Monthly Archives: April 2014

Monochromatic HDR Photography

If you’ve looked through this blog or my Flickr stream, you know I like Black and White photography.

B&W with film used to be simple.  Get some Tri-X film, put it in your camera, and make exposures. Take the film to the drug store and wait to get your prints back.

OK, it’s never been all that simple. If you’re really hardcore, you get out your chemicals, develop the film yourself and print your best ones.  And if you were really, really hardcore – you could dodge and burn while printing to decrease and increase exposure in specific parts of the print.

You can still do all that.  But many people today use digital cameras for B&W photography.  And things are still as complicated as you want to make them.  You set your camera to color mode (yes color, unless you have a Leica M Monochrom camera) and RAW format and make exposures. You load the resulting files into your favorite processing software and adjust / convert the color images to B&W.  Then you print carefully to maintain and display all the tonality present in your carefully crafted image.

Along the way, you’ve got to make many decisions on what software to use and how to use it.  It’s very easy to get lost and see only trees, no forest.  And if you want the best results, you need to know what tools are available and how to use them.


Composing – A recent photo I made and converted to B&W

I purchased and read Monochromatic HDR Photography by Harold Davis.  I’ve been a fan of his for a long time and I admire his photographic expertise and creativity.  It’s a real treat to read this book and follow along as he makes some absolutely lovely B&W images.  He covers info that will help beginners as well as experienced photographers and it’s not just post-processing technique.  He also talks about the reasons behind choices and creative aspects.

I won’t give away the whole book.  It’s a good one and covers the subject well, with a tremendous amount of information that everyone could use.  If you’re interested in B&W, you should buy and read it.  Basically, Harold’s work flow consists of:

  • Capturing the image as a set of bracketed exposures to make sure you preserve all the tonality that’s present in the scene
  • Converting the bracketed sequence into the best quality, color, high dynamic range image possible
  • Making multiple passes of B&W conversion on the color HDR file and saving them.  With each pass you can vary tonality, contrast, detail, etc. to enhance parts of the image.
  • Using layers to blend the different B&W versions into a single “magical” result

I’ve been trying out his ideas and the photo in this post is a recent example.  Below are some intermediate steps so you can get an idea of how this works.

pass 1Step 1:  I like the general look, but thought the trees should be darker

pass 2Step 2: I like the tree in this version, but the fern, photographer, and parts of the canopy are too dark 

pass 3Step 3:  Fixing the exposure / contrast of the photographer

finalFinal:  All layers blended together to create the version I posted on Flickr.  I like the sky and canopy glow, the dark tree, the bright ferns and the photographer’s appearance compared to the background.

Although I have a long way to go to even get close to Harold’s level, I really like his approach.  There are a great many advantages and the only disadvantage I can think of is that it takes time.  But if you have a scene that you want to render into the best B&W image possible, this is a great way to do it.  And Monochromatic HDR Photography by Harold Davis is a wonderful guide to “Shooting and processing Black & White High Dynamic Range Photos”.

Central Florida Photo Ops Book Review Rating:  5 star, must read!

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!

©2014, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

The Mute Swans have hatched!

I’ve kept an eye on the Mute Swan family in Viera and when I went by this week, the eggs had finally hatched.

Viera Mute Swan pair and cygnets
Viera Mute Swan pair and cygnets – On Wednesday, 4/16/14

I think I could count 7 babies. They’re quite far from the nest in this photo and Mom is keeping them well away from the road.

Here’s another photo from a week earlier. Papa was patrolling and looks like he’s about to fall asleep.

Sleepy Swan
Sleepy Swan – On Thursday 4/10/16

If you’d wanted to stop and see them, it’ll be harder to find them now. They’ll be foraging and may not be anywhere near the nest.

I’m happy that they’re doing well so far.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!

©2014, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Lessons from a photogenic place

There were a few lights in the parking lot way back behind the sand dunes and the clouds were thick and low, making it so very dark on Marineland Beach south of St. Augustine, Florida that my first few exposures didn’t even register on the sensor. I kept raising exposure times and ISO until I was able to capture this:

99 seconds in the dark
99 seconds in the dark – ISO 400, 99 seconds @ f/8; Marineland Beach, about 45 minutes before sunrise.

