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DennyG

In Camera Hdr ?

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My son now has a job that involves photographing paratroopers (Navy Leap Frogs) which obviously can involve some serious backlighting. His questions got me to thinking about HDR which is something I hadn't really paid all that much attention to before. My Nikon D5100 has in-camera HDR but it's still multiple exposures (i.e., two shutter cycles) that get blended. This or computer based HDR would be just fine if the subjects would pause in their descent just long enough for two or three exposures. This is, however, something they stubbornly refuse to do. My Android phone has an HDR feature that (I think) does it electronically with just one shutter (if it even has a shutter) cycle. My questions are, am I thinking of HDR properly and do you know of any "real" cameras with single exposure HDR?

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I have been using HDR and tone mapping for years. It was a “secret” weapon several years ago, but is now quite common.

 

Let me first disclaim expertise, because I want to explain what I know and have experienced without being responsible for being technically correct.

 

HDR (High Dynamic Range) has has its objective to increase the detail you can capture in highlights and shadows. We all recognize that highlights often go white and shadows go black, and we thus lose important details in our photos. If we took say three photos at different exposures, say one over and one under, and one normally exposed, the overexposed shot would have more details in the shadows, and the underexposed shot would have more details in the highlights.

 

If we could then combine these three photos, using the highlights from the under exposed, the shadows from the over exposed, and the rest from the normally exposed, the resulting photo would have more exposure range. You could see into the shadows and also see detail in the highlights.

 

This is basically what HDR accomplishes. The process of combining multiple exposures (usually 3, but sometimes I will use as many as 7) has been done in software, but more recently some cameras have incorporated three exposures in-camera to produce HDR. Obviously you have more control in software, but it takes extra time and effort.

 

Now to addess your question. I have read some camera reviews where the camera has a setting that takes a single photo and tweeks the highlights and shadows to produce the appearance of a greater exposure range. I think it produces some positive effect in the samples I have viewed. I don't think of it as "real" because I doubt it has the range, and because I have no control post exposure. I don't think it hurts, and if you are a “camera directly to web” guy, I assume it would be useful. But I am confident you will do better with multiple exposures and post processing.

 

I am not a purist. What works works, but the difference between just another photo, and a good one is what you do with it after you take it. I wouldn't own a camera that couldn't bracket at least 3 exposures, and preferably 5 ( two over, two under).

 

I am not a great photographer like some here, but it brings me lots of pleasure none the less. I use some very very competent software to make up for my deficiencies, I often process my RAW files, I tone map too much, and often use HDR. I really can turn a sow's ear into a silk purse, after the photo is taken. And so can anyone willing to put in ten minutes.

 

Folks spend thousands for a nice camera and lenses, and then treat the result like it came from a cell phone!

 

For under hundred bucks you can buy very capable software that will make your photos look great. I own and use Photoshop to edit photos, I use DxO Optics Pro or Lighthouse to process RAW images, I use a Photomatix Pro for HDR and tone mapping, etc. But most of the time I just use Corel Photopaint which costs under $100 and does everything the others do 90% - 95% as well, faster, easier, and at one tenth the cost. If I want to go the last 5%-10%, I'll use the $1000 suite, but most of the time no one other than a purist could tell the difference.

 

Denny, I didn't mean to take so long to try to address your question (note I don't claim to have answered it), but I thought there might be someone out there who might find my musings useful.

 

Dave

 

Keep the Show on the Road!

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I thought I would try to make my point by example. Below are two images. The first is as shot right out of the camera at normal exposure. The second is a combination of three exposures, with saturation increased in the yellows and greens, and then sharpened and cropped. Less than 5 minutes in Corel Printshop Pro.

 

Neither shot is a prize winner, but at least the post processed shot is worth a second glance. The photos are on the Goodale Cutoff of the Oregon Trail in Idaho, south of Hailey.

 

 

Original.jpg

 

 

Adjusted.jpg

 

Dave

 

Keep the Show on the Road!

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Another thought came to mind regarding rapidly descending objects, recognizing that multiple exposures to get HDR in that situation is unworkable.

 

My Olympus PL-2 allows for ISO bracketing which means a single exposure is broken into say a 200, 400, and 800 equivalent. The “obvious” result is three “images” at different exposures, from one shot. I have used this to “extend” the PL-2's 5 bracketed shots to 7, with success.

 

Another “trick” is to process in RAW, and produce multiple “exposures” of the same shot, then combine them using HDR software. I understand it works to some extent. This might even be the tactic behind one shot in-camera HDR.

 

Now I want to experiment a little.

 

Dave

 

Keep the Show on the Road!

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Denny,

 

Regarding descending objects....

 

The final photo below was made from a single photo that was “exposed” (bracketed) by the camera at three different ISO values (see three photos, over, under, and normal) then quickly HDR'ed in Corel Printshop Pro. No other post processing was done.

 

It would take more experimenting to determine if ISO bracketing of one shot (as versus multiple shots at different exposures) produces similar results, but the experiment isn't discouraging. Maybe when the sun comes out I will take a shot of something moving to simulate parachute jumping.

 

HDRLake.jpg

 

HDRNormal.jpg

 

HDRUnder.jpg

 

HDROver.jpg

 

Dave

 

Keep the Show on the Road!

