HDR Tests

Its been literally years since I’ve played around with HDR (I am not going togo into all of the details of how to do it as I cover it on my Photoshop Crash Course – Photoshop Crash Course DVD, but wanted to play around with it again, so today I set out to find something that had significantly dark shadows, and work the sun into it- all of this without the use of filters.

Yesterday, I used a 3-Layer Technique, today I took 4 exposures on RAW using a 5Dii with a 16-35mm 2.8 L, f5.0, ISO 100, bracketing the exposure at 1/5, 1/25, 1/200, 1/1600. This allowed me to capture nearly all of the detail from the shade of the gazebo, to the sun peeking out of the clouds. Shooting in JPG or RAW alone a single images doesn’t have enough dynamic range to do it all:

1/51/251/2001/1600Something I don’t really like about HDR, is that it is often very tricky to get a “Photorealistic” image. Yes, you can do it, but it typically requires a lot of finessing, tweaking, re-tweaking, layering of original images, etc, this was about the best I could do in a quick 5 minute edit in terms of “photorealism” (when you compare it with the 3 layer technique, it just doesn’t look that great.So something that is very common, is to take the layered image and run it through a tone-mapping program like “Photomatix”. This is typically the result, giving it a painted gritty look which is very popular. Still to do it real justice, it takes a tremendous amount of time to finesse and massage the image into a masterpiece (which this isn’t, this was just a test).

3 Layer Sunset Test

omposition meant that I wouldn’t be able to use my gradiated filters, but I still wanted to capture both the shape of the sun, as well as the waves, sand and trees. This presents a number of HUGE problems because both the waves and leaves were moving around so much that HDR was almost out the window (I did try it and it looked AWFUL).

This first shot is a single JPG, and you can see that if we are exposing for the sky the detail in the sand, leaves and trees is underexposed.

Canon 7D f5.0, 1/2000, 320
I bracketed the shots thinking I could HDR the three layers, but as I said it looked awful.

A second way you can get around this is to “paint” the 3 layers together. Its a little more involved, but sometimes you can get nice results. This was not one of those times:

3 Layers “Painted Together”If you look carefully in the leaves, there are a lot of ghosts and shadows. So essentially, the result is not that great.

How what is the best way to get an HDR type shot on a subject that is mostly moving? Answer is coming soon…..

The Rum Diary

Boring in a way words cannot describe. I am utterly shocked Johnny Depp was in it. I would have walked out after 20 minutes, but I kept on thinking, “Its a Johnny Depp movie…it has to get better.” It didn’t. In fact, I don’t even know if this movie is a story. How in the world can so many producers and executive producers think something like this was a good idea? I dont get it.

Shwe Kyin – Light Festival

Once we had the sky-cam rigged up, and ready we went back down to the river, hopped on a boat and started getting ready for the night shoot. We were so far away from everyone that I wanted to get more reach and decided to go with the Canon 7D + Canon 100-400 f4.5-5.6 L IS Zoom combo.

Something I immediately realized was that this particular set up is great for “up close and personal shots” (which I discuss on all of my Camera training DVDs). You still need to be somewhat close, but the reach lets you get right in there without them knowing what you are doing. Not possible with a 24-70 2.8 or even a Canon 70-200 2.8 IS L . This combo was also really great for getting passing boats, I tried to pan at the same speed which they passed and it seemed to work great. It was also fantastic for getting shots of people on shore. All round the 100-400 proved to be the best for shooting from the boat. You can see this guys mouth is all red as he was chewing some type of local spice root. It was very common, I guess that is their version of bubble gum. One thing I found fascinating was how they bathed….with their clothes on! It was just how they did it. Taking a bath in the river naked would be a no-no. Bathers would also wash their clothing the same time they themselves cleaned up. It was pretty hot there so, if you have ever felt like just jumping in a pool with all of your clothes on, this is probably the same reasoning they use. We even go a few shots with the sky cam, and this one was the most interesting. Combo is the Canon 5DII + Canon EF 8-15mm f/4L Fisheye Most of the time I had the Canon 16-35mm 2.8 L on my Canon 5DII for wider shots….As night fell, candles boats were lit and placed into the river….Soon fireworks were going off and I quickly realized that we wouldn’t be able to get any decent shots from the boat, as it was rocking way too much and I needed to use a shutter speed of at least a second or longer to get the effect I wanted.

