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A Simple How to Technique

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Photo-realistic High Dynamic Range image do click on the photo for the larger view. A recent post: Subtle HDR-No Whacked Out Colors Here details a how to for a simple HDR. This post will deal mostly with manually blending or stitching 2 sets of HDR’s in Photoshop.

Always have the DSLR on a sturdy tripod and have the remote switch shutter release plugged into the DSLR (after DSLR is on the tripod to avoid tangled up wires). From the top LCD on the DSLR, dial in for AEB (Auto Exposure Bracketing). For Canon shooters that is just 3 exposures: -1, 0, +1. Try -2, 0, +2 for different results and choose high speed shooting mode again from the top menu so the 3 exposures will fire off without a hitch.

Now shoot the heck out of the landscape but on’t take too much time fiddling with the next 3 exposures. When the sun sets into the horizon color ranges vary greatly within a few minutes. Shooting fast can still get you different colors from the first set of exposures but they can be corrected in RAW to get the same tones.

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Shoot 3 exposure of bottom half first as color and light will affect this part of the photo more than the sky. It is also easier to deal with the colors in the sky later on in post if colors do not match the bottom half.

Next, gently adjust your tripod and shift up-this is where live view (EOS 50D, 60D, 7D, 5D) comes in handy. Shoot the next 3 exposures to overlap the first set of exposures. Just include about 10-20% of what is on the horizon to keep as guide when manually stitching later on and for reference to color changes.

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Now that the 2 sets of 3 exposures are finished, grab a cup of coffee, a piece of pie and relax. Take in the beautiful view at hand and remember no 2 sunset scenes are ever alike.

Next put each set of exposures into your favorite HDR processing software (I use either Photomatix or Photoshop CS5) and process the 2 sets separately. Then save them as TIF files to be worked on later. Once the 2 sets of HDR images are ready open them up in Photoshop, stack them in separate layers, add a masking layer (to sky set) and align the sky layer to the bottom layer. The most accurate way to do this is set opacity on the top image at 50% and align using the selection tool (use the horizon/buildings as reference). Zoom in at 100% to make sure the buildings and horizon are aligned.

Once the 2 HDR layers are aligned carefully brush away the part of the horizon on the sky set to show the bottom (city shot) photo. The 2 layers will look seamless if a soft brush preset at 50% preset is used. Brush strokes should start from one end of the image to the next (left to right-right to left). This technique is easy to do once a few trial and error brush strokes are done. Don’t be disappointed by the first try. I had to work my way through this process all on my lonesome in 2007-as evident in the many holes in the wall punched through out of frustration-ok, this part isn’t true but that’s sort of how it felt.

One of the most important features in Photoshop is control Z. This shortcut is an ‘undo’ if a mistake is made.

Capturing the 3 exposures are the easiest part of this exercise. The manual blending brush strokes are the most labor intensive of the process (depending on detail of the horizon). Once you achieve your desired look all it takes is some adjustments in overall color to bring the 2 sets together.

Twilight at 6:30 pm captured on Canon EOS 50D at 24mm, ISO 125, tripod with ball head and Canon RS-80N3 Remote Switch (cheapest of the bunch).

THE OTHER SIDE OF PARADISE

Boracay, Aklan, Philippines-a day in the life of an overly commercialized island beach resort.

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UPDATE: OCTOBER 25, 2010

Here is a little more depth of field into the EOS 60D: Where Does It Stand?. Hope you enjoy the post.

UPDATE: SEPTEMBER 3, 2010

The Canon EOS 60D was just announced. This update does not exactly fit into the EOS 40D/50D line up. It is now geared towards the hobbyist than a likely pro-summer camera. Gone is the metal body and it is now a smaller form factor than the EOS 50D. But for the first time in the history of Canon DSLR it has a swivel LCD screen-albeit a more convenient way for shooting video or low angles. I’m pretty sure there must be a few swivel screen bashing going on in some forum. IMO, this isn’t a bad addition-your neck and back will thank you.

