Tuesday, September 26, 2017

PictureCorrect: High Dynamic Range (HDR): A Useful Photographic Tool

There is some controversy about using HDR. This stems from the presentation of some HDR images done badly and the somewhat difficult processing of the image for the average photographer to get the desired results.

sunset hdr

Photo by Justin Kern.

The human eye can adjust to deep shadows and overly bright light quite quickly. The perception of the total image includes information from the deep shadows as well as detail from the bright highlights. We have been somewhat spoiled in the past using negative color film for our daily pictures. This method uses the adjustments from the camera’s original exposure and the exposure adjustments in the printing process to compress the wide band of detail into a viewable photograph. Along with this process comes a loss of detail in both the shadows and the highlights. Slide film like Kodachrome had a wider dynamic range but was less forgiving in producing a perfect exposure. Digital cameras have a similar characteristic.

In the early years of photography the problem of dynamic range (the lack of) was solved by photographers like Ansel Adams several ways. He used silver based negative glass plates which had a decent dynamic range. The printing paper could not display nearly as much detail as was available on the negative. This was solved quite well by using a printing box with a couple of dozen small lamps which could be switched on or off individually. This manipulation supplied less light for the shadows and more to the highlights to produce a print that displayed detail in both areas. Contrast was controlled by warming the chemicals in the shadows and diluting the chemicals in the highlights. In the 1970s I used variable contrast printing paper to achieve similar results. I held back the shadows with a violet filter, lightening the dark areas while increasing the contrast to a viewable level. The highlights I burned in with a yellow filter in order to print down the overexposed highlights without raising the contrast unduly. Of course, this only worked with black and white photography.

zen garden

Photo by Thomas Smart.

Other methods that can be used are light painting (shining a moving spotlight on dark areas with the shutter open), using extra strong lights for dark areas and using gobos (movable shades) to hide light for very light toned areas. Commonly open flash on the camera is extensively used to open up shadows. Unfortunately, this presents a very flat light source, diminishing the beauty of light modelling.

In today’s digital world, a digital camera acts similarly to the old Kodachrome in respect to dynamic range. Overexposed highlights like a bright sky simply burns out, displaying a pure white in the photograph. All cloud and sky detail is missing. In underexposed shadows contrast is low and much detail is lost in the dark murk. Additional overall exposure would help the shadow detail but would make the highlights even more blown out. HDR solves this problem, at least with non moving subjects, by combining the information from three or more images photographed in increasing steps of exposure. If there is plenty of light, some digital cameras can take three photographs at differing exposures quick enough to prevent blurring without using a tripod. The best information from the highly exposed images is combined in the computer with the well balanced information from the properly exposed highlight areas to produce a photograph that displays all the information you can see with your eyes.

hdr tips and tricks

Photo by Harry Pammer.

HDR software is available from several sources costing from between fifty and one hundred dollars. Advanced computer buffs can take advantage of their DSLRs with their RAW capabilities and high resolution numbers to create beautiful landscapes and portraits. I envision future digital cameras with built-in HDR capability. They already can take three to five images at graded exposure steps. All that is needed is the HDR software. Presently I am experimenting with Dynamic Photo HDR and find it fairly easy to learn. The key seems to be paying attention to creating the proper range of exposures to get the desired results. Many other artistic tools can be applied the HDR image like brushwork, highlight enhancement and increased color saturation. Like anything else, initial enthusiasm for HDR can lead to the overuse of the process, leading to unnatural looking photographs. Just as in life, moderation is key to using the tool of HDR to create beautiful photographs.

About the Author:
Kenneth Hoffman is a retired portrait and wedding photographer, he enjoys writing, how to articles, helpful articles on photography and many other subjects. His hobbies include quartet singing, shop, bicycling and photography. You can find him at photoartbyken.com and redbubble.com under webster7.

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Monday, September 25, 2017

Dpreview.com: Calumet UK and Wex Photographic will officially merge tomorrow

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PetaPixel: Minolta Quietly Released a Set of New Digital Cameras

Minolta has quietly released a trio of digital cameras. This is apparently the first camera product releases under the brand name since it went out of business in 2003.

Minolta was a Japanese camera manufacturer, famed for creating the first autofocus in a 35mm SLR camera, and seems to be emerging from the shadows once again.

The brand merged with the Konica Corporation, forming Konica Minolta, in 2003. However, in 2006, the new merger announced that it was leaving the camera and photo business. The SLR arm was sold on to Sony, and ever since Minolta has remained very different to its old self.

At least until now, when a number of Minolta cameras cropped up on Amazon. It appears that the Minolta name is now owned by Elite Brands, whose website displays all of the new models.

In actuality, 2 of the new cameras are the same — they’re just different color versions. This is the Minolta MN357, a 20-megapixel Wi-Fi-capable digital camera with a 35x optical zoom and 1080p video. It costs $230, but already has two 1-star reviews on Amazon to its name.

“Got about 10 pics with it then it stopped working!” one reviewer writes. “Seller told me to try something see if it would work, still wouldn’t do anything. Seller refunded my money.”

“For those who know Minolta for their excellent optics in the past, be aware this has no relation to them,” says the second reviewer. “At best the rights name has been sold on, at worst it is using the Minolta name on cheap knockoff items.”

The second camera model launched is the Minolta MN5Z. This is also a 20-megapixel camera, but with a 5x optical zoom, that costs $100.

The first of these cameras became available on the Amazon website starting back May 24th, 2017, but until now they have mostly flown under the radar.

