Archive for the 'HDR Photography' Category

Five Essential Elements to Mastering Photography:

PinExt Five Essential Elements to Mastering Photography:

This is an article I was originally asked to write for Professional Photographer Magazine, a good read – The problem was that editing department hacked it up so badly that it was barley even my words anymore. Such is life, but I opted to not have it published. Below is the full version of the article with a few extras since I didn’t have a word limit here. Enjoy – Gavin Seim

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I’m going to share a few things that can fundamentally change how we make images. NONE of them are new -  Sometimes it seems we arrived at digital and left behind a hundred and fifty years of photographic knowledge. I spend a lot of time studying classic techniques. Why? Because it’s not new – It’s time tested. It works. In this digital age we can get so caught up in gadgets, software and tools that we neglect how to make images beautiful from the start. I’m from the digital generation – So while I fully relate, I’ve learned to stop looking for buttons and start looking for light.

1. The Tones:

Ken Whitmire once taught me that “Tone” may be the least understood and least utilized factor in composing and finishing images.” He was right. With digital it’s easy to think “that’s easy”. But as a lover of film and digital, I’ve learned they’re not so different. A great photograph is light and shadows – We must see in terms of tone and how it relates to what we want to capture. Exposure, burning, dodging, finishing  – Proper use of tone can literally take the viewer anywhere we want them to go. Now that’s power.

Ken Whitmire by Gavin Seim 500x600 Five Essential Elements to Mastering Photography:

Ken Whitmire on the Oregon coast – I photographed this portrait of him while he was photographing a family. The Tone is essential here. Control of the dynamic range while retaining rich blacks gives balance to the scene.

2. The Zones:

2. Zones 2 600x56 Five Essential Elements to Mastering Photography:

The Zone Scale – A representation from black to white in one stop increments. The language of light.

I’ve been trying to decide how to discuss Ansel Adam’s Zone System in few words. Zones may be the most neglected tool in photography today. They offer a core to how we communicate and photograph light. Zones are not just for film or black and white. Once you truly understand them you never see the same again. The Zone System is broad reaching. But it’s core is the beautify simple Zone Scale, a representation from black to white. Combine Zones with a simple understanding of metering and there is no over, or under exposure. There’s only your exposure. Your intent. I can’t explain it all here, but there’s a free video covering the basics that I posted over at exposedworkshop.com. It’s an excerpt from my EXposed series and will get you started. Don’t ignore Zones because they will change your photography. You can also read my article on using Zones here.

Big Bend National Park Hot Springs Five Essential Elements to Mastering Photography:

Lost Oasis – I was using large format film here and took advantage of camera movements. Line, tone, space and position were all critical and while in retrospect there’s things I could have improved, taking my time paid off. I took in the full tonal range from black (Zone 0) to just shy of clipping (Zone 10). More on this image here.

1 Zones 1 600x403 Five Essential Elements to Mastering Photography:

The Zone System – Here is an exposure sequence metered on the highlights from Zone 1 to Zone 9. More on this in the Zone System discussions on my site.

3. Space, Position, Line:

Ken Whitemire, the pioneer and master of the wall portrait, showed me the value of tones in relation to space, position and line. He has an amazing lecture he gives about this at the Wall Portrait Conference each year – Essentially we need to think about the aesthetics of our image. For this reason I love studying masters like Bierstadt, Sargent and others. We must start by truly seeing our scenes. Think about the subject. How lines lead. Where are they positioned? Why? Is anything distracting? Should it be lighter, darker? Really – Truly – See!

River Portrait Gavin Seim 600x500 Five Essential Elements to Mastering Photography:

Morgan’s Song – I had a lot of things happening in this riverside portrait. Controlling the aspects of the scene, the position and the tone allowed me to show a beautiful scene while still keeping the viewers eyes on Morgan.

4. Visualize – Again:

Are you really “seeing” in the minds eye? It’s easy to let this slide in an age of instant previews and post production fixes. But nothing replaces visualizing. Ansel reminds us that “The whole key lies very specifically in seeing it in the mind’s eye”. Regardless of our subject, we must stop, if only for a moment. See what’s in front the lens and decide what the subject needs. Then use space, position, line and tone to make that happen.

