Finally, a good HDR image

I think I’m getting the hang of the HDR technique.

After the indoor and hand-held tests documented in this journal over the past few days I ventured forth to the hinterlands with 5D loaded with Optimism, rated at 400 ISO. I have always found that to be a particularly effective film stock.

As before, I set the Canon to record three exposure bursts, with the second and third 2 stops over and under exposed compared to the first. A legacy of the street shooting school, I do not much care for tripods, but those great Manfrotto QR plates made everything go very smoothly, I must say.

I’m trying to learn how to maximize reproduced contrast range without stepping over the line to garish. Easily done with this technique.

So now I know the camera is stationary, but what I did not realize is that any movement in the subject is a matter for concern. As you are combining three or more images, things that move do not look so good. Witness the many translucent gulls shown in my pictures at the beach. Someone once asked Hitchcock how he managed to get all those birds to stand still in his movie to which he cryptically replied “I paid then well”. Seems like I have to get those birds on the payroll.

On the way to the beach I did come across this charming pastoral scene off Highway 46, near our home. The farmer had left the gate open so I shot in, Linhof tripod in one hand, the 5D in the other, and proceeded to bang away, hot footing it before the local pit bull made lunch of my backside. Let me assure you that a good QR head beats a pit bull any time.

Anyway, the clear appeal of this scene was the golden color of the freshly harvested land, contrasting with the trees, sky and that standby for us farmers, the John Deere tractor. God, America, apple pie and John Deere, because America and apple pie would be in short supply sans John Deere. As a wine grape grower I can attest to the discovery that a couple of hours on a Deere beats $250 to the local shrink any time. Lots more fun too. And the engine is made in Japan, so it starts first thing, too!

Taken at noon (bad time for landscape work) the contrast range was, predictably, extreme.

Making Hay. Canon EOS 5D, 24-105mm at 100mm. RAW converted to JPG in Aperture. HDR processed in Photomatix

The next step was to fire up the HP DesignJet 90 printer for the acid test. How sharp is this combined, processed picture when printed to a decent size? On a side note one of the unheralded features of the DJ 90 is the way it keeps the print heads warm even when nominally switched off. I assume this is to prevent ink clogging and, indeed, after some six weeks of non-use (like you, I spend 40% of my year working for the IRS) the first print out is perfect, with no need to run magical routines to clear the heads. The moral of the tale being that if you want to keep your DJ heads ready to go, by all means switch the printer off (the fan noise gets tiresome anyway) but do not pull the power plug.

The result is great. Definition equal to a traditional one negative print and dynamic range to blow your head off. All at 400 ISO.

Bertie the Border terrier testifies to the size of the print:

Bertie guards Making Hay.

After all this banging away on the tripod, I couldn’t resist just one opportunity to take a real, live action shot, so apropos nothing, here it is:

What’s a guy got to do to get a drink around here? 5D, 24-105mm. 400ISO