"I Hate HDR" and "I Teach HDR the Right Way"

Natural-looking HDR image.

I teach HDR on most of my workshops. The next HDR workshop will be in Atlanta, GA later this month. We'll shoot at Old Car City and the Southeastern Railway Museum. Great fun!

Want to have some fun? Do a web search on "I hate HDR." Tons of pages will come up.

 In that search you will find a photographer who says, "I teach HDR the right way."

As my dad used to say, "To each his own." I say, "Why hate anything?" And, my take on teaching HDR - or creating HDR images - is that there is no "right way" and no "one way."

Natural-looking HDR image.

Natural-looking HDR image.

It's all personal, like all art.

Some folks like realistic-looking HDR images, such as the image above, while others like super-saturated images with the grunge look, like the images below. 

Super-saturated HDR image.

Super-saturated HDR image.

I don't teach HDR the right way, I simply teach it my way - which covers creating all types of HDR images.

The HDR program I recommend most is Photomatix from HDR soft. You can save 15% on Photomatix when you use this code - ricksammon - upon checkout from the HDR soft web site.

Here is post I did on the latest version of Photomatix. The above image is from that post.

One tip I do offer when it comes to HDR: The subject often suggests the HDR effect. For example, you probably want a natural-looking HDR image for a landscape, while the super-saturated/grunge effect may look good on a photo of an old car.

Magic Beach Motel, St. Augustine, FL.

Magic Beach Motel, St. Augustine, FL.

As with all your photography, I say follow your heart. Or as Ginger Baker wrote, "Do what you like."

South East Railway Museum near Atlanta, GA.

South East Railway Museum near Atlanta, GA.

If you want to get good at HDR, put yourself in a very high-contrast situation: shoot indoors and get details inside and outside. If you can see into the shadows and if your highlights are not blown out in your final HDR image, you are on your way to creating a good HDR image - your way. The image directly above illustrates that technique.

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All my 2016 photo workshops are listed on my 2016 Workshops page.

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One-Hour Canon EOS 5Ds Shoot: Making “Images with Impact”

Click images to enlarge.

When I teach a photo workshop, I begin by asking each participant, “What is your goal?” I ask that all-important question because setting a goal is important if you want to get a high percentage of good images.

Different photographers have different goals. I thought I had heard ‘em all, until a few years ago. One of my workshop participants, Gary Potts from Las Vegas, Nevada, responded, “I want to make images with impact.”

I helped Gary (a very good photographer by the way) achieve his goal. Gary, like many of my photo workshop participants, helped me, too. Now on my photo workshops, I often give the assignment: make images with impact.

Guess what? I often give myself that same assignment. That is what I did when I spent about an hour with Gary and my wife Susan at Techatticup, Nevada during Photoshop World 2015.

Here are my favorite images from the shoot, along with camera/lens info and some suggestions for making images with impact.

1) Opening Image - Alter time. When we alter time, but using a very fast or very slow shutter speed, we remove some of the reality from a scene. When we remove some of the reality, an image can have more impact. In the opening image for this post, I altered time by applying the Radial Filter/Zoom in Photoshop to the sky area of my photograph. That filter created the impression that my exposure was several minutes long (needed to blur very slow moving clouds), when in fact it was 1/200th sec.

To alter reality even more, I applied the Duplex Filter in Nik Color Efex Pro, which added a painterly-look to the image.

Info: Canon EOS 5Ds, Canon 14mm lens.

2) Above – Shoot HDR. I teach HDR on all of my photo workshops. When I teach HDR, I stress the importance of capturing the entire dynamic range of the scene: from the darkest area to the lightest area. This image was created from a seven-exposure set of RAW images. (Bracketing with 5Ds is quick and easy.) Notice how you can see into the shadows yet the highlights are not blown out. I used Photomatix (my #1 recommended HDR program) to create my HDR image. You can get a discount on Photomatix on my Plug-ins page.

Info: Canon EOS 5Ds, Canon 14mm lens.

3) Above – Get Up-Close-and Personal. If you want the person looking at one of your images to feel as though he or she was right there with you when you took the shot, shoot close to the main subject. Wide-angle lenses let us shoot close, the wider the lens, the closer you can get and still get good depth-of-field.