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The new EOS 60D has inherited the 7D 18 MP sensor and the integrated speedlite transmitter for off the hot shoe flash photography. This feature in itself will save you from purchasing the Canon ST-E2 wireless transmitter that cost around US$200. Buy an external flash instead. The rest of the features are just bells and whistle to entice.

So, should you buy the EOS 550D, 60D or 7D? My answer in 3 points:

  • EOS 550D USD799- casual shoot, family, friends, pets, etc. and for uploading to social sites when all you need is a max resolution of 1024 x 740. Have no plans on investing on lenses.
  • EOS 60D US$1099- hobbyist and are still learning. Getting to the more serious side of photography and you understand the triumvirate of photography like the back of your hand.
  • EOS 7D US$1699- this is a bit on the pricy side and if you are not making money off your photos then better stick with the two above and invest in good lenses instead. Remember-it’s not really the body but the glass. Lenses are an investment and camera bodies are disposables.

UPDATE: MARCH 1, 2010

It’s incredible how much views this post is getting. Just to be fair to all you folks I will do my own assessment of the 60D’s release.

It will most probably be in August of O ten. Just to give more sales to the 7D for folks who need to upgrade from 40/50D bodies. I don’t think the 60D will be a great improvement over the current 50D except for a few changes. My gut tells me a DIGIC V sensor will get introduced by this time along with a new auto focus ala 7D. With the same fps of 6.3 and possibility new batteries and grip.

It is only logical that the 60D will be for those who get sick and tired of the EOS 500/550D.  Take note, a dial on the rear of the body and info display screen on top makes a very big difference for serious shooters. Making a step from a xxxD to a xxD line makes a world of difference-handling, body seals, etc.

Should you wait for the 60D or jump on the 7D wagon? If you can spare an extra US$300-400 price difference, why not? But if you are just looking to upgrade from an older cam then wait for it. A 7D is classified as more of a pro level cam and it’s got way to much features for a casual shooter to fully utilize. Understanding a camera inside and out makes better photos than a pro body.

I use a 40/50D combo for pro shoots and it is more than efficient for any project that comes my way. I will be getting a 7D once my actuation setting shows 50k. After all, yesterday, it read 4318 and it’s already hit 9999 twice. That means my 50 is at 34,318 actuation. Roughly 15k more and just as well, the 7D will have a price drop by then. =)

Countless times, people tell me that my 50D does make better quality photos because of the high mp count. Best to agree with that but the lens makes a very big difference. It’s best to just go with an affordable body and try to save up for good glass-EF-S17-55 f/2.8, EF-S10-22 f/3.5-4.5, EF17-40 f/4L, EF 24-105 f/4L, EF 24-70 f/2.8L and most notably the Sigma 10-20 f/4-5.6.

Thank you for reading.

UPDATE: FEBRUARY 5, 2010

 

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Invite from Pocket Lint via Canon Rumors

There were speculations about an announcement date of February 4th on new Canon DSLRs. Since it’s already the 5th here in South East Asia without any word we will all just have to wait for the 9th as was originally posted on Northlight. Or the 8th with this new invite popping up over at Pocket Lint then Canon Rumors for the BAFTA Awards in London.

All this news on the 60D has gotten my hands all itchy for the official press release. It will be very interesting to see what Canon will put into their once flagship APS-C (1.6x) model.

RUMORS AROUND THE WEB

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Canon will be making an official statement on February 9 about two new DSLR’s and a few point and shoots. It’s a little less than a week before the release and rumors are everywhere on the net.

The 550D/600D and, crossing those fingers, the 60D are on the table. Both are APS-C (1.6 crop) and will definitely be at the 15-18 megapixel range with video capabilities. It just hasn’t been confirmed whether video will be HD capable. Quite possibly the new in body Image Stabilizer will make it’s introduction in the 60D with an electronic leveler like the 7D.

Maybe a few new EF-S lenses to go along with the new bodies.

