Archive for the ‘HDR Efex Pro’ Category

Challenging Perspectives   10 comments


Challenging Perspectives

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“Perception is reality,” as the saying goes. I first heard that many years ago in a business environment. The context may be different now, but it’s still something that I ponder frequently.

We assume that the world ‘out there’ is exactly as we perceive it to be, solid and stable, but that is not generally the case. (Just ask Neo, from The Matrix.) Instead, our perceived ‘reality’ has to do with our own internal position, our perspective. There’s a good, digestible article on this from Scientific American Mind, Looks Can Deceive.

Photography can give us an excellent opportunity to challenge our notions about the world around us. While many people think that photography should only capture the world as-it-is, taking an image also presents an excellent opportunity to play around with our most basic assumptions. Some people might look at this image and say things like, “That’s just too weird.” Or, “That’s wrong.”

Is it?

Kids do this all the time. As a child, did you ever hang upside down on the monkey bars? (Are those death-trap monkey bars even still legal?) Did you ever lie on your back in bed and hang your head over the side? Perhaps it’s because the child hasn’t spent decades conditioning their thought processes to match what they perceive with their senses. At any moment children can pretend that they’re a pirate, a Jedi knight, a princess, or anything else that the mind can conjure up, and to their unconditioned minds it seems completely real.

We seem to lose that ability, that playfulness, as we get older.

As I was flipping through the images taken on our recent autumn trip, I ran across this set from Flagstaff Lake, one of my favorite places. I ran it through the usual steps, and when I saw the result, I thought, “Meh. Same as many others I’ve taken there.”

Then, in a fit of playfulness one night, I flipped the image. Bam! Perhaps it was my state of mind at the time, but it completely messed with my well-conditioned perspective of the place I think I know so well. Suddenly the image took on a new dimension and meaning, and I couldn’t neglect to publish it, even though it bears substantial similarity to other images.

Interestingly, I did the same thing on an image of an egret, in Masnavi. I sent that image off to the print lab for a client, and when the print came in, someone at the lab had flipped the image into what they thought was the ‘correct’ orientation! For my purposes, of course, this was a complete “mistake” and I received a re-print from the lab, with the “correct”… no, wait… “incorrect” orientation.

Hell, now I’m confused.

That’s the point.

We’re free to challenge our most basic assumptions. We’re free to play around with the reality that’s presented to us. We can change things by simply altering our perspective a bit.

Why don’t we do that more often?

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Owl Brook   6 comments


Owl Brook

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We consider this our back yard when we’re camping in New Hampshire.

In a large campground that is often overrun with RVs in certain places, there is one loop we’ve found where the sites are large and private, no RVs allowed, and it has this brook running along the back of the site. After a long day of hiking, or on days where we just don’t feel like hiking at all, we spend some time along the rocks, listening to the running water, watching the autumn leaves fall, and soaking up a few patches of warm sunlight.

If I had any wish at all, it’s that we’d spend even more time in this spot. Really… why go driving around from one place to another when you can just spread out on a rock and soak up nature’s beauty? No driving – no effort – no worries.

We were in this same spot one night, watching the stars in the opening of the canopy, when a large owl flew into a branch just over our heads only a few feet away. He regarded us for a while, as we did him. After a couple of minutes, deciding that we were way too big for dinner, he flew off silently. Since then, we have a new name for the brook.

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This image came from three long exposures shot with a 10-stop ND filter. At f/10, 17mm, shutter speeds were 30s, 121.5s, and 291s. Those three gave most HDR tonemapping programs the fits, so I spread the exposures on each end by converting to TIFF in ACR, generating an even wider dynamic range. Seemed to work well. Post in PS-CS6 involved masking in elements of various tonemaps created with both Photomatix and HDR Efex Pro 2, spiced with Nik Color Efex Pro.

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The Bates Cairn   2 comments


The Bates Cairn

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On the east side of Mt. Desert Island (Acadia National Park) are a number of spectacular hikes. We like them because the payoff in scenic views is great relative to the small amount of effort required to get there.

Across the open, rocky tops of the hills, a number trails feature the Bates Cairn, a rather unique feature designed by pathmaker Waldron Bates in the late 1800s – early 1900s. In addition to helping to guide hikers along the trail, they also make for some excellent photo opportunities.

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The Painter at the Wharf   3 comments


The Painter at the Wharf

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After experiencing the demise of more than a few fresh Maine lobsters one evening, we decided to celebrate by catching the sunset at a nearby wharf. There was some sort of seminar or class going on in the area – there were a number of paint artists in the area set up at different viewpoints, and some were being videotaped as they worked.

It was quiet and serene as I went about catching different scenes, with Susan recording some video segments. I asked this woman if I could take a few frames; she graciously said Yes. I’m delighted that she did.

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HDR from three exposures, 26mm, f/11, ISO100, merged in Nik’s HDR Efex Pro 2, modified with several filters in Photoshop with masking via Topaz Remask 3

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Flagstaff Lake Revisited   5 comments


Flagstaff  Lake Revisited

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…Annnnd, we’re back!

About a month ago, I posted the previous image Into The Dark, mentioning how we unplug from all the conveniences and trappings of modern culture. When we do this, we like to travel around the less visited spots in New England, sleeping in a tent, soaking in the scenery from some of our favorite places.

About the second week in, we traveled up to far northern Maine, just short of the Canadian border, to Flagstaff Lake, near the Bigelow mountain range. This is the view from our campsite. If it looks a bit familiar, it’s the same location where I shot Flagstaff Lake Sunrise in 2009.

