how that result looks:

Image Average of Construction Pipe
AHDR

At these sizes, it seems to have as much detail as the HDR. Let’s look at some crops. Here’s a 100% crop of the single image, with the shadows brightened to match the other shots:

Crop of Single Image with High Noise
Single image 100% crop

Lots of noise. Here’s the same crop from the HDR:

Crop of HDR with Low Noise
HDR 100% crop

And the same crop from the AHDR:

Crop of Image Average with Low Noise
AHDR 100% crop

As you can see, both the HDR and AHDR have much better noise performance than the single image. The noise levels are equivalent in both shots with no reason to favor either one. In short, the HDR and AHDR images are interchangeable, and could be made to look basically identical with a bit of editing.

So, if AHDR requires one more photo in order to get the same results as an ordinary HDR, why in the world would I say it’s the better method? That’s what I’ll go over next.

Benefits of AHDR

Now that you’ve seen how HDR and AHDR can produce similar results, let’s go over the benefits of AHDR. It’s all about fixing the biggest negatives of regular HDR photos, which are as follows:

  • HDRs tend to produce ghosting artifacts when anything in your photo moves.
  • They result in uneven patterns of noise in a photo.
  • They can lead to harsh, garish colors if not done carefully.
  • They can take some time to capture in dark conditions; individual exposures may be something like 15 seconds, 30 seconds, and 60 seconds, so you could be waiting around for a while.

AHDR improves upon all those downsides. Let’s go through each point individually.

1. Ghosting Artifacts

It’s well known that HDRs often don’t do well when anything in your photo is moving. This includes small details like tree leaves rustling in the breeze, as well as large subjects like ocean waves that could cover the entire foreground of your photo.

Sometimes, you can fix ghosting artifacts manually in Photoshop with the spot-heal brush or through careful (often manual) image blending in the first place. Other times, especially with ghosting or “afterimages” along the fringes of your subject, they can be nearly impossible to remove.

Here’s an example of ghosting artifacts with HDR (100% crop from the full image). Zoom in if you’re on a phone, and click to see full size if you’re on a desktop, if you can’t see them right away:

Severe Ghosting Artifacts in HDR Image
Note the strange highlights around the edge of some palm leaves in this HDR.

This happened because the palm leaves were blowing in the wind, and it’s hardly an uncommon sight in HDRs. The anti-ghosting option in most HDR software isn’t a great solution either, since it creates issues of its own (especially uneven noise, as I’ll cover next).

How does the AHDR technique look by comparison? Here’s a similar 100% crop:

No Ghosting in Image Average
The AHDR image doesn’t have those artifacts.

Much better! Some of the palm leaves have a bit of blur now, but the effect is much less distracting and obtrusive to my eye compared to the HDR. If you’re concerned, you can take a few more photos (this was only four) and your result will be smoother, essentially mimicking a long exposure.

2. Uneven Noise

Not as often discussed, but just as big of a problem, is that HDRs can have uneven patterns of noise after you’ve blended them together.

Here’s an example of an HDR I created in Adobe Lightroom (whose HDR software otherwise tends to give nice, realistic results). The image looks good at this size:

Uncropped HDR Image with Uneven Noise Patterns
Three-image HDR

But zooming in, you can see that there’s a strange band of noise going across the sky:

Uneven Noise Patterns in HDR
100% crop of the image above; note the sudden change in noise pattern.

That’s because Lightroom tried to merge part of the sky from the underexposed shot with part from the standard exposure, and it didn’t do a great job. This is not an uncommon result in a lot of HDR software, particularly in Lightroom if you have the anti-ghosting feature turned on.

(In case you were wondering, this result isn’t because I had different ISO values for each shot; all three of the images were taken at my base ISO of 100.)

I’ve gotten similarly weird results where Lightroom or other HDR software misinterprets a moving subject when it tries to blend images together. Look at the strange clouds at the top right of this shot:

Lightroom's Automatic HDR Blend with Strange Sky Artifact
Note the strange, bulbous clouds at the top right.

They didn’t look like that in real life! They’re purely an invention of Lightroom. After I noticed the issue, I had to blend the images manually in Photoshop to get the proper result:

Manually Blended HDR to Fix Issue with the Sky
NIKON Z 7 + NIKKOR Z 14-30mm f/4 S @ 14mm, ISO 64, 1/6, f/16.0

AHDR does not have these issues. Every image that forms an AHDR has the same exposure settings as one another, and you’re just doing a simple average to blend them. As such, there’s no room for uneven noise or misinterpreted subjects to sneak in.

3. Garish Colors

Most photographers who rely on HDR already have a preferred way to avoid garish colors. However, it remains the case that a lot of HDR software gives wild results by default, such as the “Merge to HDR Pro” feature built into Photoshop.

Bad colors in an HDR
Displayed at small size in order to avoid eyebleed

While I’ve had good luck avoiding such exaggerated tones in Lightroom’s HDR merge feature, Lightroom also has the most issues with uneven noise of any HDR software I’ve tried. So, you can’t necessarily fix the garish color problem just by switching software.

A common solution is to use luminosity masking in order to pull the best parts from each image and merge them together. This is indeed an excellent way to blend different exposures together and I have no complaints about it at all, other than the time it takes to do manually if you don’t have a Photoshop plugin like Lumenzia or TK Lum-Mask. 

The AHDR method also gives stellar results without garish colors. After you’ve merged an AHDR image, it looks essentially the same as each photo that makes it up – i.e., just like any ordinary raw file. It also functions just like any ordinary raw file, except it has drastically better shadow recovery than usual.

