Sunday, May 22, 2022

High Dynamic Range Travel Photography

Pushing The Boundaries

a photo of st michaels church cluj napoca romania hdr
St. Michael's Church - Cluj-Napoca, Romania

Digital photography provides a number advantages over film, such as the ability to see and share images immediately, along with documentation of camera settings and the date and time of each exposure.

One advantage is the ability to combine images to capture scenes with a high dynamic range. By combining a series of over and underexposed images, photographers can capture details in dark shadows and bright highlights. This is known as HDR photography.

a photo of banffy castle in romania
Banffy Castle - Romania

When this technique first became popular, people sometimes used it to create surreal and stylized images that didn't represent the original scene faithfully. I had no interest in this style of photography and avoided HDR techniques for some time.

My attitude changed when I saw a set of images by Trey Ratcliff. His photos looked perfectly natural. I would never have guessed that they were created with HDR techniques.

a photo of a monastery pained with outside fresco murals bucovina romania
Painted Monastery - Bucovina, Romania

I began to explore how to use HDR techniques in my own photography. One of the first applications that came to mind was photographing the interior of churches. If you expose for the dark interior, the windows will be over-exposed. Viewers can't see the beautiful colored windows. They're totally washed out. Exposing for the windows renders the church as dark as it would be at night with the lights off.

HDR to the rescue! I first attempted this technique in Venice, at the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute. I took some meter readings, dialed in settings I thought I could capture handheld, took a deep breath and captured a series of five images in rapid succession. When I combined the images on my computer, I was delighted when I could see the blue sky through the windows.

a photo of brasov romania shops and restaurants at night
Shops and Restaurants at Dusk - Brasov, Romania

Since then, I have used HDR to capture a number high dynamic range scenes, indoors and out, day and night. It doesn't alway work. It can be complicated when there is movement within the frame, and it can have difficulty rendering highlights in water. But when it works, the results go far beyond what can be captured in a single image. HDR has become an essential part of my photographic toolkit particularly when I am traveling and I only have one chance to get the shot.

Sony a7R III
Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM

Light happens. Be ready. Shoot hard.
All Rights Reserved

Saturday, April 30, 2022


Travel In A Troubled World

With war raging in Ukraine, I decided to look back through photos of my travels in Eastern Europe. Romania borders Ukraine to the south.

This is a beautiful part of the world; the thought of it being destroyed so senselessly is extremely troubling. The loss of life and the humanitarian crisis are of course the most tragic aspects of this and any war, but the obliteration of irreplaceable historic and cultural treasures is a monumental loss.

a photo of sibiu romania on a sunny day
Sibiu On A Sunny Day

a photo of the holy trinity romanian orthodox cathedral at sibiu
Holy Trinity Cathedral at Sibiu (Romanian Orthodox)

a photo of bran castle in transylvania romania
Bran Castle - Transylvania

a photo of an engraved cross at bran castle romania
Engraved Cross At Bran Castle - Transylvania

a photo of the dormition of the theotokos cathedral in cluj napoca romania
Dormition Of The Theotokos Cathedral at Cluj-Napoca

Sony a7R III
Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM
Sony FE 70-200mm f/4 G OSS

Light happens. Be ready. Shoot hard.
All Rights Reserved

Thursday, March 17, 2022

Towers In Black And White

New York Skyscrapers

a black and white photo of the lipstick building in new york city
The Lipstick Building

a black and white photo of new york skyscrapers architecture abstraction
Lines And Squares

a black and white photo of a new york skyscraper by daniel south
Imperfect Symmetry

Safety Tips for Photographers

1. Mind your footing. You're a human being. Humans stumble. I saw a lady trip over a root and fall while hiking at Point Lobos. Her fancy camera shattered into pieces.

2. Always be prepared to move. An animal could charge at you. A vehicle might swerve in your direction. A flash flood or a "sneaker wave" could put you in danger unexpectedly. Be prepared to grab your stuff and go.

3. Always close and secure your gear bag. If you pick up an open backpack, your gear is going to fall out. Don't take that chance.

4. You're going to drop things. Hopefully, it's just a lens cap, but even losing something small is annoying. If it's a filter or something more valuable, it's a bigger loss, and you won't have that piece of gear to work with for the rest of your trip. I once dropped a lens cap into the Grand Canyon. I shattered a lens at Loch Ness when I dropped it on a rock. Be mindful that these things can happen and use extra caution at all times.

5. Your tripod has many points of failure. One loose connection can lead to disaster. I finished shooting one morning and unlocked the knob that held my camera in place. I decided to take one more photo. I unlocked a second knob that allowed the camera to rotate, secured that knob, and took my photo. I then picked up the tripod forgetting that the other knob was still loose. My camera fell to the ground and was damaged beyond repair.

6. Be aware of the people around you. Two guys started tossing a ball near where I was photographing a historic building. I don't know if it was accidental or not, but one of them ran into me with considerable force while I was looking in a different direction. I didn't fall or drop the camera, but my back was sore for days. Another time, a guy in a deserted section of a city remarked, "Hey, nice camera! I've got some camera gear if you're interested." He motioned for me to follow him. For a brief moment, I wondered what kind of gear he might have. It seemed like an incredulous claim. Then it occurred to me that if I went where he was leading, he would indeed be in possession of camera gear - mine.

Camera and Lens:
Image 1: Fujifilm GFX 100S, GF 80mm f/1.7
Image 2: Sony a7R IV, FE 70-200mm f/4 G OSS
Image 3: Fujifilm GFX 100S, GF 45mm f/2.8

Light happens. Be ready. Shoot hard.
All Rights Reserved

Sunday, February 27, 2022

Look Up

New York City Architecture in Black and White

a photo of new york city architecture in black and white
Crevice - New York City (2017)

a black and white photo of new york city architecture
Edge - New York City (2021)

a photo of new york city skyscrapers in black and white
Interdependence - New York City (2022)

Camera and Lens:
Image 1: Sony a7R2, FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM
Image 2: Fujifilm GFX 100S, GF 30mm f/3.5
Image 3: Fujifilm GFX 100S, GF 23mm f/4

Light happens. Be ready. Shoot hard.
All Rights Reserved