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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Special Techniques For Landscapes

Excerpted from Rob Sheppard’s new book, The Magic of Digital Landscape Photography

This Article Features Photo Zoom

Sheppard employed HDR software to combine the three images below and create a photo that showed the scene as he saw it.
Working With HDR
With HDR, or high-dynamic range, photography, you take multiple exposures of a scene, varying the exposure from dark to light, then combine those images in special software that builds a photo that shows a much greater tonal range than the camera can handle with a single photo. You can actually create a photo closer to what you saw rather than be limited by the arbitrary limitations of camera technology.

In some ways, I feel HDR brings me back to the traditional techniques of Ansel Adams. Adams held detail throughout his scenes because of the way he applied technology (exposure and chemistry) specifically to the conditions of the scene (he generally overexposed high-contrast shots and underdeveloped them, plus did added work when he made the print).

By doing exactly what Adams did, changing exposure (in the case of HDR, making several different exposures) and processing uniquely (using HDR software), we can now capture scenes that simply weren’t possible in color before.

Here’s how to compose an HDR landscape shot:
1 Lock your camera down on a sturdy tripod.
2 Set your camera to AEB (auto-exposure bracketing) along with continuous shooting and try 3 to 5 exposures of at least one whole ƒ-stop difference (though 1.5 to 2 stops is usually better). AEB allows you to automatically change exposure by just pressing the shutter release.
3 Check exposures. You want exposures that range from dark enough to hold good detail in the brightest areas of the image all the way down to exposures that are bright enough to reveal color and tonality in the dark parts of the picture.

With experience, you’ll better be able to gauge what kind of exposure you need on specific conditions and unique landscapes. Now you bring your pictures back to the computer. You have several choices as to how to bring these exposures together. The new version of HDR in Photoshop CS5 isn’t bad, though I’m not a big fan of it. I find that Photomatix makes images too easily go to the bizarre side. HDR Darkroom is a low-priced program that gives very natural results. My favorite is Nik Software’s new HDR Efex Pro—I find I feel like I’m in the traditional darkroom when using it.


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