(via Amazon via Photo Rumors)

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PetaPixel: The 7 Commandments for Great Photo Walks

In the last year, I’ve walked probably more than 2,000 miles with my camera. I love photo walks because they are so meditative. There is also great excitement when you get home to look at the photos, to see if you caught any great ones. It adds a dimension of extra beauty and flow to your regular long walks. Here are the seven most important lessons I have learned when it comes to getting the best possible enjoyment and results from your photo walks.

1. You shall snap the first photo immediately

Have you noticed, that as you enter an IKEA store, you usually encounter a too-good-to-be-true deal in the first few minutes? Like, an insanely good deal? The reason is that they want you to take that deal and put it in your bag, as this will make you enter into “shopping mode” early on in your visit. Entering “shopping mode” is a threshold you must cross, where you make the decision that “today I am shopping.” And soon item number two and three goes into your bag as well. The sooner you go into shopping mode, the more money IKEA makes from your visit.

It is the same with photo walks. The sooner you take your camera out of the bag, turn it on, and take the first photo – the sooner you enter into photography mode – and the more great photos you will come home with. You will discover, that as soon as you snap the first couple of photos, you will enter a more creative mindset, where you will discover great photos everywhere!

2. You shall bring no other lenses, besides the one you pick

This one is not only about lenses: It is about equipment in general. I always just bring one lens – the one on my camera.

I pick a lens that I feel would fit this particular day and this particular photo walk. If it is a beautiful morning with a clear sky, where I can anticipate a sunrise, I would likely bring a wide-angle lens. If I am out walking with my girlfriend, I might be more likely to bring a portrait lens. The point is that I try to minimize the weight and amount of stuff I bring so that the camera gear never becomes a burden. You want to feel free and light during a photo walk, as this will bring you creativity.

3. You shall introduce a constraint to boost creativity

This one is quite unintuitive, I know. But the more constraints you have, the more creative you will get. A great first constraint, that I always utilize, is that I only bring one lens and that it is always a fixed focal length.

But try what happens if you add even more constraints, such as only shooting in black and white, or only shooting in portrait mode. A constraint is useful if you initially feel resistance towards it. But just stay determined to work your way through the initial resistance, and your creativity will spring into action. You will take photos unlike any you have taken before.

4. You shall follow the good light

I find that the best results come from the photo walks where I allow myself to walk without a set plan. I go out exploring. Whenever you get a feeling, that the light is particularly beautiful in a certain direction, or my intuition just tells me that you should go somewhere – I go there.

I’m not giving you this advice because I necessarily believe our intuition can lead us to the best photos. I have simply found that following my intuition boosts my creativity, and the result of that is always better and more beautiful photos.

5. You shall honor your gut when it says a photo must be taken

This one is common to hear from street photographers, where the moment is everything. But I think it applies to all forms of photography. When your gut feeling says that you have an opportunity to take a great photo, you must go for it. Even if your camera is packed in the bottom of your bag. Even if you feel embarrassed to take a photo in the situation at hand, for whatever reason. Even if you tell yourself you can come back later and take that photo.

Usually, you cannot come back later. Photos are unique moments that you freeze, and moments never come back. The exact same scene, with exactly the same light, will never come back. So always take the shot if your gut tells you to!

6. You shall review sharpness and composition before leaving the scene

Never just quickly glance at your camera’s screen and think to yourself “looks good, let’s move on.” Chances are, the photo isn’t really that good. It might be slightly out of focus. It might be a bit tilted. It might be overexposed.

Always make a habit of checking the composition, exposure, and sharpness of your photo before leaving the scene. Otherwise, you might come home very disappointed, when you bring up the photo on your computer screen, only to discover that it wasn’t as good as you thought. If you check your photos in detail, by zooming in on details to check sharpness, you can always retake the photo while still at the scene.

7. You shall always walk somewhere new

A final key to creativity is variation. Always walk to new places, because newness triggers your creativity. If you always walk the same path, on every photo walk, you will get increasingly bored and gradually lose inspiration. Walk new walks every time!

About the author: Micael Widell is a photography enthusiast based in Stockholm, Sweden. He loves photography, and runs a YouTube channel with tutorials, lens reviews and photography inspiration. You can also find him on Instagram and 500px where his username is @mwroll.

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Dpreview.com: Your Wacom tablet won't work with macOS High Sierra until 'late October'

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PetaPixel: FAA Trumps Local Govt When It Comes to Drone Laws, Court Rules

A new landmark ruling by a federal court has affirmed that the FAA holds a greater say in drone regulations than local governments across the United States.

Newton, Massachusetts, resident Michael Singer filed the lawsuit in January against his city’s government to try to get rid of a number of the rules that failed to echo those of the FAA. The lawsuit was supported by the Consumer Technology Association.

Local Newton laws did not permit drone use under 400 feet above private and city property, but the FAA’s regulations require drones to operate below this very altitude. Also, there was a regulation in Newton that required a drone operator to register with every municipality that it would fly over.

Two other regulations, which were not challenged by Singer, related to the use of drones to spy on people and operating drones in a reckless manner.

The problem that these local regulations posed was that they effectively eliminated any drone use in the city due to the contradicting requirements over flight altitudes and the impractical need to register in every area for even a short flight.

“Newton’s choice to restrict any drone use below this altitude (400 feet) thus works to eliminate any drone use in the confines of the city, absent prior permission. This thwarts not only the FAA’s objectives, but also those of Congress for the FAA to integrate drones into the national airspace,” writes US District Judge William G. Young.

Singer says the ruling “ensure[s] that the skies would remain open for new technology that would benefit society.”

Newton’s legal department has since said that it is considering its appeal options.

“This decision establishes a rock-solid affirmation that the federal government unequivocally holds jurisdiction over the drone industry,” says Doug Johnson, the Consumer Technology Association’s VP of Technology Policy.

(via WSJ via Engadget)

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