Wide-angle lenses also let you get everything in the scene in focus, which is how a scene looks to our eyes. The combination of shooting wide and close, and getting everything in the scene in focus, can produce an image with impact. And yes, the dramatic sky in this image, as well as the sky in the follow image, helps to create an image with impact . . . but remember: it’s the way the sky is captured (with a super-wide angle lens here) and processed that adds impact.

This is an in camera HDR (0 EV, -2 EV and +2 EV) image. For this and the following in-camera HDR image, I chose the Art Vivid mode.

Info: Canon EOS 5Ds, Canon 14mm lens.

4) Above – Go Ultra Wide. Following up on using wide-angle lenses, if you want an image with impact, going ultra wide can help. Ultra wide-angle lenses not only help us capture extra wide areas of a scene, but they also bend light and subjects in a cool and interesting way, which can produce an image with impact, as illustrated by the way the clouds are dramatically captured in this in-camera HDR (0 EV, -2 EV and +2 EV) image.

There is something else about this image that creates an image with impact: incredibly sharp detail, which is a testament to the capture quality of the camera’s 50.6 MP image sensor. And speaking of the camera's capabilities, the in-camera HDR is awesome.

Canon 5Ds, Canon 14mm lens.

 5) Above – Combine Techniques. This image combines a few image-with-impact techniques: shooting HDR (Photomatix again), going ultra-wide (Canon 15mm lens), getting it all in focus, adding some texture and color in Nik Color Efex Pro, and having an interesting subject, which of course helps us create an image with impact.

Info: Canon 5Ds, Canon 15mm lens.

6) Above – Use Plug-ins. Plug-ins can help create images with impact. Plug-ins can also help us awaken the artist within. I used the BuzSim filter in Topaz Simplify (also listed on my Plug-in page) to create this painterly-quality image, which is a close-up of a section of the rusting truck in the vertical image above. Yes, shooting close-ups is also a technique for creating images with impact, especially when you fill the frame with color and detail.

Info: Canon 5Ds, Canon 24-105mm IS lens.

If you want more tips, tricks and techniques for making images with impact, as well as some image-processing techniques, check out my latest (and 36th book), Creative Visualization for Photographers.

If you like photographing old cars, check out my Capture the Classics workshop in Atlanta (where I took this image) later this year. Good fun in an awesome location.

If you can’t make a photo workshop, check out my KelbyOne on-line classes.

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Now Available: Master Landscape and Seascape Photography

My latest on-line class - Master Landscape and Seascape Photography - is here!

Click here to see a free preview (Black-and-white photography).

Introductory offer for blog readers! Use this  code - landscapes - to save $10 on the $29.99 class.

The one-hour seminar (like taking a private lesson from me in your home) is a narrated keynote slide presentation that includes more than 225 images and tons of tips gained from my travel to almost 100 countries.

The seminar is actually two seminars in one: a landscape/seascape/coastal photography seminar and a travelog. You'll learn how to photograph from dawn to dusk - and you'll get some ideas on where you can make some awesome landscape and seascape images.

It's a learn-at-your-own-pace seminar that you can stream or download and view again and again.

Got questions? Everyone who attends/views one of my seminars is a student for life. That means seminar attendees can email me questions for the rest of my life.

If you are new to my teaching style, here are some videos - on-line lessons that will help you with your landscape photography:
Composition - the strongest way of seeing.
Having fun with filters.
Lenses for landscape photography.
My camera settings vs. your creative vision.

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Here is the timeline for the class:
00:00 Introduction
01:50 Mood & Feeling 
02:43 Why We Photograph – Types of Images
05:56 Basic Concept: Get Everything in Focus
07:50 Basic Concept: Get a Good Exposure
10:05 Basic Concept: Separation
11:58 Basic Concept: Image Enhancements
14:21 Black-and-White Photography
19:14 Time of Day – See The Light
24:03 What If You've Only Got One Shot?
26:15 HDR
30:58 Storytelling With Lenses
33:36 The One-Lens Shoot
36:21 Close Ups
38:56 Stay in Shape
39:37 Blurring Water
41:31 Panoramas
45:54 Composition
49:41 Cropping
51:05 Filters
51.50 Sunrise and Sunset
53.46 Reflections
54.35 Thank you!

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During the class you will explore the following locations: Iceland, Holland, Death Valley, North Wales, Mt. Rainier, Goblin Valley State Park, Oregon Coast, Mono Lake, Antarctica, Alaska, Laos, Slot Canyons, Monument Valley and Bryce Canyon.