No leaked photos of the new cameras as of this posting but I will be doing a more extensive search later. Maybe the Chinese sites have something- like the leaked Jackie Chan image for the 7D ad in Hong Kong/China.

Canon 550D/600D (Rebel)

  • Release date April 2010
  • Upgraded 15.1 mega pixels
  • New shape and build quality-similar build to 50D but much smaller
  • New battery LP-E8
  • New battery grip
  • New LCD with higher resolution-maybe even OLED =)
  • Probably no articulating LCD screen
  • 720p video/selectable FPS
  • $799.00 (approx. PHP38,000)

Canon 60D

  • Release date May 2010-false
  • CMOS 18 mega pixels (maybe DIGIC V)
  • 6.3 fps-false
  • Electronic Level like 7D
  • Metal body like 50D-false
  • New battery / battery grip
  • In body Image Stabilizer?!?-false
  • Master flash controller?!?
  • Articulating screen (I doubt)-true!
  • HD video with 24 and 36 FPS
  • $1,190.00 (approx. PHP56,000)

Strapping down for February 9… however, the above spec lists are really only the Canon rumor mill churning out excitement before the official press release.

It’s been confirmed that there will be an official press announcement at 9:00AM CET on September 1, 2009 (September 2, approximately 3:00PM for us in South East Asia) in Stockholm, Sweden, where Canon will announce their new DSLR/lens line up. Finally, all the speculation surrounding the 60D/7D will be put to rest.

Chinese poster. Way to go, again, Canon Rumors.

Chinese poster. Way to go, again, Canon Rumors.

My gut tells me that the 7D will turn out be a great cam for portrait and event shooters. Especially with the DUAL DIGIC 4 sensor and I’m really hoping that it will have better dynamic range with improved noise levels in low light. One very distinct advantage now will be the addition of HD video. Giving pros another creative option/addition to their event packages for clients.

However, the biggest improvement, will be the built in FLASH MASTER (FINALLY-don’t let this one be just a rumor!). I won’t have to plan a new flash purchase for a simple off cam lighting set up. I’m also glad this will be a 1.6 crop camera as not to compete directly with the full frame 5D MKII and EF-S users will not be short changed.

I will be containing my lust for the EOS 7D though, as I am sure there will be bugs. Fortunately, we’ll be seeing a bunch of reviews and images once the cams released. And everyone will be able to judge if it’s a must have or not. Have patience. Why wait? Well, good things come to those who do.

Here’s the post from Canon Rumors to whet the appetite. The source of the post is rated a CR3 which means it’s pretty reliable.

Canon EOS 7D
– Dual DIGIC 4
– Built in Flash Master (Goodbye ST-E2)
– Full HD Video
– APS-C (1.6 Crop)
– Non Articulating LCD

Updated Lens Info [CR2]
I’m still waiting on CR3 confirmation, so these are one step lower at CR2.

18-135 3.5-5.6 IS – I like this one for an all rounder. Time to sell the EFS 17-85.
15-85 f/3.5-5.6 IS USM– my guess is both these are EFS. Better if EF!

The macro still holds true.

No 70-200 f/2.8L IS update according to this source.

Update from Canon Rumors

EOS 7D Specs:

-18mp
– dual digic 4
– 8 fps
– 19 af points
– ISO 100-6400 (L & H1 & H2)
– 63 metering zones
– 100% viewfinder
– Horizon Help Viewfinder
– 3″ VGA LCD
– FullHD Video

In USA: $1699 Body
In Canada: $1999 Body

Update on the upcoming lenses, as I’ve guessed they are EFS. Bad side, can’t use these on the full frame bodies. Good news, if they are as good as the EFS 10-22 or EFS 17-55 f2.8 then we’re set for another round of purchasing. Then again, they could just be the same as my kit, which I still have, the EFS 17-85. Or they could have the new hybrid IS =) Can’t wait now for the official word from Canon.

We'll I guess now the info is real. Image from Canon Rumors.

We'll I guess now the info is real. Image from Canon Rumors.

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