Railroad Day Trip and the Fuji GA645zi


The Art Of Film Photography And Travel

 

Jordan standing on part of a giant Redwood tree on the top of the mountain


Day 1

Earlier this month Ellen and I took our 9yo grandson Jordan on a week long trip to the San Francisco area.  We did many things and visited some great sights! One of the most memorable was a 2 day visit to the Roaring Camp where the Big Trees and Pacific Railroad is!  They offered several train trips around the mountains and through the giant Redwoods. 

There also were two covered bridges in Felton, one in Roaring Camp itself and another a short distance away in the town. Here is the Roaring Camp bridge.

Roaring Camp Covered Bridge

Dixiana, a 160 yo steam train being lubed

Our first trip was on the Dixiann a 160 year old narrow gauge steam train designed to move ore down the mountains from the mines.  It was special in that it had geared drives to all of its wheels and while it could not move fast it could pull loads up and down the mountains and take as much as an 8% grade!.

The rail yard was full of amazing trains that were in various stages of repair or being torn down for parts. It was a photographers dream!  There was so many different parts, trains and cars around the yard that I could have spent hours and many rolls of 120 film there.   The film I did choose was Kodak Tmax 400.  The reason for this was the fact that I was in the mountains covered in giant Redwoods and there was not too much light!

 

Pacific Railroad Yard in Roaring Camp, Felton, CA

Dixiana, a 160 yo steam train arriving at the station to pick us up

Once it was time to board the train Jordan and I went down beside the tracks trying to get some good angles on the steam engine with its puffing smoke and steam. 

As it approached we were physically pushed aside by an foreign  woman and her daughter who then stood directly in front of us taking phone pictures. 

We were already setup with our film systems when they did this.  It was the only black mark on the day for us and caused enough anger for me to yell at them for being so rude but they simply did not care.  So this next image had to be majorly cropped to remove them from it. Some people are totally clueless and without a shred of common sense or decency.

If you take a look at the engine you will notice that there is really no dark smoke.  This is due to the fact that it has been converted to burn used motor oil!  There was a water town that it pulled up to and topped off its water level too.

The engine  had a central drive shaft that powered the gear drives to all of the wheels.  Next is another image of it getting ready to leave the top of the mountain on the ride back down to the station.

Dixiana, a 160 yo steam train getting ready to head down the mountain

There was another interesting covered bridge in Felton as well.  It was the tallest covered bridge that I have ever seen!   The town built a nice park around it.

Felton Covered Bridge, Tmax 400

Felton Covered Bridge, Tmax 400

 


 

Fuji GA645zi Medium Format Camera

Let’s take a bit of time to talk about the photography a bit…  On these two train trips, light was an issue as well as not being able to use a tripod.  As this was a week long trip and not photography based I chose the Fuji GA645zi medium format camera because of its light weight, 55mm to 90mm 4 position f/4.5 zoom lens, fast autofocus, accurate built in meter, Aperture, Shutter and Manual modes, internal flash and lightweight as the only camera I would take and carry. It is also tough with a solid titanium body!  In other places around California I was able to use a small carbon fiber travel tripod from Really RIght Stuff and then shutter speed became a non issue.

As I said earlier, ALL shots in this post were done on Tmax 400 due to it being difficult using a tripod as well as lower light levels in the Redwoods.   Normally in a situation where I have enough light or am able to use a tripod I will always choose Ilford FP4+ 125 ISO  film for its amazing sharpness, small grain and great contrasts.  I also shot with an orange filter whenever I could but sometime even that had to come off in order to keep a decent shutter speed.   Processing was done in Kodak Xtol stock in my FIlmomat automated table top film processor.   Once dried I used a wet mount scan process.  I find the Tmax films very easy to use and they give consistent results are easy to load on the reels due to their thick film base.  I also brought along some Velvia 100 film and managed to shoot a few rolls of that at the covered bridges and ocean scenes.


