Take 5 in HDR . . . Sometimes

Above is one of my favorite HDR images. I use it in my seminars to illustrate the importance of capturing the entire dynamic range of a scene - taking enough exposures over and under the 0 EV setting to capture that range, as well as what happens when you don't.

The image above was created with Photomatix - with a touch of Topaz Adjust. You can save 15% when you order Photomatix by using this code: ricksammon. 

Above: Adobe Bridge screen grab that shows my five images from my HDR sequence. From experience, I knew I had to take that many exposures to capture the entire dynamic range of the scene.

Above: Adobe Bridge screen grab that shows three images from another HDR sequence. From experience, I knew the results would be poor, as illustrated below.

Right (3 exposure HDR) - look what happens where the shadows meet the highlights. The contrast range is too strong for a smooth transition. Also note that the rocks on the hill in the background are overexposed.
Left (5 exposures) - look what happens where the shadows meet the highlights . . . a much smoother transition. And check out those rocks in the background.

Now don't get me wrong. Sometimes, three exposures will do the trick perfectly - if the contrast range is not extremely wide. Just remember that the wider the contrast range, the more exposures you need to take. Sometimes, six, seven, eight or even nine exposures is required. And, sometimes two exposure will be enough. It's all about contrast.

For more info on HDR, see my app: Rick Sammon's iHDR.

Explore the light,

P.S. For a discount on the HDR programs I use, Photomatix and HDR Efex Pro, click here.

Gone Fishing - or something like that!

Hi Loyal DPE Podcast Listeners.

We are sure many of you are planning or taking your summer vacations. Well, guess what? We are, too!

We are taking off the month of August from podcasting.

We'll be back on September 1 with another great show - answering your questions and sharing interviews with top pros.

Have a great summer vacation.

Rick and Juan

P.S. Don't forget to send us your questions through our site! We are here to help you guys make better pictures.

Friday's Fab Photographer: Chris Klapheke

Today's Fab Photographer (a weekly feature here on my blog) is Chris Klapheke. Chis will be our guest instructor/presenter/food finder (he knows where to get the best burgers) on our December Bosque del Apache workshop. 

Take it away, Chris.
• • •

Break out the short lenses, it’s time for bird photography!

Wait, did I really write that?

I’m a bird photographer (when I grow up and get really good I’ll be an avian photographer) and I’m usually lugging around a 600mm with a big old tripod and gimbal head. Of course, I’ll get comments such as, “What magazine do you work for?” Or, “That sure is a big camera!”

The comment I get most from photographers is,“I’d love to be a bird photographer, but I just don’t have a long lens to use!”

Don’t sell yourself short.

Not all bird photographs are close up portraits of our feathered friends on a perch.  You can make stunning avian images with your short lenses, even your wide angle.  I like to call them “birdscapes”.

The key to making great birdscape images is to get yourself to a place where you can find both pleasing vistas and a large amount of birds.  We’re talking beaches, fields, large bodies of water and such.  Chances are your back yard just won’t do.  National wildlife preserves will be your best bet.

One of the nice things about shooting birdscapes, in addition to not having to haul around heavy lenses, is that you don’t have to hunker down in camouflage or in a blind, hoping you don’t spook your subject.  You do however, still need to get up early in the morning or stay late in the evening, for best light.  If you want birds in full view, keep the sun at your back.  For silhouettes, just the opposite.

Keep in mind that your best birdscapes will be filled with flying birds, so in addition to light, you need to pay attention to the wind.  Birds take off and land into the wind, so if you don’t want images of a bunch of bird butts, keep the wind behind you!

Most importantly, still bring your tripod.  You can get wonderful shots with long shutter speeds.

Mentally, think of the birds as an element of your landscape.  Still pay attention to landscape features—foregrounds, skies, mountains.  Add the birds to these features.

Blurs of birds in flight can give you a beautiful abstract feel.  Start with shutter speeds around 1/15th of a second and experiment.

Watch for birds on the ground while other birds are flying about.  Long shutter speeds here can give you a cool combination of static and blurred subject.


If your birds are all hanging out on the ground, you can still get some cool shots.  Try a “zoom blur”.  Clamp your camera and lens down on a tripod, and select a long shutter speed like 1/10th of a second.  Focus manually, then trip the shutter while you are twisting your zoom ring.  Fun stuff!

