Monday, March 22, 2010

Just A Quick Seven Shots

We were out on Saturday with some friends, visiting the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. They had a special exhibit about the photographs behind Rockwell’s paintings/illustrations. The reason I said “paintings/illustrations” was because of the technique he used in his paintings. When you look at them, most appear to be a cross between a cartoon and a fine art painting. To say Rockwell painted in HDR wouldn’t be too much of a stretch. But, the piece of the exhibit we came to see was the photographs. Rockwell wasn’t a photographer at all. He’d hire professional photographers and either professional models or friends and neighbors to be his subjects. He went to great lengths to setup the shot/shots he’d use as studies for how an arm would fall or a leg would bend while walking. One of the paintings, “The Marriage License”, had the young bride to be dressed in a yellow dress. Being a stickler for accuracy, Rockwell gave the young lady in the “study photograph” money to purchase a yellow dress. The couple posed and the photographer shot while Rockwell directed “the action”. His bent for realism in the photographed could be seen in the shot. What couldn’t be seen was the yellow of the dress. The photos were all in Black & White. What’s the lesson here for us modern day shoots? When we’re forming the image in our head, before we ever snap the shutter, we should have an idea where the image is going. Some shooters go out with a tripod for every outdoor shoot. They have HDR (High Dynamic Range) images in their heads before they ever get to the place they plan on shooting. It’s their thing. It’s the type of shot they like to make. Some know what’s going on and some just use a tripod. Today’s image is a seven shot bracket taken specifically to make an HDR image. We were just wondering around Stockbridge downtown and came across the church in today’s image. It was reasonable early in the afternoon, about 3:00 PM. To find out more about how today’s image was shot, hit the “read more”.

Typical exposures I was shooting were in the 1/250 @ F11 range. By dropping down one F-stop, to F8, my seven stop bracket would be going from 1/4000 second down to 1/60th of a second. The zoom set to 31 mm I knew I wouldn’t have a problem hand holding the shot. I set the camera to fire a seven shot, one F-stop bracket, controlled my breathing and fire off the burst. My buddy asked “did you get enough shots?”. I explained that I was going for HDR and he “saw the light”. (Bad pun.)

Using HDRsoft’s Photomatix software the shots were reduced down to one image. Some gentle tone mapping was done in Photomatix and the resulting image was brought into Photoshop for finishing. Any colorcast was eliminated using the Threshold Max/Min/Difference method discussed several times in previous posts. The individual colors (Red, Yellow, Green, Cyan, and Blue [there was no Magenta to saturate]) were brought to a pleasing level using individual Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layers. An additional Yellow Hue/Saturation Layer was employed for finer control of the greens (sounds strange, but it works).

Many times the Layer Masks attached to each Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer just sit there blank. In this image almost every mask was used to control what was brought forward and what was made to recede. The interplay between emphasis and reticence is used to fulfill the potential of the image.