Day 2

TIme for the Beach train ride!  This was a 3 hour trip from the mountains down to the boardwalk along the beach in Santa Cruz! Of course Jordan liked this trip also because the boardwalk held a huge amusement park!   We had an hour to play there once we arrived but he was having so much fun that we decided to wait 4 extra hours for the last train back to Felton.  The train this time was a diesel, Gene O”lague #2641 that took us and we actually rode on tracks thru Santa Cruz proper!  I was pretty interesting and sad at the same time due to the VAST numbers of homeless people who had setup permanent camps along the tracks in the low mountains outside of town.

Gene O”Lague, the diesel that took us down the mountain to Santa Cruz for the beach trip

The train is shown here arriving to pick us up at the station.  It was huge and I managed to capture this one image of it arriving before a mob of people again ran out in front of me, oh well…  

The trip done out of the Redwoods was very interesting and we even went through a long tunnel as we came into Santa Cruz.  The tracks are actually down the center of the streets and was very slow do the traffic!  ALL of the people on the streets, in the cars and trucks waved continuously as we would pass.

After we arrived at the boardwalk the train powered down and sat there for an hour waiting for the first trip back to Felton.  This gave me ample time to do some detail shots of the train which I found very interesting.  This is my favorite of the roll!

Gene O”Lague, the diesel that took us down the mountain to Santa Cruz for the beach trip stopped at the boardwalk in Santa Cruz

 

Of course we were now at the boardwalk amusement park.  We were there a few days earlier (the park) but could not spend much time there for Jordan.  So as I said earlier we decided to add 4 extra hours here for him to ride and play.  It was time well spent and he enjoyed the day.

Sky RIding on the boardwalk in Santa Cruz during the Beach train ride

Ellen & Jordan

All in all the train rides and park were a nice time on the trip for us all.  It was both fun and very tiring but I managed to capture 14 rolls of B&W 120 film and 4 of color slides.  I continue to evolve in my technique for travel photography with the inclusion of more capable travel medium format camera systems which makes me VERY happy.   I hope to travel much more with Ellen in the future and once in a while I will take my larger Mamiya 645AFDii camera and lenses there is good reason to stick to the lighter Fuji GA645zi system with its single zoom lens!

Things learned:

  • While a wider range of interchangeable lenses would be nice, the camera/lenses are just too heavy to travel with and carry…
  • I love rangefinders but an auto focus made my photography much more fun and faster with my family in tow…
  • Take more film…
  • Split the B&W film evenly between slow and fast.  Stick with Tmax 400 and Ilford TF4+ 125…
  • Take along a faster slide film…
  • Get a bigger dark bag to hold exposed film…
  • Did I say take more film?  Yep, but it is a biggie!

 

Thanks for bearing with me thru this ultra long post.  While it does come across as more of a family vacation (which it is) post it really does go into ways to make such a easier and funner experience!

 

As always, please let me know what you think of it all!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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How to get the BEST B&W images out of your Infrared camera!


How to get the BEST B&W images out of your Infrared camera!

Final B&W Version!

Final B&W Version!

I am VERY particular in how I process my images, either color or IR it doesn’t make any difference!  This comes from years of visualization,   photography, a career at Eastman Kodak, endless hours of post processing and just plain being old and cranky!  I look for specific compositional elements in each and every image I create then look to create a stepped series of varying  contrast levels to draw the viewer into the image.  This is important in my color work, but CRITICAL in my B&W images.

This post though, is specifically about B&W IR post processing.   But before we actually get to that point I wish to share with you my workflow that I go through up to the point of processing it for B&W.

Assuming that our images have been edited for choice and artistic content and been processed from RAW to 16 bit TIFF…

  1. I evaluate each image to see if it is viable as a processed RAW image.  This means that it has been converted to TIFF, then evaluated as is.  If it looks good (nice bronze skies and monochromatic leaves), I will then post process it according to the the same workflow below that I use for B&W and save it.  Then…
  2. Convert the image to Faux Color IR but running the Faux Process (channels swap and color saturation & hue adjustments) and save.
Step 1  Evaluate the RAW image to see it it stands on its own!

Step 1 Evaluate the RAW image to see it it stands on its own!

Step 2 Process the RAW image into Faux Color.

Step 2 Process the RAW image into Faux Color.

