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Welcome! I don't know about you guys, but I plan on having a good time. It's a lot of work putting together each episode, but photography has been in my life — work and play — since I was a strapping sapling simpleton. And that's saying something (especially if you try to say it through thrice).

Connect or comment, please. Each episode will have a conversation, and I'll be glad to strike one up with you, too!

- Mark

Jun 9, 2018

Ex Ex Vee Eye Eye Eye — Hike!

It's international HDR day, so get out your tripods and your bracketing skills and let's get our hydra on! (I just made up the term "hydra" to refer to HDR techniques — I think it's kinda catchy! And, um, there's no such thing as International HDR day. Sorry — you still have to go into work today.)

Five Pound Sack

The episode covers, at length, the concept of dynamic range and, in many scenes you might place before your camera, the higher concept of high dynamic range. Once you've got that figured out, it's on to a review of some great software for making your own HDR imagery which, per the subtitle above, involves putting 20 pounds of, um, light into a five pound sack. (Also, the image of putting lipstick on a pig might find a place in your vocabulary once you enter into the process.)

I'll not repeat, here, the ins and outs and the usual ups and dynamic downs of HDR photography. As I do mention in the audio, there's plenty of information available on the web, including at the site of the software company Skylum which publishes that great software I mentioned in the last paragraph. (Okay, I didn't mention it — I alluded to it.)

The software is Aurora HDR 2018 and you can learn more about it than even my review gives you at www.aurorahdr.com. There you can also download a trial version and, if you're interested in purchasing it, use the promo code allthings, just like that, allthings, to get $10 off the regular price of $99.

First, though, here are some examples of images created using Aurora 2018 and the visible rationale for doing so. Obviously, the image in the lower right quadrant is the HDR example, while the other three are the "normal," darkest, and brightest exposures made. The first two sets are also examples, in their final images, of fairly realistic treatments.

Hyatt Place comparo

Bright sunlight, even late in the afternoon as it shone on this newly constructed Hyatt Place, challenges the viewer to see the beauty, calm, attractiveness of the facility — the harsh shadows don't scream "WELCOME HOME!" Or, rather, perhaps that's just what they are doing; screaming. The HDR in the bottom right is definitely more welcoming. The contrasts are muted, the colors just a bit brighter.

Nashville comparo

One might think that overcast skies would provide soft, even, lighting. One might be wrong, of course, as evident in this series of the Union Station clock tower in Nashville, Tennessee. Notice how the "normal" exposure in the upper left has the building too dark, though the clouds are reasonable. The dark exposure has even more dynamic clouds but the building is a mere silhouette, and the bright exposure reveals all the latent detail but the contrast is milky and the sky is gone, gone, gone. Mash 'em all together in Aurora HDR 2018 and you create a much more interesting image to contemplate.

cholla comparo

Notice that the final HDR is similar to the "normal" shot in the upper left, in terms of the cactus itself, though even there the HDR version holds more detail in the shaded areas and a bit more contrast throughout and by going through HDR, using the other exposures, the ground, the mountains, and the sky are all much more interesting. This is only a little over-the-top, and totally acceptable if this is the desired result.

barrel cactus comparo

These show the subtle reasons for using HDR. The brightest image, in the lower left, is almost good enough, but not quite. It's difficult to see at this size, but there is no detail in the tips of the fuzzy things inside the near blossom (pistils? stamens?). Plus, some of the petals have lost all their detail and, especially the petals at the top center of the frame, on the farther blossom, draw my eye up there even though the payoff is detail-free glare. The "normal" is a bit dreary, but the final brings together color and detail and contrast worth sharing.

Here are six images processed through Aurora HDR, the upper left version being the default that was presented when I first opened the five original files into the application. The others show some of the range available in the presets. If you think a couple are identical (I'm looking at you three on the left), you need just look a bit more carefully to note the subtleties between them, subtleties that are available through the 80+ adjustable attributes, which they call filters.

Power Wagon comparo

Power Wagon originals

Here are the five original exposures, for your viewing pleasure. The "normal" exposure, in the middle, seems similar to the finals — in a way, this is to be expected, since the normal exposure is meant to be as good as can be got. It is by using the darker and brighter versions, though, that detail is made available throughout.

A big plus, by the way, is that each of these Power Wagon images was created and exported from a single session — I would export a version then choose another preset and export a version and on and on. In other applications I use, each version would require me starting from scratch, opening the original files and processing them just to get to the point of making revisions. Also, with Aurora HDR, I have saved the processed file, which is not the same as exporting a viewable version, and I can open the file again to make more changes without dealing, again, with the originals. I can even save the file with the history of my changes so, even after closing and opening the file, I can Undo my way through my previous work. Sweet!

Aurora web squashed

So, if I've not been clear, I find the application very easy to use, full of helpful presets, packed with adjustability, jammed with options for viewing and exporting, topped by a very reasonable price. And remember, you can make the price even more reasonable by using the promo code allthings at their web site. And speaking of that web site, here's a link to their videos where you can, of course, learn how to use it, but these are also handy if you just want to see how it works before spending another moment thinking about purchasing it. Good stuff! aurorahdr.com/education

The Doctor is a Photographer

My guest in this episode is former OBGYN Rebecca Wilks, a talented and successful photographer whose work you might have seen in Arizona Highways magazine and its calendars, among other outlets. You can see her work, any time you want, at her web site, skylineimages.net.

We also mention an organization called Through Each Other's Eyes, and you can learn more about them at teoe.org.

Rebecca Wilks

Doctor Rebecca Wilks. Photo by Rebecca Wilks.

Spread the Joy

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