Category Archives: Photomatix

Pseudo HDR – Revisited

Pseudo HDR is a variation of the HDR process that I’ve discussed in previous posts.  Lately, I’ve had the occasion to refine my technique.  Instead of waiting until the end of this post to show the result, I’ll show you now:

M3 Tank, Pseudo HDR

Above – M3 Tank, Pseudo HDR, processed from a single RAW image.

The image above is from this single RAW file below (converted to .jpeg for this post):

M3 Tank, Original

Above – Original image, Olympus E-P3 RAW file.

To begin, a definition of what the heck pseudo HDR is would be in order.  Pseudo HDR is the process of taking a single RAW image, and creating several additional images from the original.

Why would you want to do this when it seems simple enough to have your camera bracket 3 images (+1 and -1 f-stop from the original)?  There are many reasons, including not having a tripod available, moving subjects, or even having a camera without the ability to bracket shots.

Once you have your single RAW image, you can begin processing.  In fact, having a RAW file is essential (I suppose you could use a .jpeg file but your results may not be as good).  With a RAW file, you have enough data to create multiple images with varying exposures from +2 to -2 f-stops.  I don’t want to get into a discussion of what’s better, RAW or Jpeg. If you’re interested in that just do a search and you’ll find plenty of opinions, I’m just offering mine, based on my experience.

The screen shot below is an example of Camera RAW and the options available.  While there are other options such as LightRoom, I prefer to use Photoshop and Camera RAW.

Camera Raw Screenshot

Above – Camera RAW screen shot, note the arrow pointing to the Exposure slider.

In the photo above, the arrow points to the Exposure slider.  You can use that to adjust your exposure + or – up to 2 f-stops.  After you make the adjustment, click on the “Open Objects” button on the bottom.  This will open the image in Photoshop where you can save each file.  I like to save each adjusted file in the .Tiff format.

Now that you have 3 files of varying degrees of exposure, you’re ready to begin processing.  I like to use Photomatix, but there are other options.  Since this isn’t a discussion of further processing, I’ll leave that topic for another time.  Suffice it to say that you can spend a lot of time adjusting and tweaking.  What I will do is point you to a great website for everything HDR – HDR One

One last image to share, this is the same M3 Tank as the one at the beginning of this post but converted to black & white (another photography passion of mine).

M3 Tank, Black and White

Hopefully you can see that the possibilities are endless!  All you need to do to get started is to get yourself some images (RAW format images).  So get busy!

To close, I’d like to offer my services.  If you have an image in RAW format and would like to see what could be done using the pseudo HDR technique discussed in the post, let me know.  I can use it to share with others and would post the process step by step.

Until next time, Happy Shooting!

Out of the Ordinary

Having a new camera in the bag really has me itching to get out and do some shooting!  Today I went to the Planes of Fame Museum in Chino, California.  Since it’s been almost a year since my last visit, this seemed like the perfect time to go!

The Planes of Fame also puts on a fantastic air show every May.  If you love air shows, and especially want to see rare World War II aircraft in the sky, this is the place to be.

One of the nice things about the Planes of Fame Museum is most of the planes from the annual air show are on display.  There are also other displays of equipment, clothing, vehicles, and other “stuff” from the World War II era.

As usual, I set up my Olympus E-P3 to bracket 3 shots (normal, +1, -1 stop), and make RAW files rather than jpegs.  I set the camera to AE (aperture priority) and ISO 400.  Just for fun I also brought my Sony NEX3.  That’s what I love about these ILC’s (interchangeable lens, compact) cameras.  They are so small and light, (but have larger sensors than typical Point & Shoot camera’s) that I can carry 2 of them in my bag and not be bothered at all!

I got to work once I got into the 1st hanger.  While I was enjoying framing each shot, and looking for new and different points of view, I noticed something.  Even though it had been almost 1 year since I last visited the Museum, if felt like I was taking the same pictures as the last time.  There wasn’t a feeling of creating something new and exciting, just a sense of doing the same old thing.

It was because of that feeling that I started to look around.  Instead of looking at the planes on display and trying to capture them, I began to look around the hanger at some of the other displays.  And in those displays, I looked deeper trying to find something different, out of the ordinary.

I guess it was then that my eyes really opened to new photo possibilities.  Different scenes started popping up.  It seemed as though I had blinders on before.  There were all sorts of neat little scenes with wonderful texture and detail waiting for me to discover.  Here are just a few of those scenes:

Flight Gear

Above – World War II Flight Gear, Olympus E-P3, 3 shot HDR image from RAW files.

Sherman Tank Track

Above – WWII Sherman Tank Track, Sony NEX3, Single RAW file converted to B&W in Photoshop.

Aircraft Workshop

Above – Mig 17 Fuselage, Olympus E-P3, 3 shot HDR image from RAW files, processed in Photomatix and Photoshop.

I’m very pleased with what I was able to create.  Now don’t get me wrong, I did take plenty of shots of the airplanes on display, I just can’t help myself.  I’m glad I took scenes out of the ordinary, to make images that I felt reflected my vision as a photographer, not just shooting the same old thing.

