The Tip of the Peninsula

The tip of the peninsula

This one I’m quite anxious about. I have really worked this photo hard and don’t know if I went over the edge and over processed it. The sky was dramatic and had wonderful colors, but I have really extracted them quite brutally, but I do like the result. I think it’s nice.

About processing

It’s an 5 exposure HDR. Just by processing it as an HDR I really get a lot of nice texture both from the rocks and the sky. That’s one thing that HDR and tone mapping is good for. I then used OnOne photo filters to emphasize the sky even more. This I could have done in Photoshop as well, but it’s just easier to use a filter, which is a kind of a template.

The water I have left as the HDR version, which gives this ghosted water, which I sometimes like and other times don’t like. In this case I like it. However, in the lower right hand side corner I merged in the water from the brightest exposure. The brightest exposure has got the longest exposure time and has this wonderful smokey water as you can see.

Before and after

So far so good – but I had a problem. The composition of the original photo had failed, but I did like the sky so much, so what to do? Let’s look at the original:

The tip of the peninsula - before

As you can see quite different from the final photo and much more flat and boring. But look at the stones. The sky is more or less the same, but the stones I have changed … a lot!

#1 The sky is really flat and is nowhere near what it looked like for real. What I have created is not what it looked like, either, but that wasn’t my purpose. Sometimes I make a portrait of reality, and at other times it’s more like a painting I make. This is a painting.

#2 I clean up the photo. There are dust on my sensor – these must be removed. The ship in the horizon; gone too. And the other thing in the water I also removed. I prefer to use Photoshop’s spot removal or the content aware fill to clean up in my photos. The spot removal is good for small spots, and thin lines. Content aware fill is used to remove a larger areas, but I did not use content aware fill in this particular photo. I only used the the spot removal tool.

#3 The stones I stretched a lot. What I did was that I selected the square going from the horizon and down to the bottom. It is easy in this case, because the horizon is straight, otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to do it. I then used used the Edit->Tranform->Scale feature of Photoshop, and extended the lower part of the photo, until the large boulder in the left hand side of the photo was completely out of the picture. And that helped on the composition. Of cause it would have been much easier to get it right ‘in the camera’ when I shot it, but I failed to do that in this case, and I didn’t want to let go of the sky.

No Moeraki Boulders in Kings Garden

No Moeraki Boulders in Kings Garden

There are no Moeraki boulders in Kings Garden in Copenhagen. They are round stones however only half the size of a real Moeraki boulder. Everyday for the last 7 years I have walked through Kings Garden to get to work. Until a year ago the stones were just round stones to me, but then I started to prepare a long vacation in New Zealand. Along with that, came the knowledge of the Moeraki Boulders. Ever since I have been to the Moeraki beach, these round stones, though only half size, reminds me with great joy of New Zealand. Oh what a wonderful place – I want to go there once more!

About the photo

This is a 5 shot HDR from -2 to +2. The sun I have placed in the leaves, to take some of the strength out of it and then I used a 5 inch tall tripod to get close to the ground. That makes the boulder look quite large and gives the viewer a feeling of 3D in the photo.

About the processing

I processed this in Photomatix and then blended the layers in Photoshop to get rid of nasty halos in the sky (see my too tutorial on blending layers). I wasn’t quite satisfied with the result and have had the photo lying around for some months, without a fixed solution. But then the other day I picked it up again. I added a shadow to the stone, adjusted the light about in the leaves, in particular in the right hand corner. For some reason they kept coming out too black. What I have found out in the mean time, is to use the Dodge and Burn tools in Photoshop. The Dodge tools makes things brighter, where ever you paint, and the Burn tool makes things darker. In this case I used the Dodge tool to brighten the leaves. What’s cool is that, I specify to make the shadows brighter, and then it will leave the bright sky untouched, and that really worked, and I got green leaves instead of black.

A Moeraki Boulder

A Moeraki Boulder

On a beach on the South Island of New Zealand they have these really odd completely round boulders. The are pretty large, about 1 meter in diameter and nobody knows how they were created – one of natures small wonders, like the crawling stones in Death Valley.

