French Quarter, New Orleans in HDR

French Quarter

Jennifer and I stayed in New Orleans the night we flew back from our trip. This shot is of the French Quarter, at sunset, from the 30th floor (roof) of the Westin hotel by the Mississippi River. This is an HDR (High Dynamic Range) image, and came out pretty good. I have a lot more images to process from this trip, and the best will be put on display here of course.

If you are interested in seeing more HDR images (of particularly high quality I might add), you should visit HDR Spotting.

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Golden Gate in HDR, as show by Chester Bullock

This HDR image came out far better than I expected it to in the wind and water vapor surrounding me. It has been chosen as an editor’s pick at, and HDR afficionado website. And now you can hang it on the wall of your home or office by placing an order from my online gallery. White space has been added to the gallery version, allowing proper cropping for standard prints and frames.

Also, if you like my work, consider becoming a fan of my Facebook page. On January 31, I will select one fan at random to receive a $50 gift certificate to my online gallery (for a print purchase only, not for session fees).

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Torrey's Reflection - Tonemapped

For as long as HDR has been a processing option, there has been debate about whether or not a single tonemapped image constitutes and HDR image. Classic thinking would say no. However, Photomatix is capable of taking a RAW image and doing the tonemapping actions that come with HDR processing. In fact, the guy who is now producing the best HDR books, Trey Ratcliff, encourages you to try the technique. So I did, and you see the result above.

I personally am happy with it. Some photographers like heavily tonemapped HDR, some don’t. For me it depends on the image. More importantly though, the image consuming public likes it, and wants more of it. To that end, I guess I will do my part and keep contributing.

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HDR – I Still Love It

HDR image of a gondola car taken near South Fork, Colorado with an Olympus E-510

I started shooting High Dynamic Range (commonly known as HDR) images roughly 2 years ago. I don’t shoot many (26 in my flickr gallery), but I enjoy shooting them. The gondola rail car in the photo above is the best one I have shot I think. Shooting HDR takes patience, at least with older dSLR’s like my Olympus E-510. Newer camera models, mainly ones that have arrived in the last 6-12 months, might have enough exposure bracketing built in to them to accomplish HDR captures with one click of the shutter release. Still others might have had a firmware update to accomplish this. It is my biggest hope that whatever Olympus brings out to replace the E-3 will have this feature.

I could write a tutorial on taking HDR images, but really, it would pale in comparison to the master, so I’ll let you have a look at Trey Ratcliff’s HDR Tutorial instead. I would also encourage you to check out his new book – “A World in HDR“.

After the captures, you need software. I have been using Photomatix HDR since I started doing HDR images, and highly recommend it. Trey does too, and he has even worked out a 15% discount with Photomatix (follow the link to see how to get it). Once again, Trey tells us the best way to use the software. For me personally, I usually play with a couple different settings in Photomatix to get the photo looking just the way I want to. For the gondola above, I think there were 4 versions, this one being the best (in my eyes). I would encourage you to experiment as well, and get the look that pleases you the most.

If you are looking for inspiration in other people’s HDR work, or if you have your own portfolio of images to show people, you need to take a look at This collection of images is extraordinary, and I hope I produce something worthy of inclusion. To become a contributor, you need to obtain an invitation code. While it is not clear to me how people get codes to give away, if you watch #hdrspotting on Twitter or ask around in the HDR group on Facebook, you should see a code pop up. I will post them to my Twitter feed if they ever come my way.

If you are a flickr user, you should look into the HDR and Photomatix groups. Great pictures and discussions happen in both.

Get out and try your hand at HDR, and put links to your pictures in the comments below. I love seeing what other people do with this new type of imagery.

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Another picture of our lights

HDR Lights
After I took a picture of our holiday lights a couple of weeks ago, the snow melted, and we added a few more lights. Tuesday night it started to snow, so Wednesday morning I went out and took some pics, then combined them into an HDR. Didn’t come out to bad at all.

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Practical HDRI: High Dynamic Range Imaging for Photographers Practical HDRI: High Dynamic Range Imaging for Photographers by Jack Howard is the latest book I have read on the subject. I haven’t touched my Photomatix software (indeed, even my camera) for some time. Reading through this book helped inspire me to get back out shooting photos, and also to see if Olympus was doing anything to help with the capture of HDR images. As it turns out, the recently released Olympus E-620 has far better support for proper image bracketing to get the exposures you need.

The book itself is fairly short – just 168 pages. But these pages are full of good information and practical examples using more than just one software package. What I like most about it is the frankness of the author when it comes to producing realistic HDR images, as opposed to some of the cartoonish extremes that have come to symbolize the genre. I much prefer a realistic image that has great depth in all ranges between the darkest and lightest sections of the image. In addition to the software examples (Photoshop CS3, Photomatix and FDRTools), the author tells you what to watch for when capturing the images, well before they see the computer.

All in all this was a very worthwhile book, with more than enough interesting bits for the novice and experienced alike. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who is looking for more information on HDRI.

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Rocky Mountain Winter
This photo, of the Ten Mile Range, was shot on January 14, 2009. The Ten Mile Range extends from Frisco south past Breckenridge. It is a popular hiking range in the summer, and several of the undeveloped mountains are skiied in the winter. And naturally Breckenridge spans 4 of the peaks in the range. In this photo you can also see a small sample of the trees that have been affected by the pine beetle. It is much more visible in other parts of Summit County, but it is there nonetheless. Since this infestation has been moving south and a bit west each summer, I’d expect Park and Lake counties to really take a big hit next year.

If you enjoy this photo and would like a copy to hang on your wall, feel free to order one.

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Merry Christmas / Happy Holidays

Christmas Lights HDR
Merry Christmas / Happy Holidays to all. I have been seeing great pictures of holiday lights this season, and finally decided to try and take one of my own. The photo above is an HDR Exposure Blend (using Photomatix) of 7 exposures I took one morning. I also took some photos just using the ambient light and not doing the HDR thing. After reviewing these shots on the computer, I decided the white lights just aren’t very interesting. Normally we decorate the two large fir trees in front of our house with colored strings, but we opted not to this year. Rest assured, we will next year. That will give it some “life” I think. So instead, I will go out in search of other homes in our neighborhood to take pics of. I had better hurry, only a week to go before most people take their lights down.

Oh, and I should point out that the inspiration for this, besides the photos I linked to above, was a Strobist article about holiday light pictures. As is the norm with Strobist help, this article was wonderful for a rookie like me.

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In Pursuit of Realistic HDR

HDR of a used tire warehouse
Dan Achatz, a regular in the Flickr PFRE group, put together one of the best HDR tutorials I have seen yet. He goes through his process of compiling the images into a realistic representation of what he saw in person. It is well worth taking some time and watching the video.

After watching it, I followed his steps when making the HDR image shown above. It’s the used tire warehouse at Metal Movers, a Denver, Colorado based auto recycler. I am doing some website consulting for them and needed some photos of the different products and services they offer. A tire warehouse of this size is a lighting challenge due to all the dark colors and shadows, so I thought it would be best to do an HDR to represent it. This particular image is a combintation of 5 exposures, taken at the intervals that Photomatix recommends. I think it came out pretty well, the notable exception being the fluorescent overhead lights. I need to practice with HDR more, but I am really pleased with the results I am starting to get.

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