12 June 2011

Create HDR effect from just one photo

There are plenty of tutorials explaining how to create an HDR photo.
Most of them mention use of so called Auto Exposure Bracketing (AEB), a function some DSLR photo cameras don't have, or for that reason, taking three shots of the same scene using different aperture times or different exposure compensation values.

No matter how fast we shoot, if we shoot in dynamic conditions, for example photographying a car that moves fast, or tops of trees moved by strong wind, or we take photos from a train window... we will almost always end up having three photos with objects that are not in the same position.
We'll have to reallign all objects on those three photos, and probably also crop some parts.
And what if the tops of the threes are leaned in one direction on one photo and in the opposite direction on other two photos? How can we allign threes leaned in different directions? We can't. Not to mention a car that moved 3 meters in a split of a second!

Those tutorials also say you absolutely must take photos having your camera fixed on tripod.

Well, here's how to create a nicely dramatic photo without needing the EAB function on your camera, without having to hastily fiddle with aperture times, and without necessarily having to use a tripod.

I'll use as example a photo taken from a bench in park yesterday.
No tripod was used at all and my Nikon D3100 hasn't EAB function either.

Click on the miniature to enlarge it.

In order to create an HDR photo we need to shoot in RAW format.
Most of the DSLR Nikon cameras come with NEF (RAW) Processing feature, under RETOUCH MENU tab.

We use such feature to create two JPEG copies of our photo with modified EV value each.
Note: you can't modify the EV value directly on a JPEG photo. That's why we need to shoot in RAW format for this experiment.

Here's how the first jpeg looks like after I modified the original EV value using NEF (RAW) Processing feature.

Once we have two different jpeg files: one darker and one brighter, we transfer them onto PC and open in Photoshop.

I use Photoshop 7 that hasn't MERGE TO HDR feature so I will have to use VECTOR MASK and BLENDING OPTIONS to achieve the desired effect.
In Photoshop I open the two photos, select and copy the darker photo and paste it on top of the brighter photo to have 2 layers as shown here, on the left.

Then I apply  VECTOR MASK on the "darker photo" layer as seen on this screenshot.

This is how the layer looks now.

With the upper layer still selected I right-click on it to play with the BLENDING OPTIONS and chose from dropdown menu any option that pleases me.
Linear Burn and Luminosity are the ones I found the most interesting while working on this photo with tall trees.

Another way to achieve more dramatic effect might be by adjusting CONTRAST and BRIGHTNESS.

Remember to always click on the correct THUMBNAIL on the upper layer before adjusting CONTRAST or BRIGHTNESS.
There are 2 thumbnails on that layer:
- photo thumbnail
- mask thumbnail (white rectangular)

Once it's done I click on MASK thumbnail, pick the brush tool, and having black colour selected as foreground, I start to PAINT-OUT the trees and all the rest making thus the "brighter photo" layer visible from beneath, except the sky. Basically, I make a "HOLE" in the "darker photo" masked layer.

This effect was achieved by playing with CONTRAST and BRIGHTNESS.

And this effect was possible thanks to Luminosity option under BLENDING OPTIONS drop-down menu.

VoilĂ !. ;)

18 January 2011

Night at Foggy Park

I'm already back from the park we have here in front of the condominium. It's been foggy out there since 5pm now. I decided to take advantage of this "rare" misty atmosphere to shoot some pix using my Nikon D3100.

I wanted that classic scene with a curved park path with a row of fluorescent lamps, vanishing after few meters, just like in old movies with Sherlock Holmes who follows Dr Moriarty after midnight in the middle of a dark park full of floating fog.

Here's one of the 49 pix I took :P

Shutter 1/13
Aperture 3.5
ISO 200
Focal Length 18mm

Not happy!
I fiddled a lot with the White Balance options. I picked all of them, included those I new it was useless to even try with. Nothing worked for me. Some pix were bluish, some greenish but in most cases they were completely FANTA! Much much more than the one here above.

I had an A4 sheet of white paper with me too. So I glued it to a steamy glass panel protecting the Map of the Park, right next to a lamp post, switched the WB to PRE mode and made the measuring process pointing at the white paper for as long as finally managed to have it recorded onto the Nikon's brain.

I must say that the more light I had let into the lens (high ISO, long aperture) the more orange the pix came out. Some of them quite nice. But not truthful!
Here's an example:

and here!


I won't have that fog so soon again, so I kinda feel pixd off but, hey, the winter isn't to come to an end that quickly! I still have about two months for solving my fluorescent issue :P

BTW, how do you cope with this type of light?