I’ve been flooded with emails and phone calls asking about how I do “realistic” HDR. Keep in mind, it starts and ends at the camera. I don’t have a video, yet, for that part on my site (you can find them at Kelby Training) but I do have a video for processing an image in Photomatix Pro. Now the video is a little old (on the to do list) but the basics are all there for you.
What I can do though is provide you my settings for realistic HDR for Photomatix Pro. Simply click on this link to download Moose Basics and then install them in the Preset Folder under HDR and then click on Moose Basics under the Your Presets in Photomatix Pro. I hope this helps folks but just keep in mind two very important things with HDR, it starts in the camera (which means not ever photo should be HDR just because you can) and is finished in Photoshop. Now like usual, understand I’m doing this my way which is more then likely not the right way. You, the photographer and communicator must as yourself real simply, “Does this work for my photography or not?” If it does, great, if not, that is perfectly fine too!
I really didn’t put much thought into it, kinda did it just to see what folks reaction would be to it. I certainly wasn’t prepared for the response we have received playing this video as folks walked into my presentation. But it’s why WE MUST ALL share the great fortunes life shares with us through our camera lens. Here’s another example that proves my point. Your photography can change the world!
I have to thank you for re-introducing me to my first photography passion – airplanes.
I watched the videos for your workshops on your website, then the long video at B&H last week as the introduction to your two sessions.
I grew up in the UK and when I was a youngster (a long time ago) I lived about an hours drive from Biggin Hill aerodrome. Biggin was a Battle of Britain figther station and is still in use today for light aircraft and executive jets.
A man who lived up the street from us, about twenty or so houses away, who the family really didn’t know, asked if I was interested in going to an air display at Biggin. To illustrate how long ago that was my parents agreed. So I borrowed Dad’s 35mm, fixed lens Halina 35X Super, bought a whole lot of Kodachrome and went and had a great time. The camera did not have a meter and neither did I.
Biggin had two air displays each year – in the summer a “commercial” where there were lots of war birds and a brief display from Shorts, a UK manufacturer and in September theBattle of Britain display – lots of warbirds ancient and modern. So I used to go twice a year. On rare occasions I would go to the really big air show at Farnborough and once to the USAAF airbase at Greenham Common – the year the Hercules turned 25 and the Phantom 20!
Then when I first married we bough a house near the airfield in Biggin Hill so I started going back to the airshows.
These were really great events. I will always remember the ground shaking and my chest thumping as a formation of 9 English Electric Lightnings flew in diamond formation over the airfield and went into vertical climb with full re-heats on! At the time the Lightning was the only Mach 2+ fighter, it was old and had very little firepower (2 small sidewinder air to air missiles) and was only deployed in Scotland to demonstrate how quickly the RAF could respond to the Russian Bear attempted intrusions into our airspace.
So I thank you again for bringing these vivid memories back to me and re-kindling my first photography passion.
I am saving my pennies so that one day I might be able to join you on one of your air 2 air workshops. (Although I have an irrationals fear of heights!).
Update: This is why I try to do so much for you fans, you do so much for others….another fan upon reading this blog posting was so touched that he is paying the tuition for the writer of the email to join us at our Air2Air Workshop! He has done that before, he is a really big hearted gentleman who wants to remain anonymous which we’re happy to honor. I know life will find a way to pay his generosity back! SO many thanks!!!
Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should! This little rant originates from a photographer who insists on sending me really horrible images, I think because he wants to see how many times I can say SUCKS! This photographer insists on shooting everything as HDR, I mean everything (really, a toilet seat?)! What you see here are two of my suckie HDR images to illustrate the point of this rant. Just because you know HDR doesn’t mean it will make a suckie photograph better. Garbage in is still garbage OUT! These two images suck (which means when you see them on G+ you don’t write amazing because you’ll look really silly!) and HDR didn’t make them one bit better!
