January 21, 2014

A few days ago, one of my best friends and fellow micro four thirds enthusiasts (check out his Flickr here) suggested I try out the Enfuse HDR Plugin for Lightroom. It can be found here, and for a monetary donation of your choice, you are granted access to the full version of the app. I wanted to share my first run of images processed using it. Ill admit now that the following photos are not the most interesting, but they do give an example of what Enfuse is capable of. I will start with showing how I came up with the introductory shot. The photos for this were taken by turning on the "exposure bracketing" mode on my EM5 to "5 photos at 1 exposure value difference". In addition I switched my shooting mode to "high speed burst pulse". I don't have a tripod offshore so I rested my camera on the hand rail shown and held down the shutter button. I was shooting in "manual" mode and the aperture on my 7.5mm fisheye was set to f/5.6. Therefore, the camera changed the exposure by altering the shutter speed. Below is a screen grab of the 4 resultant photos whose shutter speeds were (top left to bottom right) 1/500, 1/250, 1/60, 1/30:

To run Enfuse, I followed the directions published by "HDR Guide" that can be found here. The suggestion is to use at least 5 exposure levels and to do a "global edit" on the series of photos before you run the plug in. For the global edit, I used "Punch" under the "Lightroom General Presets" heading. I chose this preset because it only adds a bit of clarity and color saturation... nothing too drastic. After the global edits were made I ran the series through Enfuse which automagically imported this TIFF file back into Lightroom: 

As you can see, the photo above is more "balanced" compared to the four that were used to make it. Here, the foreground railing is not under exposed and the background sunrise does not exhibit blown out highlights. On a bit of a side note, I have come into the habit of correcting the photos I take with the 7.5mm third party fisheye for distortion. The following is a screen grab of what this looks like:

After cropping, I processed the photo to taste by adjusting the tone, increasing the clarity, muting the colors, and adding a gold overlay using "split toning". I chose increased contrast and a warm overlay because I wanted the the photo convey a sense of nostalgia. However, there is a wide range of options here. 

I think the plugin works great at giving you natural looking photos in cases when getting a proper exposure is difficult. The following are examples of such instances:

A) Subject is back-lit: Sure I could have composed this so that the sun was out of the picture, but I simply enjoyed the flare it provided. If I were to have only exposed for the sunlight then details in the lens would have been lost. If I had exposed to bring out the details in the lens, then the sky would have been blown out. Layering five photos using Enfuse provided a great solution.    

B) Subject is heavily shaded: Here, my focal point in this photo was in the shade and like the "backlit situation", simply exposing for the chain would have led to a blown out sky. Using Enfuse allowed me to retain details in both the foreground and background all while still producing a natural looking photo.

C) Subject itself is an intense light source: It would have been very difficult for me to photograph the sun here and retain both detail in the clouds and water without the use of Enfuse.

Even if the thought of over processed, insanely saturated, hard to look at HDR photos makes you run for the hills, you shouldn't discount the tasteful side of this type of photography. The concepts behind HDR deal with exposure and in part learning how to read a histogram. The following articles published by The Phoblographer were a great introduction for me:
If you get a chance, I highly recommend you check out Enfuse. Once you get a handle on how it operates it is extremely easy to use and a great introduction to (tasteful) HDR.

Sam D.

January 18, 2014

My last post mentioned some experimentation with nighttime photography and I wanted to highlight some of the resultant photos here. I am offshore, but not technically working yet so I was able to spend a few nights outside attempting to showcase (as a Cancerian, my favorite) the moon. Traditionally astrophotographers avoid the moon like the plague because its intensity drowns out the light coming from stars, but I figured I could use the full moon's output to my advantage. Unfortunately, during the first two nights that I went out to shoot the seas were very rough and it was hard to come up with a decent photo... not that that stopped me from trying ;)

"Torrential" 7.5mm, f/3.5, 4 sec, iso200
"Moonset" 7.5mm, f/3.5, 4 sec, iso200
"Diagonal" 45mm, f/1.8, 1/10, iso200
The third night however, was a charm. Winds were down, the sea was calm and the Viking I was bathed in moonlight. This allowed me to really push the envelope when it came to exposure time.

"Just right" 7.5mm, f/3.5, 12 sec, iso200
"Stars" 7.5mm, f/3.5, 7 sec, iso200
"Swimming" 7.5mm, f/3.5, 7.2 sec, iso200
Overall conditions for long exposure photography on a boat are not ideal. Not only is the vessel moving up and down due to wave action, you are also usually traveling in a particular direction. On top of that, I have no tripod so I had to rely on the boat itself to stabilize my camera. This turned out to be an obstacle in itself because the giant mechanics working on the inside of the boat cause tons of vibrations. In the photos below however, I utilized the lighting from the boat to "help".

"VS492" 7.5mm, f/3.5, 1 sec, iso400 
"Helideck" 7.5mm, f/3.5, 6 sec, iso200
"F" 7.5mm, f/3.5, 6 sec iso200
By the time I took the photo above, I could see the horizon opposite the moon start to brighten with daylight. The following photos are what I took as the sun was rising.

"Concave" 7.5mm, f/3.5, 1 sec, iso200
"Seafaring" 7.5mm, f/3.5, 0.5 sec, iso200
"Dave" 45mm, f/1.8, 1/60, iso200
Of course, most of the photos in this series were taken with the 7.5mm third party fisheye that I have been raving about (see here, here, or here) because I have really taken a liking to it. I also used the 40-150mm kit zoom for the first "close up" moon shot and 45mm MZD portrait lens a bit. I came into the habit of using the live bulb mode on my EM5 to get a "feel" for how long my shutter speed should be and then setting my camera accordingly (usually a second under) for the shot to get a rounded exposure value (ie. 6 instead of 6.8) but this was not done in all instances. Hope you enjoyed at least one of the photos in this set =) It was challenging, and definitely out of my comfort zone but that's what photography is about right!? Until next time!

Sam D.

January 14, 2014

On Christmas eve my partner and I had the pleasure of visiting the Spectacle of Dancing Lights showcase at Disney's Hollywood Studios theme park. It was an awesome experience, and one of the only places in FL where it snows! Albeit fake, it was cold enough that evening that it felt real... perfect for putting us in the Christmas spirit :D It was also a cool opportunity to use the 7.5mm fisheye that the two posts before this have showcased. I plan on posting more photos from our vacation, but I felt "The Spectacle" would be a good way to end this small three part series on the lens. It was hard to concentrate on taking these because I was a bit overwhelmed by how awesome 6 million lights look. I could have composed my shots better, but oh well, I guess I was having too much fun. Hope you enjoy them anyhow. I also took a video, but I am back offshore and posting it would be a bit much for the server out here.


For more on this third party fisheye:
© 2012. Design by Main-Blogger - Blogger Template and Blogging Stuff