Yesterday was a perfect day to go out and do some shooting. It was bright and not very cold. Before going out for a few hours, I ran a few RAF files through the DNG converter that I downloaded. No issues. I then took the DNG files and imported them into Photoshop Elements 9. No issues. I was good to go.
As I mentioned in part one, the XP1 is limited to 3 brackets when done automatically. If you want more, you have to manually do it. I used AE bracketing for the HDR photos I created, but you can also use ISO bracketing and Film Simulation Bracketing.
In my personal opinion, if you are going to do any sort of bracketing, you should use a tripod. This is especially true if you have to bracket manually. You can most likely get away without using a tripod if you use the auto feature on the XP1, but I rather have all my exposures perfectly aligned so that your software does not have to do any extra work when merging them together.
Before heading out, I had all my targets chosen. Having my targets chosen beforehand enabled me to go directly where I wanted to go, set-up and shoot. If I found anything else worthwhile in between, I would shoot it as well.
Setting up my camera: I set my lens at f16 in order to get everything in focus, my ISO was set to 200 and my DR was set to Auto. For all my shots, I used the 2 second timer in order to avoid any camera shake. Setting the DR to Auto did not pose any problems. From shot to shot, the DR value stayed the same; though, it most likely stayed the same because I had set the ISO at the cameras base level.
Manually shooting brackets: Since the XP1 only does 3 brackets automatically, you have to manually bracket if you want more. Therefore, all I did was rotate my EV dial to the values that I wanted. In my first series of shots, I went a little overboard and shot 9 different exposures. Photoshop Elements 9 can merge a total of 10 exposures. I am not sure that 9 exposures is really necessary. I feel 5 to 6 is sufficient and for the rest of my HDR photos, I used only 5 exposures for each.
Setting focus: I suppose if you wanted, you can acquire focus of your subject and then lock it. You can do this by focusing on the scene and once acquired, set your AF switch to M. All this does is avoid having the camera acquire focus on each shot. However, if you have acquired focus on one specific part of the scene, having the camera acquire focus on each shot is no big deal. I don’t think that there is a right or wrong way of doing it.
Here is the first HDR that I did. It is of the old grain elevators in the Old Port:
This HDR is made up of 9 different exposures. The only tweaking that I performed on the final image, was to play around with the sharpness. I also had to crop it a bit because I had caught a bit to much of a railing in the lower right-hand corner.
What was really nice about the time that I had gone out to shoot, was the fact that the sun was starting to go down. This really gave me scenes that had mixed variations of light being cast on it. This is where HDR really comes in handy, to bring out the full dynamic range of the scene.
Here is my second HDR photo:
This photo is made up of 5 exposures. On my EV dial, I started at +2, then +1, then 0, then -1, then +2. The EV dial on the XP1 is pretty smooth, so the transition from one exposure value to the next, is not going to move your camera all that much.
Here is my third HDR photo:
There was three of these ships docked in the port yesterday. I am guessing that they are used to transport ore, coal or other bulk items. As you can see at the bottom of the photo, there are some blurry figures. This is what will happen when you take multiple exposures with people moving around. My advice: try to avoid scenes with people in it. I know, easier said then done.
Here is my fourth HDR photo:
As you can see, I am more or less shooting into the sun – you can see the sun in the upper left-hand corner. Without a touch of “HDR”, this scene would have been washed out by the sun.
Here is my fifth HDR photo:
In this photo, you can see the sun is really concentrated on the side of the ship. Overall, the scene is more balanced by using HDR.
Here is my sixth HDR photo:
This photo really was where HDR showed it’s power. As you can see, there are areas with a lot of shade and other areas with a lot of sun. If you shot this scene with just one exposure, the area in the photo that is furthest away would be totally over exposed. Taking multiple exposures that take into account the huge variation in light, I am able to get a very balanced photo.
Here is my seventh HDR photo:
This was a bit of a treacherous shot because I had to walk over a lot of ice to get to my set-up point. It did not get any easier on my way to my final shot.
When you are walking over sheer ice, here are a few tips: 1) Put your $2000 camera in your padded camera bag, rather then keeping it attached to your tripod and carrying tripod/camera in your hand. 2) Don’t make any sudden movements, such as going for your mobile phone when your wife texts you.
As i was walking over sheer ice to get to my next shot, I still had my camera attached to my tripod and I was carrying both in my hand. As I was gently walking over the ice, my wife texts me. So, in two fluid motions, I put my tripod/camera in my left hand and reached for my mobile phone with my right hand. Just as I put my right hand in my pocket to get my mobile phone, I felt gravity starting to do it’s job.
As I am falling, all I can think of is getting my camera out of harms way. As a result, my left arm extends out and upwards to avoid Japanese craftsmanship from meeting hard ice and concrete. As I come to rest on my rear end and right arm, I have my tripod/camera raised up in the air like a scene out of Braveheart.
I shake it off and go to my final destination. Here is my eighth HDR photo:
While taking this photo, there was a dog running around and I was just waiting for him to come and jump all over me. I would not have minded at all since I love dogs, but I was thinking about my camera. It just avoided contact with concrete & ice. 60 pounds of dog was the last thing it needed.
My first HDR shots with my XP1 went off without a hitch. Once you have the correct software and a decent workflow going, HDR photos with the XP1 are not difficult to achieve and of course, they should not be.
It really has been a learning experience for me and I am happy that I took this little challenge on. In photography, you have to experiment and challenge yourself. You can’t just stick to what you know. You will not grow by getting stuck in a rut or a comfort zone.
As mush as this was time consuming and somewhat frustrating finding the right tools (software), it was very well worth my time and I feel that I have grown in my photographic journey. Happy shooting