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Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Shooting Under Paradise

Getting Wet • HDR On Moving Subjects • JPEG Sources • Viewing Video On Your LCD

Labels: How-ToColumnTech Tips
A group of yellow tang cavorts in front of me and my Canon PowerShot D10 underwater camera. The camera was set to ISO 80, 1⁄640 sec., and ƒ/2.8. The lens was zoomed back to full wide-angle (6.2mm or 35mm equivalent). No flash was used.

Getting Wet
During a recent foray to Hawai’i to give seminars and workshops for the Canon Explorers of Light, I knew I’d be doing some snorkeling. (Hey! Somebody has to do this job!) I’ve previously used PowerShot compact digital cameras with underwater housings. They worked okay, but the LCD was difficult to see and the camera with the housing was too bulky to be used in other wet environments such as rainstorms.

The new Canon PowerShot D10 makes life a lot easier. This little waterproof camera has 12.1 megapixels, a bright 2.5-inch LCD screen, a 3x zoom lens (35-105mm equivalent), weighs less than seven ounces and is robust in the drop-and-kick department. So if you work in wet or cold conditions, do some snorkeling or diving to 33 feet or less and just want to carry a do-everything-in-any-environment camera on your outdoor adventures, here’s the ticket. You can get an accessory kit that has a soft pouch and some interesting straps. I found these very useful for securing the camera to my body as I snorkeled.

Other manufacturers offer similar cameras that will go underwater with you. Pentax offers the Optio W80, a 12-megapixel good to a depth of 16 feet. Olympus lets you get wet with the Stylus Tough-8000 and Tough-6000 cameras and the Stylus 1050 SW, 1030 SW and 850 SW. The 8000 gets you down to 33 feet with 10 megapixels and a 3.6x optical zoom.

HDR On Moving Subjects
Q I’ve seen the results that you and other photographers get with three-shot HDR composites on landscapes. What do you do when the subject is moving?
J. Kincade
St. Louis, Missouri

A The High Dynamic Range (HDR) technique does require three or more images in perfect registration for the software to work. That’s why it’s best to take the images from a tripod and, of course, the subjects can’t be in motion.

There’s a way to get the HDR effect from a single image, however. The method is laid out in two well-written pieces by New York photographer Ron Berard. The articles, “Single Image HDR, Parts I and II,” are posted on the Canon Digital Learning Center at www.usa.canon.com/dlc. The basic concept is to take a properly exposed or slightly underexposed image and output it three times in the RAW converter: at normal exposure, at +2 stops and at -2 stops. Then composite and process the three images with HDRSoft’s Photomatix software (www.hdrsoft.com). The results are very interesting. Look at the examples and follow the directions at the website; it will add another dimension to your photographic work.

There are some limitations. This method doesn’t work well when shooting at higher ISOs because the two-stops-under outputs are just too noisy. Remember that nothing will bring back information that just isn’t there, so if your single capture has greatly overexposed or underexposed areas, the triple-output solution isn’t going to yield a quality image.

The single-image method is a great solution when there’s subject movement or you can’t get three or more shots. But the results always will be superior if the three captures are taken at the outset, one on the money for the midtones, one two-stops underexposed for the bright areas and one two-stops overexposed for the dark areas. You can capture quick three-image HDR sequences when you don’t have a tripod and the subject is pretty much stationary by setting your camera to multiple framing (motordrive) and the AEB (automatic exposure bracketing) to three shots (Nikons might need to shoot five). Set the exposure bracketing to capture one proper exposure, one exposure two stops over and one exposure two stops under. Hold very still and fire off the three quick shots. Your odds are good that the Photomatix software will register the three images with the small amount of difference between them and produce a highly detailed image with fine details revealed throughout the tonal range.

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