Whether it’s HDR or flash fill (I see plenty of suckie flash photos too) or Fisheye or any other technique, just because you can apply it successfully doesn’t turn a horrible image into magic, at least not in my book. If I know that, why did I take the two photos you see above? Because I just wanted to shoot and they were available. The light sucked but I didn’t have these two aircraft in my files, in fact a number of the aircraft on the deck of the Intrepid I didn’t have so I shot them all to have a record in my files of them. I shot them all as 5 image HDR because the light sucked and if this photographer had got the message in the 20+ emails that said sucks, you would never see these images. But I need something that sucked and these were fresh in my mind.
More important then they suck is WHY they suck. And that answer is the heart and soul of photography. They suck because the light sucks. Not the number of stops or the direction but the quality of the light. There simply is no LIFE to the light, no drama, no impact, no emotion, no mood, it’s just there and HDR isn’t going to make that better. I wish I had images of the same subjects in good light to show you the difference but in the real world of photography, you don’t have side by side comparisons when you shoot. You just have what’s presented you and from that you make the photographic decision to click or don’t click. I’m trying to encourage you to click only when you see and feel something in the viewfinder.
Now this is NOT an indictment of HDR. Since I just had a double truck published of a P-51C that is a HDR, to say I use it would be an understatement. What I am saying is that just because you own Photomatix Pro doesn’t mean EVERY photograph has to be run through it. This photography thing is not about who owns the most toys but who sees, feels and communicates light. And just because I use HDR as you see in the photo below which is on the “realistic” side and not the “Elvis on Velvet” side, I have no problem with that when it’s done because it was needed. But using a photographing technique just because you can, don’t! You’re a story teller with your photography. Use the techniques that tell your story and you will successful. end of rant
I received more then one email this last week with this sentiment. It comes from video I had playing as folks walked into my presentations this past week at B&H, Unique Photo and Foto Care. It’s the video you can see below of our air to air shoot with the F2G-2 Super Corsair. While I was talking wildlife photography, I can’t help but sneak in a little aviation photography anymore and the response has been, well, simply amazing! When you have 150 folks waiting in line to ask questions, answering questions really thoroughly is a little bit of a challenge. I also had a number of emails about this shoot so thought I’d post all the answers to all the questions I can.
This was a still photography editorial shoot. The photography platform is a A36 Bonanza, the subject is a F2G-2 Super Corsair. The principle camera rig is the D3x with 70-200VR2 w/TC-17e attached. Secondary is the D3s with 24-70AFS. When the buffer of the D3x is full, I switch over to the D3s, otherwise the D3x does all the work. Attached into the hot shoe of the D3x hotshoe is a Coolpix S9100 shooting 1080vid. In the cockpit of the Super Corsair is a GoPro shooting video of its cockpit and me hanging out the photo platform.
Shooting the video you see above is Sharon, she’s in the second seat in the A36 cabin. She’s shooting with the D7000 with a 16-18AFS lens. Attached in its hotshoe is the Sennheiser G3 with the mic tucked up in the earpiece of my David/Clark headset to record the audio. Now you might be wondering what am I going to do with all this video because we shot a lot. Well, we have a lot of behind the scenes video sitting in the can and I’ve just now hired an editor to put all the pieces together so we can share it with you. I started 2011 thinking I could tackle that along with everything else I do and, well, I simply don’t have the time or skills. So, it’s one of those winter projects we’ll slowly get finished and posted. I hope this answers folks questions on the story behind the video
You are so lucky you have a video to look at because if you had to survive on just my drawings, you’d never learn a thing! But I hope this answers folk’s questions. You sure were great and I really look forward to seeing you on the flight line!
I had a great opportunity a few weeks back to photograph a TBM-3U air to air. With that as a bases, I’m now out collecting “pieces” or photographs to finish an article based on that TBM-3U air to air flight. The TBM as you can see from this photograph carried torpedoes which it launched from the air against enemy shipping. It accomplished this by launching from aircraft carriers like the Intrepid. So when I saw this one on display on the Intrepid, I shot it every way to Sunday! Having photos of a TBM on the hangar deck of WWII aircraft carrier is a great addition to the article!
