Sunday, August 8, 2010

Anything For a Friend Part Deux

Canon 30d
Canon 24-70 f2.8L
Shutter 2.5, 1, and 0.5
ISO 100
Focal Length 24mm
Natural Light

This evening you get another round of Scott. Jay'me is traveling with her family and literally cannot get to a computer. I'm sure she took plenty of photos during her time in Florida and I look forward to seeing them! In the meantime, I'll pinch hit with this photo of the falls at McCormick's Creek State Park in Spencer Indiana.

These falls are magical for some reason. I spent a lot of time here with my family as a boy and again this summer as a father. You can't tell from this picture but you can actually climb right up the falls! I've done it and someday, my boys will too. This time around, E built rock houses in the shadow of the falls and B just tried to stay on his feet. It's just one of those magical places from my life that I wanted to capture and share. Now, finally, I'm able to do that. On to the techie stuff.

The connection is the technique I used in the previous post called HDR or high dynamic range. In technical terms, dynamic range is the ratio between the maximum and minimum measurable light intensities (white and black respectively). The human eye is fantastic with dynamic range. We can apparently see the difference between "cotton white" and "snow white" and 100 other whites (according to Benjamin Moore). Cameras have limitations and it's one of the many reasons one camera is better than another (read: MORE EXPENSIVE!!!). Thankfully, for those of us without money trees, the digital era has ushered in software to enhance dynamic range.

You will notice I listed 3 separate shutter speeds above (2.5 seconds, 1 second, and .5 seconds). This is where the process begins. It's very important to mention that each photo must be as much like the previous in composition as possible. I accomplished this with a good tripod, a remote shutter, and mirror locked in the up position. Even the slightest movement can cause major headaches later. Continuing with the shutter speed explanation, the effect of taking 3 identical shots with different exposures is that I have one adequately showing detail in the shadows (at the expense of the highlights), one showing adequate details in the highlights (at the expense of the shadows), and one average exposure.

The next step is to combine all three exposures with the goal of good detail in both the highlights and the shadows. One can do this with only 2 images but I used 3 this time. You need software to accomplish this and I used Picturenaut, a freeware program anyone can use. There are many others and I'm sure they are great. I'm just starting with this and I find Picturenaut to be both user friendly and highly effective.

Once you've combined the exposures it's time to edit the photo. Picturenaut spits out a TIFF file, which means it's huge. I think this one was 47mb. The good news about the TIFF format is that it's a loss-less file format, meaning you can edit like crazy, save like crazy, and as long as it's still a TIFF, you are not losing information. JPEG's don't do that. They compress each time you save thus losing information - something to keep in mind. Moving on, once I was done tweaking contrast, white balance, and sharpness, I saved it as a JPEG for posting and poof, out comes another HDR photo. It's such a blast playing with HDR! I strongly recommend it.

I should also mention that when taking photos of water a slow shutter speed is often precisely the ticket. This is how you create the smooth effect of the falls and anyone can do it with a good tripod.

Though I simplified the process a bit for the sake of brevity it really is rather simple as long as you set-up well. Like any photo, the best time to do things right is before you take the shot. Alright, that's it for now folks. Have a great week and try to notice something new!


PS - I broke the rules again...DARN IT! Not going to re-post at this point
PPS - Hope you made it home safe Jay'me! Can't wait for your next post.


  1. Hey Scott, your geek is hanging out and I LOVE it.
    Thanks for jumping in for Jay'me. You already know how much I love this photo.
    This blog is teaching me so much. Not only the techie stuff (which is important) but how to capture emotion (Sere's graveyard) and the importance of capturing the beauty surrounding you (Jay'me's tree). I'm a better "photographer" already.
    I can't wait to see the photo that Sere comes up with.

  2. Hey Scott! Saw this on a facebook post, awesome photo!

  3. Thanks David! We appreciate comments immensely. I hope to hear from you again someday!

  4. Beautiful waterfall! Wow I went out to take my photo today not having seen this photo yet and how weird is this.... We both went for waterfalls! I need to go visit this place.

    :0) Sere