Archive for August, 2011

Lightroom HDR

Thursday, August 25th, 2011

(Click here if you have trouble viewing this video)

Can you create HDR images in Lightroom? Yes! Well, sort of. Lightroom only works with one photograph at a time, so you can’t blend different exposures of a scene together. But you can handle some high-contrast scenes in Lightroom, without HDR software or Photoshop, by using Lightroom’s tools to exploit your camera’s full dynamic range. I explain how in this latest video.

Like many inventions, this technique was born out of laziness. I wanted to avoid the sometimes tedious process of blending exposures manually in Photoshop, with HDR software, or my favorite plugin, LR/Enfuse. I also try to keep my adjustments flexible by using Lightroom’s non-destructive workflow whenever possible.

This technique only works with Raw images, and scenes where the contrast isn’t extreme, but I keep finding more and more situations where it does work. If you try it, let me know how you make out!

As always, be sure to view this in high definition (720p) to see the tools and sliders clearly.

—Michael Frye

Related Posts: Using Curves in Lightroom and Camera Raw; New Video: White Balance for Landscape Photographs

Michael Frye is a professional photographer specializing in landscapes and nature. He is the author and photographer of The Photographer’s Guide to Yosemite, Yosemite Meditations, and Digital Landscape Photography: In the Footsteps of Ansel Adams and the Great Masters, plus the eBook Light & Land: Landscapes in the Digital Darkroom. He has written numerous magazine articles on the art and technique of photography, and his images have been published in over thirty countries around the world. Michael has lived either in or near Yosemite National Park since 1983, currently residing just outside the park in Mariposa, California.

New eBook: Making Light by Piet Van Den Eynde

Friday, August 19th, 2011

Making LightLight is a vital aspect of photography—maybe the single most important element. We often assume that we have to adapt our photography to whatever light is available, but that’s not always true. We can create our own light.

Flash is one of the most effective ways of doing that, but flash technique and equipment can be complicated and intimidating. I’d been a serious photographer for a long time before I ever used flash. In fact I was assisting Moose Peterson with a workshop in Montana in the early ’90s, and as he tried to attach a flash to my camera he said, “This is a virgin hotshoe!” It was true: no flash had ever been mounted on that camera. Moose shook his head in amazement, and then loaned me an old flash of his that he didn’t use any more, encouraging me to experiment with it.

I guess I took that advice and ran with it, eventually using flash in highly complex ways to make some of my best-known nighttime images. But even if you have no desire to take things this far, learning to use flash can add  an extra dimension to your photography. It’s especially effective with people, but can also be used in many interesting ways for landscapes.

Maybe I’ll write a post about using flash for landscapes sometime, but in the mean time Craft & Vision has just released a new eBook called Making Light, by Piet Van Den Eynde, and I think it’s a great introduction to general flash technique, and especially for using flash with people. Piet (pronounced Pete) does an excellent job of making the sometimes complex world of flash photography easy to understand. He encourages you to take the flash off the camera (absolutely essential in my opinion), and shows you exactly how to do that. I especially liked his examples—nine in all—showing how he used minimal equipment to add light to his photographs of people. Piet likes to travel by bicycle, so that forces him to keep his equipment simple!

As always, this Craft & Vision eBook is only five dollars. What’s more, until midnight, August 21st, you can get Making Light for $4 (discount code LIGHT4). Or you can buy five eBooks for the price of four (discount code LIGHT20). That includes my eBook Light & Land: Landscapes in the Digital Darkroom, so if you don’t already own a copy this is a great opportunity to get both Light & Land, Making Light, and three other Craft & Vision eBooks for only $20. (I’ve reviewed two more of these eBooks in the past: A Deeper Frame by David duChemin, and The Evocative Image by Andrew S. Gibson.)

—Michael Frye

Michael Frye is a professional photographer specializing in landscapes and nature. He is the author and photographer of The Photographer’s Guide to Yosemite, Yosemite Meditations, and Digital Landscape Photography: In the Footsteps of Ansel Adams and the Great Masters, plus the eBook Light & Land: Landscapes in the Digital Darkroom. He has written numerous magazine articles on the art and technique of photography, and his images have been published in over thirty countries around the world. Michael has lived either in or near Yosemite National Park since 1983, currently residing just outside the park in Mariposa, California.

