Sunday, January 24, 2010

HDR Photography: The right time of day to shoot.

HDR Photography is allowing for more and more conceptual compositions to be composed. There are a few different ways you can approach making HDR images. You can shoot to produce the ultra surreal images with bright and vivid colors or make images that show a more dynamic range of shadows, high lights, and mid tones all in one image. Such software as Photomatix allows for the ease of tone mapping which produces the contrasted colors. However, tone mapping produces the surreal look that does command a visual examination of the photograph, but the problem with tone mapping is it compresses the image to allow for the contrast, which causes a decrease in the dynamic range.

I prefer to use Photomatix to process my HDR images. Depending on what I am shooting I make the choice before I even get to the computer as to which look I am going for. For a client I produce images that are more realistic and have a greater dynamic range in the shadows, high lights and mid tones. For my personal work it is a 50/50 depending on the composition and the scene/location for which I am shooting.

The next biggest factor I consider when approaching ANY HDR image is the quality of light. Below are two examples of HDR images, same location, same subject, but photographed at different times.

The first image was made about 12pm The second image as shot nearly 3 hours later.

3 (2) 3

The image on the left is cooler than the image on the right. The warm tones of the image on the right make for a more aesthetically pleasing composition. I favor the image on the right because of the warmth that it exhibits. The time of day I would most likely choose to shoot this scene reflects the image on the right. In post production you could adjust the image on the right by adding a warm tone filter to it or by changing the color balance and make it a little bit warmer. You just do not get the same quality of image by using a post production method for making the image.

Recently I hung a small collection of HDR prints for a small exhibition in our studio. A guest pointed out that it appears that most of my images were made during or around the same time of day. It was easy to explain why it appeared that way. The time of day was favored for making photographs. The type of light that I was able to work with best suited the quality of the image. It is true that there is a favorable time to make photographs. The Golden Hour, the first and last hour sunlight during the day, when you can produce images that give a warm feel. This quality of light can yield some aesthetically pleasing images that when photographed earlier in the day might not. This time of day also allows for a much greater dynamic range, (not to be confused with the definition of HDR) in the light as well as the composition. Which also contributes to making photographs that give a much more pleasing look and feel to them.

These are a few things I factor in when establishing a composition. Especially when setting up for an image that uses HDR to further enhance the visual quality. Some of the greatest HDR Images that I have seen are made during the early morning hours or the evening hours. My friend Barry, who owns FreePhotoResources, doest quite a bit of photography in the early morning hours, as well as at night.

image Credit: Barry Chignell Free Photo Resources

Here, Barry’s image works great with the use of cool tones. The quality of light that he has photographed reflects the season in which the photograph has been made. The use of cool tones really exemplifies the quality of the image. The long exposure and dragging of the clouds produces a magical feeling. This image is in contrast to what I discussed earlier about the quality of light, however he made it work very well in this image.

He has a number of great tutorials devoted to HDR photography. As well as a small reference to the Golden Hour. Barry makes great use of the golden hour. He has produced some fantastic images following these principals about quality of light and the right time of day to make striking images. Its very simple, go out before sunset and capture the golden hour as it comes into play. Make sure you have a great composition and location planned out. Three times a week I make a commute that is very early in the morning. Each day the sun is out and there is a frost on the ground the light produces some very scenic images that command your attention. I am planning on photographing the landscape this week. It is prior viewing of this scene that allows me to further plan out the shoot. I know the right time of day and the right quality of light needed to capture the mood I want to convey photographically. Taking some time to plan out your photographs makes a world of a difference. Of course we all know that planning things out can change in 1/45th of a second.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Human suffering: The roll photography plays and the impact it shares.