This is not just a slide show of pretty photographs. For each photograph I give a photography, location or digital enhancement tip.

I hope you enjoy the class - and please don't be shy about emailing me questions.

Click here to order the class.

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P.S. For more tips on composition, see my KelbyOne class, Composition - the strongest way of seeing

Casper "Old West" Photo Workshop Roundup: We made "not specializing" our "specialty"

Howdy Pardners,

I'm just back from my Old West Photo Workshop in Casper, Wyoming – organized by my friends at Wyoming Camera Outfitters. What fun we had making pictures, processing our images and making new friends. That's the way we do it on all my workshops.

Here's my roundup – photographs and tips – from the workshop. As you will see, I taught several different photo specialties: working with models (and horses), indoor lighting, composition, HDR imaging, action shooting, creative composition and landscape photography. We also covered image processing in Lightroom and Photoshop, as well as working with plug-ins.

As I told the workshop participants, "My specialty is not specializing. Try it, you'll like it!" Yes, they took my advice and all did a great job!

Okay, let's check out some images and tips.

Above: Wonder Bar. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 35mm f/1.4 lens. I used fast lenses in the Wonder Bar because I was shooting in relatively low light. Lighting: Three Westcott Spiderlites in soft boxes (diffusion panels removed for maximum illumination). Tip: Light the eyes and focus on the eyes, even when taking wide-angle shots. As a general rule, if the eyes are not well lit and in focus, you've missed the shot . . . unless you are looking to create a sense of mystery in the photograph, in which case the eyes can be hidden or closed.

Above: That's me shooting. We positioned the Westcoot Spiderlites, left and right, for fairly even lighting. A third Spiderlite was positioned off camera at the rear of the bar to partially illuminate the background. Photo: Carol Vipperman.

Above: Wonder Bar. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 28mm f/1.8 lens. Same Westcott lighting set-up as in the previous behind-the-scenes image. Tip: Look for separation when you compose an image. Notice how all the models – and the horse – are separated.

Above: Wonder Bar. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 70-200mm f/4 lens. Same Westcott lighting set-up that was used for the opening image in this post. Tip: Remove some of the reality from a scene by removing the color. When you remove the reality, an image can look more creative and artistic.

Above: Behind-the-scenes shot showing the lighting for the previous photograph. Tip: Set up your lights and leave them be. Then, move different subjects into basically the same position. That technique cuts down on the number of variables in making a photograph. Photo: Susan Sammon.

Above: Wonder Bar. Canon 5D Mark III,  35mm f/1.4 lens. Natural light. Tip: See eye-to-eye and shot eye-to eye – so that the person looking at your photograph relates to the subject.

Above: Wonder Bar. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 35mm f/1.4 lens. Natural light and Westcott Flex daylight-blanced LED Light Panel. Tip: Balance natural light with added light to make a shot look like a natural light shot.

Above: This behind-the-scenes shot shows the making of my "Cowgirl with Guitar" photograph. The Westcott Flex daylight-blanced LED Light Panel was positioned to illuminate the subject's face. Photo: Susan Sammon.

Above: Fort Casper. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 24-105mm IS lens. Lighting: Rick Sammon Light Controller and Tote (which features a reflector and diffuser) by Westcott. Tip 1 (left): Use a reflector and/or diffuser to compress the brightness range of a scene. Tip 2 (right): Get the subjects involved in the shoot - and the fun.

Above: That's Canon's Cal Ellis (left) helping me control the light for the workshop students. Photo: Susan Sammon.

Above: Fort Casper. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 70-200mm f/4 lens. Tip: Pay attention to shadows. Shadows are the soul of the photograph.

Above: Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 70-200mm f/4 lens. ISO 10,000. Tip 1: Shoot for the peak of action. Tip 2: Don't be afraid to boost your ISO. It's much better to get a sharp shot with a bit of noise than a blurry shot with little noise. One of the reasons I use the Canon 5D Mark III is the relatively low noise at ISO settings. When I have noise, I reduce it with Topaz DeNoise, listed on my Save on Plug-ins page.

Above: Junkyard outside of Casper. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 14mm lens. Seven-stop, hand-held HDR image processed in Photomatix. Tip 1: Want to master HDR? Learn how to shoot from inside to outside - where the contrast range is extreme. Tip 2: Process your HDR images in Photomatix. Click here to get a discount on Photomatix. 

