How To Shoot HDR Photos & Storm Clouds
Photographing High Dynamic Range (HDR) images is growing in popularity due to the richness of the images.
A standard image does not capture as much information as our eyes are capable of capturing and that is where HDR finds its usefulness.
HDR photography is the capture of the same image at different exposure levels. Your focus, white balance, aperture, and ISO should all remain the same throughout the range.
This requires you to have a camera that has full manual controls like Nikon’s D7000 ($1500.00 at bhpotovideo.com). Any lens that fits your DSLR will work in most situations.
The idea behind HDR photography is to capture images that are underexposed as well as images that are overexposed.
The combination of all of these images averages out to what you would naturally see. Below you will find a number of tips on how to take great HDR photos.
Get the first image right:
- Finding the settings that would properly expose your image is the best starting point.
- Doing this helps you set your white balance, aperture, and focus, while setting your middle image to the right exposure.
Put Everything in Manual:
- Disable the autofocus, the auto white balance, the auto exposure, and auto aperture. Your main settings can be switched to manual by setting your selector dial to ‘M’.
- You will need to change your aperture and white balance inside of menus inside your camera.
- If you forget to put one of these in manual, you run the risk of having images that are not compatible for merging.
You need a tripod:
- Whether you purchase a cheap tripod or an expensive tripod depends solely on the environment you will be shooting within.
- The goal is to have a steady camera during your exposures, which may run as long as 30 seconds.
3 is good, 5 is better:
- The minimum number of images for making a HDR image is 3, but the more images you have the more information you are recording.
- I prefer to capture 5 images, which allows me to capture images in the range of -2, -1, 0, +1, +2. Depending on your computers power and memory, you may be able to photograph more.
Do not over-do it:
- Photoshop and other programs allow you a large amount of latitude when editing your images. Some of the newer HDR images are pushing the limit with creativity by making an unrealistic looking scene.
- It is fun to play with certain types of images this way, but in the commercial market, the closer you can get your image to appearing real, the better your clients will accept you.
Once you have captured your images, you can use a number of different programs to merge them together.
The most recent version of Photoshop is a bit behind the curve in terms of HDR. It will merge your images for you but is limited outside of that.
I personally prefer Photomatix Pro ($99.00 on amazon.com) and believe that the results are superior to any other software currently on the market.
Now that you have the knowledge to get started, pick up your camera equipment and start testing out your newfound abilities.
Just remember, a boring subject will always be a boring subject, even in HDR, so find something interesting to take images of.
How To Photograph Storm Clouds
Many times, when people encounter a storm, they feel one of two emotions, excitement, or fear. I am one of the people who get excited when a storm is about to come in.
The sky does some amazing things before, during, and after a storm and it can be very unpredictable.
Because storms are unpredictable, it is important to know what you are getting into before you undertake this type of photography.
There is much more at stake than the damage of your equipment as a bad storm can be dangerous to you as well.
Below are some tips for successful storm/sky photography:
- Packing light is not just good for helping you to move faster, but it also eliminates a lot of expensive (and often times metal) equipment that you are attached to.
- Packing your DSLR, a wide-angle lens, a normal range lens, and a tripod are just about all you need in this situation.
- Packing more than this opens up the risk of damage to more equipment and only slows you down if you need to leave in a hurry.
Filters are cheap:
- A big part of most storms includes a fast moving wind. Stronger winds will pick up everything from small pieces of dirt and sand to roofing tiles and trees.
- While a filter will not stop a tree from destroying your camera gear, putting a clear or ultra-violet filter on the front of your lens will reduce the chance of you having to replace the lens in the event it is struck with sand or debris.
You are going to get wet:
- No matter how hard you try to stay dry, you are going to end up getting wet.
- More importantly is having the knowledge that your gear can, and most likely will end up wet.
- To minimize the damage, the purchase and use of rain sleeves will save you a lot of heartache and money.
Tripods are a Necessity:
- Storms have a tendency of getting dark at a rapid rate and you will need a tripod to take those spectacular photos without the camera shaking.
- If the wind is too strong, not even a solid tripod will prevent camera shake. At that point, it is best to find some way to shield the camera from the wind without risking your safety.
- Remember, you never want to stand next to, or under something, that could possibly be struck with lighting or fall over.
Use a Program Mode:
- I will probably be beaten up for saying this, but the amount of light during a storm changes faster than you can adjust your camera.
- I wouldn’t recommend using Aperture Priority mode or Shutter Priority mode based on what you are attempting to photograph. Attempting to make changes for your shot may end up costing you the shot.
Take your time:
- Some of the best photographs happen before and after a big storm.
- If a storm looks like it is going to hang around for a couple of days, then by all means move on, but if it is going to be a short thunderstorm, stick around for a while and see what you get.
- The colors after a storm are often saturated and are perfect for photography.
After everything is said and done, know your limits and the time to leave. There is nothing to be gained from getting hurt or having your equipment destroyed.