With that goal in mind, how do you go about getting the shot? I shot at ISO800 with the D3s because I didn’t want to use a tripod. Because of the exhibit lighting, I did a 5 image HDR capture. When I took the shot, I would position myself so all the flood lights on the ceiling where hidden by either parts of the TBM or other fixtures. Then I used Photomatix Pro to assemble the HDR, ACR and PS to finish. The one biggie was to remove all the standards around the TBM to keep the public back and the other person standing there reading the signage. I normally don’t spend more then 2min with a photo in PS but when I went click, I knew it would take longer then 2min to finish this one. It was about a 10min job to remove the standards and the person but it was worth it. While not 100% accurate to WWII history, it’s as close as we’ll ever get and a great addition to the article.
Sharon & I wanted to visit the Intrepid a couple of years ago, right when it was towed out to be refitted. This was our first opportunity since its coming back to visit it so we squeaked out a couple of hours to give it a tour. What a great treasure! You really don’t need to know much about history to enjoy this unique floating museum. But if you know a little about WWII, Vietnam or the space race, the Intrepid comes alive! We spent 4hrs walking its decks, talking with a vet from the engineering room during WWII deployment, and seeing history we remember as kids from Mercury recoveries.
Now is this a photographic treasure? That really depends on where you are with your photography and history. There are lots a great shots to be had here but you have to look for light, history and tying those two together. The flight deck I knew because of the time of day wouldn’t be the spot for my shooting so I went prepared to work the hangar deck (which is inside). And I wasn’t disappointed. First, I went with no tripod, using proper hand holding and the incredible ISO quality of the D3s at 800 to make the shots happen. Then, I worked those aircraft like this F-86 Sabre Jet and the lighting for the display. I then shot a 5 image HDR which was combined using Photomatic Pro, opened in ACR and then finished with Nik Color Efex Pro. This might all sound really complicated or difficult but it really isn’t. Because of the D3s fast FPS and image quality, it’s honestly a no-brainer. Now the motordrive ripping off frames got the attention of one vet, making a comment that it sounded like gunfire, but that just opened up a cool conversation. If you’re in NYC and have a couple of hours, I encourage you to head over to the Intrepid, it’s well worth it!
Good Morning NYC – such a view as we pack to head out to our next adventure. Good-bye as well. Thanks to all at B&H, Unique & Foto Care who made it such a great trip! Your kind words & love notes made the whole trip very special for Sharon & I. A special thanks to Howard for all the fun!
Starting Thursday night and running through Friday night, every time we came back to our room, I would hang out the window and take a shot. I just love the view, I’m sure it’s just a Moose thing, but I really love looking at all the architecture, history, humanity that I can see hanging out the window. And with the Empire right there, I cannot take its photograph. The second from the bottom is my favorite from this day, it’s the last gleam of light of the day. A number of folks have asked if I’m shooting this with the 24PC-E. Some have asked how with shooting with the 24f1.4 I’m not getting the buildings leaning in. Some of asked if I’m fixing them in PS. Well, the buildings aren’t leaning because I’m shooting out the 22nd floor. I’m not shooting up on the, I’m kinda shooting across to them. It’s that simple, I like simple, I can handle simple!
Today was our B&H day, complete 4hrs of presentations and meetings. Other the a quick, delicious lunch at Stage Door deli, we were at the store the whole time. I was here to attempt to entertain and inspire folks, give back to an industry that has given Sharon & I so much. Well after the landscape presentation, this very nice couple who had been waiting behind everyone else who was asking questions walked up to me. I had to look up into the eyes on the gentleman, he was tall, and he had broad shoulders yet his eyes were incredibly kind. He was a little shy when he approached and fiddle with a white shopping bag. As he was pulling the something out of the bag, he said that they, his wife and he had gotten so much from my blog and the like that they wanted to say thank you in return. He seemed a little chocked up and so was I when I saw what the little something was. I asked if the shirt was from his house, the wife like all good wives chimed in then to say he was the Capt there. There are many rewards that come from this biz, just the emails you send to say thanks means alot. But when someone like a fireman who really does something to give back to society presents you a company shirt, especially a NYFD, wow! It’s one of those great pay days you just never see coming. Thank you!