Only when these steps are completed do I start my B&W conversion and processing.  The reason for this is that the best B&W conversions are generated when we have gotten the best possible color adjustments done!  The better the colors the better the B&W!  This is true of both color camera or an IR camera.

As you can see from the B&W image above of the bone yard at Cape Romain here in South Carolina, the image is full of alternating contrast areas that draw the viewers eyes into the image from the bottom left corner up to the center.  This was a choice made in post processing.  

So remember, you will get a much better B&W image if you first post process the color version!  This will give the software (Nik’s Silver EFX Pro) a greater latitude of colors and contrasts to work from rather than just converting the RAW version directly into B&W.

Compositional Elements

In Infrared photography, there are 3 main elements that we need to get an emotionally charged image:

  1. Sky with moody cloud structure.
  2. Water
  3. Green plants.

If you can get all 3 you will get a much more powerful image, but as long as you can get at least 1 you will have more to work with to get a good image. If you find yourself in a location where none of the 3 desired elements can be found then look for repeating patterns! Look at the example below.  This image is of old Rt. 66 through the west taken at the height of a world class snow storm a few years ago in 720nm IR.  There is no water, clouds or plants to work with.  But we have a vanishing perspective due to the repeating telephone poles plus great structure in the snow cover scrub!  There is also just a hint of the sun behind the top of the first telephone pole which adds interest and change of contrast.

Old Rt. 66.  A hint of sun behind the top of the first telephone pole.  720nm IR

Old Rt. 66. A hint of sun behind the top of the first telephone pole. 720nm IR

Now, as easy as all of this sounds, it really does take some planning and simple photoshop skills.  Plus the more you practice it the better and faster you will get!

So lets take a look at our sample B&W converted per post processed B&W image below.  To get to this point, you take your color image and open it in Niks Silver EFX software filter.  You would then choose the recipe that you like the best from the left hand menu watching the effect on the preview image on the screen.  When you find the version you like the best  you would then adjust the contrast, structure and highlights/shadows to get your starting image, then accept it and drop it back into Photoshop!  

This then is the results of what we just did:

Adams Mill Bridge, IN, B&W Converted NO Post Processing!

Adams Mill Bridge, IN, B&W Converted NO Post Processing!

This is a very nice image to be sure!  But, it can be drastically improved with very little work.  By selecting areas of alternating contrasts we can enhance the emotional impact of this image and draw the viewers eyes into the image giving it an almost 3 dimensional feel!  Lets take a look at these areas!

Take a close look at the image.  Look for ways to give alternating areas of light and dark, low contrast and high contrast.  Use these areas to create steps into your image.  For the image above of the Adams Mill un processed this is how I approach it:

Visualizing areas of light/dark, low/high contrasts to step your viewer through the image!

Visualizing areas of light/dark, low/high contrasts to step your viewer through the image!

Looks like a puzzle doesn’t it!  But is is really easy once you decide HOW you want to approach the image.  We are going to use the Nik plugin filter called Viveza to accomplish all of these changes.  Simply start on one edge of the image and work your way across. Nik gives you a very powerful selection and masking tool call selection points.  These points pick out areas of similar color or shading.  

So here is how it all works:

  1. Start Nik Viveza in your editor.
  2. Start from one edge and work across the image.
  3. Using a selection point, place it on the first area to be edited.
  4. Adjust the size if the selection point as necessary.
  5. Adjust the brightness slider to set the light/black point you desire.
  6. Adjust the structure (sharpness) with the structure slider.
  7. Adjust the contrast with the contrast slider.
  8. If you find that your edits affect areas outside of your desired area simply add another (or several) adjustment points with no editing in those affected areas to bring them back to where they were. This is called an anchor point. You will find that you will add anchor points all over your image to bring areas back to their un edited version.  
  9. Simply work your way across the image editing as you go.  Create areas of alternating contrasts and you will generate a powerful B&W image in very little time!  

Here is the finished version of the image above!