One of the things that sets a photographer apart from a snap-shooter is inner vision.  It’s that inner vision that takes time to develop.  It doesn’t always come easy (at least to me). It takes work to try and create new and fresh images.  But I think it’s worth it!  When you really nail that one image, it’s hard to put into words how satisfying it can be.  You may never get rich selling you photos, but that’s ok (again, at least for me).  It’s a labor of love and getting that special wall hanger makes it all worth while!

That’s it for this post.  My advice, get out there and start looking for those out of the ordinary scenes;  those behind the scenes places, hidden from the casual viewer, waiting for you to discover them!

Until next time – Happy Shooting!

Latest Addition to the Family, the Olympus E-P3

Here I go again!  I got a new camera!  This time it is the Olympus Pen E-P3.  The E-P3 is one of the Micro 4/3’s line of ILC’s (Interchangeable Lens, Compact) from Olympus.  It’s got a retro design that I just love, and it feels like a million bucks in your hand!

I’m not going to get geeky and try to explain the Micro 4/3’s (MFT) system to you, but rather point you to where there’s a very detailed explaination – Wikipedia.  The short version is that the MFT’s sensor is 9 times larger that those in typical Point & Shoot camera’s but 40% smaller that the APS-C you’d find in most DSLR’s.

If you’ve followed my previous posts, you know that I’m more and more interested in portability and shrinking my camera equipment footprint.  Call it lazy, or getting old, there are just days when I want to get out and take some pictures, but don’t want to lug around my DSLR.  Now don’t get me wrong, I love my Canon 60D, but compared to my new E-P3, it’s a pig!

I do carry another ILC, the Sony NEX3.  There’s nothing wrong with my NEX3, in fact it’s another favorite.  It has the small footprint, and very good image quality with its APS-C sensor.  Sometimes the menu system can be clunky because there’s not much in the way of external controls.  You have to fiddle around with the various levels of the menu to change settings.  Not too big a deal, mostly because I’ve used it so much, but it can still be a pain.  My only other nit-pik is the noisy shutter.  Not exactly stealth.  But the image quality is very, very good!

So, what’s the big deal about the Olympus E-P3?  It’s hard to put my finger on it, but I was intrigued after reading a review on Steve Huff’s website – Steve Huff Photo.  Steve has an excellent website with a section devoted to ILC that he calls “Mirrorless Roundup”.  If you’re interested in this type of camera, I encourage you to check out Steve’s site, mainly because of his real world reviews (no lab testing).

One last plug before I get into my short and sweet report.  Adorama  is where I got my
E-P3.  This deal was a little different.  Instead of buying the E-P3 outright, I did a little horse (camera) trading.  Adorama has an offer to buy used equipment, so I sent them an email with the gear I wanted to sell/trade, and they promptly got back to me with a preliminary offer.  The offer sounded good, and Adorama sent me a prepaid shipping label and my items were sent out via UPS the next day.  One of the things I traded was my Canon 40D.  The 40D is a good camera, I just haven’t been using it since I got the 60D.  Bottom line – I was treated fairly, and got the deal I wanted.  My new E-P3 arrived in 4 days.  Thanks Adorama!!

I’ve had a couple of days that I could try out the E-P3.  The opportunities were short, but enjoyable.  After reading about the Art Filters I could hardly wait to try a couple of them out.  Here are a couple of photos from my visit to Oak Glen (in the San Bernardino Mountains of Southern California).  Click on the link and read about Oak Glen.  It’s a hidden gem in Southern California and worth the short drive in the mountains if you’re in the area.

Above – HDR Image from 3 bracketed photos, processed in Photomatix and CS6

Above – Out of the Camera (except for resizing), black and white filter 

Above – Out of the Camera (except for resizing), Grainy Film Filter

My next outing wasn’t as much fun.  I spent a little time in Seal Beach on and around the pier, and there was an ugly, overcast sky.  There was also a leftover haze from the morning fog, so beautiful sweeping seascapes were out of the question.  Not to big a problem, as I would work with what I had.  It was just a little disappointing.

Above – HDR Image from 3 bracketed exposures, processed in Photomatix and CS6

The next image is something different for me.  I’ve read a lot about “Street Photography”, and was always bashful about trying it out.  What Street Photography means is to be able to grab shots of people while you’re out walking the streets.  It also means being stealthy, something I was not comfortable doing with my Sony NEX3, due to its noisy shutter.  The E-P3 on the other hand is very quiet.  While the NEX3 feels slightly smaller, the E-P3 focuses quickly, and is very stealthy.  Here’s one of my 1st “Street” shots:

Above, Out of the Camera (except for resizing), Grainy Film Filter, F9, 1/500, ISO200

I had a lot of fun with the E-P3 over the weekend.  It looks great, feels great, and so far, I’m pleased with it’s performance.  I’ll need to test it more to see what it’s strong and weak points are, but so far I really like it.  The external controls make changing settings quick and easy.  My opinion is that this little camera is a winner!

That’s it for now.  If you have an opinion on ILC’s or Sony or Olympus, share it!  Until next time – Happy Shooting!