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Old Feb 14, 2012, 9:23 AM   #1
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Default vvcarpio... technique?

i'm going out just before sunset tomorrow in toronto. my goal is your usual nyc style. i've given it a try before but not successfully. so, here we go again.
1. hdr +- how many stops?

2. composition: how would you describe this? something in the foreground and tall in the back? all in focus? fill the frame? or leave some street view?

3. post processing" i know you use topaz filters. which one again?

i recall you had a sony (i have the a550) and the auto-bracketting isn't useful. do you do it manually (M mode...varying the shutter speed)?

any other suggestions?
thanks...frank j
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Old Feb 14, 2012, 10:05 AM   #2
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Will be interested in how vv replies but for what it's worth:

1. Take as many as you can - you don't have to use them all.
2. I think you want the greatest depth of field possible as sharp edges seem to respond better than smooth areas of bokeh.
3-
4. Use a fixed aperture and vary the shutter speed. You don't want the aperture changing between shots because then something that is sharp in one shot will be blurred in another and the alignment is harder.
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Old Feb 14, 2012, 10:24 AM   #3
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Hi, Frank. I'd be happy to. (Thanks for "dropping by".)

I also have an A550 so we have identical cameras.

I guess I'll start with a summary:

- f/22
- Manual mode
- AF off
- anti-shake off
- with my camera's knob-wheel controlling the shutter speed, I begin my bracket at a "click" of the knob wheel above +2ev, then work my way down to -2ev two "clicks" at a time per shot. If there are still blownout areas in the sky on my darkest image, I reduce ev further and take more shots.

I think the above are all you would need to remember if you were to experiment with what I do to take my bracket. Following are my detailed steps.

I shoot in Manual mode at f/22. This takes care of everything being in focus. This also makes moving objects (people) invisible (or near invisible) because of the slow shutter speeds the small opening requires.

I also turn off autofocus (AF) so my camera defaults at infinity. Turning off AF prevents the camera from focusing on different things between shots.

(Sometimes, I would turn on AF, get a focus lock on the scene [the lens' AF mechanism rotates a bit], especially when there's an object in the foreground, then turn AF off. I'm hoping doing this would create sharper images but haven't done any scientific comparisons. So far, I'm happy with either setting an initial AF or just setting it at infinity.)

"1. hdr +- how many stops?"

I start at +2ev then turn the knob-wheel 1 or 2 clicks to go past +2ev. This is my most overexposed shot.

I then turn the knob-wheel 2 clicks to lower the ev, then take my second shot. I keep doing this (turning the knob-wheel 2 clicks at a time) until I get all the way down to -2ev.

If the sky is still too bright (or some parts of the sky are still blown out) at -2ev, I keep lowering the ev 2 clicks at a time until I get no more blown out patches in the sky.

Depending on the scene's contrast (how bright the sky is and how dark the shadows are), I could end up shooting 16 frames per scene.

Out of the 16 or so frames, I only use 5.

Most of the time, of the 16 (or so) frames, I use #1, #3, #5, #7, #9. But I think that's dependent on my choice of HDR software -- Dynamic Photo HDR. DPHDR has a tendency to "clip" bright areas such as parts of the sky even if the darkest exposure in the set I used have no blownout areas. I then pick a nice-looking sky from another image (not necessarily part of the set) and use it to replace the HDR-generated image's sky. So if you're not using DPHDR, you can ignore this paragraph -- I'd say just eyeball your thumbnails and pick the ones you want to use to create the HDR image.

"2. composition: how would you describe this? something in the foreground and tall in the back? all in focus? fill the frame? or leave some street view?"

Being a landscape nut, I would keep all in focus and fill the frame with stuff. But I think it's a highly personal preference.

3. post processing" i know you use topaz filters. which one again?
After generating the HDR, I use Topaz Denoise to remove noise and grain. I try not to go above 0.07 on the "Overall Strength" slider so as not to lose detail in the process of denoising.

I think denoising first before using enhancement filters like Topaz Adjust makes for a cleaner image and (slightly) faster processing because the enhancement filter is not slowed down by the noise.

"any other suggestions?"
I can't think of any. But I do experience "wobble" between my tripod-mounted shots. DPHDR tells me exactly how many pixels on the x and y axes it is adjusting to align the images. I rarely have shots that are perfectly aligned (0, 0 on the x,y axes). I mention this because I use a light tripod in the city (the Vanguard Nivelo) which wobbles more than my heavier duty tripod I use on the weekends.

With my Nivelo, I have to give it a few seconds after turning the knob-wheel between shots to make sure the camera has had enough time to "wobble" back to its original position before taking the next shot. I do this to reduce misalignment between shots.

With my heavy duty tripod, the legs, screws, etc. are tight so I can shoot my frames (that is, turn the knob wheel two clicks for each shot) in rapid fire succession. So a 20-shot bracket might take me only about a minute to shoot. I can then have no problem catching up with my wife when I stop every now and then along the hike to take brackets of pictures, for example.

I hope this helps.

Last edited by vvcarpio; Feb 14, 2012 at 10:27 AM.
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Old Feb 14, 2012, 10:32 AM   #4
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I forgot to add, I use Topaz Adjust after Denoise. After Adjust, I use Denoise again to remove the grain that Topaz Adjust introduced to the image.

For Topaz Adjust, I click the "Mild Details" preset then change the following sliders to the following values:

Strength 1.31
Detail Boost 1.40
Threshold 11
Radius 19.33
Sharpen 3.01
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Old Feb 14, 2012, 2:13 PM   #5
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martin: your point number three rings a bell with me.
vv: thanks for the clear description. since we have the same camera, to detect blown highlights, are you using the histogram? or the blinkies? or your eye?

also, i'd like some more description of your compositional thoughts. if you could. let's say you're walking up to an intersection. lots of colourful signs. where do you place the tripod? down low i think? like 2 feet? what lens? uwa at 10 or 15?

i ask because i'm getting too much bare pavement in my pics and they're just not interesting. (and since martin has joined this thread, i'll post two pics. one using multi-frame hdr and one using autoHDR on the frame that looked best ooc).

i don't have PS or Topaz but I use Corel PSP X4, so i'll so some investigation to find equivs.
thanks...frank j
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Old Feb 14, 2012, 3:16 PM   #6
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You're welcome.

I simply eyeball the LCD display -- I have not yet learned how to read the histogram. (Although I think I have an idea how to read it -- maybe I should look into that. Thanks!)

I'm actually restricted by the height of my tripod -- the Nivelo only goes as high as 4 feet, I think. I don't extend the center column (less stable that way) so I take my shots even lower, maybe 3 feet high. So, roughly, my shots are waist-high.

(Even before I switched to the Nivelo, my Giottos portable tripod also rises to waist height only.)

Come to think of it, when asked to take pictures of strangers, I always kneel or squat down. Maybe the lower angle generally makes the shot look better.

I hope this answers your question somewhat as I think the lower angle would reduce the pavement in the shot.
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Old Feb 14, 2012, 7:43 PM   #7
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thanks for the info. now i guess it's up to me.
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