Sunday, September 25, 2011

Adelaide Shots at Random... HDR on the Cheap

Hi all... well been quite busy of late, what with sickness and massive work overload (brain still frying, but can't tell what from). Anyhow, I thought I'd do a little cross promotion and mention my G+ account whilst introducing a few of my practice photos from around Adelaide... and if you're interested, just look for +Adelaide Ben (sorry if the link doesn't work) on Google Plus. Check me out, if you've got a spare moment or two.

Now I'm the first to admit that I don't really know that much about photography. My pedigree is Point + Shoot. It's a simple recipe that sometimes comes ups with a treat (but many times just fills my digital trashcan up). Anyhow I went into this day - well I won't lie, these photos are from late August - just wanting to experiment with different techniques and styles.
Torrens Lake, Adelaide

I'll start off with my multi-exposure photos. Now most people that have been looking at photos on the net would be very familiar with HDR - High dynamic Range photos (just checkout Trey Ratcliff's Stuck in Customs or David La Spina's JapanDave website for some examples - or for more local examples David Fielding, Ken Wah, Danny Tan, and Andrew Domaracki are just a few of the HDR photographers in Adelaide that I've come across). Most images with a large range of lit and shadowed areas are often difficult to take photos of. Most cameras just don't have the sensor range to show a nicely balanced view - and you end up with burnt (white areas) or shadows of death where detail's killed. The idea of HDR is that you take photos at different exposures (say at several stops difference) and then superimpose them (or tone-map the images together) such that the blooms and shadows are filled in and more evenly balanced.

St Peter's Cathedral from Across the Torrens Lake

This is usually done by taking a exposure bracketed set of 3 photos (RAW or JPG) and then using something like Photomatix to do the clever bit. Well - I don't have Photomatix, so I've tried to dodgey up a "subtle" HDR-like photos using Photo Shop Elements 8.0 (the only sort of photo processing software I own outside of free Picasa). The effects are pretty muted compared to the sorts of HDR photos you'll see on the net, but then again, they are also IMO more naturalistic looking as compared to the more extreme range compressions that are commonly seen. Still, these do often offer a very attractive (if slightly surreal) image that's definitely striking.

Rotunda at Elder Park

On the upside, you get a good range of colours and shades in these multi-exposure photos. It is however still very much dependent on making a good framing choice (I don't pretend to be good at that). A crap single photo doesn't suddenly become an amazing set of 3 photos just because you superimpose them.

Another Rotunda Shot

The main difficulty with these multi-exposure shots is movement. Any movement of the camera, or subject, will lead to slight misalignment of the 3 (or more) images. Tripods (or monopods) are highly recommended. Though not always critical. It's important to remember what is moving in the image will not necessarily look good in the final composite (including ghosting and just plain old crap artefacts). The photo below was a little interesting in that it had quite a bit of movement in the fountain, but that this was so diffused anyway, it's not so obvious.
Entertainment Centre + Hyatt Regency Hotel

Now for all those that love Adelaide, or the parklands, or Cricket... here's a last simple shot for all of you. Now as I wasn't using a tripod for these, if you're keen you can see that there's a general loss of detail (hard on this view I know). Also, I said it was subtle. The first photo below is "best guess exposure" from the camera.

This shot is with the the multi-exposure. Subtle it is. But it's sort of good that the clouds, trees, St Peter's Cathedral and the statue itself are all better balanced in exposure. But I'm not sure that anyone would have been particularly worried one way or the other on this shot. And that's perhaps the difference with HDR on PSE 8. It's job is only to produce more balanced photos - not the dramatic works of art that adorn many flickr and G+ sites/posts.
Statue of Donald Bradman and St Peter's Cathedral
So the end of this little post is a simple message. HDR or multiexposure photography can be fun - but it's also a bit of work (and especially in terms of keeping the frame/subject steady between multiple shots). It can be pleasing - even if you're not a fan of the extreme tone-mapping that goes on. But - it's not a replacement for just having fun with the camera and learning how to use it.

PS - if I've missed you in the original collection of Adelaide HDR links, just drop me a line and I'll add you to the list.


  1. Some great pictures and you have done really well. I am a very simple photographer myself usually just point and shoot but that is about all my camera will allow me to do. Need to look at getting a better quality camera for my next mission.

    Japan Australia