Freaky Kiwi

February 19, 2009 By: erik Category: Food, Photos, Photoshop 275 views

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FreakiwiFor a while now I’ve been wanting to try some High Dynamic Range photography. My choice of subject for my first attempt probably shows my lack of experience. I cannot explain it, but I have an abnormal fascination with kiwi fuzz. If I ever get into macro photography, you can bet that kiwi fuzz will be one of the first things I attempt a close-up of.

The problem with HDR photography is that it’s so easy, and fun, to make freakishly surreal photographs with weird colors and lighting. The unreality of most HDR photos initially turned me off to the practice, but I’ve come to respect those photographs that use the technique properly, to overcome the limitations of the camera and make photographs more real.

View large. I’ve done my best to get both the front of the kiwi, the sunlit hairs on top, and the sky all in their appropriate color ranges, but it’s still obvious to the eye that something is wrong. Apparently this HDR stuff is harder than I thought.

  • aquariumdrinker

    Would you want to post a screenshot of your layers palette at your final step (or several along the way)? Also might be fun to post the CR2s you’re working from so’s we can mess around with them.

    I almost never use a tripod, so I don’t often get a chance to capture multiple exposures for later blending, but I do like to think that it must be possible to combine multiple exposures without creating something that would make Maxfield Parrish on mescaline say “woah, buddy, let’s tone it down a notch or two.” (Maxfield Parrish on mescaline is like the anti-Tiny Carl Jung.)

    Are you working with any particular technique? (If I had a dollar for every HDR tutorial on the web, I’d buy a senate seat.)

  • 1) Your Tiny Carl Jung link didn’t work, but I think I get the intent.

    2) Your tripodlessness is an embarrassment to the rest of the 40D family.

    3) You can’t buy a senate seat if you’re not in Illinois.

    4) Your assumption that the layers palette has anything to do with anything is humorous to us HDR experts. Ha!

    5) As for a “particular technique”, I think I used a combination of the 4th and 5th Google results for “merge to hdr”.

    Next time I do an HDR post I’ll provide some “along the way” steps. If I’m feeling extra generous, I might send you some of the 10 MB RAW files, as you ask.

  • Robert

    Haya, love your site.
    Is there any possibility to update your ytaudio plugin for the new wordpress? If so, that would be awesome.

  • Robert, my ytaudio plugin works perfectly in WP 2.7.1, which I am running. The only change I have made to my local copy in the last year was to adjust the size a bit for the new YouTube player. I just updated the zip files with that change to version 1.2.

  • aquariumdrinker

    Ok, it’s all coming back to me now. I’d forgotten about the “merge to HDR” command. What I don’t get about the whole 32-bit image thing is that — unless you invest in some really expensive video gear — you’re not going to see an image in more than 8-bit color. What makes an HDR image good or “freakishly surreal” is how the 32-bit info is mapped down to what a jpg can store and what most screens can display. So if you’re just creating an 8-bit image that includes more shadow and highlight information than reality would let you capture with one shot, why not paint the detail in using layers and masks? It should be possible to get the same result without having to go through the step of mapping from 32- to 8-bit, and with the added benefit of being able to treat different portions of the image differently.

    To use the kiwi as an example, can’t you just take the middle exposure, add an underexposed layer (from which you just keep information about the direct-lit hairs) and an overexposed layer (from which you keep information about the Dark Side of the Kiwi)? I think that using the “apply image” command on the masks for these layers should get you within tinkering range of the result you’re looking for, but I’m not sure (which is why I asked for the CR2s).

    TCJ link seems to be working.

  • In grade school I use to love it when we received a magazine (i think it was Scholastic) that had a section in it where there were pictures taken of objects real close up. You had to guess what it was. This was be a good one for that section. I never would have guessed it correctly.

  • ‘drinker: Yes, the control over making HDR images is in the reduction from 32-bit to 8-bit. My favorite HDR tutorial is one that avoids the automatic HDR merging and does it manually with the layers palette as you suggest.

    Alan, I’ve considered doing some “WTF is this a close-up of?” blog posts. I certainly will if I ever get a macro lens. That could be fun.

    Looking at it fresh today, this picture looks like it might be the top of a person’s head.

  • Thread revival. I’m posting this here because it was leftover thoughts from this thread that guided the development process described below.

    Several of my pictures from a recent vacation are hand-held HDR. I rented a wide-angle lens to take with me, and found that most outdoor wide angle shots covered a huge dynamic range. I didn’t haul a tripod, so I used exposure autobracketing, held my breath and took 3 quick shots. After developing these to 16-bit .psd documents, I pasted them on top of each other (with the middle exposure on the bottom) and used the distort transform tool to line them up. With a little more care and by using the warp tool, I might have gotten a better result, but my expectations for these pictures are low and I’m happy with “proof of concept”-quality images.

    I set each of the shadow and highlight layers to “overlay” blending and applied a clipped curves adjustment layer to each so that I could weed out the end of each overlay’s brightness that should not be showing through. I also futzed with the RGB channels on these overlays, but I’m not sure I’m thrilled with how that came out.

    All in all, I’m pretty happy with how the pictures came out. It’s nice to know that I can get decent HDR fodder without a tripod when necessary. It’s also nice to know that there’s a lot of room for improvement in the process!

    The four images I’ve posted publicly so far are:

    (The first and last are my favorites, though I wish I’d fixed the vignetting problem in the last image early in the process instead of compounding it along the way.)

    • Very nice. So good, in fact, that I’d already seen those images and had no clue they were HDR. That’s a compliment.

      Awesome, I didn’t know about the 40D exposure autobracketing feature. This makes more HDR adventures for me much more likely.