A Different View of Mt. Rainier

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Mt. Rainier through the HUD on a B737-800
In 2002, I was fortunate to be flying as a Captain on a Delta Air Lines Boeing 737-800 which was one of the first airliners to have a “heads up display” (HUD) for the Captain. This HUD is a piece of glass that hangs in front of the pilot, near the windshield, and displays all of the necessary flight data, including altitude, airspeed, heading.  The beauty of this system is that it allows the pilot to fly the airplane much more precisely than with previous instrument systems.  Plus, he can do that all while continuing to look out the front windscreen.
This image shows Mt Rainier, in Washington state, not long after take-off from Seattle. The HUD shows that we were climbing through 10,980 feet at a true airspeed of 311 knots and a heading of about 118 degrees. The small double circle with the wings sticking out each side shows that our current flight path will take us above and to the right of the mountain’s peak. Of course, we will turn back on course before we get too close to the mountain.

I made this image with my first digital camera, the Canon D30.

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Spring Time in the Rockies

Spring time in Colorado brings snow and cold one day, and bright, beautiful spring flowers the next. These two images were both taken just 2 days after a spring snow storm blew through, dropping 10 inches of fresh snow in the foothills of Colorado.
Both photos were taken with the Olympus PEN E-PL1. For the top image I used my new Pansonic/Leica 25mm f/1.4 lens which I am really loving after just one day. As you can see, it gives great color and contrast and what I think is a beautifully smooth, soft bokeh. Plus, at f/1.4 it’s still sharp enough to give nice sharp photos and also allow you to hand hold in some very challenging low light situations.
For the bottom photo, I used the Olympus 14-42mm kit lens which continues to impress me with it’s sharpness and detail.

Bringing Out Dynamic Range in Lightroom 4

I’m still frequently surprised at how much dynamic range Lightroom 4 is capable of extracting from an image. I’m also pleasantly surprised at how good the images can be from the “older” Olympus PEN E-PL1, especially using the 14-42mm kit lens.

For comparison, you can check the image at the bottom of the post, and you can see the main adjustments on this screen capture from Lightroom 4. As you’ll notice, the four sliders below Exposure/Contrast did most of the work with a little help from Clarity.

What you can’t see are the settings from the “Adjustment Brush”. I just reduced the saturation a bit and then brushed over the areas of the trees and the deck to reduce the blue cast on the snow.

So, from a 1EV underexposed image, Lightroom 4 enabled me to bring out the shadows, control the sun, and get a “near” HDR look from this photo. Nice!

If you’ve got any tricks to share, please drop me a message.

Auto HDR with the Sony NEX-7

Sony’s newer cameras have been offering an in-camera HDR (high dynamic range) function.

When you select this “auto HDR” mode, you can also set the EV (exposure value) range from 1 to 6. This is a total range and not the spacing between each of the 3 images it will shoot. So far, I’ve just been using the 6 EV range and been quite happy with the results.

When this mode is selected, the camera takes 3 quick images with the proper over/under exposure values and then combines them, automatically, to produce an HDR image. One nice thing it also does is to save the normal exposed image in addition to the HDR. This allows you to have at least the normal exposure in  case you’re not pleased with the HDR.

At first, I was skeptical and then not particularly impressed with the output. The images had a flat look that seemed to lack contrast and color saturation. However, as I began to work with the HDR images, I found that just a bit of post processing could correct that. And, in retrospect, it actually makes sense. The HDR image was doing what it was supposed to do … i.e. save the highlights and shadows for you, such that the detail information was preserved.

In this sunrise image, the auto HDR worked great. It preserved the detail in the brighter clouds, didn’t allow the sun to be completely blown out, and also saved the shadow detail in the trees.

It seems, the more I use it … well, the more I use it. 🙂 What I mean by that is that as I become more adept at working with the HDR image it produces, I find I am more likely to use that feature. There’s really not much to lose – if the auto HDR doesn’t produce for me, I always have the normally exposed image to work with.

So, if you have an NEX-7, give it a whirl – I think you’ll like what you see!

Sony NEX-7 w/Sony 18-200mm OSS; auto HDR
Lightroom 4 (beta)

Redstone

Redstone, Colorado, is a tiny little town just a ways outside of Aspen. The whole town is only 3 or 4 blocks long and about 1 block wide, yet here is this sign showing directions to each little shop in town. Kinda cool, actually.

At one end of town is the Redstone Inn – a great place to spend New Year’s Eve. They throw a fun party there and serve a fine meal, too, all in a spectacularly scenic setting.

Fiery Dawn on Snowy Pines

A while back, I was treated to a spectacular, fiery sunrise the morning after a few inches of fresh snow softly coated the pines near home.

Here was a golden opportunity to try out some HDR (High Dynamic Range), using the Nikon D7000.  So far I’ve been thrilled with the results from this camera, finding it to produce very clean images with low noise at reasonable ISO’s.

One of the things I’m really liking is the ability to save settings to two of the positions on the mode dial:  U1 and U2.  I haven’t tried everything but I’m happy to report that you can save your AEB (bracketing) settings and even other positions on the mode dial.  For instance, when I select U1 now, the camera is set to the Aperture Mode and is ready to shoot 3 bracketed images with 2 EV spacing – quick and easy!

Once the images were downloaded, I used Nik’s HDR Efex Pro to create this image. In this case, I was only able to use two of my bracketed images and was surprised and pleased with the result.  HDR Efex Pro is a great addition to the software possibilities available for HDR work and gives you a good number of presets to choose from, plus it has Nik’s proprietary U-Point technology as one of it’s tools.