HDR is an expression used for various techniques to overcome a cameras lack of dynamic range, compared to the human eye.
In this case I used different exposures to get some even lighting, even the camera pointed towards the setting sun. This technique is called bracketing.
The human eye can handle this sort of light, but a camera will either get the shadows too dark or the sky too bright.
First the final image, pretty close to what the scene looked like to me in the real world:
And now the three different exposures used to blend to the above image:
This post might be a bit longer than usual, as I want to correct some preconceptions about photography.
The first of those preconceptions is, a camera is similar to a human eye - well, nothing could be further from the truth.
1. Sensor (or film) vs Retina.
The Retina captures a continuous video stream without any exposure times in place, whereas a sensor captures all the light hitting it during one exposure. This allows a sensor (or film) to freeze a water droplet in midair, or make a choppy ocean look smooth. It also allows the sensor to see in the dark, with very long exposure times.
The eye has a flexible lens, which contracts or expands to focus, and also minimizes distortion, effectively. A camera lens is made of an array of glass lenses and other optical components. Some lenses can zoom, an eye can't.
The human eye's focus is only 1-2 degrees wide, whereas a camera lens can have up to 180 degrees of the scene in focus.
To see the focus of your own vision, stretch your arm, look at your thumb nail - it will be the only thing truly in focus, anything around it will be blurry. Wider focus comes at a price, distortion and comatic aberration (green and magenta colored edges around objects at the edge of a picture).
3. Dynamic range.
This is something our eyes do much better than any camera so far. Cameras have a lower dynamic range than eyes, digital cameras even lower than photofilm cameras.
How to explain dynamic range... For example a person in front of a sunset, the sun at the subjects' back. Everyone will see the person (if rather dark, but still recognizable) in the natural world. But everyone who tried to photograph such a scene will have had a problem - focusing on the person will show the person, but the sunset will be nearly white (=blown out), focusing on the background will give you all the beautiful colors in the sky, but the foreground is just a black silhouette. High dynamic range means, getting the foreground and background lit up evenly. This can be done by using a flash, or by bracketing (different exposures of the same scene, then overlay them to get even results).
Every image is processed, or "edited" in some way, EVERY image, without a fail!
The human eye processes an image in the brain, and this is even different for each brain (hence red/green blindness etc).
A digital camera also processes the image taken, via its internal operating system (Canon has a system called EOS, Apple phones use their IOS, other smartphones use Android operating systems etc). This is not what most people consider editing, but it is editing nevertheless.
It's usually just the basic interpretation of digital data coming from the sensor, correcting contrast and white balance etc (when the camera is set to auto mode). This processing works in a way the original programmer deemed right.
Adding an additional set of settings to the whole picture is a filter (often used in smartphones).
As you see, every photo ever been taken is actually edited, even in "the old days", by choice of film (Agfa had slightly different colors than Kodak, etc), different ISOs of those films (ISO is an indicator for light sensitivity) etc. Developing a photo negative is as much editing as to convert it into a photo positive on some photographic paper - this again can get you different results by using different paper and chemicals.
In the digital world we have editing software, like Photoshop, GIMP, etc. But, any of those techniques used in those programs, actually originated in the darkrooms of the old days, a not so well known fact.
Many "purists" believe only black and white photos are really pure - but what can be more abstract to a human than the absence of color? Besides, there are often color filters used in black and white photography. Yes that's right, colored glass used with black and white film. Red filters can enhance contrast in a BW photograph, whereas blue softens it, and so fort.
Reality in photography is a perception, not a physical thing. As I explained above, an eye and a camera don't have much in common at all. So the reality Mr Smith sees will be different to what his camera sees. It will also be different to what Mrs Smith sees. Their cat will see things in darkness no human can see. A Fly flying past their cat sees a collection of hundreds of pictures from its hundreds of eyes, and it will also have near 360 degree vision.
Insects don't see infrared (so red flowers won't look what we consider red to them at all), whereas most mammals can't see ultra violet light (which insects can actually see).
Motivation for this long post was, I often get people criticizing some of my images. Many of those people believe, if they take a picture with their phone, it must be real. Any "better" picture will have to be some sort of cheating, because it must have been "edited". Though there IS a difference between a $500 phone and a $5500 camera,
To clarify this, I thought to explain a bit about the real facts (those ARE facts, maybe not well known, but facts still).
What I, and many of my colleagues try to do is, to get an image as close to the reality I see in front of me when taking a photograph. A storm wave will have texture, contrasts (in rather high dynamic ranges), green to black water spots surrounded by white foam and spray, all seen by my eyes - But any camera, even really expensive ones, will lose a lot of this contrast and texture. Editing brings this back, and shows more real world reality than camera reality.