Want to get some images like these?  Most of the photographs in this post were taken at Bosque del Apache, just south of Albuquerque, New Mexico. I’m honored to join Rick and Juan Pons (an accomplished avian photographer) as an instructor in their Bosque Workshop.  The first workshop is sold out, so they’ve added another. 

In my day job, I’m the proprietor of Outdoor Photo Gear, an online store that sells all kinds of gear for the mobile photographer.  Please check it out here:  Outdoor Photo Gear.

I am putting together an accessory list for Bosque shooters. Soon come.

Like Rick, we also maintain an informative and fun blog.

You can visit my personal photo website at:  Chris Klapheke Photography.

Hope to see you in December at Bosque!

• • • 

Thanks, Chris!

If you'd like to read more about photographing birds, click here. And, let me know if you to come on my 2012 Alaska workshop with Hal Schmitt. Just shoot me an email.

Explore the light,

Seven Florida Digital Photo Events Coming in 2012

My Florida Photo Caravan begins with a special shoot: Horses on the Beach.
I have seven events schedule for January 2012. I hope you can join one . . . or two!

St. Augustine
Free Seminar - Exploring the Light
January 21 – 4 - 6 PM
Hilton Garden Inn
401 A1A Beach Blvd.
St. Augustine, FL
Register by email

Lots of birds to photograph at Merritt Island.
Four Florida Locations
Florida Photo Caravan
January 21 - 28 (Welcome Dinner for Workshop Group Only 7 PM)
St. Augustine, Merritt Island, Delray Beach, South Beach
Click here for info

Cool HDR photo opportunities in South Beach.
Ft. Laurderdale
Free Seminar - The Camera Looks Both Ways (People Photography)
February 1 - 7:30 to 9:30 PM
1350 East Sunrise Blvd.
Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Register by email

Master HDR on my workshop.
Delray Beach
Digital Delray Days
January 30, January 31 and February 3
Colony Hotel
595 East Atlantic Ave
Delray Beach, FL
Click here for info

Seminar and Workshop
February 4 - 5
See poster at the end of this post.
Click here to register.

Free Seminar. People photography: Lighting and Photo Philosophies
February 6
Get on the mailing list for info

Dave Cross Workshops
Sammon Speedlite and Lighting Shooting Sessions
 February 7 and 8
Get on the mailing list for info

I hope to see you in the Sunshine State. If not, click here for my other USA workshops.

Explore the light,

P.S. For my Florida Photo Caravan and Digital Delray Days, you need Photomatix or HDR Efex Pro. Get a discount here.

Thrusday's Travel Log: Ice Hotel, Quebec City, Canada

This is Part I in a new series I'm starting here on my blog: Thursday's Travel Log.

Destination: Ice Hotel (Hotel de Glace), Quebec City, Canada

Photo Tips:

• Photographing during the day and night.
• Bring your tripod for nighttime and indoor photography.
• Be prepared to shoot HDR - as the contrast range can be wide. Use HDR Efex Pro or Photomatix to Process your pictures. Get a discount on both HDR program on the Creative Plug-ins page of my blog.
• Bring your wide-angle lenses - the wider the better. The rooms are relatively small.
• Try to avoid harsh reflections on the ice.
• Keep extra batteries in warm in your jacket.
• Pack a polarizing filter to reduce reflections and to darken the blue sky and whiten the white clouds.

Here's the polarizing filter I use:
Hoya 77mm Circular Polarizer HD Hardened Glass 8-layer Multi-Coated Filter

Travel Tips:

• Call in advance to make sure the ice hotel is not a puddle. It's usually open between January 6th and March 25th. That's when it's cold enough to keep the ice from melting.
• Yes, you can sleep in the hotel, but you'll be much more comfortable in the nearby lodge.
• Have happy hour in the ice bar. Very cool, indeed.
• Dress warmly and pack good gloves. I use these gloves:
Lowepro - Gloves - black - Lycra, Thermax Large
• Good hiking boots will help keep you from slipping and sliding.

If you like travel photography, check out my workshops:
USA Workhops
International Workshops.

Explore the light,

P.S. I was supposed to sleep in the Ice Hotel. However, when I saw the look on the faces of the guests who had spent the night on the ice beds, I decided to keep cozy in the lodge.