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HDR and Panoramic Techniques for Landscape Photography

January 8, 2013

Harvesting the Past

Here is one of my most recent large panoramic images. I currently have prints of this made that are 50”x20” with acrylic face mounting and the result is really stunning, if I do say so myself 🙂 The file resolution is so large it could have easily been printed at twice the size and still retained the same level of detail.

The image was created from 126 separate exposures using a Canon 5D MIII camera. It is a two row panoramic image with each row made up of 9 slightly overlapping images (2×9=18). However, it is also an HDR (High Dynamic Range) image that was created by combining multiple exposures to retain detail in the shadows while holding back the highlights.  At each of the 18 different camera positions, 7 different exposures were taken (2x9x7=126).  Once the 126 images were loaded on to my computer, the real work began to create the image you see here.

If you are interested in all the details on how this image was captured and then all the details on how it was assembled and processed, then please check out this upcoming seminar being presented by The Camera Store in Calgary


Tilt Shift workflow adjustments for HDR photography

August 21, 2012

If you have not yet seen it, Darwin Wiggett and Samantha Chrysanthou have finally published their long awaited eBook on using Tilt-Shift lenses, The Tilt-Shift Lens Advantage. 

I had a chance to read the eBook and it is a great resource for anyone who owns or is considering owning a Tilt-Shift lens. It is a wonderfully detailed book with lots of great photos and explanations on all things tilted and shifted. I purchased my first Tit-Shift lens many years ago and was driven to purchase it after seeing the wonders Darwin was pulling off using one. They really are remarkable tools. I sure wish I had this eBook years ago when I was trying to learn how to use my tilt shift lenses. If you read the eBook you will understand how to use them very quick and be able to avoid the pains taking task of trial and error to establish your own understanding and workflow.

The eBook provides lots of examples and workflows. One of those workflows details how to take full advantage of the tilt feature to maximize the perceived depth of field or more precisely, how to match the plane of focus with the subject plane. The workflow is very good and very close to my own but if you use HDR in creating images, I would like to offer some amendments to the workflow that is presented by Darwin & Sam.

I find that first time TS users trying to set up for HDR bracketing stumble in the same area and I’ll explain what I do in those cases and hopefully you will find it useful. Starting on Page 34, Darwin and Sam outline 12 steps of their workflow for matching the focus plane by tilting. I’m not going to repeat the 12 steps here. You will have to purchase their eBook to find those. But when bracketing for HDR, there is typically no graduated filters used to even out the exposure. Therefore, you are presented with the challenge of trying to manually focus on two parts of the image where one is typically over exposed (i.e. mountain top or sky) and one is typically under exposed (i.e. close foreground).

As described in the eBook, you will want to note the correct exposure before titling or shifting the lens and will want to set that correct exposure using Manual Mode on your camera. For the HDR bracketing, this is the base EV 0 exposure. You need to remember this exposure.

The majority of the steps needed to match the focus panel to the subject plane involve switching back and forth between viewing a point in the foreground and a point in the background using Live View. As each point is viewed at 5x or 10x magnification, the focus and/or tilt is adjusted. This is fine when you can clearly see the foreground and background in Live View. But in most HDR applications, the EV 0 (no adjustment) exposure is going to have the foreground way under exposed and the background completely over exposed. It is not possible to manually focus on either the foreground or background using the EV 0 “correct exposure”.

Consider the two focus points shown in red in this EV 0 exposure below. In Live View, magnifying either of these points would present a problem for manually focusing.

Live View focus points in EV 0 exposure

My solution is to adjust the shutter speed temporarily while scrolling in Live View. But as mentioned, it is first very important to know and remember the correct shutter speed that was determined before the lens was tilted. When in Live View and scrolling towards the under exposed position of the image (i.e. foreground), I simultaneously lengthen the shutter speed (increase exposure time) such that I can see the area well enough to adjust the manual focus. Note that with the camera in Manual mode, I can adjust the shutter & aperture independent of one another – I’m only changing the shutter speed – the apature remains untouched

Lengthen shutter speed to view under exposed part of image

Similarly, while I scroll towards the over exposed position of the image (i.e. background), I simultaneously shorten my shutter speed as necessary so I can see the area well enough to adjust the tilt to bring the area into focus. This is then repeated as necessary.