By now news of the devastating earth quake in Haiti has made the headlines of all major news and media outlets around the world. Human suffering is part of every society. It is around every corner, in every city, in every part of the world. What makes this situation so different? Quite a lot actually. With social networking so easily accessible it allows for more people to connect and make a difference. Spread all over facebook today and most of yesterday I have been reading comments about making donations to the Red Cross. As a photographer, I feel so compelled and even some what obligated to photograph such events. There are some serious moral and ethical implications that come with the desire and feeling of obligations to document such horrific and tragic losses. As much as I desire to be in a place of disaster, seeing human strength, survival, and people coming together to save one another,  I am unable to be there. It takes a certain type of photographer to be able to detach themselves from a situation to be able to share what they are seeing. I have seen a few photographs that have been made during the past two days. Images that can make me stop, think, and feel, are the kinds of images that I strive to make. Even if they are not about a disaster. But, I can not say that given the chance to be sent to a place such as Haiti I would turn it down. I think it would be a chance to grow as a person and see what it is like to experience human struggle, strength, and survival.

Until there is a chance for me to be placed in a situation like what happened two days ago, I will have to continue responding to smaller acts of human suffering. In the last 6 months I have responded to 3 major fires that have resulted in people losing their homes and everything they had. It is a sad situation and sight to be watching people’s belongings, memories, photographs, and home go up in a blaze. In the past 6 months all three of these fires have been in one small city. Holyoke, Massachusetts. Holyoke is where my career in photography has initially begun. The first time I was published in an article based on a Holyoke baseball team. Since then I have gone on to co found a photography business/studio. Holyoke being my community I feel a sincere obligation to document what happens in the city. Below are three photographs (panoramas made last night) from the most recent fire. I am also providing a link to a very small blog that I post on. See The Brick it is a photo blog for Holyoke.


Pano 1

Pano 2

 Pano 3

On my blog you may read that we are setting up a fund to aid in the families that have lost so much. We are setting up this fund to help aid the families now, the families that are in dire need of help. This fund will remain in existence for future tragedies that may occur. We feel a social obligation to help out in our community. We feel that as members of the same community that we need to help out and try to make a difference. Whether it be big or large, making a difference still makes an impact.

Human suffering will never cease to stop. There will always be an event, tragic act of nature, or act of another type that will lead to human suffering and loss of life. That is part of the human existence. As painful as it is, it brings people together, gives them a sense of community, and a sense of appreciation for other humans that do step forward to make a difference. Photography plays an immense roll in a situation like this. Washington Post Images.. Images inspire, create feelings and emotions that bring people together to form a community of volunteers. I would, given the chance, volunteer my time and talents to be a part of what is taking place in Haiti. My final thoughts are as follows, donate your time, open your wallet to make a small donation, donate some blankets, clothing or even a pair of gloves. Making any sort of donation will make a difference.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Over Heated: Continuous Light bulb distortion

    Tonight while in the studio we had a continuous light on. Some times we use it as a back light for the back drops or as a side light. We have not really used it for much shooting. In fact, it has only really been used about 3 times to light a back drop. However, tonight it was on to do a little light set up. I was thinking of trying some portraits with an idea I had in mind. After sitting and talking with a friend for a few minutes, the light started to make a faint hum. Seconds later the light went out. After walking over and flicking the switch a few times, scratching my head twice, I pulled the front of the light around towards the light in the hall. That is when I noticed this:


The rating on the bulb says 500Watts  4800 K, which means Kelvin, the unit of measurement of temperature. I will not go into to much detail about the Kelvin Scale at the moment. I am going to save that for later when I update Lenshare. As well as an article about Color Temperature, which is coming very soon.

Tomorrow I will be contacting the manufacturer of the light bulb as well as the light manufacturer. This could have been a very dangerous situation for both us as well as the building.  As someone who has photographed a few fires in Holyoke. Where our studio is located. I would not want to photograph our own studio, my friends building burning.

I will also be writing an article about a fire that I photographed two days prior to Christmas and then again on Christmas eve. Here are a few photos from that blaze, as featured on’s Gallery You can read the full story here.

Keep an eye out for the new 2010 is going to be bringing about some magnificent changes.