4. Duration to Capture

Since AHDR usually involves taking more photos than a standard HDR, you may be thinking that it’s slower and takes more time in the field. But that’s not really true.

For one, taking a burst of four or eight photos in a row is very quick and easy on most cameras today. You can be finished with the entire AHDR in a matter of seconds. However, the same can be said of a traditional HDR if you enable bracketing beforehand, so this is pretty much a tie.

The real speed benefit of AHDR is when you’re shooting in darker conditions, where you need multi-second exposures in order to capture enough light. Take this scene, for example:

60 Second Exposure of Sand Dunes
NIKON D780 + VR 100-400mm f/4.5-6.3E @ 380mm, ISO 100, 60 seconds, f/8.0

I took this at 60 seconds, which was right at the meter’s recommendation. Thankfully, this scene didn’t have enough dynamic range to require an HDR. If it did, I’d have needed two additional exposures: one at 30 seconds and one at 120 seconds. Add those together, and I’d have been waiting around for 3.5 minutes while my camera captured the HDR.

By comparison, an entire AHDR shoot would be done in 2 minutes, with four individual photos of a 30 second shutter speed apiece (again, same as the “under” image in an HDR). I’d end up with as much dynamic range as an HDR in about half the time! Even ignoring all the other benefits of AHDR, I’d definitely recommend using it in low light to save yourself time.

Of course, this only applies if you’re shooting HDRs in very dim light. In regular conditions, taking either an HDR or an AHDR is going to be very quick regardless.

Other Things to Note

1. Mean vs Median

Any time I write about image averaging, whether for astrophotography or for improving the image quality of a drone, I get the same question: Do I actually recommend averaging the photos together? Or do I actually use the median blend option in Photoshop instead?

Photoshop has a setting for both mean and median, along with a host of other image blending modes. To clarify, I always use mean, not median. Every time that I second-guess myself on that, I go back and test again, and I always see that mean has a bit less noise. I have yet to work with a set of images where median does a better job reducing noise.

Somewhere online there must be someone saying that median is the way to go, because I get this question a lot. I just encourage you to do your own tests to see for yourself. The differences are small, but mean looks better.

2. Why Bother Taking Multiple Exposures?

Another, more amusing question that I get surprisingly often is this: Why can’t you just take one photo, duplicate the layer a bunch of times in Photoshop, and then average that result instead?

The reason is that averaging a dozen copies – or a hundred, or a million copies – of a single photo will only ever get you back to that single original photo. By comparison, the AHDR method works because the noise patterns change across multiple images, while the “subject patterns,” so to speak, stay the same.

I like the out-of-the-box thinking, but there’s no way around it; you need to take multiple photos in the field, or AHDR doesn’t work.

3. A Final Benefit

The last thing I’ll say about AHDR is that it has one more nice benefit: minimal loss in image quality if one photo in your sequence doesn’t turn out right.

With regular HDRs, a single accidentally blurry shot (perhaps you bumped your tripod during the “under” photo without realizing it) can make it difficult or impossible to merge the images properly later. On the other hand, with an AHDR, just delete the blurry photo and merge the others. You’ll lose a slight bit of shadow recovery because you’re not averaging as many shots, but nothing major.

Conclusion

I hope this technique gave you some ideas, and maybe you’ll find that the AHDR method (or whatever you want to call it) is useful for your own photography. As much as I prefer “getting it right in-camera,” having a technique in your back pocket for tricky, high-contrast situations is always a good idea.

Of course, just because the AHDR method has some nice benefits doesn’t mean that you’ve been doing anything wrong if you’ve shot regular HDRs over the years. I only figured out this technique a few months ago myself, and while I’m going to use it instead of HDR from now on, traditional HDR photography is hardly bad. When nothing in your photo is moving, the two methods will generally give you the same results – and AHDR isn’t a good substitute for 7-image or 9-image HDRs that capture truly massive dynamic range.

But if something in your photo is moving, even if it’s just a few tree leaves in the distance, I recommend trying out the AHDR method to see if you like the results. It’s easy and quick, and it fixes most of HDR’s issues without bringing any major problems of its own. Hard to ask for more than that.

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Top Quick Tips On Capturing Landscapes In A Portrait Orientation

Top Quick Tips On Capturing Landscapes In A Portrait Orientation

When you pick up your camera to photograph a landscape, your automatic reaction will be to shoot it in, well, a landscape orientation but a portrait landscape can actually be very effective.

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Landscape and Travel

Sea and rocks

 

Orientation names suggest that landscapes should be landscape format and portraits should be portrait format and even though there are times when the subject will dictate the orientation, there are scenes where switching to portrait will benefit the shot. 

Landscapes are very different when they are upright; they have much more depth and tend to emphasise the contrast between foreground and background.

The height of the picture allows you to make more definite use of perspective, especially if the foreground has a linear quality about it such as a field with ploughed furrows. The shape also gives you a more obvious opportunity to choose the position of your horizon. The rules of composition favour placing the horizon at a third from the top or bottom (actually three-eighths from top or bottom – which is fairly accurately the ‘golden ratio’). However, do experiment with more extreme framing to see what happens: placing the horizon right at the top or near the base of the picture.

 

 

 

Sunset at the beach

 

 

Depth of field in landscape is rarely a serious issue, but if you like to play with focus then the emphasis that the format places on the perspective will also give you opportunities to exploit shallow depth of field. Of course, you can do this in a horizontal picture too, but it seems to crop up more often this way round.

Do remember that not all of us get it right every time and being able to change the orientation of a picture by cropping can change the dynamic of the shot entirely so it’s always worth having a look at your images once home to see if a quick crop will improve your shot.

 

 

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