Thursday, April 26, 2007


To this day hardly a photo shoot goes by without revealing some surprises. Sometimes good surprises, sometimes not. Today's image was a good surprise. On the one hand it's a nice cute kid photo, but on the other I believe it goes a bit further.

I dunno, there is something about her expression, her interaction with the balloon, the turn of her right hand... for me it all comes together to create one of those images that take it a step further than the typical cute kid photo. One that not only the child's parents and relatives may enjoy, but one that just looks cool.

The original was shot in RAW at iso400 and rescued from a 1.5 stop underexposure. And while I try to get exposure right whenever possible, the benefits of adjustment for exposure and white balance during the conversion process make getting the nice surprises from RAW a lot more likely than with JPEG. Thank goodness for RAW.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


Some years ago I started taking photos of things in our local wood for the purpose of identification. Especially things of color or unusual texture: flowers, trees, shrubs, vines, fungi, whatever.... I wanted to learn more about the natural world I was photographing and it always irritated me to be asked "what kind of "x" is that?" and not have the answer. And later, when I started submitting a few images to stock agencies I thought I would include some the better ones despite their limited commercial appeal.

So, as boring as they may be, I take them. In fact, I cannot seem to get through a spring season without taking a goodly number of these "woodsy"photos. I usually only hang onto those images that represent new items to my collection or that show an item in a way that I have not managed before.

This spring I happened to get today's image, which I believe does a fair job of representing the Mayapple. All of my previous Mayapple images focused on the flower and gave no sense at all of the unusual shape of the plant. This one at least gives you a clue.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Experiments in HDR

The topic of today's post revolves around "high dynamic range photography" or "HDR." I'm a fan of HDR in principle, though I was initially quite disappointed in most folks use of the technique. In short, I don't care for HDR imagery that looks like HDR imagery!

To my eyes any HDR image that looks at first glance like an HDR image is just wrong; a veritable crime against nature, a form of visual heresy where the photos take on a decidedly alien aura that is simply not natural. Much of this is due to heavy-handed technique and can be avoided, but like so many of the PS tools where there is ample room for interpretation, I suppose there will always be those that insist on pushing things to the edge, and over, in search of their own personal brand of photographic enlightenment. Which is fine, I suppose. Nobody said I had to like it.

Still, I do hope this overindulgence will prove to be nothing more that a passing fad and that these otherwise excellent photographers will eventually come to their senses and begin using the software in a more sensible manner. One only needs to look through the HDR offerings on photo sharing sites such as "pbase" and "flikr" to see what I mean. You'll find some nice images that are tastefully rendered, true, but you will also find the bizarre aura that accompanies those that aren't as well managed. Gack! To my eyes, anyways, many of these are decidedly overworked.

This alien aura made me very leery of the process at first. For a time it was so prevalent in HDR images that I thought it was an unavoidable by-product of the process, like so much manure in the stockyard. Eventually, though, I saw enough good of the technique to spring for the software. (Of course, if you use CS2 you get this built in, but I am still using CS.)

I quickly found that using the software to blend the images is not hard, but learning how to get images that looked sensible takes time. Several interesting things happen in the image merging and tone mapping process that I don't begin to understand, and I will probably have to tinker with the technique for while before I am truly comfortable, but it is fun.

The image presented here represents one of my more worthwhile attempts. I still find the saturation a bit garish, but otherwise it looks too flat. Colors seem to get heated up and overcook really fast, especially the reds and greens, and keeping these looking more or less natural is a real concern.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

In The Garden

One of the highlights of some recent time away from my usual work-a-day life was a visit this past Sunday to Garvan Gardens. It was my first trip to a botanical garden and it made for a wonderful afternoon in the outdoors.

The camera came along for the trip but the cloudless, bolt-on blue skies made photography in the shady woodlands of the garden a bit challenging. (Whenever possible I prefer at least partially cloudy skies for flowers, but sometimes you just don't have that option.) Still, I felt lucky enough to get what I thought were a few good shots by the time we left the gardens. Many of these "good shots" turned out to be botched by spotty exposures, and so once again I was reminded that exposure should never be taken for granted in harsh lighting. If you change lenses (I did) and don't take into account that it will gather light differently than the one that was on the camera before (it did) you may get some surprises when you review the images at home (I did).

Now that I'm all energized and back to work I hope to get my posts back onto a more regular schedule. At least once a week is what I initially planned to shoot for, and I have missed about 3 at this point. Oops!