Woke up to a gorgeous day and view. It’s going to be a good day in NYC!
OK, I have stood by the window all night and no, I can’t stop! Top frame the skylights get turned off and the water towers really pop. The bottom, basic B&W to bring out the drama in the clouds. I’m not getting any sleep tonight!
These are two separate clicks. Both finished the same using Nik Dfine and then Nik Color Efex Pro Detail Enahncer / Tonal Contrast. The only difference is the top frame started as a 5 image HDR and processed with Photomatix Pro and the bottom a single click processed first with ACR. I love the top frame much better! Between the glow from the light bouncing around the clouds and the reflections from all the wet surfaces, I could stand at the window all night long shooting the constantly changing mood. City Landscapes, I just love them!
We’re back in the Big Apple and in the room we love when we’re here. With a simple request though, this time the screen on the window was removed so I can hang out the window on the 22nd floor and shoot (so much better then shooting through window or screen). It was raining so the mood around the Empire Ste Bldg is just simple cool. Here’s a simple click. Nothing exciting, but there is mtc.
Photo captured by D3s, 24f1.4AFS
We’d been planning it for months, paperwork filed with official channels asking for permission, route and mission decided on, all was good to go! The time had come to put the flight in the air. It was a beautiful clear morning 15 March as we meet the team at the gate of the airport. The day before we’d all meet in Rob’s hangar and went over the flight we’d been planning for months. The maps were pulled out and spread on the table, historic photographs of the day laid about, the route was selected and timed with my shot list making sure we can accomplish all that we had planned. Our flight path wasn’t one we came up with but one that followed the morning of December 7th, 1941.
The sun hadn’t graced the skies yet but there was a glow over Diamond Head outlining its very distinctive shape on the horizon. Air to air photography takes longer to get in motion then wildlife or landscape since you just can’t just jump into an aircraft and go. The first thing we had to do was get the screw out of the window I was going to shoot out of. The Cessna 172 is a very common photo platform for air to air work (though not my favorite). The windows though normally only open a short ways, too small an aperture to get the lens out to shoot. Because of the air speed you fly, you can safely and easily with the screw removed, let the window open fully (the airflow actually holds the window up for you) making shooting possible.
After that, there was the preflighting of the 172. I’m always comforted when I see the pilot have the POH in hand and running down the list as we get ready to go. Stab the wing tanks, plug in headsets, seat belts fastened and with a yell out the window ,“Clear!,” the prop turns and the engine kicks over. Then there is the warm up and initial systems check. Then there is talking to the tower so you can taxi. Then there is taxing over to the run up area and doing the last engine run up for oil pressure. An hour has past before at 07:15 its wheels up and in the air heading for our rendezvous.
Our subject plane, a gorgeous SNJ in the paint scheme for the USS Saratoga, is hangared at historic Barbers Point. As part of our briefing the day before we had arranged where we would meet once in the air. While you can plan everything well in advance and go through the preflight with flying colors there seems to be one thing that tends to come up way too often for me. And that’s radio problems most often from loose or dirty connections. And as you might guess, while working perfectly the day before, the first depress of the button and scratchy, static voice rang through the headset. We flew north towards our hook up point southeast of Wheeler Field. It was an amazing feeling flying the path of that historic morning!
Right on que, we find Bruce and his SNJ visually but radio communications are anything but clear. As long as we fly the brief, there should be no problems. We are a little early for our scheduled time over Wheeler Field. Wheeler Field is still active so clearance was obtained to do a couple of fly overs to photograph the SNJ with the Field in the background. We flew a little north and came down the shoot the same as the Japanese did that morning in 1941. In the background were the same rice fields and agriculture that was present on that day.
