Saturday, August 18, 2012

Using HDR for Tough Exposures

        Digital photography has changed the way we now think about exposure. It's no longer accepted to simply think about shutter speed and f-stop to make a perfect photographic exposure. The restrictions of the old film days are gone, and they have been replaced with all  sorts of new ways to arrive at a well  exposed image. Latest developments in imaging software have made it possible to get images that would have been difficult and sometimes impossible with film.
       This image was taken last evening here on  the lake. This time of year we have lots of weed growth occurring across the lake, and it's a huge draw to our waterbirds, who find an endless food source amongst the weeds. Simply by walking through the weeds, waterbirds can find a feast of frogs and small fish. I am drawn to the same weeds because of the way water and light play against this background. Add a sunset or sunrise to the mix, and you can see some amazing photos unfold before your eyes.
      The Great Blue Heron has always been one of my favorite subjects, but this heron presented a unique photographic situation. Back lighting can be tough, and sometimes just impossible. Over the years I have passed on so many shots, because I knew the results would be ultimately disappointing. Today, however,  I never pass up shots like this one. Using some of the tricks in my digital bag of goodies, I know that double processing a raw file can mean getting the shot you see in your lens. Unrestricted by the finality of film, I can over expose one file, while  underexposing another. By combining the two exposures, I can arrive at a perfectly exposed image. Oh....I do love digital imaging!
      All of the arguments about film vs. digital seem to have gone the way of the 8 track players. We have embraced the digital world, and we're better for least when it comes to getting great exposures.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Finding the Action..........and Getting the Shot

      Last weekend I had the privilege of exhibiting my photos in Myrtle Beach, S.C.. About 20,000 people attended the event, and it was wonderful to see the reaction of the public to my newest images. I have always felt that artists, regardless of their chosen medium, need to get their work in front of the public in order to receive genuine feedback. While that can be tough at times, it is one of the very best ways to truly grow as an artist.
     Every time I do one of these exhibitions, I am ask just how I find these subjects, and where do I have to travel in order to capture my photos. The assumption is that beautiful wildlife subjects must surely live in remote locales. But, that just couldn't be further from the truth. In reality, incredibly interesting subjects can be found all around us.....regardless of where we are located. We only need to open our eyes to the possibilities of what lies just outside the door.
     The photograph above is an example of what I mean. In the midst of my busy weekend in Myrtle Beach, I decided to have a look around. The massive convention center, where my exhibit was being hosted, was surrounded by acres of paved parking lots. It was your typical urban setting of office buildings and parking garages. However, directly in the front of the building I noticed a beautifully landscaped garden filled with brilliant red Hibiscus plants. I took note of the location of the sun, and I quickly calculated in which direction the sun would rise the following morning.
      The next day I arrived at the location of the garden just after sunrise and quickly began scouting the landscape, taking care to look for a water source. I have learned over the years that most of these kinds of gardens have automatic sprinkler systems that activate early in the day. My years spent photographing hummingbirds has taught me that they do much the same. They love an early morning spritz in the water, and they can't resist red flowers. The location seemed to have all of the elements I needed, and best of all the annual fall hummingbird migration was just getting underway. I felt my chances were good, although I don't always find it all works as well as I might wish.
       This time, however, all of the elements came together, and I managed to capture several nice images of the newly arriving hummingbirds. Rarely do shots like the one above just simply happen. As with so many things, knowledge of your subject can be your best friend. Checking the light and preparing your gear can be equally important, but getting out there and pushing yourself to make it happen is your answer to great photos. I'd love to hear what you think, and how you approach your own work. Have some fun.