Adams Mill Bridge, IN, B&W Converted Post Processed

Adams Mill Bridge, IN, B&W Converted Post Processed

Go back and forth, look at the differences between the 2 images.  In the 2nd image, there is a tonal range of complete black to complete white. The un-edited version has a little contrast but lacks punch and it does NOT have a complete tonal range!

This looks very simple doesn’t it!  Well it is!!  It just requires that you pre visualize what you desire in your finished image then simply make it so.

I hope that you enjoyed this simple tutorial.  If you would like an enhanced version with complete step by step instructions and screen captures please visit my BLOG at:

http://www.markhilliardatelier.wordpress.com

and look at the post on my Color & Infrared Video Post Processing Tutorial on a 2 DVD set.  

Please let me know what you think of all this!!

Video Workshop Customer Comments & Feedback!


Customer Comments on the Color & Infrared Post Processing From Beginning To End Video Workshop

IR Post Processing in Color and B&W

IR Post Processing in Color and B&W

I have started getting feedback and comments on the new IR/Color Video Tutorial.  As they arrive I will share them here in this post with you.  I am very excited over these.  So far there are about 100 shipped videos out there!

TO ORDER THE DVD SET:

US  Orders CLICK    HERE

The cost is $29.95 plus shipping which will automatically be added when you order.

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INTERNATIONAL ORDERS:

Pay via Paypal using the payee address:

ellen@thelensworkgallery.com

International Charges

  • England: DVD SET $29.95 SHIPPING $25.00
  • France: DVD SET $29.95 SHIPPING $25.00
  • Hong Kong: DVD SET $29.95 SHIPPING $25.00
  • Canada: DVD SET $29.95 SHIPPING $22.00

All prices are in USD

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I attempted IR several years ago and was totally frustrated when it came to post processing.  Despite enrolling in an online course and spending hundreds of dollars on IR books, it was a hit and miss proposition in getting any decent images. Everyone said the same  thing – “swap your red & blue channels in Photoshop”.  Sorry, that doesn’t work all of the time.
Everything changed after taking Mark’s IR workshop.  Now it’s even easier to learn IR though this wonderful DVD set.  Get your White Balance right in the beginning, watch your red channel in your histogram, then follow Mark’s IR post processing methods.  He makes it that simple.
 Mark is truly a master!

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Mark, I demand my money back on the IR & Color Post Processing Video tutorial ! How dare you sell DVD of that quality for $30 when it is easily worth 3 times that amount!  Mark – this was the best training DVD I ever saw.  You covered everything perfectly.  I watched it twice yesterday and intend to watch it again today.  You covered everything perfectly. You are truly a master!  Thanks

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The DVD arrived today, thank you. The cover, case, packaging all looks great: very professional.  Will delve into it while traveling next week.

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I really like your suggested folder structure, of leaving the original RAW files untouched, then having a separate Develop folder, for work in progress images, and another Archival folder for final, processed images. I’ve spent the past 5 years processing my original RAW files. Goodness know what damage I’ve done. Your system is much smarter. Thank you!

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I have Ingestamatic working reasonably reliably now and am coming to appreciate its utility in naming files and organizing sub-folders. It’s certainly smarter than any other uploading programs I’ve used.

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I love my videos!

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I would like to thank those who have taken the time to send feedback and comments!  It means a lot to me and will help improve on the next Video Tutorial that I put together!  

Please keep them coming!

UPDATED: IR & COLOR POST PROCESSING VIDEO TUTORIAL!! INTERNATIONAL SHIPPING


UPDATED: Color & Infrared Post Processing From Beginning To End INTERNATIONAL SHIPPING!

2 – 1/2 hour video series on two DVDs by

Master Photographer Mark Hilliard

DVD OUTSIDE LABEL

DVD OUTSIDE LABEL

  1. This covers image ingestion using Ingestimatic for both Mac & Windows
  2. Raw conversion using Adobe ACR – Capture 1 Pro and Capture 1 Express
  3. RAW Library Setup
  4. Backup Strategies 
  5. Intelligent IR channel swap using the Khromagraphy PS Plugin Action
  6. Post Processing Color, Infrared and B&W using the Nik filter set in Photoshop. 
  7. Ideas on creating intense high impact images.