Mission Ridge Portrait Five Essential Elements to Mastering Photography:

This was my turning point in visualizing. I used 4×5 film for this wall portrait that we printed at 40 inches. I needed to keep away the distractions in the space. I only used one frame of color film, but I took a breath first. I truly saw the portrait in my mind before I released the shutter. I’ve added a zone scale for the purpose of tone study.

 5. Finishing:

The image is captured. Win lose or draw we’ve done it. I’ve learned that slowing down throughout the entire process makes me a far better craftsman. That includes finishing. It’s easy to raise the bar in post if we stop worrying about making countless “decent” images and start thinking about how to take the “best” and make them sing. Fulfill that visualization, right up until the print is on the wall. That is mastering the photograph.

Until next time… Gavin Seim

Seattle at Night Gavin Seim Five Essential Elements to Mastering Photography:

This image was a PPA Loan Collection print in 2011. It’s actually a tone-mapped piece, but more importantly, it had careful attention to detail. Focus on line, tone values and finishing made it work. Planning and execution.

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EXposed Videos Will Having You Seeing Light Like Never Before.

PinExt EXposed Videos Will Having You Seeing Light Like Never Before.

It seems the months of work were worth it. It’s finished and the new EXPosed series is  now available as a download or a DVD. It’s like no workshop you’ve seen and it can take your photography to a whole new level. But rather than listen to us chatter on, just take a peek at the trailer. EXposed is as good as it looks and it’s finally available. Don’t forget to use code PPS when you pick up your copy. It will save you 15%.

EXposed – The Light Workshop

Tone Control – Focusing Your Light

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kylie details 399x600 Tone Control   Focusing Your Light

The Forest Pool - In this split, we see the base toneapped merge and the final edited burns, dodges and detail work side by side. Not all images are this extreme, but tone control used well will always give your image that finishing touch.

by: Gavin Seim. Tone mapping and image processing without tone control is like having a lens without focus. It’s nothing new. Good shadows & contrast make an image. Without them we often get what I call the Flickr HDR. And trust me, you don’t want that ;)

Leveraging tone to keep the subject the subject and the supporting cast, supporting, is critical. Good tone control is what separates the men from the boys in the world of imaging and we can’t talk about it too much. I think we sometimes get distracted with the latest techniques. But generally they’re not really that new. They’re just new ways of doing things people have done on film for decades. Take HDR. On film, every image you made was HDR if you managed your light and processing well.

So then HDR. It’s not a style and it’s not judged on how many images you use, or whether you tonemap in Photomatix or Nik. It’s simply the management of a high range of light. You can do that with film, layers, tonemapping, channel mixing, brushes or in the camera.

In this example of a three exposure tone mapped image, you can see how much work I had to do to reign in the tone values. A tonemapped merge shows this more than a single file would. It tends to push everything to mid tones. After which, those tones have to be managed. Either that or you have mid-tone chaos. This is one reason I often manage dynamic range manually with layers, rather than tonemapping, but both are fine as long as you have a plan.

What I’m getting at is that an image must have a subject. Just one. Everything else needs to support that and it doesn’t matter if you have a single RAW or a tonemappped HDR with loads of range. Tonal control helps the eye focus. Without that focus you’ll nearly always have an image failure.

I’ve studied tone for years now with the legendary Ken Whitmire and even more on my own. It’s taught me to see light. Not simply that there is light. But what it’s doing for me. I see a lot of potentially great images that fail without any tone control. It generally means no cohesive subject. No one is talking much about tone. But if you do it right, the viewers eye is lead right to the subject, every time, no matter how many elements are in the scene.

Using the Zone System really helps with this as it quickly teaches you to manage tones better and make things as good as they can be in camera. See this article. On the editing side often a burn & dodge, brushes, or layering of lighter and darker frames makes the diffence. The bottom line is that while there is no rule on how we control tone, it must be done if we want a focused image that draws the viewers eye and showcases our subject.

This is something I go into at great length in my Lights & Shadows workshop and my EXposed DVD. But the main thing is to keep working with it. Cameras, the latest software and the latest techniques are useful things to study. But tone control is timeless and is never superseded. Without it we can expect our images to fail or to be little more than snapshots. Every time.

Happy tones… Gavin Seim

Seim  1 600x366 Tone Control   Focusing Your Light

King of the Valley - Valley of the gods Utah, Spring 2012. A gentle tone controlled single exposure. See more of Gavin's American Pictorials on f164.com

PPS Podcast #84 – Bangs To the MAX or Golden Beauty Flowing Everywhere.

