Return from Art Monaco 2014

One of the major sites in lies in the heart of Copenhagen. It's called Nyhavn and means New Harbor. This is just before sunrise, before the neon lights are shut off. Photo by: Jacob Surland,

I have just returned from the Art Monaco 2014, the fifth Art Monaco to be held. It is one of the most prestigious art fairs on the French Riviera. I was invited by Mona Youssef Art Gallery and was a part of a great team, with great and beautiful artists. It was so great to be a part of a team, because you can help each other in many different ways. Not only the practical stuff, that is at an event of these dimensions, but also sharing knowledge and experience.

Artists doing different kind of arts, with different perspectives and aspects, still have common ground. Digital artists, share the media and printing, even if some paint digitally, and others, like myself, are photographers. And landscape painters, share compositions and thoughts of how make a landscape image. It really was a very great experience, from which I learned a lot and gained a lot of great new friends, I surely hope I will meet again.

I presented two artworks from my Realism Digital Art collection. The first was the “The Old Houses in New Port” (above) and then the “Tower Bridge and London Bus” (below). And they were received extremely well – better than I had hoped for.

Jacob Surland at Art Monaco

And it was a wonderful experience to see the amazement in peoples eyes, as they were scrutinizing the details of the photos, to make sure, it wasn’t paintings. Both are signed and numbered artworks.

This is an HDR photo of London Tower Bridge combined with a long exposure of a  exposure of a double decker London bus passing by. Photo by Jacob Surland. See more at

Finding you own style – Realism Digital Art

The Liberty in London is a fascinating beautiful shopping mall. It's not as famous as Harrods, but from the outside, it's much more charming, if you ask me. Photo by: Jacob Surland,

Finding your own style is something that takes a little time. Most of my photos are HDR photos, but making HDR photos is like making an oil painting. It is only a technique. Even what is considered an HDR is only vaguely defined.

Some think it is a must, to have shot more than one shot, to cover the Dynamic range, while others don’t and I belong the to the latter group. I believe that what people recognizes as HDR photos, are tone mapped photos. The tone mapping gives the “HDR effect”. But still, tone mapping can give any range of photos.

A large portion of my photos belongs to a special art style, which I call Realism Digital Art inspired by the traditional Realism Art. It would not be precise enough, just to say that I do HDR photos. It would be like saying that I do oil paintings.

It has taken some time to realize what my style is. I love doing a lot of different styles of photography, but the Realism Digital Art, is what I keep going back to.

Realism Digital Art definition

Realism Digital Art is an art form, based in photography, but with images looking almost like very detailed Realism paintings. The amount of details photography offers, invite the viewer’s eye to wander around, and discover small details and get astonished about the fine details. Even though the work was developed from a photograph yet, captivates the viewers and make them wonder, because it has elements of a painting.

In Realism Digital Art the light and colors play an important role and often they shape the image. Colors and light are essential parts in the composition of the image.

In contrast to photo journalism and naturalism, Realism Digital Art is not trying to portrait reality, but instead strives to present the scene in the most beautiful way, given the circumstances under which the photo was taken.

If removing objects, like lamp posts, signs, rubbish etc. improves the beauty of the image, that is acceptable, even encouraged. Introducing elements, like stars or a sky from another photo, is acceptable too, however not encouraged. In general, Realism Digital Art is not striving to composite photos, but if an element from another photo can fill an empty space in the image, that is acceptable.

Realism Digital Art a photographic way to strive to get to similar results, as the Realism Art does.

The photo above of the Liberty in London, is a fine example fitting this definition, but it is also an HDR. It seams that very often, HDR is a good platform or technique for making Realism Digital Art.


First impressions – Review of Photomatix Pro 5 beta 4

The London Tower Bridge is one of the worlds most well known landmarks. Photo by: Jacob Surland,
London Tower Bridge – a 5 shot HDR photo processed with Photomatix Pro 5 beta 4 and then mixed with a long exposure image for the fountain and the clouds. The Long exposure I made using my 10 stop ND filter from B+W. I did use a final filter High Key from Topaz Adjust to get the more pseuchedelic look.

