Sunday, September 26, 2010

HDR Revisited - Part 1

HDR Revisited – Part 1

With the release of Photoshop CS5 earlier this year, and CS5’s enhancement of their HDR Pro function, I thought it would be a good idea to revisit HDR (High Dynamic Range) photography. I have played around with HDR in the past and also wrote a previous blog post with my initial take on using this technique. I also came up with some rules that I would use to determine when and where I would choose to use HDR such as:

Restraint – try to avoid overcooking the image, unless that’s exactly the effect you’re looking for. Try to keep things looking realistic and more pleasing.

Does it really need HDR? – Are there enough tonal values that are outside the range of a normal exposure and would HDR be the best choice?

Composition – This can usually go without saying, but I’ve seen lots of HDR photos where the photographer relied too much on the HDR effect and completely forgot about the composition. Composition is the foundation of every good image so don’t forget about this critical stage.

Now there’s two typical ways to process HDR images: the photorealistic look; and the surrealistic/fantasy look. In this revisit I’m going to show you a little of both starting with the photorealistic look.

The first image above is my original exposure; this is the unprocessed RAW image. When I shot this I knew there were some great elements, but there was also some room for improvement.  As you can see there was a lot going on with the sky, but it looks a little flat. Also, the dark areas of the foreground do not do justice to what I actually saw with my eyes, and the building has a lot of texture in the stones and roof that does not come through. So I thought would this be a good candidate for HDR and set up to shoot multiple exposures.

Above is the final HDR output with some finishing in Lightroom. I took 7 exposures (3 under, 3 over and 1 in the middle) and decided on the “overkill” method and used all 7 for the final output. I liked this scene and didn’t want to go too overboard on the HDR effect (Rule #1 – Restraint). My goal was to keep this as realistic as possible, but to also pull out all of the elements that I remembered seeing such as the drama in the sky and the detail in the foreground. Now, I may have pushed this just a little further than I initially intended, but I wanted as much detail in the building as possible, which I think I achieved. Overall, I think this is huge improvement over the original.


Here’s another example of the photorealistic look. I was shooting this at dusk and it was beginning to get dark. This is a typical scene in which there’s a wide range of tones to cover. In order to capture the lighting and detail inside the building I needed to underexpose the image, which as you can see above leaves the foreground still quite dark. In order to capture the foreground I needed to overexpose the image, which has the opposite effect of blowing out some of the highlights. So I thought I would try the HDR route with this one.

This is where HDR can really shine as you can literally get the best of everything.  For this I shot 5 exposures (2 under, 2 over and 1 in the middle) and used all 5 for the final HDR output. I also did a little bit of cleanup on Photoshop and some finishing in Lightroom. Again, my goal was to keep this as realistic as possible. I was thinking that if this were for a client shoot, they probably would not want their building glowing like something from outer space. I was pleased with the final result.

Stay tuned for part 2 where I’ll push things a little more to the wild side.



Thursday, September 9, 2010

Fenway Park, Boston

You can't visit Boston without taking a trip to Fenway Park. Whether you take in a game or take advantage of one of their daily tours, Fenway Park is a must see when you're in Boston. I took one of their daily tours. They take you through the various parts of the stadium from the right field roof deck and the press box to the atop the Green Monster.

Out of all the landmarks in Boston, there’s probably none more popular. One thing is apparent, Bostonian’s love their Red Sox. Fenway Park opened on April 12, 1912, where on opening day the Red Sox beat a team by the name of the New York Highlanders, later known as the Yankees.

Fenway is an old time ballpark with a lot of history and character. You can see it in the old wooden grandstand seats, to the lone red seat in the right field bleachers, where Ted Williams plunked a sleeping fan in the head from 502 feet away, and as already mentioned the Green Monster.

This image below is one of my personal favourites; looking out from the Green Monster. I love the perspective of the wide angle lens, and the person near the second base position gives it some scale. 



Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Stata Centre at MIT

Down the road from Harvard is the Massachusetts Institute of Technology or MIT as it’s widely known. A stark contrast to Harvard, MIT spreads out among 168 acres that extend more than a mile along the Cambridge side of the Charles River Basin.

MIT is home to one the most unique, and weird, pieces of architecture, the Ray and Maria Stata Centre, designed by Frank Gehry. Now, the first time I saw a photo of this building was in Scott Kelby’s portfolio and I thought it was totally weird then. I was thinking that it would be a cool building to shoot, but it didn’t register with me at the time exactly where the building was, and then I put it out of my mind.

Skip forward to our trip to Boston last year… after the 9 hour drive we were relaxing in our hotel and I was flipping through one of those local city magazines that you usually find in hotel rooms. By complete fluke, I came across a photo of the same building and the article indicating that it was on the MIT campus, a short subway ride from our hotel. Needless to say it immediately went on my “must shoot” list before we left Boston. I love the sharp lines and the contrast between the brickwork and metallic facade. It's a truly unique building, like most Frank Gehry designs.

I spent over two hours walking in and around the building. My first pass was just walking around doing a visual survey to get a sense of the entire building and thinking about how I wanted to shoot it. I also knew that I wouldn’t be back there for some time so I wanted to make sure that I got as much as I could.