We had the boat pull over on the opposite side of the river and I had to jump with everything I had to land on try ground. Poky followed me, we set up the tri-pod and I went to work. I cannot tell you how thankful I was to know enough about the technical stuff to get set up fast – the fireworks didnt last very long at all and if I was slow, I would have never gotten the shot. This was my favorite shot of as far as fire works go:

Canon 5DII , Canon 16-35mm 2.8 L L Lens, On Tripod, 6.3, 2.0″, ISO 160

It was soon too dark for any of the 2.8 lenses, so I grabbed my Canon 50mm 1.4 . It was the only low light lens I had, sure wish I would have brought my Canon 24mm 1.4 L .As the night went on the fireworks and candles faded and we decided to wrap it up for the night….Typical side “street” in Shwe Kyin. Some families had electricity and would just sit outside their homes continuing to sell what they could…(the “guns” are toys)…but the main street was abuz with electricity and people. It was a long, tiring day…almost immediately after we started taking pictures on the main street, the police asked that we go inside for the night for our own protection and we did so.

Visiting Shwe Kyin

I still have tons of pictures to share from my Myanmar trip. The morning after our Shwedagong Pagoda shoot, we headed out to a small town in the Bago Division, called Shwe Kyin. It doesn’t show up on Google Maps, but its supposed to be a 4-5 hour drive south east from Yangon. While this town is accessible to natives, it is currently forbidden to foreigners. We had to get special permission to even drive into the city, let alone take pictures and we would be arriving for the Thadingyut Light Festival, which includes boat shows, dancing, races, and concludes with fireworks and candle boats placed on the water.

We rented a van and 2 drivers, and one of Paul’s friends, who served as a guide in the past decided to join us.
Despite leaving around 5am, I could not fall asleep and kept my eyes locked on the road. I took pictures of everything I could, but sometimes we were just moving too fast. We stopped at a local market, which I was always fascinated to watch. Waiters would literally SCREAM ordered across the restaurant so cooks could hear.Paul both advised me “Be really careful about what you eat, we can’t really afford either one of us getting sick, If you sense that its ok to eat it, you will probably be ok. If something really grosses you out, don’t try.” The next thing I know Jack is pulling out this huge ice chest of “normal” food including sandwiches and orange juice.

“I don’t want you guys getting sick.” A mentioned as he unpacked everything. Jack was amazing, he was one of the most prepared people I had ever met. He usually even packed clean silverware and cups for us to use.

Once we arrived to the Shwe Kyin bridge, the military guard said that we were not allowed entry, but once Jack showed him our permission, he called his supervisor and who confirmed and let us in. Almost immediately after crossing the bridge, we were met by the local secret police, who were all dressed in White Shirts and spoke on walkie-talkies. Most of them were also chewing a red type of root or bean which turned their mouths deep red.

Here they are on a boat, which I took later that day.These pictures were taken on the main street shortly after we arrived….

The town issued us these Blue Ribbons that designated us as guests and we were quickly taken to the festivities where the boats shows were going on. Essentially the way it worked was different sets of guests set up by the river, and the boats would stop at each and perform either a dance or skit. Each group would vote on which one they liked the most and at the end of the night one of the teams would be announced as the winner.Almost immediately I broke off from the main group, wanting to just take pictures of people, and introduce the inhabitants of this very small town to the world. About 2-3 minutes after I started shooting, the police asked me to stop. I think there was some apprehension on the publics’ part because here I was walking around taking pictures of them and their children and they just weren’t used to it. There were several occasions where people were so shocked that they almost fell over. Realizing I was in a foreign country, I had to respect their rules, so I stopped shooting, but once Jack found out, he cleared things up and I was allowed to shoot again. Here are my most favorite shots from that afternoon of shooting. This boy was terrified of me. You will notice he isnt wearing shoes… even out there in the jungle. While most people wore flip flops I did see this often.Good picture of Jack. He speaks 6 languages and I consider him a good friend now. Excellent host. He really had everything planned well. These guys are squeezing the juice out of sugar cane. From what I hear its pretty much guaranteed that you will get sick if you drink the resulting concoction. Typical home near the river…in Shwe Kyin. Extremely humble people…So after this shoot, we had a few hours to rest, but I knew that later on we would be getting on a boat again for fireworks and the lighting of the candle boats. I wanted a higher perspective…much higher….I wanted a sky cam. I still sell the adapter construction guide for hooking up a camera on a cleaning pole, but we were limited on supplies.
This is my 5Dii + 16-35 2.8 strapped on a long piece of Bamboo. I used an RC-1 Remote to trigger the timer. After a few tests, I know it would work.