Photo of the Day: Boat on the Lake

Jumped on Trey's google hangout the other night and realized I didn't have many photos to share on the show. So I grabbed my Sony NEX-7 with a 14-24mm lens and headed out to the lake to snap a few quick sunset photos. There's not too much green yet from the harsh Winter so I felt like this deserved a black and white treatment.


Photo of the Day: Sunset over Lake Wakatipu

Here's a shot I finally got around to processing. Honestly I didn't have to do too much considering the remarkable conditions over Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown, New Zealand. Every 30 seconds during this sunset the light was changing to something new and fantastic.

Here I shot seven bracketed photos with a 1.0 exposure variation; this is something you want to do when shooting directly into the sun. Using the tone mapped image I pulled in the sky from the +1 exposure to fix some of the gray sky. I also brought in some of the redder grasses from the 0 level exposure. These grasses were unbelievably red while I was standing there. 


Photo of the Day: Sunset at Bendemeer Estates

This was really one of those magical sunsets in New Zealand. This grass had an amazing color of orange that I was trying to capture here without going overboard. The sun hit the grass and it almost looked like it was on fire. This sunset lasted forever and the light changed every few minutes to something different and remarkable. 

Photo of the Day: A Lone Tree on Lake Wakatipu

I've started going through some of my first day images from my New Zealand trip. I decided to play around some tight versus wide crops. This is a fun tight crop across Lake Wakatipu in the heart of Queenstown. Thanks to the Nikor 28-300 lens I was able to get in nice and tight on this copse of trees. 

This is an HDR shot but instead of using the 5 images I shot I decided to only use 4. The +2 exposure shot was too blown out. I did a multiply layer and then masked back in some of the darker trees that I saw that misty morning.

It's fun to see some of my first day images versus the images I was starting to shoot by the end of the week. It's amazing what some intensive learning can do to a person.



Lone Tree on Lake Wakatipu, New Zealand

Photo Adventure: Taking Photos in New Zealand

I'm offline, off the grid, and deep in the mountains of New Zealand. The good news is that I'm busy taking hundreds and thousands of photos as part of Trey Ratcliff's NZ photo adventure. 

I'm a few days in and we're having a blast. We've been super busy waking up at 5:30AM and shooting until breakfast. Then a few hours doing some valuable post processing time, lunch, and then off into the sunset for more shooting. Rinse and repeat.  

I'm learning a boat load and can't wait to start sharing more tips and tricks I've learned along the 'unexpected journey'. Meanwhile, here's a sunrise shot I took this morning at a super secret location called The Hills. This is an HDR using seven exposures with my Nikon D800.

The Hills in New Zealand at sunrise. 

HDR Photography: How To and The Basics

Last year I started learning the brave new world of HDR photography. HDR photography, also known as high dynamic range, is a photography method that uses several exposures that are then pieced together using photo editing software like Photomatix .

Why bother you ask? Well the main advantage to HDR photography is getting shadows and lighting from different exposures so only the best selections are used in the end photograph. This creates a distinctive style that has a striking effect in its colors.

HDR photo, Mission Peak California at sunrise

HDR photography is typically used with landscapes and inanimate objects, since it's hard to get identical shots with a moving subject when you're taking five to ten photos with different exposure settings. If you did try it in this fashion, you'd probably end up having major differences in the pictures that would destroy your ability to add the HDR effect in editing. Tripods are a necessity for taking the initial series of photographs. If you don't tripod it up, you're going to end up with the same problems you'd face if you were attempting animate objects in your photography.

Most SLR's have a multiple exposure setting which let you take 3, 5, 7, or 9 exposures. You'll want to set the difference between each photo to 1. This way with a 5 exposure shot you'll have 5 different photos ranging in exposure from -2, -1, 0, +1, +2. Simple right? It is.


Check the histogram on the camera to make sure that you're balanced throughout the photo before you begin taking it. Finally, a remote shutter release is a good, although not necessary, piece of equipment to use for this situation.

Once you've taken the photos, it's time to take the raw pictures to your photo editing software. I use the best HDR software on the market called Photomatix. Most standard photo editing software has HDR specific features, or a combination of features you can use to merge your photos into one HDR picture. It will probably take you some time to get used to this effect, and it does get very mixed reviews among viewers. It's a commonly used technique, and in some cases it's done very well and adds to the photograph, and in other cases it comes off as a gimmick. I tend to think that the gimmicky photos have amped up the painterly quality of the HDR processing. I tend to enjoy HDR photos which look close to reality, or the way I saw it when I was there. 

If you aren't really comfortable with the photo editing software idea, some cameras do have HDR processing available directly on the camera. Instead of having to take it to an editing software, the magic happens right on the camera through its own features. This is handy if you want to get an idea of what you can do with HDR.

If you want a really advanced tutorial on HDR you have to check out Trey Ratcliff's classes which are an amazing series of videos. Grab them here. He leaves NO stone unturned.