Things what I writ

I sometimes write nonsense about things to try and sound clever

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hdr processing

elm hill 2
elm hill 2 by Tim Caynes

since Corie has started going out at night and taking lots of groovy hdr I was reminded that I kind of like doing those but can’t remember how because last time I did it it took ages even though I wrote all the steps down on a post-it note that I immediately misplaced. but I had a rummage around in my drawer that has all my photographic stuff in it – it’s a pretty small drawer – and lo, the post-it note was stuck to the underside of a digital slr photography magazine from last year sometime in which I could learn all about taking polarized macro photos of wet cdroms arranged under a snooted soft umbrella box or something.

unfortunately, I still had no idea what I was talking about. it was full of things like ‘PS HDR x3+ (d,m,l)‘ and ‘PM EB (3 PS HDR)‘ and the rather ambitious one liner ‘PS HDR 1/2/3 PM HDR PM EB 1/2 RAW‘, complete with a big bracket underneath which suggested I should put it all somewhere and then do something with a smart object, which, these days, I just get slightly queasy just thinking about on my 5-year-old computer. so I decided I’d go out and get some new bracketed exposures and just try and follow my own instructions to see how it would go. to make it even more of a nightmare to process, I figured I may as well make it a night shot. with trees in. or something. I initially headed out to the roof of Anglia Square car park, because I like car parks, but I’d miscalculated the sunset and golden hour (not the one with Simon Bates), and so I was up there far too early and the thought of spending another hour up there just waiting for the sun to set behind a knackered lift shaft and a ropey old street lamp didn’t really fill me with inspiration.

after a couple of circular arguments I had with myself about the relative merits of Tombland and the cathedral I actually ended up in the irresistable scab of Norwich photographers that is Elm Hill. I mean, you don’t want to keep ending up there, but you can’t help picking at it now and then. If you’ve not taken at least 15 shots there over the years that you hide away in a hidden folder that you think you might process one day, then you get arrested. In this case, it was just about the right time of day to get a number of exposures with various shades of dark blue in the sky, but still get some appreciative cast from the pretty low-key street lighting. or that’s what I though. but I don’t really know what I’m talking about. nonetheless, I set up my Manfrotto, waited a few minutes while people rather annoyingly thought they might go about their business, and then took my 12 manually bracketed exposures from black to white, just as the wind picked up and threw the tree around like the wispy hair of a 42-year-old amateur photographer. the last exposure was about 30 seconds, during which at least 3 people stopped in their tracks as they came around the corner and saw me standing with my wireless remote looking, plainly, a bit mad in the dark. on the way home, I took about 59 pictures of the market at night for good measure, then I went home, ate a sandwich, watched the Champion’s League, the Bourne Identity and the 50 greatest 50 greatest celebrity cheese breakdown soap advert scary war film love scenes, and that was that.

a few days later, I actually kicked the computer into action, and tried to follow the scribbled workflow process, just to see if it would make any sense at all. it slowly came back to me and I remembered some of the things that I got caught out with before (don’t overprocess the HDR conversion, don’t auto-align in photoshop, don’t auto-align in photomatix, don’t try and do it with smart objects, etc.) which took a while to rectify, but on the whole, the scribbly wibbly workflow turned out to be alright. of course, there was mucho to do with blending, masking, opacity and highlight/shadow painting, and as it was a night photo, actually undoing most of the processing was the biggest challenge, but to get to the point where all the fancy automated processes had done as much as they were going to do, the workflow worked fine. so much so that I wrote it out all over again. but with boxes and arrows and things. on a computer. I think its called a flow diagram, but I largely made it up. if you want to see how little sense it makes when you first look at it, take a look for yourself, and, if you’ve got the tools, or at least some of them, you might want to try it out. I just want somebody to go through it so I can laugh at them later.

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