The Power of Black and White – Canon S95 HDR

Maybe it’s the visit to the Ansel Adams show with Chris on Saturday that has sent me over the edge, but I’m continually intrigued by how one can take a color photo and turn it into a much more powerful black and white image.

See the photo below – it’s #3 from my initial Canon S95 HDR post earlier this morning.

Rodin's Gates of Hell @ Stanford

Frankly, I didn’t spend much time on this photo – the point was to provide it (a traditional HDR post-processed shot) as a point of comparison with the new in-camera HDR feature built-in to the S95.

As I was looking at it, I wondered how a conversion to black and white might look – now that I’ve become acquainted and familiar with Lightroom 3’s excellent Black and White Mix controls.

So, I gave it a shot – here’s the result – after about 10 minutes of tweaking in Lightroom:

Rodin's Gates of Hell - Canon PowerShot S95 - HDR

Obviously, it’s the same subject as the original photo – Rodin’s Gates of Hell – but it’s been transformed into a more powerful photograph through the conversion to black and white.

I also experimented for the first time using the new Lens Correction features in Lightroom 3 – to remove the distortion in terms of angle, etc. that I had in the original image. It now looks very close to a direct, head-on shot at the scuplture.

Finally, I tweaked it in Flickr – using Picnik to add a museum frame around it – dressing it up a bit.

I like the result. What do you think?

You may also want to view my Flickr set of Canon S95 HDRs taken this morning at Stanford.

Yosemite – Handheld HDR with Canon 5D Mark II

Half Dome - Yosemite - 2010

Very early yesterday, I headed into Yosemite National Park for a quick one day photo shoot – with my Canon 5D Mark II and Canon PowerShot S90 in hand. You can see some early results in my Yosemite Flickr set here.

Most of the photos I shot with the 5D were shot on a monopod – good for some stability and sharpness in the individual images but not good enough for post-processing HDR images without aligning the photos.

A few tests confirmed that Photomatix wasn’t nearly as good as Photoshop CS5 at aligning the 3 raw images I had shot for each capture. So my workflow evolved into the following:

  1. Open the 3 images in PhotoShop as layers in a single document. The simplest way to do this is to use Bridge CS5 – selecting Tools – Photoshop – Load Files into Photoshop Layers… after selecting the 3 images to be used.
  2. Once Photoshop has opened the images, then select Edit – Auto Align to align the layers.
  3. Then select Files – Scripts – Export Layers to Files… to export each layer (now aligned with the others). Select JPG when prompted and select a filename and location that makes sense for these 3 images.
  4. Now that the images have been aligned (this is only a requirement for handheld HDR!), you can go ahead and open them in Photomatix and continue the HDR creation process.
  5. Once you’ve tweaked Photomatix and saved the resulting HDR image, you may want to open it again in Photoshop and apply a few additional adjustments – sharpening in particular.

That’s it – a bit complicated. Makes me want to go invest in a good tripod – to avoid the need to auto-align the images!

HOW TO: Setting up the Canon PowerShot S90 to Shoot HDR

Golden Gate Bridge - 2010

[Update: These same techniques apply to the Canon PowerShot S100 and, I believe, to the Canon PowerShot S110 as well as the Canon PowerShot S95.]

A friend has asked how I’ve been setting up my Canon PowerShot S90 to take the HDR (High Dynamic Range) photos I’ve been sharing.

Here’s what I’ve been doing:

  1. Put the S90 into Aperture Priority mode by setting the mode dial to Av. By shooting in Av, you ensure that the camera isn’t adjusting the aperture (which could cause focus issues) but, rather, only shutter speed. 
  2. Select a fixed (not Auto) ISO (see p. 76 in the S90 manual). In daylight, choose 80 or 100. You want a fixed ISO so that the camera isn’t trying to adjust ISO between shots.
  3. Select Large format JPEG or RAW (see p. 72 in the S90 manual). (I find the Large JPEGs are the easiest to post-process while purists say to shoot in RAW. The S90 does a superb job of processing in-camera, so just choose Large JPEG when you’re getting started.)
  4. Turn on Auto Exposure Bracketing (AEB mode – see p. 93 in the S90 manual). Chose the middle option – “Takes 3 different shots at different exposures”. While still in that setting, press the DISP button and turn the dial to select +/- 2 stops. This ensures that the camera takes 3 shots: one properly exposed, one underexposed by 2 stops, and one overexposed by 2 stops. These three photos are what Photomatix Pro then uses to create the HDR image.

Now, the S90 is ready to go.

For best results, mount the S90 on a tripod to prevent any movement as the three shots are being taken. If you don’t have a tripod, you can try handheld HDR – just try to brace your arm against a support to minimize any camera movement. When you hit the shutter button, the camera will take the 3 shots – about a shot per second. After 3 seconds or so, it’s done.

I post-process in Lightroom – using it to import the photos from the S90. I then use Photomatix Pro and just point it to the 3 shots in the file folder to begin generating the HDR image. Once the image has been generated and tone mapped, I save it back into the same folder and then import that image also into Lightroom – telling Lightroom to just add it to the catalog but not to copy it as the image is already in the folder.

For the best overall tutorial on HDR processing, be sure the see Trey Ratcliff’s Stuck in Customs HDR tutorial.

Shoot HDR on the Canon EOS 5D Mark II – Rodin’s Gates of Hell

IMG_0088_89_90_tonemappedHere’s my first attempt at handheld HDR photography using my new Canon EOS 5D Mark II.

The setting is Rodin’s Gates of Hell at the Cantor Arts Center on the Stanford University campus.

I love their description:

“The Rodin Sculpture Garden is open all hours, with lighting for nighttime viewing. Admission is free.”

I took three raw shots while seating on the ground, holding the camera as steady as I could, using Aperture Priority with three high-speed shots on the 5D Mark II.

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More HDR Photography – Allied Arts Guild in Menlo Park

It was another bright sunny January early afternoon today – following a clear, crisp night last night with temps early this morning in the mid-30’s and frost on the deck!

Getting Outside

Allied Arts Guild, Menlo Park, CA

HDR – Fully Processed

After (seemingly!) playing endlessly with Twitter and FriendFeed this morning, I decided to leave the computer behind and to head outdoors to do some more mid-day, bright sun, high dynamic range (HDR) photography. For me, HDR is perfect for mid-day, high contrast sun/shadow photography – just the opposite of that special early morning / early evening soft light that photographers otherwise learn to love.

This time, I wanted to stay close to home and minimize the travel time. Stanford University is always an option – it’s literally just around the corner and is where I started my HDR exploits in early September 2008. There’s a world of photo opportunities still waiting for me there at Stanford. But, been there, done that! I was looking for new adventures today!

Continue reading “More HDR Photography – Allied Arts Guild in Menlo Park”