About this photo

This is a 9 shot HDR. As you can see the sun is still very very bright. If I had wanted the sun to be less burned, I would have had to use an Neutral Density filter (ND-filter). An ND filter is like sunglasses for the lens. I actually did use an ND filter on the same beach, to take some shots of the moving water behind me. That slowed down my shutter speed to a few seconds making wonderful stuff to the waves.

About the composition

What I did with the composition was to merge in the Moeraki Boulder into the edge of the sand cliff, but made sure not to place it above the trees, so it merges into the edge between the sand cliff and the trees on the top of the sand cliff. That gives three repeating shapes, that looks a bit like three waves.

About the processing

I have spend a lot of time making this photo. My aim was to get something that looked Classic HDR, and I wanted a strong shadow cast by the boulder. I have used the edges of the shadow as lead in lines. The reflection in the water I made sure was bright to make a bold reflection. And the last thing I did was a lot of clean up. I have really realized how much cleaning up my photo affects the impact of the photo. I decided to clean up small rocks, leaves etc and it really became a much better photo. One of the things you have to keep in mind, when you take photos, is to keep it simple. To many things in your photo, will just confuse the viewer and it will be like noise for the viewer. Rubble, stones, leaves etc creates a noise too, so either clean up the scene before taking it or do it in Photoshop later. Try at least cleaning up in the foreground of your photo, and be amazed how it affects the impact of your photo.

Rembrandt Plein

Rembrandt PleinI went to Amsterdam on a business trip in september. One day I got up at 3.30 and walked all the way in from a hotel near by the airport to the center of Amsterdam. I hit the harbor when the sun rose – I have shown one shot from the Amsterdam Maritime History Museum. I took around 1000 shots for HDR that morning. In the beginning it was pitch dark and I had the camera on ISO 400. When the light grew brighter I changed the ISO to 100. I have had a hard time getting satisfied with many of the shots, but I have found that it has to do with getting the right mood in the processing and not as much the photos. This particular one is from ‘the way back’

How did I make this photo?

The photo is shot with a wide angle lens close to the ground. A wide angle lens is great, because it is sharp from very close up and all the way out to the horizon. When I came home and looked at this photo, the great sunlight at the end of the tunnel of trees didn’t come out so well. I have had the photo lying around for half a year, trying a few things, but not managing to achieve the mood from that morning. Finally I figured out, that a soft yellow light at the end of the tunnel of trees had been present, and that it had almost disappeared in the shots. So I emphasized it and that really brought the photo together.

Shoe Boat

Shoe Boat

I guess it’s no surprise that Amsterdam has all these lovely canals. You find house boats, construction boats and just small boats for cruising around in the canals. The yellow shoe shaped boat is one of the more spectacular ones I found.

About the processing

It’s a 5 shot HDR, that I processed with Photomatix. Nothing unusual there. Then I blended layers in Photoshop, to remove a little ghosting in the trees, not much there though. The photo still didn’t really pop the way that I had hoped. I had managed to get a not very pretty handle of bicycle in the lower part of the photo. In the end I decided on this cinematic format, cutting away the handle. The other thing I did like, was the hanging bowl of flowers, so I decided not to emphasize that too much.  I focused on the small Shoe shaped boat and the sun rays in the far end. Those I processed to be emphasized. The boat was a bit dark, I made it more light and the sun rays I emphasized using burn and dodge tools.

New York Grand Central in Golden Light

New York Grand Central In Golden Light

Grand Central in New York – a must for photographers coming to New York. I didn’t have much time in New York, but I’m glad that I got the opportunity to see the Grand Central. It’s totally awesome.

About the processing

It’s a 9 shot HDR ranging from -5 to +3 with 1 EV step between each shot. My problem was, that the window in the middle has very strong sunlight coming in. So strong, that it spills over the walls and really ruins the photo. Even though I manage to capture all of the darkest and brigtest parts. In the processing in Photomatix, it turned out to be a gray and very ugly wall around the window in the middle, ruined by the sunlight. Even if the window it self is perfect. Finally I got the idea to use a ‘sunlight’ filter in one of my Photoshop plugins, to turn white grayish light golden and also reflect the golden color on the floor. That worked!

