Sunday, January 26, 2014

It's 2014 - and people are still hating HDR?!

Last night I was struggling again for inspiration for a blog post. This morning however, I was provided by all the inspiration I need, upon seeing a retweet on Twitter by Jeremy Cowart:

Now for the record, I must state I genuinely don't understand what 'the Nickelback of photography' means. Nickelback I remember were a popular rock band from about 10 years ago, but am not sure if there are any connotations associated with the band. However, I must assume the comment was negative, as the original tweeter goes onto state that he is baffled by the popularity of HDR.

I have never been one to get involved in the whole 'I hate HDR' debate, because it is pointless. Some people like something, and others don't. How does that prove either way that something is good or bad? What surprises me though, is that this 'HDR-hating' is still going on in 2014. The fact that people have to tweet this stuff shows how popular HDR is, and clearly I'm guessing they are threatened. I am also genuinely surprised that an established photographer like Jeremy Cowart makes a statement like this, when he has many friends in the HDR field such as Trey Ratcliff and RC. Cowart is even part of Trey's new business venture, The Arcanum.

I know how the game works by the way. They are just trying to be controversial, to make people react and get more audience interaction. I have seen it so many times, again without any real care, but again on this occasion am just surprised it still goes on with HDR. It is the natural system of change that a new thing that comes along, has to be resisted, before it is accepted. So of course HDR like many other things has to be argued against, before becoming an established part of the photography mainstream. It seems that comments like above, are the final desperate attempts of la resistance to quell something that is not only established, but continues to grow bigger and bigger. They may not get it, but many people do, and HDR is getting better with very year that passes.

So for all the HDR lovers, here's a classic HDR photo of mine:

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Narrow Streets of Jerusalem

It's Wednesday evening I know, not Tuesday as usual. Without dwelling on the why's though, here is my new blog post from the old city of Jerusalem.

This is the walk you take up to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where Jesus is believed to have been crucified. I have taken the 'arty' look to a new level in this picture, with a very clear oil painting look. This style/filter was introduced into Photoshop CS6, and I think has been used a bit too much in some quarters, but it does add another potential look to your photos.

I have never used it in a picture before, but it just seemed to work with this picture. Perhaps it is because it is a biblical setting, and the architecture just works with it. It won't be a common look to my pictures but if it works, it could appear more.

My next blog post will appear tomorrow evening (Thursday).

Saturday, January 18, 2014


This is one of those days when I have been thinking all day, what am I going to post this evening? Without dragging the story out too much, I decided to post something I very rarely do, a panoramic photograph. I processed this a very long time ago, but have always been put off by how thin and difficult to see ultra-wide panoramic shots are online. Today however, I am thinking what the heck.

This complete picture was taken from 5 images, that were stitched together in Photoshop. In fact apart from that, my post-processing has been very minimal. I did content-aware a telephone mast out of the picture, but in terms of the overall look, I only really added a slight vignette in Lightroom.

One of the most interesting facts about this picture, is that it was shot from my hotel balcony, while I was staying in Miami last year. It is of course one of the Miami bay areas, north of the main south beach hot spots. One last thing, this was shot in January last year. Boy I miss that sunshine....

Thursday, January 16, 2014

We've Been Expecting You

I've spoken recently about interior design HDR photography and stating that if I was to make a career out of photography, this is the field I would most likely go in. Well I have been making strides towards this, and have been building up my portfolio for the website that will contain my interior design work, which is

I contacted the Halfway bar and restaurant in...(I would like to say either Newbury or Hungerford, but as it is halfway between them, hence it's name, I cannot say exactly where it is. I believe it is also the halfway point between London and Bristol) to see if I could come down and take some free pictures of their establishment, of course for their benefit but also to build up my portfolio. Suffice to say they were very kind people, and let me pop over for an before opening one Sunday so I could could take as many shots as possible. They were very welcoming to me on the day as well. I haven't given them the complete finished results yet, but today I have included 4 pictures from this 'shoot' within this blog post.

When I launch my interior design business, I want to focus on the interior side of the business, because these are not so much affected by the weather outside. I am absolutely sure that shooting exteriors will come into the package, as you can see in the final photo below, but I don't want this to be the main selling point of the business.

I'm marketing myself as an HDR interior design photographer, but whether or not I heavily emphasise the HDR aspect, I am not sure is important. All the photographs today are HDR's from at least 4 exposures, but heavily layer-masked, so that they bring the reality back to the picture, without losing the dynamic range and detail of a tone-mapped HDR picture. Whilst non-photographers love HDR pictures, I don't think many hotels or restaurants want over-cooked (ba-dum tish!) HDR images, that lose the reality of their establishments. Whilst you know I think there is a place for hyper-real HDR's, I don't think the websites of businesses is one of them.

I hope you like the pictures today, any feedback is welcome! I will speak more about my ambitions in the interior design world over the next weeks, but right now am off to check out one of the latest updates to Photoshop CC - the perspective warp. Sounds intriguing!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Hedgerow City

Staying in Poland for today's picture (and close to Zakopane), this is one of those pictures that was taken on a whim. And what you might call a bit of a fluke. I had noticed this wonderful landscape scene on our way to Zakopane, while travelling in Poland last year, and had made a mental note to perhaps try and stop somewhere near here on the way out of Zakonepane, a few days later. Well of course I completely forgot about that mental note, so of course when we passed this landscape on our journey between Zakopane and Krakow, I rushed to get my camera out my bag (I of course was not driving) and took some quick shots out of the car window.