By the way, I consider just splashing a filter over a whole image not to be a good way of editing (though it can get some interesting effects). I usually prefer to work on the parts that need a certain adjustment, then the next part with the next adjustment etc.
This can result in 10, 30, 50 or more layers in one image, each layer holding an adjustment for a tiny part of the image, one rock needs to be lit up, etc.
This sort of editing adds up in a lot of hours till I'm happy with the result.
Above image took me over four hours of work...
And that's what justifies a certain price.
This was my first follow-up on our light-painting workshop.
Using my DIY light-saber, with some additional modifications (mounting several remote triggers, see one closeup below), an off camera speed-light, operating flash and camera myself, as well as developing the ideal "choreography".
Next time I will try to get at least a model, selfies are a bit hard to do in such a setup, fun though, and good to learn how to do things.
And feeling a bit like a Jedi in Start Wars...
On Monday I participated in a workshop about light painting.
Actually, the word photography is ancient Greek and means the exact same thing too.
Here some first tries of mine. We had an awesome model for this. I only had not much opportunity for shooting myself, as I was doing the light painting part in many of those shots (I'm the disc behind the model)
I did get some nice shots of the fountain close to the City to Sea bridge though, and I certainly learned a lot that night!
Spring doesn't quite settle in, still - though it's actually closer to Summer!
Wellington South Coast views...
A few weeks ago, Breast Cancer Foundation NZ approached me to take photos around the Pink Star Walk event on Saturday 03/11/2018.
Needn’t ask me twice!
Due to very bad weather on Saturday it had to be postponed to Sunday 04/11/2018, but then conditions were great, sunny and not too warm. A huge number of people in pink showed up, and at some point the whole Wellington Waterfront was pink (shame on me, I didn't have anything pink in my own wardrobe, I might need to change that).
The event was hosted by Estée Lauder New Zealand and The Hits 90.1
The number of supporters and the high spirits were pretty impressive and I was proud to be there. Happy to do this again!
I ended up with about 230 good shots - here my personal favorites
I'm a bit late with those shots, but been busy with some other things as you can see in the earlier posts. This was on October 28, a rather cold, windy and wet night. Still those shots turned out well.
This year it seems, Wellington has some real issues settling into Spring. The weather is more like Autumn, with a lot of rain, and strong winds.
Southerly winds cause quite big waves in the Cook Strait, which is great for me as a photographer - but not so great for everybody else. Especially for those living right on the South Coast.
Our proximity yo Antarctica means also, Southerly winds are bloody cold!
Still we make the best of it, Wellingtonians are a hardy people!
Here some of my favorite shots, taken on Thursday, and I managed to keep the gear dry...
Here the November issue of NZ Photographer.
The cover page is one of my photos, and an interview with me starting from page 32!
I'm pretty proud to be in a magazine alongside so many other great photographers like Mark Gee (from whom I learned a big part of Astro photography), Brendon Gilchrist and Parmeet Sahni.
... And here the cover photo...
Percy's Scenic Reserve is one of my favorite spots. Especially the Waterfall Track, lots of bush and lush green. And some very persistent ducks.
I've been out there on Monday, after a meeting in Lower Hutt.
The weather was overcast and rainy, so somehow the light was rather hard, due to the wet plants.
Still I gave it a try, to test a new super wide angle lens.
First I had to fight my way past a flock of 20ish baby ducks. They saw and surrounded me instantly, just a few meters from the entrance. I had no bread with me, so they kept nibbling my fingers and stumbled over each others for a while.
Rain picked up, and I went down the track, taking some shots.
The waterfall at the end is in a narrow gorge, and I tried to shoot it as a panorama, to get the whole area into the frame (the second of those images). All in all, this panorama is stitched in 7 rows of 4 pictures each, makes 28 shots - makes 77 megapixel.
I still have to try again with softer light conditions, some sunshine or fog, but I'm quite happy with this first shooting using a new lens!
Fresh from Wellington South Coast. Te Kopahou Reserve to be exact.
As you may have heard, there was some shaking on the North Island of New Zealand, a 6.2 quake. As Wellingtonians we are pretty used to some shaking, though this one was a bit more than usual.
As far as I'm aware, there were no injuries and no damage, so everything is fine and our Royal guests made it through the shaking without a scratch! Actually, there were no reports if they noticed it at all, up in Auckland.
Half an hour after this excitement I checked for the winds and found it might be worth having a look at the coast - And voilà, there they were, the waves.
They had nothing to do with the quake though, just normal strong southerly winds.