Shorten shutter speed to view over exposed part of image

Once I have the focus and tilt set so that the plane of focus matches the subject plane, I return the shutter speed to the pre-tilt setting and expose the series of bracketed frames. You can think of this technique during focusing as pre-viewing your bracketed exposures where you might be viewing the foreground at EV +3 and the background at EV -3. After some practice, the adjustment of the shutter speed as you move the Live View point will become second nature.

Using this technique you can then be sure that the focus and tilt are correctly set to maximize the preserved depth of field in your HDR images.

The finished image is shown below. It used both the tilt and shift features of the Canon 24mm TS-E lens. Once the lens was tilted correctly and the first set of bracketed shots was taken, I then shifted the lens left and then right to take a second and third set of bracketed shots. The three sets of bracketed images were then processed in post, stitching first and then processed with HDR software.

Tilt Shift HDR image from Iceland

Oh, sorry, I forgot the mention…

July 9, 2012

If you follow this blog (there might be a few of you left), you know that the postings have been few and far between. That is because most of my more frequent updates/image posts have been made on my artist Facebook page.  I’m not a huge user of Facebook but I’m in the minority, so you have to go with the flow if you want exposure. So if you are looking for the latest news or to view some new images, please visit the Gemstone Images Facebook page and remember to click on “Like” to get updates. Moving forward, I will most likely only update this blog with technical postings of interest to fellow photographers.  I have one such update in the works, so stay tuned…

Busy, busy, busy…

February 19, 2012

Well, been shooting but not much blogging. But I will try to post some results here in on a more regular basis. Expect to see posts on new newborn work with antiques, some new abandoned places photos from German and some landscape shots from the Canadian Rockies. I’ll start with a newborn image created using a nursery scale that I really like.

Oloneo PhotoEngine

November 1, 2011

Here is the same photo as below, but this time it was processed with the Oloneo PhotoEngine. The PhotoEngine is a relatively new tool for HDR work that has some compelling features/interface advantages over other HDR tools. One of its most touted features is performance and the speed at which it can produce HDR results. Also nice is the ability to preview the images at 100%. The only disadvantage for me of using Oloneo PhotoEngine is that it is only available for Windows. I run my Windows systems under VMware Fusion on my Mac Pro, so switching back and forth between OS X and Windows is not a huge inconvenience. So far my Oloneo PhotoEngine experience has been positive.

Treasures in Taber

October 30, 2011

I had the privilege to meet and shoot with photographer Pat Kavanagh “The Kav” ( yesterday. He was kind enough to offer to show me around Taber, Alberta and more specifically, some of his favourite locations for photographing old abandoned vehicles. He certainly has found the mother load in terms of old car and trucks. It was a long day for me (up at 3:30am and back home at 9:30pm) but I did find time today to have a quick look through the images I captured. There are lots of them and I’ll get to them in the coming weeks. In the mean time, here are two images that I pulled and processed with my “Grungy” Lightroom preset. These are not HDR images but single images processed only in Lightroom (radical use of Clarity, Vibrance and Recovery) with one push of a button. I have used this preset (to varying degrees) in many of my abandoned urban landscapes. It certainly has a look that seems to be suitable for things old and left behind. Thanks Pat for a great day and don’t worry, I won’t mention the running shoe incident to anyone 🙂

And now for something completely different…

October 6, 2011


I know, I know, call me crazy but I agreed to shoot a wedding and survived.  I spent about two weeks planning for every contingency and sweating over all the details.  Gear was checked and double checked and to add to the stress, the wedding was about 3000km from my home.  If I forgot something, I would just have to make due.  Weather for the outside wedding was also a major concern and a rainy day would have dampened (pun intended) all my plans.  In the end, the weather was great and the wedding is pretty much just a blur. Many of my pre-planned images never happened.  I had to just rely on what I know and instinctively shoot.  I have done fashion and glamour work but this was different.  Weddings are a “strap in and hold on” photo shoot.

I’m now sorting and categorizing about 2500 photos with a heavy emphasis on separating the very best keeper from the masses.  It is a daunting task and very tedious at times.  So I just decided to take a break, convert two images I liked to B&W and do a blog post to keep myself sane.

Below are those two images.  The Bride has not seen any images yet but I know she will be seeing these soon (she subscribes to my blog) 🙂