The radio came to life, a flight of Black Hawks were on their way into Wheeler. They were calling the tower. We heard no response and then the radio cracked to life clearing them. Rob waited a second and called the tower. The sweetest came across the radio answering back. “Ah good, I know her,” Rob said to us and he answered back. The two of them talked pleasantries and then got down to clearing our filed flight plan. With everything cleared, we had the next ten minutes to buzz the field and get the shots. That’s when the challenge begun.
Radio communications with the SNJ were challenging, the connection was sketchy at best. While we flew the brief, being able to talk on the radio to fine tune the photograph is essential. We flew the strafing runs the Japanese flew that fateful morning down Wheeler Field. Bruce is a Pearl Harbor historian and had told us much of the facts leading up to that morning. The P-40s had been lined up in a perfect row to prevent saboteurs from attacking the aircraft (an attack by sea wasn’t believed possible by some of the brass). Needless to say this made it real easy for the Japanese to cause a great amount of destruction with little effort.
One thing that is very hard to do in a briefing is explain angles. The angle of the photographer, the subject and the background so they all line up in the viewfinder is hard to prevision. That’s why the radio was so important. Despite the brief, getting the SNJ in the perfect position just wasn’t happening. After a couple of passes the radio crackled, “Photo flight, air space is now closed. Thanks from coming!” And with that, we headed south.
Bruce took us south on the same path the Japanese took to Pearl. The landscape below us now is nothing like what it was on that day. Oahu urban sprawl has grown up to Wheeler Field. We fly south checking the time. Bruce had managed to get flight clearance over Ford Island and the Pearl Harbor Memorial. A photo mission over these historic areas hadn’t been granted for quite some time because of some military installations in the area that the military didn’t want photographed. At the appointed time, Bruce starts calling the tower to get our clearance to start our run. “Sorry, we don’t have that paperwork, clearance denied.” The PAO hadn’t got the paperwork to the tower! Unlike Wheeler Field, we couldn’t just circle while we tried to clear up the problem. So off we went.
For the next ten to fifteen minutes Bruce tried to run down the PAO. Finally the PAO made the call to the tower and we were cleared for just two passes. That’s not what was originally arranged but the clock had been eaten up trying to reach the PAO. With months in the planning, it all came down to these two passes. The radio issues hadn’t cleared up and the same problems we had at Wheeler Field rose again. The goal was to get photos of the Memorial, Ford Island and other historic locations in the background of the SNJ. Lining up those items with just two passes and poor radio communications just wasn’t happening. After two passes without a word from the tower, we flew out of that pattern.
After leaving Ford Island, the flight split with us heading back to Honolulu and the SNJ back to Barbers Point. After landing and buttoning up the 172, we hoped into the van and drove over to Barbers Point where Bruce was waiting for us. We spent the rest of the day with Bruce having the most amazing, historic ground tour of December 7, 1941. With Bruce’s military clearance, we were able to tour Wheeler Field and see the OC where the card game was going during the attack in which Taylor & Welch left, got into their P-40s (parked at remote strip) and got in the air to bring down some attackers. We saw the secret, underground plane assembly plant and runway. It’s a tour that if you’re into history is absolutely amazing!
We even went back to Pearl, visiting both sides of the channel. Late in the afternoon found us at the hangars on Ford Island. There and at the sea plane port just down the ramp, we could see the remnants of the bombs and bullets of that morning. We were at that infamous place where all the B&W photos of the PBYs and Ducks burning was taken, the pot marks still in the cement. We then went up to where the Arizona and other battleships were moored, next to the officers’ quarters and got out and stood where the explosion did so much destruction. Very powerful!