Late Summer Sunset

Late Summer Sunset

The late summer in Denmark is beautiful. This is after a great barbeque at my Brother in Law. They just bought a farm on a small island.

It’s a 3 shot handheld HDR. Instead of using shutter speed to bracket my three shots, I used the ISO. The brightest one was ISO 6400, which made it a bit hard to work with, due to the noise. I wouldn’t recommend doing ISO bracketing, when the ISO goes that high. I had to do it, because it was hand held and it was too dark to shoot the photo otherwise.

Tip: Pseudo HDR

Pantheon Reflecting the Sun Setting

Pantheon Reflecting the Sun Setting

Pantheon is one of the most beautiful buildings I have seen and I was even rewarded with the most beautiful sunset.

The photo is an old one, shot with my ancient Canon 400D. How to salvage an old photo? I took this photo as a single RAW on my old Canon 400D using a Sigma 10-20mm lens. I didn’t have a tripod, but the light was so gorgeous I just had to shoot the scene. What I did was to stand as still as I could and just fire away 20 shots hoping one would be sharp enough. The ISO I had turned up to 400, which is the highest acceptable ISO on that camera, and I the raised the f-stop to the highest value the lens allowed (lowest number). That gave me a shutter speed of 1/13 seconds, which requires a very steady hand. But I managed.

Tip: Try making Pseudo HDR photos from single exposure RAWs
In the processing had to major issues. I had to get a better balance between light and shadows and to increase the sharpness. To get better balance between the shadows and the light areas, I made a Pseudo HDR photo. To do that I made in Lightroom two artificial exposures by making virtual copies. One I made a -2 and the other I made +2. These to exposures I gave some strong noise reduction, and then I exported all three to Photomatix and tone mapped them. The result was awesome. Not as good as if I had shot three proper bracketed shots, but good enough.

The sharpness I achieved by duplicating the layer in Photoshop and then applying a fairly strong Unsharp Mask (really a bad name for a sharpening rool). That did some really good things to the roof of the Pantheon. I blended in the good parts of the sharpened image – the rest I didn’t use.

The Frozen Setting Sun

The Frozen Setting Sun

The sun right into the camera? 9 exposures with 1 EV step between each. I was just on a small business trip to New York. I managed to get time to go to B&H and get myself a Promote control. For some reason I can’t buy that in Denmark. The Promote control should be a tool in every HDR photographers backpack.

The Promote control allows (through a cabel) to take as many HDR photos you like. I can then take 9 HDR photos automatically with my Nikon D600 (which is normally limited to 3 shots), just as I can with my Nikon D800. But I can also increase the EV step between each shot. The D800 is locked to 1 EV step, which means that if I really wan’t to cover some dynamic range, with the Sun within the frame and dark shadows too, I have to switch to manual. Another nasty side effect of taken 9 bracketed shots with the D800 is the 675 Mb impact on the memory card (ouch!).

With the Promote control I can take what ever number of photos I like with whatever EV step. Now that is cool, and I can’t wait to get it in use for real.

For this shot I didn’t have the Promote Control yet and took all 9 shots of 75 Mb each.

About the processing
I used Photomatix to tone map the image. Afterwards I have spend quite some time in Photoshop blending layers. The sky kept coming out dull and gray from Photomatix, so I had to mix in another sky from one of the original photos, but it was still too flat. So I made a duplicate layer and started playing around with the Red, Green and Blue channels individually in the Hue/Saturation dialog (CTRL + U) untill I got what I wanted. However, that ruined the lower part of the image completely, but that was not problem, I just mixed in the sky with the rest of the image.

Finally I spend quite a lot of time cleaning up small peckles on the ice and the bridge.

Stars above swedish cottage

Stars above swedish cottageIn the autumn we went to Karlskrona in Sweden with some of our friends. At night the clouds cleared and with no moon I took a few shots at the sky.

What did I learn?
I learned that when it is so dark, you can’t really focus. You have set the lens to manual focus mode, and then learn by heart where the focus ring must be positioned.

About the processing
The photo consists of 9 HDR photos, but the sky comes from only one shot. The reason for that, is that the stars actually move surprisingly fast. An exposure of more than 15 seconds, will show stars moving. It’s really fascinating.