Above: Junkyard outside of Casper. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 14mm lens. Seven-stop, hand-held HDR image processed in Photomatix. Tip: Have fun with HDR!

Above: Junkyard outside of Casper. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 24-105mm IS lens. Tip: Detail shots help to tell the story of a location.

Above: Backwards Distilling Company. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 24-105mm IS lens. Tip: Before you set up multiple lights, see what you can do with one light. The photograph above is a one-light photograph. To soften the image, I applied the Duplex filter in Nik Color Efex Pro.

Above: One of the advantages of using a constant light is that you can see where the shadows fall before you shoot. Tip: If you want an interesting portrait, don' light the entire subject.

Above: Backwards Distilling Company. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 24-105mm IS lens. Tip 1: When using mirrors, the background can make or break a shot. Tip 2: Focus carefully. Here I focused on the model's reflection in the mirror.

Above: Our simple lighting set-up for the previous photograph. I positioned the light for maximum illumination of the subject's face.

Above: Backwards Distilling Company. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 24-105mm IS lens. Tip: When it comes to composition, try this technique: The name of the game is to fill the frame. Of course, dead/negative space works, too. Learn more about composition in my KelbyOne class, Composition, the strongest way of seeing.

Above: That's my friend Dinty Miller, owner of Wyoming Camera Outfitters, assisting with the lighting. Like all the model shots taken at the Backwards Distilling Company, we used only one light to illuminate the subject.

Above: HDR at the Trailside. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 14mm lens. Tip: Make sure you capture the entire dynamic range of the scene when shooting HDR sequences. I needed seven exposures (three stops over and three stops under the average setting, in addition to the average setting) to capture the entire dynamic range of this high-contrast scene. Note the bright sky in the left of the frame. This image was also processed in Photomatix.

Above: Sunset on the range. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 24-105mm IS lens. Tip: When the sky is interesting, place the horizon line at the bottom of the frame, and vice versa.

Above: Late afternoon landscape. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 17-40mm lens. Tip: Use foreground elements to draw the viewer into the scene. For more landscape photography tips, check out my on-line class: Master Landscape and Seascape Photography.

Above: Range rider. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 70-200mm f/4 lens. Tip: Use AI servo focus (focus tracking) when photographing fast-moving subjects.

Above: Freemont Canyon. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 24-105mm IS lens This is one of my favorite reflection images from our Freemont Canyon shoot. Tip: When it comes to reflections, it's OK to place the horizon line in the middle of the frame.

Above: Freemont Canyon. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 24-105mm IS lens. Tip: Shoot close-ups of reflections, too. They make interesting abstracts.

Speaking of reflections . . . It's fun reflecting on the comprehensive (and intensive) workshop. It was not only a rewarding photographic experience, but a wonderful personal experience. I feel as though I have made new friends, for life. I will miss them all – until we ride again.

I hope to see you someday on a workshop

Shoot me an email if you are interested in my 2016 Caper workshop.

Explore the light,

What’s New?

My 36th book: Creative Visualization for Photographers.

... and

My on-line learning center, where you can download my e-books, including, Get Motivated and Stay Inspired.

The Making of My "Devil's Punch Bowl" Image

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I received several emails about the making of my Devil's Punch Bowl image, posted on social media a few day ago. For those who wrote, here ya go!

The image is one of more than 225 images in my new on-line class, Master Landscape & Seascape Photography.(Save $10 by using this code: landscapes.)

The image, taken on my Oregon Coast Photo Caravan Workshop, started out as a seven-stop HDR bracketed sequence. HDR was needed due to the extreme contrast range. The key was to take a sequence that captured the entire dynamic range of the scene.

I used my Canon 5D Mark III and Canon 17-40mm lens @ 21mm.

To get the entire scene in focus, I used my wide-angle lens, small aperture and focused 1/3 into the scene - a basic practice for getting max depth-of-field.

As usual, I processed my HDR sequence in Photomatix, the #1 program I recommend for HDR imaging. My goal: I did not want my HDR image to look like an over-cooked  HDR image.

HDR negatives can look a bit flat. To add contrast to my image, I used the Tonal Contrast filter in Nik Color Efex Pro.

I also "burned" the sky in the window in the distance. I also spent some time cloning out bootprints in the sand in the foreground.

To learn more about landscape photography, check out my on-line class, Master Landscape & Seascape Photography. Save $10 by using this code: landscapes.

I teach all this stuff on my photo workshops.

Explore the light,