Tuesday, February 3, 2015

More Adventures in HDR and other Photographic Games

The view out our living room window
February 2nd, 2015

I've gotten back to playing with my camera.  Several years ago, I was introduced to HDR  (High Dynamic Range) photography, and I tried it with mixed success.  I even wrote a blog post about it back in 2009 which you can read here, if you wish.  But eventually, I tired of the procedures involved and put them aside.  This past week, the sun was shining brightly here at home, and it was the last day of January, so I decided I should get out of the house and get some good landscapes--oh and while I was at it, find a few more geocaches.  Loading up my Garmin Montana 650t with caches from west of Thompson Falls to Clark Fork, Idaho, on both sides of the river, I jumped in the car with GPS, camera, a change of lenses, and tripod, and took off down the road.  I had gone just over a mile when I met Kevin coming home.  When he asked what I was up to, and I told him, he asked if I would like him to come along.  Well, duh.  Yes, I always enjoy his company on the road.

On the way to Thompson Falls, I asked Kevin to pull over, and I took a few pictures of Badrock Canyon.  This is the narrowest part of the Clark Fork Canyon between here and Idaho, and if you know where to look, you can see the marks left by the rush of Glacial Lake Missoula, as it poured down this canyon and across Idaho to scrub the landscape of eastern Washington.  The amount of water, and the speed with which it flowed left marks on the rock sides of the canyon that enable scientists to estimate just how much water went through here.  They say that the water came through the canyon at 9.46 cubic miles per hour, or 60 times the flow of today's largest river, the Amazon.  

Badrock Panorama
January 31st, 2015

While taking a few pictures, I noted an electric pole right in the middle of my shot.  I adjusted my stance, and took two pictures, one with the pole on the right, and one with it on the left.  I knew it was possible to "stitch" photos together to make a panoramic image, but I'd never done it with my DSLR. Back in the truck, I noted that our blue sky was disappearing as we headed west.  It was also quite cold and windy.  Not a good prognosis for more picture taking.

Long story short, we continued on west, eventually stopping just a few miles east of Trout Creek.  I grabbed ten new geocaches along the way, but the weather really wasn't cooperating, and I had hit some button on my GPS that stopped it from giving me the information I wanted.  In frustration, I suggested that we return home, and that's what we did, stopping at Simple Simon's in Thompson Falls for a pizza dinner.

Back at my desk, I transferred the images from my camera's memory card to my hard drive, and opened up Photoshop.  It turns out that in CS5, it's very easy to make a "stitched" panorama.  I was amazed.  I had expected to have a great deal of trouble making such an image, but the computer did almost all the work and I ended up with the Badrock Panorama posted above.  If printed at its normal resolution, that image would measure 1 foot tall by 40 inches wide.  I've found a new way to play!  By the way, the image at the top of the page, if printed at full resolution, would measure 1 foot tall by five feet wide!  And I created another image that would actually print out nine feet wide, if I really wanted to do such a thing.

Self Portrait in HDR
February 1st, 2015

The simplicity that CS5 made of "stitching" together panoramic shots, made me take another look at HDR images.  Accordingly, I set up the tripod in the living room and took three bracketed self-portraits, which I combined to create an HDR photo of my face--with every possible line and wrinkle in plain view.  I posted this image on Facebook, and one of my artist friends commented that she'd really like to take that portrait and copy it in oil.  I've never had someone want to paint my portrait before.  I'm tempted to let her.

The next day, I tried the self portrait again.  This time, I did not sit in my recliner, which left me back-lit by the picture window, but rather moved to the couch which faces the window.  Unfortunately, I did not move the chair from the background, so I ended up with Mickey Mouse ears, but I like the portrait so much that I made it my new Facebook profile pic.  Another FB friend suggested that the picture looked like someone had taken a black and white and hand colored it.  I'll let you decide.  Just for comparison, I'm including the same photograph processed as a single image so you can see the difference between a "normal" photo and a three-layered HDR shot.

Second Self Portrait in HDR
February 2nd, 2015

I've also tried some HDR shots through the window, looking at the trees and the deer in the fog.  They have an interesting look, but when I take the image and process it as I normally would, I think I prefer the non HDR version.  In any event, I've certainly found a new way to occupy my behind the camera time, and I look forward to more sunny days along the river and lake.

Self Portrait as a "Normal" Photograph
Don't you like the HDR version better?
February 2nd, 2015

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