It sure didn’t look this way to my eyes.  I couldn’t see much at all and had to use my head lamp to compose and focus.

When I got home and processed the photos, they reminded me of some things that might be useful to others.

Pre-visualize before, during, and after you press the shutter

You should always try to pre-visualize the photo you’re making before you compose and shoot – and it’s a delightful feeling when the image turns out just like you imagined.  But this is often harder than it sounds.  Especially if you can’t see what you’re photographing.  There’s nothing wrong with adjusting your vision as you go.  This is a wonderful advantage of digital cameras that we’d be foolish to ignore.  Check your results on the LCD during the shoot and adapt as necessary.  In this case, I knew exactly what I needed to change when I first looked at my (black) LCD.  I needed more exposure!

Pre visualization is great, but there’s also nothing wrong with post visualization.  What I mean is to try as many things as you can think of while you’re there and sort it out later when you get home.  Try HDR, panoramas, high tripod, low tripod, and focus stacking.  Use different  focal lengths, shutter / aperture combinations, and positions / directions.  Exploit changing weather / light as time goes on.  Capture them all and give yourself a better chance to come out with something you like.

Shutter speed

Shutter speed is a critical variable when photographing moving water.  The 99 second exposure above gave me very smooth and milky looking water, nicely outlining the rocks.  A 1/1000th second (or faster) exposure can freeze drops of water.  In between, you can find other speeds that look very different from the extremes.  Capture the scene with different shutter speeds when possible.  In this 1 second exposure, I like the added interest from the flow patterns in the water.

Marineland Beach and cochina rocks
Marineland Beach and coquina rocks – ISO 100, 1 second @ f/4 with 8 2/3 stop neutral density filter, ~30 minutes after sunrise.

High Dynamic Range (HDR) processing and ghost removal

There are so many controls and sliders in HDR software that it’s hard to know which ones to change.  Most HDR software has an option for removing “ghosts” (differences between multiple frames for anything moving in the image) and I think it’s a critical setting.  HDR Efex allows me to select the baseline frame I want to use as well as the amount of ghost removal to apply.  I like to experiment with these and select the combination that looks best.  In the image below, there was only one  setting that showed the breaking wave. And I think the wave definitely adds to the image.

Golden rocks and sand
Golden rocks and sand – 5 image bracket (-4 to +4 stops), almost an hour after sunrise.

Don’t leave too soon

I made these three images (and more!) over a period of 90 minutes.  The changing light provided different looks and opportunities to photograph this place.  It’s worth getting there early and staying for a while.

Don’t get overwhelmed

When you visit a beautiful place, especially for the first time – it’s easy to be overwhelmed and forget about everything except pressing the shutter button.  It helps to visit multiple times. The first time, it’s hard to see all the possible compositions until you get over the novelty and excitement. When you can relax and enjoy the experience you can open your mind and get in the zone.  Then you’ll make images you’ll be happy to share with others.

You can see more of my photos from Marineland in this set on Flickr.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog.  Now – go make some photos!

©2014, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Get Your National Park Service Senior Pass

I drove over to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge last Friday to scout for new places to launch my kayak. I’d never been to the Beacon 42, boat ramp before, so I stopped there first.

Beacon 42 boat ramp
Beacon 42 boat ramp, before dawn.  Venus in the upper right, reflecting in the lower right.

It looks like a great place to launch from, with easy access to Mosquito Lagoon in the distance to the east.

I also went by the Visitor’s Center since I needed to renew my MINWR annual pass.  The very nice man at the desk asked me how old I am.  When I told him I’d be 62 next month, he told me to come back then and get a senior pass.  I’d heard about this before but didn’t know it started at age 62.  And that it’s a lifetime (not annual) pass!  And that it gets you in to more than 2,000 federal recreation sites including national parks, national wildlife refuges, national forests, and areas managed by the Bureau of Land Management and Bureau of Reclamation!  It’s quite a deal –  I’ll be back there next month to get mine.

I did make a few more photos that day.  Here’s one more:

Reflecting mangroves
Reflecting mangroves: Something about mangroves always seems photogenic to me. Especially in mirror like water.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog.  Now – if you’re a US citizen age 62 or older – get your pass.  Then go make some photos!

©2014, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.