Most of them came out blurry due to the travelling car, but this one shot at a lower exposure and faster shutter speed came out pretty good. It's still not tack sharp, but it achieved the vision I had aimed for when picturing this scene. It would have been better if the sky was more interesting, but you can't have everything (though I'll keep trying)! This picture was processed with a mixture of Lightroom and Photoshop, with a lot of work done to balance out the light.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Lake on the Mountain

You may have seen my tweet last night saying that my usual Saturday blog, has been delayed until Sunday (today), and with good reason. I could not be putting the time and energy that I am now into this blog post, if I was writing it last night. So I thought on this occasion, it was best to wait for it to be ready, before putting it 'out there'.

The scene you see above was captured in the Polish mountain region of Zakopane, during last summer. I have written before about the revealing of the landscape from the clouds, just as we made it to our planned destination. It seemed quite a miracle in a way, considering it had been nothing but dense fog on the way up, but even still, this moment was temporary and fleeting. There was another lake we really wanted to visit known as 'Mirror Lake' (it is a very common image on postcards of Zakopane), and we made it there late in the day, but the dense fog never left the lake, so there was no great surprises twice that day. All my pictures there are just a bit of water and stones, behind a massive layer of clouds.

For the photographers out there, you probably guessed that this was taken from a single RAW image. I had taken many bracketed shots in this location, but with the dynamic range able to be captured in a single image, you then have to decide if it looks best in HDR, or processed as a single photo. Despite some tutorials out there, I don't believe you can create the 'HDR look' in Lightroom, or other non-HDR specialist software. Even if you are processing a single RAW image, the only way I believe to get the HDR look, is to tone-map it in Photomatix, or some other HDR software. I don't think this shot would have worked as an HDR, and to be honest there was no need really. I was happy to bring the most out of the scene, without giving it that artistic look time.

I processed it entirely in Lightroom, and have displayed my setting below that I used to achieve the final image:

Bringing down the highlights and opening up the shadow areas, helps you bring out the most of the dynamic range, and I often adjust the whits and blacks to refine the highlight and shadow areas. It just helps bring the realism and contrast back. Clarity I think adds the drama to the scene, the highlight and shadow colour settings, give it the colour tone I was after. I have no hard and fast rule for sharpening, except for zooming in and dragging the slider along until I feel it is just right. I always add masking though, to make sure that it sharpens the necessary features, and not a blanket sharpening job.

Hope you have enjoyed that quick look into the making of this picture, I will definitely look to include more of them in future.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Camels in the Sand

This is one of those pictures I have planned to blog for months, but just never got round to making the decision to do it (I think?!). The other night I was going through some of my pictures with my wife, and she commented that she loves this picture, so then I realised the time was right to show it.

It's not the most obvious place to take a picture, on top of a camel, but how else would you get this angle? It was totally spur of the moment, as we were getting a guided camel ride throughout the Sinai desert in Egypt. Even with a VR lens, many of the pictures I took on the camel journey were very shaky and blurry, but luckily this one I took of the shadows in the sand came out fine. This was processed entirely in Adobe Lightroom.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Castle Combe Water

The second picture posted from Castle Combe in a few days, this one is actually very similar to a picture I posted a few years ago (here is the link). Although that picture was well received, I always felt it was a bit too  'warm' and bright, so always wanted to create another version of it.

The emphasis on this version is very much with the water, as the angle I took this one at was much closer to the stream. I have processed it in similar way, though with more clarity, less warmth, and dimmed the brightness down.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Inside Castle Combe

Perhaps the latest I have ever blogged, but not going to budge from my set blogging days of Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Today's photo is from St. Andrew's Church, in the village of Castle Combe. As a couple of my recent photographs have been, this was actually taken more than 2 years ago in July 2011. Castle Combe is a very old English village, and as such has been used for many film and TV productions, one of the most recent being Steven Spielberg's War Horse.

From a processing point of view, this is the first photo I have processed using the new version of Photomatix - Photomatix 5. I am impressed with the different processing options available, but yet to explore it fully yet. I have also used High Pass sharpening for this picture. My normal method of sharpening is to use the sharpening tool in Lightroom, with the masking slider, to make sure it only sharpens the relevant aspects. I also like the Smart-Sharpen filter in Photoshop, but I find that High Pass sharpening works really well for interior pictures like this one, where you do not have to worry about sharpening aspects (such as clouds) that do not require sharpening.

I have another picture planned from Castle Combe to display on this blog, so that should be ready on Tuesday!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Welcome to West Woodhay House

And welcome to my blog in 2014! I have already shared my thoughts on moving into the new year in my previous blog post, so I will not dwell upon that today.

I have previously posted a photo of West Woodhay House on this blog, but this one is much more of a close-up shot. Although the summer seems everything to be yearned for after Christmas is over, and the new year celebrations have passed, I often look at pictures like this (taken in June 2013) and remind myself, what a typical summer in the UK looks like. Now we did get a lot of warm weather during the summer of 2013, but not on the day I took this picture. It is an HDR image from 3 exposures, and though I did consider replacing the sky with a different one, I decided to keep the mood of the picture, and 'enhance' the clouds that were present.

I have gone for a bit of colour variety, as well as the features surrounding the house as well. After I merged the HDR together in Photomatix, I processed this primarily in Lightroom and Photoshop, with a dash of Topaz Adjust as well. I am back at work today (like I'm sure many others are), but at least the weekend is not far away. See you on Saturday for a new picture!