The majority of the video is screen capture taking you through the post processing workflow button by button, click by click.  All of the major RAW converters have their own separate video and you will learn about all 3 which will enable you to make intelligent decisions on which one is for you then be able to run it!

This is an in-depth tutorial and will give you the knowledge and recipe to take your own images from one end of the process to the other without pulling your hair out in frustration!

TO ORDER THE DVD SET:

US  Orders CLICK    HERE

The cost of the video for US customers is $29.95 plus $5.95 shipping which will be automatically added when you order.

___________________________________________

INTERNATIONAL ORDERS:

Pay via Paypal using the payee address:

ellen@thelensworkgallery.com

International Charges

  • England: DVD SET $29.95 SHIPPING $25.00
  • France: DVD SET $29.95 SHIPPING $25.00
  • Hong Kong: DVD SET $29.95 SHIPPING $25.00
  • Canada: DVD SET $29.95 SHIPPING $22.00

All Prices are USD

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If you would like to read a little feedback from my students please click   HERE  and   HERE.

Video Course Inside

Video Course Inside

Fuji X100s: Oh Yea…


You know the feeling, and usually need tissues to clean up afterwords!

A little background is in order…

Fuji X100s

Fuji X100s

Fuji X, what can you say except “Yes Please!”.  I am a LONG time X shooter.  I started out several years ago with the Fuji X100 and loved every moment of it.  I likened shooting with it to going home to Mama…  If you know what I mean then you understand.   I did decide that I really desired to have a camera with interchangeable lenses and when the Fuji X Pro 1 came out I jumped on it and all of the FX lenses that have since arrived plus several CV lenses as well.   The X Pro 1 has become may main goto camera system.  I Then purchased the X-E1 due to its electronic shutter release, thus its ability to connect to my lightning trigger and water drop computer system!  The X-E1 only lives for such things…  When I get it out to play with lightning it is like coming home to a doggy after a long day! I then decided to get another X Pro 1 and have it converted to 720nm Infrared.  This system (my 16th IR conversion) is the BEST IR camera that I have ever used and that is a big statement!

Passion Flower Macro, Fuji X100s hand held in bright sunlight.

Passion Flower Macro, Fuji X100s hand held in bright sunlight.

So, along comes the X100s, and I look it over and think on it for months.  I though that gee, what a neat system to add to my bag.   Finally I decided to get one but let me tell you that they are HARD TO FIND!  I found on at a little online camera store in Oregon and had them ship it to me last month.  I am very glad I made  this decision!  To say that the X100S is a world class camera is really short selling its capability!   I find that I carry it EVERYWHERE I go now.  I still use the X Pro 1 for most of my work but the X100s really gives stunning results and the new XTran 2 sensor is amazing.  I love the split image manual focus system and wish the other Fuji cameras offered it as well.

Adams Mill Wheel, Lafayette, IN, Fuji X100s

Adams Mill Wheel, Lafayette, IN, Fuji X100s

The X100s works very well in macro mode and the sharpness, colors and texture are simply breathtaking!  You could not ask more of a walk around camera than the Fuji delivers.  Even without image stabilization the camera is flawless due to its ability to shoot cleanly at high ISOs!

Abstract, Glass Block Floral, Fuji X100s

Abstract, Glass Block Floral, Fuji X100s

I am going to share a few of the images generated so far with this incredible camera and you be the judge!

The Dingy, Fuji X100s

The Dingy, Fuji X100s

Adams Mill, Lafayette IN, Fuji X100s

Adams Mill, Lafayette IN, Fuji X100s

McHargue Mill, Fuji X100s

McHargue Mill, Fuji X100s

Old Truck, Fuji X100s

Old Truck, Fuji X100s

A Face in the trees, Fuji X100s, you have to figure this one out!

A Face in the trees, Fuji X100s, you have to figure this one out!

Ok thats it for today!  What do you think?

Fuji X Pro 1 and Advanced HDR Photography with NIK, Photomatix & Merge


Or, Look Mom at  what I made!