Some of you might have noticed that a new version of Photomatix Pro 5 is on its way. The official beta 4 is now available and I have had a quick glance at it. After having played around with for a awhile I am a bit disappointed, but there are a few goodies too.

The wording – that is the usability – has changed in general to the better. By using the right words you can do a lot for the ease of use of a software program. For instance instead of calling a feature ‘Align source image – by correcting vertical and horizontal shifts’ it gets a lot easier to understand from the new wording: ‘Align source images – Taken on tripod’. I’m a great fan of usability and this is great usability in it’s essence. Straight talk for normal human beings to understand, not engineer talk that only a small group of people can understand.

There are a couple of others of these wordings that has changed for the better. The Button “Process” has been changed to “Apply and Finish”.

The algorithm for aligning images should be improved, but that is fairly hard to test. I have never really had any problem with the one from Photomatix 4 – but improvements of course is good.

The deghosting as been changed too and is better. However I never use the deghosting tool. I might give it a try or two, but basically I think you get a better result using by blending one of the source image in using layered masks in Photoshop or GIMP.

A couple of new processing methods has been added. Tone mapping has got a ‘Contrast optimizer’ method in addition to the Details Enhancer and the Tone Compressor:

Step 04 - Tone mapping methods

The ‘Contrast Optimizer’ is great for natural looking images, but is not worth much for more creative processing. I will probably not use it for much. The fusion also got an ‘Fusion/Real estate’ optimized for images to show both interior and the outside for real estate photographers. That’s not really me either. So I’m stuck with the Fusion/Natural and Tone Mapping/Details Enhancer.

The details enhancer has got a single change. Luminosity has changed to Tone Compression, but it does exactly the same. In fact the Details enhancer does exactly the same as before. I had hoped for more fun and creative options, but got disappointed on that. I have tried to process images with both Photomatix Pro 4 and Photomatix Pro 5 beta 4, with the exact same settings and the images are identical. That really disappointed me. The noise levels are the same. One of the weaker points in Photomatix Pro is the noise it produces. Of course there are other ways of handling the noise, would just have been nice if the algorithm had been better at handling noise.

I had also hoped for the loop feature to do a perfect processing, so that you would see the real deal, but that is still very poor.

First impressions - Loop still poor

Conclusion of a preliminary review of Photomatix Pro 5 beta 4

There are number of usability improvements in the software, which really makes it easier to use, and some improvements in some of the more automatic parts of the software, like deghosting and auto aligning.

There are also a couple of new processing algorithms, but they are targeted to a different group than the more creative HDR photographers.

But for the more creative side this version is a more or less 1:1 with the old Photomatix 4.

Good thing that if you bought Photomatix 4.2 or later, you get the Photomatix pro 5 for free.

So I’m a bit disappointed.

Try out the beta of Photomatix Pro 5 here – it will still water mark the images if you haven’t purchased it.

Remember that I have a detailed Free HDR photo tutorial and by by using the coupon code “caughtinpixels” you can get 15% off when you buy Photomatix Pro.


The Spaniards Inn – Dick Turpins Pub?

The Spaniards Inn in Hampstead, London, is an old fantastic pub dating back to 1585. Quite possible the oldest pub I have ever been to. Apparently an episode of the legendary Dick Turpin featured the Spaniards inn. No surprise - the interior of the inn is very old too. Photo by: Jacob Surland,

Nikon D800, Nikkor 14-24mm, ISO 3200, 14mm, f/2.8 (0-exposure)

The Spaniards Inn in Hampstead, London, is an old fantastic pub dating back to 1585. Quite possible the oldest pub I have ever been to. Apparently an episode of the legendary Dick Turpin tv series featured the Spaniards inn. No surprise, really – the interior of the inn is very old too and would fit perfectly in.

This photo is shot just as we came out of the inn and waited for a cab. The road really is quite busy, but I got 5 shots almost without cars. I shot hand held at ISO 3200. ISO 3200 on the Nikon D800 is something I usually try to avoid, but for some reason this image really survived and there was no more noise than I could clean up, without ruining the photo. I used Noiseware to reduce the noise.