At the end of the day, we ended up back at Barbers Point. Barbers Point construction was well underway on Dec 7th but not active. While a bomb did fall nearby, many think it was not intentional. In the last waning light of the day, we wheeled out the SNJ on the deactivated base for our last couple of portraits for the day. Our flight occurred from 07:15-08:11, not too much different than that morning. Despite not going 100% as planned, it was an incredible flight and amazing day. It helped to fill in lots of questions about that day, how it came to be and our response. And while the photographs are not as I envisioned, they will always be very special since the military since closed the circuit we flew to photo missions. Experiencing our aviation history from the air, it is an experience that leaves an lifelong mark!
I’ve gotten pretty cynical about photography books of late, they all seem to just be repeating f/stop, shutter speed and camera brand. I realize better then most the importance of this information, even more important though is to forget it and focus in on the visual story we’re trying to tell with those f/stops and camera brands. Vincent Laforet’s new book does a beautiful job of bringing this message home! I’m a huge fan of much of his still work which I think is being overshadowed by his brilliant video work. But whichever you look at, he has something major to offer photographers in the story telling business. Give Visual Stories a read!
There is one aspect of winter I look forward to on the flats each year. That’s the carpet of brown vegetation. The shrubs, grasses, reeds, everything has gone dormant and brown making it the perfect home for many dickie birds. Many of the dickie birds are in their winter browns and the combo in the gorgeous mellow light of winter just sucks me in!
The biggest challenge of this type of dickie bird photography (White-crowned Sparrows are seen here) is capturing a “clean” photo. The shrubs, grasses and reeds are a very busy world and the dickie birds move through it like we drive freeways. They often don’t come up on top of the vegetation because that’s how they get eaten, down deep is safety. The way I approach it is find the perch with the background I want within the area the dickie birds are forgaging. Then I psssst, psssst a couple of times and more times then not, a bird will come up on the perch to see what’s up. You don’t have much time, you need to have prefocused on that perch, but you do get rewarded. White-crown Sparrows are a long time favorite of mine and I know them well so making these images is a relaxation making it even more enjoybale. Ah, the brown of winter!
Photos captured by D3x, 600VR w/TC-17e
Yeap, we’re heading to our favorite city for a week of fun and teaching! We’re looking forward to seeing the Big Apple all decked out for the holidays and we’re really looking forward to seeing you! Now we hear the events are all sold out. But as we all know, life does get in the way of life at times and folks have to cancel. So in case you wanna try to get in on the fun (all new shows for folks, talking wildlife, landscape and perhaps a plane or two), check out:
Lookin forward to talking photography with you!
It is that time of year again when the attics are raided and the decorations are hung. Around the Peterson homestead, we take this Christmas thing preeeety seriously. It’s a very much past down tradition incorporating family tree ornaments from Germany in the late 1800s to homemade one fresh off the craft table. Sharon has her favorite Christmas movies playing in the Dvd and Moose his Christmas punch. Ho ho ho!
And of course documenting it all is the camera, from D3s to D7000 to S9100. One subject I love to play with every year are the ornaments, trying to make a simple click of their mere hanging around. Many do this with the use of a flash (top photo). They languish as they try to mix the light source of the flash with the tree lights. The flash of course blasts out so much light when it sees all the green of the tree and then you have its 5500k and that of the xmas lights which are what, 2400k, maybe. That warm xmas glow just ain’t there in the photo and the pain of the flash, well takes the Christmas joy out of the whole shoot. What to do?
Well, there are really lots of ways of going about getting this shot. I tend to take the path of least pine needles. Shooting in AWB with either the 60 or 105mc, using a tripod compose your frame. In this regard I cheat a little because we have a gorgeous artificial tree (living in a forest, we can get our pine sent by just opening the door). Because it’s an artificial tree, I can bend the limbs anyway I want to get the shot. This includes, yeap, that tree lights. This scene wasn’t originally lit like this, I moved them lights around, grabbed a silver ornament as a mini reflector and set the whole thing up. Then, I just went click. So those little lights brightening up your spirits, might just be able to give you a lesson in lighting as well. That brings a whole new meaning to Christmas cheer!