PinExt PPS Podcast #84   Bangs To the MAX or Golden Beauty Flowing Everywhere.
gavin 4x5 high 730x406 600x333 PPS Podcast #84   Bangs To the MAX or Golden Beauty Flowing Everywhere.

A photo by Pro Photo Show listener Jason Eldridge of Gavin working with 4x5 during Imaging USA.

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Today’s Panel... Gavin SeimGokhan CukurovaDennis ZerwasJonathan Bielaski - Mark Tesky.

Gavin and the panel round off the first quarter of 2012 with the hot news and happening from the photo world and digging into discussion on how we can raise the bar and get more profitable in a crowded industry.

PPS #84 Extended Forum Discussions Here..

Main Time Indexes:

  • 00:00 Introductions.
  • 04:55 MK3 vs D800 News.
  • 23:20 Lightroom 4 and CS6.
  • 40:03 The video side of it all.
  • 47:44 EXposed and trip overview.
  • 50:44 Instagram and social stuff.
  • 1:07:30 LRound. Being the Best We Can.
  • 1:27:20 Picks and gadgets of the month.
  • 1:47:50 After show and our title inspiration ;)

News..

LR4 is here. Overall we like it.
Creative Suite CS6.

Black Magic Design Cinema.

5DMK III is good. So is the Nikon D800. You decide. And check out the value of the D3200.

A pack of free LR develop presets for video.

Getting Beyond the Digital File – The Missing Link
Resolution and Printable size.
Learn What the Nail Does Before You Start to Hammer.

Are you still using 500px.com

Pixoto is another interesting one with cash prizes.

A comparison of the Super Moon.

Continue reading ‘PPS Podcast #84 – Bangs To the MAX or Golden Beauty Flowing Everywhere.’

Stunning HDR Time Lapses – Using Robotics.

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time lapse rig1 600x400 Stunning HDR Time Lapses   Using Robotics.

A photo of Tanguy's motion control rig. More below.

by Gavin Seim: As an HDR nerd and teacher I’m not easy to impress. But this did it. Tanguy Louvigny. did this really stunning sequence of HDR time lapses and really nailed it on various levels. First, as an dynamic range guy, I really admire how the process he used in Photomatix is balanced and didn’t go for that way over the top tonemap process.

Next he managed the motion using his own rig made with Tetrix robotics, and controlled it with Mindstorms Brick (actually a Lego product), then programmed it in Robot C. Impressive indeed. You can see more photos of his rig here.

His result for all this was a really stunning body of time lapse work. I hope to look closer at the system that he used for his rig. It seems there’s some possibilities there. You can also read a bit more on picturecorrect as they did a little interview asking Tanguy some detail questions.

All in all it’s quite impressive. Watch the video below and check out his site. And since we’re on the HDR topic, I’ll throw in a shameless plug  and add that if you want to learn more about capturing and processing HDR, check out my HDR Magic video training series... Gav

Here’s a forest series he did using the same setup. Continue reading ‘Stunning HDR Time Lapses – Using Robotics.’

Pro Photo Podcast #81. LIGHT & ZONES.

PinExt Pro Photo Podcast #81. LIGHT & ZONES.

zone system 1 Pro Photo Podcast #81. LIGHT & ZONES.

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itunesbadge Pro Photo Podcast #81. LIGHT & ZONES.

Today’s Panel... Gavin Seim (G Pixel).

Today Gavin goes in depth on light, zones, meters and making images come out the way we want them, every time. Foregoing long errata and going straight to analysis of using light and Zone to control the results of our images. Lets jump in.

Podcast #81 forum discussions:

Main Time Indexes:

  • 00:00. Quick News.
  • 03:55 Visualizing and Zones essentials.
  • 09:47 Working the Light. Our scenario.
  • 20:00 Editing and fulfilling the visualization.
  • 33:03 Light does not always cooperate.
  • 39:35 The break. Silver Shadows 2, iUSA etc.
  • 42:40. A light recap.
  • 44:45 Using Light meters.
  • 50:40. Wrap up. What we can do with light & Zones.
  • 58:00 Pick and closing.

Links to things we mentioned.

ad ss slim Pro Photo Podcast #81. LIGHT & ZONES.

The new Silver Shadows 2 black and white Lightroom presets.

Continue reading ‘Pro Photo Podcast #81. LIGHT & ZONES.’