A brief overview of the  4 major HDR tools…

The Glade Creek Mill, Fuji X Pro 1 w/ 60mm lens, 10 stop ND and Nik HDR EFX Pro 2 with 3 source files

I just got back from a major workshop that Jamie Davidison and I led to the New River Gorge in West Virginia where to took our students on a hectic 4 day workshop/excursion.  We explored waterfalls, grist mills, trains and vistas while studying Infrared and Color post processing back in the classroom each night till about midnight.  This was EXHAUSTING to say the least but never the less, a great workshop full of great photographers who gave as much as they took!  My days started every morning at 5am and ended about 1am.  I am still recovering!

The Glade Creek Mill, Fuji X Pro 1 with the VC 12mm lens

While the main focus was shooting in Infrared and its associated post processing, I needed to provide loaner IR camera systems to those who did not yet own one, so even though I own three IR systems I was forced to shoot color!  The sky each day was free of clouds and very bright, so if I wished to photograph in color I was forced most of the time to shoot HDR images in order to overcome the dynamic range of the day!  A lot of the time I was able to successfully capture an image with The X Pro 1 in a single shot like the one shown here on the right of the Glade Creek Mill.  But the norm was indeed HDR. The X Pro 1 camera has an unfair advantage over most other camera systems, it has a wider dynamic range and can capture more image data!

Notice that the mill did have some running water which forced me to use very long exposures in the range of 10 to 5 seconds in order to slow the water down.  While there was not a lot of water flow there was enough to make the images very nice.  I used the 60mm lens on the camera along with a 10 stop ND filter in order to slow it down!

OK so let’s get to it!  From this point on, we are going to be working with the same three source files.  I will take you through the post processing for the following HDR tools:

  • Nik HDR EFX Pro
  • Nik HDR EFX Pro 2 (new)
  • Merge To HDR Pro (Photoshop CS6)
  • Fotomatix Pro 4.2.3

I also will be using Nik’s Color EFX Pro 4 and Viveza 2 for post processing (fine tuning) after the HDR conversions are finished!

Overview:

OK, what is HDR?  HDR stands for High Dynamic Range.  Think of it this way… You are out taking pictures during the brightest part of the day.  You can get a good image of the foreground subject, but the sky is totally blown out, you know pure white.  The total range of the light from black to white in your image exceeds what your camera is capable of recording, but our eyes can still see and understand the complete range.  So, in the world of photography, we have developed the ability to take several photographs, say three to six, each one with a different exposure from way too dark to really blown out.  With these pictures in hand you can now run one of several software programs available that will combine the best of each of these differently exposed image into one that can display the entire range of of the image from black to white!

Now this requires a image with more data than you can store in a 8 bit JPG image, and even more than your 16 bit RAW, TIFF or PSD image!  Now we move into the world of 32 bit images that can hold and display  a far greater range of black to white data.  Now, 32 bit images are all but useless to us in the real world so the HDR software will compress it down to 16 bits by removing select bits of brightness data without really negatively affecting the view of the image and making it possible to view and print the image!   Pretty neat technology don’t you think?

What I normally do when shooting HDR is to take a test image and evaluate the histogram.  I will look to see what areas are out range, or totally black or totally white.  Usually, the blacks will be fine but the whites will be blown out.  I will then retake the same image with a negative EV dialed in and re evaluate the image again looking to see if the blown out white areas of the image are now in the proper range.  This gives me an idea of just how wide the range of the image needs to be.  If the blown out areas take two or three stops of adjustment to bring them back into range then I will then  decide upon how many HDR images are needed to be taken to get the total range covered in 1/2 stop increments.  You will need to set your camera on a tripod and have it locked down to assure that you get the same exact composition in each shot.  You can either use the auto bracket mode on your camera to generate your shots or do it manually.   Weather or not you change the ISO or shutter speed is dependent upon the scene or your artistic intent.  Some cameras will bracket at most three shots, some 5 and some even 7 or more!  You can usually choose to bracket with Aperture, Shutter Speed or ISO.  It is important to keep the Aperture constant as to not change the depth of field.