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That's quite a response and it probably can serve as an introduction to post processing. For me, it reinforced the illusion that I sort of half way understand HDR and triggered a few other thoughts. One is that I didn't really ask the right question. In camera HDR isn't really what I'm looking for; It's single exposure HDR. Perhaps RAW is the solution. I've barely even looked at it in the past and don't really know what "adjustments" are possible. If altering exposure is one of them, then producing multiple images fro HDR seems feasible and may be the answer. I'll have to look into that.

 

I have a Lumx FZ8 that offers single exposure bracketing. That would also seem to create appropriate HDR material. The D5100 has auto-bracketing but it operates over a series of shots rather than a single shot. Is it possible that SLRs simply can't do this? Or maybe shooting RAW removes the need.

 

Now that I've properly phrased my question, I find it fairly well addressed on the web. At first glance, it seems like most discussions involve RAW images so that is, apparently, the right answer though I'm not sure if it is the only one. Some of those discussions involve a Topaz plugin. By coincidence, I received a discount offer on this software about a week ago but didn't really look at it. I'm far from certain that I'd use this if I had it but I guess I'll think about it. Although it is typically described as a Photoshop plugin, it apparently also works for Serif PhotoPlus since that's where the offer came from. I've used PhotoPlus for many years and talk about it a little bit here.

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Thanks for explaining HDR Dave, I never looked into that part of photography. The examples I have seen were blown out colors.

The mulitiple ISO is interesting for my action shots. I have to go as high as 1250 ISO to stop hummingbird wings and 640 for flying birds.

 

Dale

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Thanks for explaining HDR Dave, I never looked into that part of photography. The examples I have seen were blown out colors.

The mulitiple ISO is interesting for my action shots. I have to go as high as 1250 ISO to stop hummingbird wings and 640 for flying birds.

 

Dale

 

 

Dale,

 

Your photos, like Denny's are great without using HDR And you are absolutely right, the temptation is to over do it. I look back at the shots I did a couple of years ago, and I am embarrassed at my excesses. I still over do it, but most often I now dial back the effects until they are in the realm of reason.

 

I was surprised when I discovered the ISO bracketing on my little PL-2 micro 4/3. It was news to me, and it works. The problem of course is that the higher the ISO, the greater the noise....there are always trade offs!

 

Speaking of “overdone” here is a shot of an old shack along the Yellowstone Trail on the Palouse 5 to 10 miles west of Colfax Washington. The three photos that were HDR'ed are worthless. I ignored them as I looked over the set. Then when you (and I) observed how HDR is misused, I thought, lets misuse some photos. I know from experience that sometimes you get a surprise.

 

I think the shack, HDR'ed, cropped, and sharpened a tad is nice. But you can see from the source photos, it isn't reality. Still I like it. And it was quick and easy.

 

DaleHDR.jpg

 

Dale1.jpg

 

Dale2.jpg

 

Dale3.jpg

 

 

Dave

 

Keep the Show on the Road!

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You are right, I doubt if need HDR. I only keep around 2% of the pictures I take. I haven't even played with RAW yet. Just now figured how to download RAW in my laptop. I have Photoshop CS5 and haven't read the book, Elements 6 works good enough for me.

 

Right now having fun with my inferred trail camera and the kit foxes that come in at night here.

 

Dale

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Denny,

 

Is your son in the Navy or getting to do this as a civilian? Shooting from inside the airplane\on the ground or jumping with them?

 

RAW and a good RAW editing program is the way to go. I have been using Adobe Lightroom 3.2 for the last year and am extremely pleased with the results. Lightroom 4 is even better and I would upgrade to it but it involves a PC upgrade first.

 

Rick

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He is in the Navy but doesn't jump. He is what used to be called a Journalist but is now a much more impressive Mass Communication Specialist. Shooting is from both the ground and the plane.

 

Here are some pictures from a little experimenting I did to help me understand things. I know I've got some Nikon RAW software around here somewhere and an old copy of Photoshop Elements, too, but I just used the comfy PhotoPlus for both the RAW and HDR processing.

 

The first picture is straight from the camera.

8091501059_37d245af58.jpg

 

The second is an HDR image made from the first image, HDRT1, plus two others made at plus and minus 1 EV.

8091500799_572c3a31fd.jpg

 

The third is an HDR image made by passing HDRT1 through the RAW processor a couple of times to make plus and minus 1 EV exposures.

8091500515_ddc48c4183.jpg

 

An exposure value is required for each contribution to the HDR. When the two alternate exposure RAW files were used, this was defaulted to 1.4 EV and I let those values remain. Because of this, when I modified the exposure from the single file, I used 1.4 as the setting in both the RAW and HDR processing. The EXIF data in the files shows 1 EV as it should so I've no idea why 1.4 was used. This discrepancy could account for some difference in the two HDR pictures but I don't know that and there's not a ton of difference anyway.

 

Whether or not my son gets into RAW processing and HDR remains to be seen. Whether or not Denny does if fairly predictable. My workflow (I picked that up reading about HDR) involves getting 10 to 30 pictures selected and edited into fairly low resolution 800 x 600 images each day I'm traveling. It's nice to know I could get to HDR if I wanted but I doubt I will very often.

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Bear in mind that photos aren't ever reality - they are always a perspective. Your camera's limited ability to "see" makes it so. Of the shack photos, I argue that none of them are truly reality, so the HDR'd result is no farther off in that respect. In many ways it helps us see the textures and uniqueness of the scene better than the source photos.

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