Saturday, September 23

HDR Experimenting (1)

Thanks to my friend and gifted Austrian photographer Andreas Mannesinger (See his link there on the right?), I got a guided tour of his Vienna on Wednesday August 2, 2017. I'll have much to write later about that day, but I've nostly used the outtakes of that shoot for this HDR experimenting.

I took a new camera to a 14 day European river cruise on the maiden voyage of  Teeming River cruises which included a day and a half in Vienna. It's a 7D Mark II. I upgraded from my 7D Mark II instead of going full frame so my three lenses would still be compatible. In addition to the cool reviews of the Mark II's processor's ability to conquer low light and high contrast, I was very interested in it's HRD and GPS capacity. While I generally switched on the GPS software, I've not yet examined the results. Instead, I've first examined the HDR capabilities in cooperation with Photoshop CC's built in HDR Pro. I own Photomatix Pro 5 and expect to eventually pair it with the 7D's HDR files. But first here are some immediate results with the PSCC + Canon features.

NOTE: I expect to add to this posting over the next days, as I work upon additional HDR images. Recall also that HDR is essentially exposure bracketing. Meaning the camera fires a burst of images, one which the meter judges as right on, and others that either over or under expose around that initial setting. Thus some of the images expose for shadow detail, others for highlight detail. By combining the images Photoshop CC HDR Pro (PSCC HDR-Pro) attempts display the average exposure, then pull in detail in both shadows and highlights from the other images made in that burst.

For example.... (1)

Subway Bustle
Here's an entirely meaningless grab shot from the Vienna subway. You may click on any of these images to enlarge the details. I purposely used a slow shutter speed to enhance the sense of commuter hustle-bustle. So the effect I intended is enhanced but so are the details in the shadows and highlights except for the streaks of dark and light where I intended to enhance the tone with some dramatic color slashes. Comments? Without HDR, this RAW image is entirely flat. Incidentally, PSCC HDR-Pro flattens the various shots from a cluster shot into one that is 16 Bits deep. Say what? Think of the image laid flat on a tabletop. Now take a ruler that measures in Bits instead of say inches or meters and measure the depth of the image. The thicker the image the more information that  sits at any one spot. Information that can be mined. In PSCC you can dig into layers to reveal the photos that exposed for highlights or for shadows revealing that information from above.

OK... Now most RAW images are 8 bits deep... jpg images for example. RAW images can be much deeper and PSCC allows us to dig into either 8, 16, or 32 bit deep surfaces. Here I chose 16 bits which allowed me to pull out those vivid yellows and see the flashes of green and blue? Hence while details are blurred, the color glimmers add an illusion of sharpness to the image.

Then here in (2)...

Street Worker

I wondered how a grab shot of a Viennese beggar might work when rendered as an impressionist painting. The lighting was viciously contrasty on a Viennese mid-day in August. I'm not at all happy with the result. I opted to leave the blue cast of the shadows, perhaps removing it might enhance the overall impact, but it just appears gimmicky and forced to me.  

In (3)...


So I decided to combine HDR with heavy texture to play with the wonderful human shapes lined up to refill their water bottles in downtown Vienna. The skin tones are perfect, and the shadows invited the texturing revealing suggestive detail and glimmers of color. Here I think that HDR will allow a lot of conceptual narrative. But this particular meaningless image was ready for the trash yet it provided a good chance to even out a harshly high contrast moment where the figures were in full sunlight and background in shadow. Oddly, as I look at it there seems to be a Norman Rockwell something wafting from this image. Y'think?

Now (4)....


Here the spooky colors of HDR totally pop. I could have muted those blues in particular but their drama seemed too dramatic to overlook. Notice the depth of field (DOF) here in the early morning sun (all images were hand-held) allowing for a smaller lens opening while utilizing a higher shutter speed. Thus the image is sharp while DOF is dramatically deep. You can easily peer down the street. There's really no value to me beyond craft in this image... It makes no comment beyond those that the building's owners might enjoy. Still it is high-craft thanks to the ability HDR allows for digging into highlights... Look at the sun and  window reflections while revealing the detail I wanted (note the area beneath the  under-hang under the number 265). 

Now here's (5)...

Maybe A Church?

Crunchy? U-huh. this one of those typical church-like buildings which seem to pock the streets of European cities. It may not even be a church steeple, perhaps a library? Regardless, it's pretty, but says little more to me. However there's a postcard attractiveness that sucked in my lens. Here I experimented with the Edge Glow and Edges Strength sliders in PSCC-Pro. Which results in a crispy-pop to details. I can sand my nails on the texture in this image. To what effect? The image is pretty without meaning and the effect's reduced its underlying charm. However it does show the power of PSCC-pro to inflate the edges of knife-like details. I can imagine using it sparingly in some images to create a purposeful distraction. I also almost completely removed all shadows from this mostly back-lit tower which also makes my brain say... "Whu?" It's a terrible fake, useful only when I might want to create a terrible fake to make a statement. And again, particularly in the blues, the colors are, well, creepy, don't you think?

Now lettuce look at (6)...

He's Eyeing Me!

Here the intention was to go surreal with a surreal Viennese billboard. In monochrome which I'd then selectively recolor by hand. Okay... technically it works, but it's a podge of purposelessness. Hey, everything doesn't sear into deep meaning, okay? 😥 However I got a lot more of that crunchiness in the grass and the horizontal slats in the upper right than intended. Apparently the edge sliders are considerably more powerful than they appear when working in PSCHD-Pro. Moreover the colors I chose are even creepier than the stuff that comes out of HD. Ugh! But the tonal map here is generally more believable and coming under better control.

Which brings me to (7)...
TWA? What's That?

Better. The idea was to create a travel poster for the Teeming River Cruises. Have you ever seen the classic TWA travel posters? They generally depicted paintings of  high-key iconic scenes from far-away places that hung behind the desks of travel agents. Here was my first chance to intentionally exaggerate the edge slider power in PSCC HDR-Pro. See how there's a white fringe around the edges? While I deleted some where it was most distracting, I emphasized it in this image then processed it through Alien Skin's SnapArt 3's oil painting filter. 

Okay, that's not Vienna, you caught me: But this image combined so many of the iconic Slovak details of their capital city along with their fearless use of primary colors that it cried out for the TWA treatment. For the first time the tools created exactly the feeling I'd preconceived. And note how even with the distraction of the oil effects, there are still shadow and highlight details where I intended them?  Okay, I'm getting somewhere... Um, right? 

Life's about learning, right. Critique and comments madly accepted either here to through the email on the right. Thanks...

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