Entries in HDR (3)


Tanzania Holiday 18: Serengeti Game Drives Day 1 - Afternoon

On the first of our two, full-day game drives, we started the morning well with a visit to Masai rock paintings, and spotted a leopard, elephants, and a number of birds.

In Serengeti's early afternoon heat, the animals are not very active.  So we headed out again in late afternoon, continuing through the plains of the central Serengeti and the iconic acacia trees:

Note: above photo was bracketed and HDR/tonemapped using Photomatix

We caught a herd of elephants walking across the landscape:

At first the angle for photos was too sharp...

... but they continued on and passed right in front of a kopje for some lovely shots:

If that seems like a small number of photos for the elephants, that's because we took video!
It is 3 1/2 minutes long, and you see one baby trying to "jump" on another.   Sooooo cute!


On a kopje not too far away, our guide Prim spotted a lion(ess?).  Definitely on the young side:

That lion alone, and far away, was not overly exciting.  But then thing began to get interesting.  Two other lions emerged from the dense greenery to the right of the first lion:

And then a fourth lion came out of hiding on their left.  It was promising -  they looked active, not sleepy:

In a short time, these four lions made their way down the kopje and started walking right toward us!

They were all relatively young, and seemed to have a destination in mind, at first staying cautious:

When they all left the shelter of the kopje, there were seven of them!

This is a large group of young lions, and must belong to a very strong pride.  The kids seemed to enjoy the cooler air, relaxed, and played with each other as they walked (continuing toward the road):

Just before crossing the road, this one paused for a nice portrait!

They soon passed right in front of our jeep, and now we could see their destination - another kopje:

Zooming as far as we could, we saw two more lions on the destination kopje:

Now that the lions were past us, we drove ahead to where we thought they would stop.  The lions did not climb the other kopje, but rather they all started gathering on a rock outcropping not far away.  These two first:

Soon, all the others started scrambling up the back of the boulder, to sit together:

They were still quite a distance from the road, but we could zoom in effectively:

We loved that photo above, so we experiemented with some Photoshop / Topaz black & white effects:

Another bonus:  we took video of the lions walking too!  It is a little over 3 minutes long, and has three sections:  walking towards us, walking away from us, and hanging out on the boulder.

One of the young lions yawned, but by then it was getting darker, and my camera was at its limit with the zoom lens - so the resulting photo is quite noisy...

... so that's when we experiment with Topaz Simplify (this is "BuzSim" effect).  Still not great, but at least captures the memory:

One last photo:  it was an amazing end to the game drive, on Christmas Eve too!

As we reached camp, the sun had already gone under the horizon, but still lit the clouds dramatically:

Note: above photo was bracketed and HDR/tonemapped using Photomatix

This was our tent, nestled in to the rocks and foliage of the campsite:

Note: above photo was bracketed and HDR/tonemapped using Photomatix

Supper was already being prepared, and we looked forward to a cold beer:

Note: above photo was bracketed and HDR/tonemapped using Photomatix

We stepped outside for a few last photos of the scene, especially since the moon had already risen:

Note: above photo was bracketed and HDR/tonemapped using Photomatix

Frau A liked the colors, and I got to take a photo of her as part of the scene!

Note: above photo was bracketed and HDR/tonemapped using Photomatix

This was our last view of the day, a fantastic Christmas Eve:

Note: above photo was bracketed and HDR/tonemapped using Photomatix

And finally... this was our honeymoon.  For the wedding, instead of registering for physical gifts (e.g., china, silverware, etc.), we registered different parts of this Tanzanian safari.  For this blog post, we wish to heartfully thank:

   -  Ronald M, for the overnights in this great location.  It made a camper out of Frau A!  THANK YOU!
   -  Amie and Kevin H, for the nights in this special camp.  We absolutely loved it.  THANK YOU!
   -  Erin and Kevin O, for the game drive, the resulting photos we treasure.  THANK YOU!
   -  Seery M, for the game drive.  It was such a special experience.  THANK YOU!
   -  Greta M, for the game drive.  We got perfect weather too!  THANK YOU!
   -  Steve A and Claire P, for the game drive.  It was just perfect, as you can see.  THANK YOU! 