The photo is processed from the +1 exposure in Lightroom and then I made a hand made HDR processing, where I mixed in 3 of the 4 other shots. Overall the Lightroom image was good enough, but the lamps was totally burned out. I used the really dark images and used layer masks to blend in the lamps to my final image.

The double door on the left hand side I had to work a lot with. The headlights of the cab hit the door and really ruined it. I had the option either to crop it out or to restore it. I chose to restore it from the darkest images and then did a little healing brush work to get it good enough.

This is the before photo:

London - Spaniards Inn - original

I tried to do an HDR in Photomatix, but because of the high noise levels I got at ISO 3200 this only got worse in Photomatix and I stuck to do a hand made HDR in stead.



National Gallery in London

On Trafalgar Square in London lies the enormous National Gallery. An old huge beautiful building. Photo by: Jacob Surland, Nikon D800, Nikkor 14-24mm, ISO 800, 15mm, f/6.3, 1.3 sec

This is the National Gallery in London. The square in front of it is Trafalgar Square and Lord Nelson stands on his pillar right behind me.

I’m going back to London next week for some business. I plan on bringing my camera. Maybe I will get up early one day and grab a few shots as the city awakes.

This photo is an HDR photo made from 5 exposures (-2, -1, 0, +1 and +2). I have processed it first in Photomatix to get my tone mapped image. Then I blended in Photoshop, mostly to remove ghosted people. Last but not least, and that is what makes the photo work, I added some artificial light sources on the shape in the lower part of the image and around the buildings (you might want to read about adding artificial light sources here).

This is the original 0-exposure with no adjustments:

Shape in front of The National Gallery - Before

Combining an HDR with a Long Exposure

This is an HDR photo of London Tower Bridge combined with a long exposure of a  exposure of a double decker London bus passing by. Photo by Jacob Surland. See more at

Buy a Print of London Tower Bridge

I love London and have done so since the very first time I was there in 1989. I lived there from 1991 to 1992 and have spend much time experiencing London. There are so many things to see and do in London – including crossing the London Tower Bridge. Many things have changed in the past twenty odd years, a lot of new buildings, a city skyline, new colors on the London Tower Bridge, the Millennium Wheel etc. London has changed and moved as a city should do.

This particular photo I had somewhat in my mind before I even traveled to London. First I got 7 bracketed shots to be used for an HDR. These I took using automatic exposure bracketing mode (AEB) and because I used the timer and the automatic bracketing I didn’t really have any control of how a bus would look in the photo. So what I did was to concentrate on getting my 7 shots with as few people and cars as I could. I had my camera on a tripod and after my 7 shots, I left the camera on the tripod without moving it. I switched to manual (M) on my camera and adjusted the ISO and shutter speed till I got the exposure length that was long enough to show the bus as lines in a long exposure. I practiced on cars passing by. In this case I used 1.6 seconds, which gave nice long lines. When my exposure was adjusted I just had to wait for a London bus. It was getting late and the buses didn’t come in as great numbers as earlier, but I was lucky to get one. So when the bus was right next to me, I pressed the shutter release and that gave me the long exposure of the bus.

London Tower Bridge - The bus

Nikon D800, Nikon 14-24mm, ISO 100, 14mm, f/5.0, 1.6 sec

I then processed my London Tower Bridge HDR photo using Photomatix Pro and Photoshop. Afterwards I did a little Lightroom processing on the bus photo, to make the look and feel match the HDR image. I then loaded the two images into two different layers in Photoshop CS and blended the bus with the HDR photo to the final result.

The Millinium Wheel in a Fiery Sky – before and after

The Millinium Wheel In Fiery Sky in London. On great warm summer night I went down to the Millinium Wheel to get some close ups.  Photo by Jacob Surland. See

Buy a print of the Millinium Wheel

The Millinium Wheel in London is huge. This shot I have shot using a tripod and a wide angle lens. I have cropped the image a bit, and then I have applied one of my Lightroom presets, which includes a graduated filter to darken the sky. Because the sky is quite dark in the first place, it grows completely black in the top. When the sky is lit by city light, it turns this orangy color, which when I did the trick with the graduated filter, makes it look more or less like smoke with a fire behind. This is the original shot:

The Millinium Wheel in a fiery sky