A Photograph From the Archives: My Self-Critique

Thursday, August 18th, 2011
Wildflowers, Tuolumne Meadows, 1986

Wildflowers, Tuolumne Meadows, 1986

It’s wildflower season in the Yosemite high country, which made me think about this image that I made 25 years ago, in August of 1986, in Tuolumne Meadows.

In the 1980s large swaths of Lemmon’s paintbrush and shooting stars were common in Tuolumne Meadows in the summer. But 1986 brought the best bloom I’ve ever seen there, with this great mix of paintbrush, little elephant’s heads, lupine, shooting stars, penstemons, and… that yellow flower (arrowhead butterweed?). For some reason though wildflowers have diminished in Tuolumne Meadows in recent years, and those great blooms seem to be a thing of the past.

In the summer of 1986 I was working at The Ansel Adams Gallery in Yosemite Valley. On the day I made this photograph I drove up to the high country after work. A thunderstorm had rolled through, leaving the meadows wet and the skies overcast. But just before sunset the sun crawled underneath the clouds and lit up the peaks in the distance.

I actually think I did a pretty good job with the composition here. I needed to find some kind of structure or design to hold the foreground together and lead the viewer’s eyes into the distance. The little V- shaped group of flowers at the bottom of the frame accomplished both those things, giving the foreground some structure and leading viewer’s eyes toward the background. As a bonus, that V-shape mirrors the upside down Vs of the peaks.

The horizon line is high, but I think that’s appropriate here: the foreground is much more interesting than the sky. I’m glad I wasn’t overly concerned about putting the horizon a third of the way from the top.

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Under the Full Moon

Sunday, August 14th, 2011
Light-painted tufa towers at Mono Lake

Light-painted tufa towers at Mono Lake

My Full Moon Night Photography workshop ended just after midnight last night. We had a lot of fun. Once people learned the basics I think they realized that photographing after dark isn’t that difficult. Then their creative juices started flowing and they started light-painting tufa towers and juniper trees with abandon!

As a bonus, we saw a spectacular sunset at Mono Lake Friday evening. Here’s one of my photographs of that sunset, and a couple of images from South Tufa I made while working with students on light-painting techniques. I hope to post some of the participant’s images here also as soon as they’ve processed them.

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The One That Almost Got Away: A Photographer’s Tale

Wednesday, August 10th, 2011
Rising Moon, Gates of the Valley

Rising Moon, Gates of the Valley

Not every photo has an interesting story behind it, but the approaching full moon reminded me of the eventful day I had before making this image from Gates of the Valley in Yosemite.

I had been skiing at Badger Pass, and while gliding to the top of the Red Fox run I saw a snowboarder out of the corner of my eye. He was facing left, making a right turn into my path, and moving fast. He clearly didn’t see me and I didn’t have time to turn, so I yelled, “Look out!” and braced for impact.

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Juniper and Star Trails

Sunday, August 7th, 2011
Juniper and star trails near Olmsted Point, Yosemite

Juniper and star trails near Olmsted Point, Yosemite

Here’s a new image, made last Tuesday evening near Olmsted Point in Yosemite. My friend Mike Osborne calls this the “Bowsprit” tree. What? I didn’t get it either until he explained that a bowsprit is the bent figure with arms splayed back at the bow of old sailing ships. Okay, yeah, this does sort of resemble that.

Anyway, I “painted” this wonderful tree with a flashlight, and used the image-stacking technique to get noise-free star trails. With image stacking the idea is to take a series of short exposures and blend them together, rather than doing one long one. The total exposure time here is about 90 minutes, but one exposure that long would end up being quite noisy. Instead I took 24 four-minute exposures, with only a one-second interval between them. So each of those four-minute exposures has little noise.

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Late Bloomers in the Yosemite High Country

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011
Corn lily circle

Corn lily circle

A heavy winter, wet spring, and late snowmelt have all conspired to delay the wildflower bloom in the Yosemite high country, but it’s now in full swing. It’s a fantastic year for corn lilies—those plants with the sculpted, photogenic leaves and tall stalks of white blossoms. The Crane Flat Meadows are full of them, more than I’ve ever seen before, but these flowers are abundant in all the meadows between 6000 and 8000 feet right now. I made the accompanying photos in McGurk Meadow, where I found a nice mix of corn lilies and paintbrush.

These displays just the beginning. With all the residual moisture from melting snow, it promises to be a good—though late—wildflower year. Some spots may not peak until the end of August or even the beginning of September.

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