When you have a great scene in front of you, it’s tempting to try to recreate a previous success. I fought the urge to do just that, trying my best to come up with new compositions and angles. Besides, the conditions never seem to cooperate for a repeat performance, so I cleared any previously held notions and just regarded the new view, the clouds draping the mountains, and yet another spectacular sunrise event.

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Into the Dark   7 comments


~

If you’ve been a friend for a while, you’ll know that we tend to ‘go dark’ around this time of year. No phones; no internet; no contact. It’s a great practice to put down all (okay, ‘most’) of the trappings of ‘modern society,’ relishing the distinction between some ‘normal’ mode of being and doing, and something completely different. I believe we tend to know things only in contrast to one another. If you are cold, don’t you appreciate the warmth of a good fire?

So, I trust you’ll understand if I don’t post or comment for a while. There’s nothing wrong, nothing at all. It’s just something we do.

In the meantime, enjoy whatever you’re doing; I hope peace and happiness is with you each day; and please remember to live your life to the fullest.

Also, a heartfelt thank you to everyone for your kind notes about Amy. We appreciate that beyond measure.

Rob

Bemis Brook Falls (NH)   7 comments


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While sweltering in the heat and humidity of summers in NC, I sometimes go back through my library of images to remind myself of what autumn in New England is like: Cool, serene, colorful, playful, usually clear, sometimes moist, always gorgeous.

One day in 2010, the weather was socked in, making summit attempts pointless. Really… why work that hard in order to see nothing? So, we decided to hike up to Arethusa Falls in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Along the way, we descended to Bemis Brook Falls, a worthy side trip.

During wet weather, you have to be very careful with your footing on these rocks. The algae can make them very slippery. Don’t ask me how I know this. :)

You can see a different view of these falls in portrait orientation here, if you’d like.

The Shadow of Coincidence   6 comments


Photographer Rob Hanson catches his own shadow at Otter Point, Acadia National Park, Maine

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You think the shadow is the substance — Rumi

Like the shadow
I am
And
I am not. — From “Love Poems of Rumi”

Recently, I was flipping through my library of shots from the fall journey to coastal Maine, and found this one. I thought I’d post my first “self-portrait” of sorts.

The day I was going to put it up, though, fellow HDR fanatics Jacob Lucas and Bob Lussier did an interesting cross-post that involved shadows. I figured I should wait a bit, so as not to interfere with their fun.

I’ve long thought that shadows were an interesting concept. We point to them as though they have substance. “That’s MY shadow.” “Look, there is a shadow over there.” As though shadows are a thing. Yet, they are no-thing; only the absence of reflected light.

Keep up to date with our HDR friends: Follow Bob and Jacob on Twitter. I’m there, too.

In other news, good friend Captain Kimo just dropped his new e-book, Mastering the Secrets of HDR Processing. Click Here for more information.

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This was taken from a single frame which, sadly, was rather washed out. After a little work with ACR and multiple exposure files, fed into the usual HDR programs, something interesting came out of it.

Sunrise at Otter Point   2 comments


A beautiful sunrise at Otter Point, Acadia National Park, Maine.

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If one has never been to this place, one should visit, at least once.

Of all the places we travel in New England in the fall, Acadia National Park is one of our favorite stops. The conundrum is that we appreciate solitude and wilderness, but ANP in autumn is anything but empty. Over the years, though, we’ve found a rhythm to visiting, and know of a few small spots where you can spend the day with very few signs of human activity. Despite the popularity of ANP (one of the most heavily visited of the National Parks), the natural beauty is, I think, unparalleled, particularly on the east coast.

Feel the warmth of the sun by viewing larger. Just click on the image to open a new window.

This image proved fairly difficult to process, and I went through several iterations. Whenever I got the sun flare to show up as I wanted (i.e., not blown out), most of the HDR processing programs created serious halos, especially around the tree branches on the left. Trying to merge in original exposures or sky-enhanced layers proved to be too difficult because of the varying intensities of light in the sky. It turned out to be a tug-of-war between a good sun flare and excessive haloing, with neither really winning. In the end, although I merged the brackets (+/-2EV) with HDR Expose, Nik Software’s HDR Efex Pro turned out the best preliminary result, although some fixing up had to be done: Denoising filters used to knock down HDR Efex Pro’s noise levels wound up overly softening a few elements. Once again, Topaz InFocus, my new favorite plug-in, came to the rescue to bring back the detail in the rocks. I also have to give a nod to the Content-Aware Fill feature of my new Photoshop CS5 for taking out some lens refraction spots… nothing could’ve been easier!

Big Back Yard   1 comment


Sunrise over Whiting Bay from Cobscook Bay State Park, northern Maine

Big Back Yard

With sunrises like this, it’s hard to leave the place. This was taken one morning at Cobscook Bay State Park in northern Maine, not far from Lubec.

Our tent is just a few feet behind this point of view, making morning shooting very convenient. We often joke about our new campsites having a much bigger back yard than we have at home, and we find no greater pleasure than to just sit and watch nature do its thing, or to capture it in the process.

On a side note, I often think twice about posting in portrait orientation due to the limits of today’s monitors, but in this case, I think it suits the subject well, although I may next try a vertical panorama.

Click on the image to see it larger in a new window in the Waterscapes Gallery.

Once again, this image was composited in Photoshop by layering outputs from seven brackets in Photomatix Pro 4, HDR Expose/32-Float, and HDR Efex Pro. Each had something interesting and unique to offer to the final image, and none really created what I wanted in and of itself. Beyond that layering and masking, there was very little done in the way of color or saturation. In fact, I knocked back the saturation a bit using Topaz Adjust ‘Neutralizer’. In the end, this image represents what I saw that morning, but sometimes you have to coax it out of the brackets.

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