Friday Photo Favorite: Olympiapark Sunrise

This one is an HDR photo from an early morning trip to Munich's Olympiapark

I love the colors and light in this photo, as well as the winding path up to the lookout where we experimented with our tripods. It gives me a warm and peaceful feeling when I look at it. We have this one in rotation on our digital frame.


Experimenting with HDR Photography

You may have noticed recently that some photographs on Schnitzelbahn don't look quite... "normal".  (Check out the photos of the recent Springtime in Munich post.)  That's because Frau A and I are trying our hand at HDR Photography.  Here's one example (one of my favorites):


HDR stands for High Dynamic Range.  To get a more comprehensive overview, check out this article at DPReview.com, one of the best photography sites anywhere.  Of course, Wikipedia has good info as well.  But I'll try to summarize here...

It's the Catch-22 of sun vs. shadow:  On a bright day, we take a photo of something but the sky is ruined.  Exhibit A:

What happened?  Before taking a shot, the camera meters a scene -- analyzes the amount of light that will be let in.  It uses metering to choose the aperture and shutter speed for a shot.  In this case the trees came out OK, but even at 1/200th of a second we got too much light from the clouds (they were overexposed, or "blown out").

We can tell the camera to meter on the clouds, either manually or just pointing the center of the frame at the sky... but then the opposite occurs.  Exhibit B:

Now the clouds are better, but trees and some brick are way too dark.  Why can't the camera capture both the bright highlights and the darker shadows?  It's a technical limitation:  the sensor (or, previously, the chemical film) simply cannot handle that range of luminance.

DPReview.com visualizes the problem like this:

One of the first techniques to get around this problem was called exposure blending.  Logically, we would want to take multiple photographs with different exposures (often using the bracketing function in today's cameras) and combine them to get the "best of both worlds".  DPReview visualizes it this way:

Exposure blending can be done in a number of different software programs like Photoshop, and was possible with chemical film as well.  (Of course, moving objects will appear at different places in each exposure, but there are techniques to deal with this "ghosting" too.)  This solves the exposure problems we had before, and the output is pretty realistic:

A newer technique is called tone-mapping, which was not possible with chemical film.  In this technique, a digital HDR image is created from the bracketed exposures.  This file has so much dynamic range that it cannot be displayed correctly on any output device (computer monitors, printed out, etc.)!  Software is then used to set the parameters on how this 'super-image' is translated into to something we can display and print.  DPReview visualizes it like this:

What is unique about tone-mapping (vs. exposure blending) is that it can work "locally".  Previously, we could change the global contrast within a photo, but tone mapping can adjust how neighboring pixels relate to each other as well (local contrast).  This gives photographers must more flexibility in crafting the final, viewable output from the huge range of luminance and color stored in the HDR file.

Within this flexibility, the results can range from mostly realistic...

... to "painterly" or "grungy" output that extends to the surreal:

You will see a lot of discussion and passionate opinions from photographers on this topic.  Some don't like the unrealistic results while others love the artistic, other-worldly potential.  One of the most well-known HDR photographers is Trey Ratcliff, whose site Stuck In Customs has stunning photos.

Perhaps you've read my prior post on the Olympus Dramatic Tone "art filter"?  How do these compare?  The dramatic tone art filter appears to increase contrast and apply an exposure curve -- these are applied globally.  Tone mapping can operate locally and be more precise.

Below are two similar images, taken moments apart.  The first is with the Olympus Dramatic Tone art filter, the second with 5 bracketed exposures and tonemapped.


I still like the Dramatic art filter a lot, but the trees and water simply have more depth after tonemapping.

The output can be fascinating, but there are some pitfalls of the HDR process.  Below, you'll see the original camera JPG and then a bracketed/tonemapped image of the balcony at Nymphenburg Palace in Munich:

The HDR output has more detail in the stone & sky, and "pops" out at you, but...

- the trees were moving in the wind, and are blurry in the merged exposure (you can imagine what moving people might look like!)
- the merging process also amplified the vignetting of my lens (upper corners are dark)
- the tone-mapping process resulted in a bluish "halo" around the top of the stone "urn" (on the left) - this is a common tonemapping problem along the sky's border

Although it would be nice to have the software do everything automatically, it just doesn't work that way.  So we have found also that we spend more time post-processing our photos.  There's a lot to learn.

Frau A and I will continue to experiment with HDR photography -- it's been fun so far, and hopefully you like the results too.