Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Poor man's HDR without the cartoony look.

I like shadows, I really do. They add depth and meaning, and often mystery to an image. But there are some times where you just don't want them.

Take this picture. Taken on the deck at the Mungalli Creek Dairy Farm. Can you tell that it's a shot of people enjoying an afternoon tea on the shady deck?

Not at all because they're in shadow. Instead it's a photo of a nice green lawn, blue sky and some mountains in the distance.

And yet I could see the people clear as day with my eyes. And that's a big limitation with photography - the camera can't record a huge difference in highlights and shadows in the one frame. At least until now.

I've been reading up a bit on the latest fad to hit the photography world - HDR or High Dynamic Range. One of the most famous proponents of this technique in the travel photography world is Trey Ratcliffe. And while I can appreciate the art of it, it ain't for me. That cartoony look just doesn't do it for me. But just because you don't like the extreme look doesn't mean you can't use similar techniques to create realistic images when the contrast range is beyond what your camera can capture.

The first thing you have to do is take more than one picture! Although you might be able to get details in both shadows and highlights in one RAW image, the chances are the shadows are going to be noisy and the highlights slightly blown.

So you need to take one shot that exposes the darker part of your picture properly as in this image here. You can see that the patio area is nice and clear whereas the sunlit bit is way overexposed.

For the second shot (which was the one at the top of the post) I exposed for the outside areas, which then rendered the patio dark as dark can be with no detail whatsoever.

Now there are a couple of ways you can blend these two images - you can get special HDR software such as Photomatix Pro or you can do what I did here. The poor man's version of HDR is to bring both images into an image editing programme like Photoshop and place them one of top of the other so that they are layers in a single file.

Then it's just a simple matter of rubbing back the top layer so that the bottom layer shines on through.

That's what I did here. I put the brighter image (with the burnt out sky) on the top layer and just painted the sunny area back using a Layer Mask to let the bottom (darker image) shine through.

Painstaking? Yep. Tedious? Not too bad. Would it have been easier with HDR software? Dunno I don't have any. But I found it a pretty easy process and when I only had a few minutes to make a shot with impromptu models (tourists) and no big lights with me then it's a really fantastic solution.

Monday, January 18, 2010

eBook on travel writing and photography as a profession

Regular readers will know that I don't use this blog to sell stuff. But in this case I'm going to make an exception, at least I'm going to tell you about something that I think is well worth the money if you've ever considered a career in travel writing.

Some of Australia's leading travel writers have gotten together to write an eBook on the topic and I feel privileged to have been asked to write a chapter on the travel photography industry. Below is the blurb from Global Travel Writers but I heartily recommend it for those who have anything more than a passing interest in turning their passion for travel into a vocation.

GTW Press Release

Many people want to know how to become a travel writer, but don´t know where to start. You don´t need a degree in journalism to become a successful travel writer. A new E-book provides aspiring travel writers with all the information they´ll need to get a foothold in this coveted field.

TRAVEL WRITING AND TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY: From Dreams to Hard Reality is the first dedicated E-book on the subject. Written by a group of professional travel writers and photographers, it´s designed to inspire budding writers and photographers wishing to enter the highly competitive field of travel writing.

The new E-book, the collaborative work of the Australian-based group Global Travel Writers together with several special interest writers, is a no-nonsense, hands-on guide that will also appeal to established travel writers wishing to increase their income and/or write for new media platforms.

The 12 highly experienced writers who contribute to the first edition of this E-book on travel writing and photography provide a practical approach to the craft that takes readers through the processes of digging out story ideas, using the services of national tourism offices to arrange writer familiarisation trips and to help in researching stories, pitching story ideas to editors, the ethics of travel writing, writing the exact type of features that editors require and much more.

The chapter on 'New Media' contains exclusive material and advice on the latest techniques that writers can use to enhance the appeal of their features to editors and ultimately, to readers. Included also is indispensable advice on writing for the Internet, together with an in-depth blogging revenue model.

And, because photography is so important, two chapters have been devoted to travel photography for the digital age.

This comprehensive publication is the result of the combined experience of Global Travel Writers, a highly successful w riting and marketing cooperative established in 1997. The group´s members have had their work published around the globe.

TRAVEL WRITING AND TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY: From (Lofty) Dreams to Hard Reality is available for immediate purchase and download as a PDF for just USD $17.95 or AUD $