For these shots, as long as I kept the shutter speed longer than 3 seconds I would not have any issues with keeping sharply defined slow moving water to generate the HDR.  So I chose a 3 stop bracket using the Shutter Speed, leaving the Aperture and ISO steady.

Here are the 3 component images that make up the final HDR image:

  • In the first, 3495, the trees and mill look good, the water is overexposed about a stop and has lost detail and the rocks are a little under exposed.
  • The second, 3496, the rocks are perfect but the water is very over exposed. There is some detail in the black area under the top of the falls.
  • The last, 3497, the water is perfect but everything else is just to dark.
  • The water was always the key to this shot, getting it so that it was not blown out is the reason to use HDR.  These three images generated by the camera without any processing other than raw conversion and bracketed .7 ev apart with -1.3 ev being one of them, -.6 ev and lastly –2 ev.  If you decide to try this, keep in mind that the closer together the exposures are, say 1/2ev the more data you will have to generate your final image.  You can also add more data with more images. Every HDR you setup and shoot will be different and you must evaluate how many shots to take at what exposure.
  • The very dark black under hang below the top of the waterfall was another consideration when deciding the exposure values of the component images.  I needed a brighter image to bring out some detail here as well.

3495, -1.3 ev, f/8 8 seconds, I chose this value to get the correct exposure on the trees

3495 Histogram, -1.3 EV

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3496, -.6 ev, f/8, 13 seconds. I chose this value to get the rocks and mill exposure correct knowing that the water would be blown out

3496, -.6 ev

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3497, -2 ev, f/8, 5 seconds,  I chose this exposure for the correct falling water exposure

3497, -2 EV

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These three images are the only ones that I will use to explore the various HDR processing software.

Final considerations on component images that make up the HDR image:

  • You MUST shoot on a tripod to control camera movement (prevent ghosting) and to lock the composition.
  • Use a remote shutter release.
  • Wind will cause plant and tree movement which will cause a ghosting effect (bad).
  • Keep the aperture constant to force the depth of field the same between shots.
  • ISO bracketing is ok as long as you keep the jumps in ISO below the level where noise is introduced by your camera.
  • Exposures closer together will allow you to generate better HDR’s as long as the subject matter doesn’t move.
  • More component images mean more data to  build a better HDR image.
  • Take notes in the field as you shoot so that you can remember what your intentions were at that point in time!  This will help you when you build the HDR.

Some notes on the software:

  • HDR conversions require image editing software that can process in 32 bits.  This means that unless you purchase HDR stand alone software like Photomatrix Pro you MUST use Photoshop CS5 or CS6. Elements and Lightroom simply will not work.
  • I do not like over cooked HDR images.  I process them to a natural look and feel, close to what I can see with my eyes!
  • CS5 & CS6 both include an internal HDR conversion filter called Merge to HDR Pro for free.
  • The NIK HDR software, HDR EFX Pro and HDR EFX Pro 2 require a 64 bit operating system and the appropriate 64 bit CS5 or 6
  • Photomatix Pro is a stand alone filter that does NOT run inside of Photoshop and will allow you to save a 16 bit HDR converted image that can be opened in Elements.
  • All of the conversion software will cost between $100 and $200.
  • I am not going to take you step by step through each of the HDR conversion packages.  This is HIGHLY SUBJECTIVE and no two photographers will get to the end results via the same path!  There a quite a few good books out there on this!

Photoshop CS6 Merge To HDR Pro

This HDR program comes built into Photoshop CS6.  It is quite powerful and gives you a lot of options.  I found it very easy to use and it gives very nice results.  You will find it under the FILE > Automate menu and it  will ask you to locate and open your component images or add images already open!

Once your images have been chosen, it will open them and drop you into a full screen dialog where you can make any image adjustments.  Once done the software will drop the finished image into Photoshop where you can then do your final tuning with Nik’s Color EFX Pro 4.  I like to use the Tonal Contrast filter due to the ability to adjust color contrast in the Highlights, Midtones and Shadows separately from each other.  This one tool will really bring out the full potential of your images.

