Shooting Under Paradise

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


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.


JPEG Sources
Q
I took several test shots with my D-SLR. I shot under various lighting conditions indoors and out. I set the camera to program mode and simultaneously shot both RAW and JPEG. I didn’t edit any of the images. The JPEGs processed by the camera average 3.7 MB in size, but the RAW images converted to JPEGs in my computer (using Canon’s Digital Photo Professional software) average 6.9 MB. Why is there such a big difference in the JPEG file sizes? Am I correct in assuming the JPEG files converted from RAW make better prints than the camera-processed JPEG images?
G. Klimas
Via the Internet

A There are so many variables involved in converting a capture to JPEG that it’s almost impossible to explain the different resulting file sizes in your tests. But we can talk about some of the considerations.

A lot depends on the camera. My Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III allows me to preset JPEG quality on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 generating the highest quality and largest file. At default, a pro D-SLR like the 1Ds Mark III usually will produce a JPEG with a compression setting of 8. Consumer-level D-SLRs often have two settings, fine (8) and normal (5), which is sometimes used so the images don’t take up as much space on the card.

The only way you can really compare the JPEG generated by your camera’s internal software with the one generated by RAW conversion software on your computer is to be sure that both are set at the highest possible quality level when the conversion is made. That done, and all other things being equal, the larger JPEG file should generate the better print because it has less compression and contains more information. But again, there are many variables associated with the conversion settings, both in the camera and in the software, that influence print quality, including sharpness, contrast and color settings.

Viewing Video On Your LCD
Q
I’m using one of the new D-SLRs that offers HD video. The problem is that I have to use the LCD on the back of the camera, and it’s very difficult to see on a bright day. Focus becomes almost impossible, and even judging the ongoing exposure is difficult. I know that you’re doing HD video using the Canon EOS 5D Mark II; how are you solving this dilemma?
C. Curry
Los Angeles, Calif.

A Controlling video capture on a D-SLR is almost impossible in bright sunlight, no matter how excellent the LCD screen is. Just this last weekend I was taking HD video of the Balloon Classic here in Colorado Springs. It really would have been a problem without a new tool from Hoodman (www.hoodmanusa.com) in the form of a small elastic collar (Cinema Strap) that attaches to their three-inch LCD HoodLoupe. (I’ve been using the HoodLoupe for a couple of years now to check my images and histogram when I’m doing still captures in the field.) With the Cinema Strap, two adjustable elastic bands hold the HoodLoupe in place over the LCD on the back of the camera, freeing your hands to operate the camera controls. You now can place your eye against the loupe and see the LCD very clearly while you video. Another advantage is that instead of holding the camera out in front of you, you can stabilize it against your forehead. When using the HoodLoupe for video capture, I keep my other eye open to monitor what’s going on in front of me.

For information about upcoming seminars and digital-imaging workshops, visit www.georgelepp.com. If you have any tips or questions, address them to: OUTDOOR PHOTOGRAPHER, Dept. TT, George Lepp, 12121 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1200, Los Angeles, CA 90025-1176 or online at www.georgelepp.com.

1 Comment

    Re: HDR On Moving Subject

    Mr. Lepp, I have enjoyed reading your OP column for many (20+) years and this is my first correspondence.

    In reading your recent response to the above referenced question I may have missed the point regarding “moving subjects”. Respectfully, I find this concept interesting and would appreciate your response to the notion of ???HDR/motion?۝ topic.

    Personally, I have had success and interesting results capturing moving objects, (commuter train/autos) on 3 successive (bracketed) exposures, and combining them it Photomatix. I find the motion effect, when combined with proper HDR tweaking, provides an abstract other-world effect.
    If you are interested and provide option for uploading, I can forward two Photomatix/PS3 images utilizing the program demo.
    Look forward to your response to the question.
    Thanks, Richards Bruno

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