Here is my version of the three component images processed in Photoshop’s Merge To HDR Pro:

X-Pro1-3495 3496 3497 -Glade Creek Mill -2012 -M to HDR Pro

Here is my version of the three component images processed in Nik’s HDR EFX Pro:

OK, onto Nik Softwares HDR EFX Pro.  This is the first version that Nik offered earlier this spring (2012)  It has a great interface and does a pretty good job, but requires a little more fine tuning after the HDR conversion is finished.  The tuning process was again done using Color EFX Pro 4 and Viveza 2.  This is a plugin filter for the Photoshop family and requires that you run a 64 bit operating system in Windows or OSX.  It will NOT run on Elements and Lightroom.

I found that the images to be a little flat and lifeless until I applied the Color EFX Pro 4 in the after process tuning steps, then the images started looking pretty good.

X-Pro1-3495 3496 3497 -Glade Creek Mill -2012_NIK HDR EFX Pro

Here is my version of the three component images processed in Nik’s HDR EFX Pro 2:

OK, now, this is a MAJOR upgrade to Nik’s HDR software.  This one revision corrected all of my complaints about flat and lifeless images!  There is VERY LITTLE fine tuning needed at all.  I think that Nik’s HDR EFX Pro 2 is my favorite conversion tool out there.  But I will let the images speak for themselves!

X-Pro1-3495 3496 3497 -Glade Creek Mill-2012 NIK HDR Pro 2

Here is my version of the three component images processed in Photomatix Pro ver : 4.2.3

Photomatix is likely the most popular HDR conversion package on the market.  It cost around $150 and does NOT require CS5 or CS6 to run.  It is a standalone system and when it finishes it will directly save a 16 bit version of your HDR image on your computer that you can then open for further editing.  It has many recipes and adjustments and you can do great work with it. I highly recommend it even if you are already running a 64 bit operating system and CS6. You will not be sorry!

X-Pro1-3495 3496 3497 -Glade Creek Mill -2012 -Photomatix Pro HDR

As you can see, the 4 converted HDR images are not at all the same.  That would be difficult if not impossible to achieve.  Each software package has its own adjustments and none of them are exact.  I like Nik’s HDR EFX Pro 2 and Photomatix 4.2.3 the best.  They are all easy to use and as long as you properly evaluate the scene that you are trying to photograph and properly choose the exposure values of the component images you will get really nice HDR shots!

What do you think?  Please let me know!

Updated Grist Mill & Covered Bridge Gallery…


Major Image Gallery Update

I have just updated the images in my Grist Mill & Covered Bridge gallery in the menu on the top of the page under galleries!  I added about 25 new mills and bridges plus provided name and state data under each image!  I hope that you enjoy them as much as I did in creating them!

There is something especially pleasing about mills and bridges that can transport me back to a different time and age!  I will literally  travel hundreds of miles out of my way to visit them!  In 2011 I spent 3 weeks visiting 19 states on the eastern seaboard doing just so, plus this year in May, I spent several days exploring the mills and bridges of south central Georgia!

You can visit the updated gallery by clicking on the drop down under Galleries in the top menu or if visiting from off site click on the link below:

https://markhilliardatelier.wordpress.com/gallery/color-infrared-grist-mills/

Georgia Grist Mill & Covered Bridges with the X Pro 1


A Few Hidden Treasures…

Starr’s Mill, GA

BW Auchumpkee Creek Bridge, GA

Well my wife and I spent a day exploring the counties north of Columbus Georgia on Thursday looking for covered bridges and grist mills!  We actually visited 2 bridges and 2 mills but only one of the mills was really worthy of any type of photography (more on that later…)  All in all a very enjoyable day!

GPS Track of this trip. Yellow Pins are Mills and Bridges!

I will drive hundreds of miles out of my way to visit a Grist Mill or Covered Bridge and today was no exception.  We left Columbus early and drove about 150 miles in a large circle to hit these 4 locations.  There is just something very special about these old landmarks don’t you think?  I still have about 15 more mills to visit in Georgia and around 20 more bridges!  We have 2 more trips planned this year there, one in August and another in September.  If I can capture 4 or 5 good locations then it will be well worth the time and money to visit them!