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HDR for Beginners

High Dynamic Range Photography – this has been the debate basis the ever growing photographer community for the past few years now. HDR, as it is popularly known, is definitely gaining momentum; pictures taken using this method are regularly displayed in museums (Trey Ratcliff’s famous fireworks picture at the Smithsonian) and considered works of art. Then there are the DSLR snobs, people who believe that manual mode is the only way to go; if you use a photo editing software you are a scar on their perfect portrait, they noise police pictures and so on. My take on this is fairly straightforward I love HDR, I also use a lot of editing tools and 99% of the time I don’t shoot in manual mode. I am what you may term as the rogue community; please note this community is much larger than the DSLR snob community. I thought it would be a good idea to share my experience with HDR on this post; also have added a few tips in there so you can get started with HDR if you are already not an addict.

I happened to stumble on HDR by chance, a couple of years back when I bought my first camera. I was looking at tutorial videos online and just happened to catch a video showcasing HDR images, I was hooked from that point on. Unfortunately, I used a bridge camera then and hence could not really work on the technique. About a year ago, I bought my first DSLR – and that’s Tip 1 also, when buying a new camera, get one with a bracketing option it’s a must for HDR. Moving on, it’s been a year now and I do believe I have the basics down and am moving in the right direction basis the technique. Below are a few standard questions and answers which will get you started on this awesome technique:

1) What is HDR photography?

Putting it simply, HDR is a photography technique where images can represent more accurately the range of intensity levels found in real scenes, from direct sunlight to faint starlight. In normal English, it shows you what the eye see but with enhanced colours and lights.

2) Do I need a special camera for shooting HDR?

Not really, any camera will do, but it helps if your camera has a bracketing option.

3) What is Bracketing?

Bracketing is basically when you take pictures at multiple exposures. Most entry level cameras allow you to take 3 such pictures – normal, over and under exposed.

4) Do I need a special software for this?

Unfortunately yes, there are tons of them available in the market; I would recommend Photoshop and Photomatix for the same.

5) How do I get started with HDR?

The following is a simple guide to start using HDR in your regular photography. I have tried to keep it simple and easy to understand, but if you do have questions, please add them to the comments below. Start with setting your camera to multiple shots, then go to the bracketing option it will be listed as exposure bracketing in most cameras. Set the value to 2. This will take 3 shots at different exposures once you press the shutter down. If you are like me and your hand is not very steady, use a tripod. Another tip here: shoot in Raw mode, the flexibility raw images give you while editing is amazing. So now that you have your first images, what do you do next? Download the images on your PC and import them into Photoshop or Photomatix, you will have to use the bridge option in Photoshop and then select merge to HDR; in Photomatix, load Bracketed pictures will do the same for you. Now this will open Pandora ’s Box for you, I will briefly touch on Photomatix options here to give you an idea of what each does and how it will shape your pictures; in Photoshop the same happens but for some reason it is not subtle and images tend to look un-natural. This holds true for CS5… I have not yet used CS6. Note: this part of the tutorial only covers the first few options, I will be covering others in a more detailed post. The first options you will see once Photomatix merge options, you can align pictures here, remove ghosts and reduce noise. Once done the following options will show up:

Strength

Controls the strength of the contrast enhancements; a value of 100 gives the maximum increase in both local and global contrast enhancements.  I prefer this to be at around 80 as 100 makes certain colours bleed.

Color Saturation

Controls black and white to colour settings; the greater the saturation, the more intense the colour. A value of 0 produces a gray scale image and 100 pushes colour all the way up.

Luminosity

This controls how light or dark your highlights are in the image. Moving the slider to the right boosts shadow details and brightens the image. Moving it to the left has the opposite effect, and gives a more “natural” look to the resulting image.

Detail and Contrast

This is self explanatory; this will increase detailing and contrast giving your picture a smooth or a hard feel.

Lighting Adjustment

When you’re just starting, I would suggest you click the check box in this option and use the preset tools – natural for a natural look, surreal for a look which is more HDR like with Halos and medium for a combination of both.

Once you are done playing with these settings and happy with the image you have, select process and you will have your first HDR image. I hope to put up a more detailed article on HDR in the future, but the post above will get you started in a short period of time. I have put some HDR images on this post. These were shot during our recent Monsoon Roadtrip. One point of advice: first try HDR in the day time, night has its sets of challenges and you will need a lot more equipment to get it right. Like with everything, the more you practise HDR, the better you get at it. Do share your pictures with us via comments or on twitter. Enjoy shooting! Incase you’re wondering which camera I use?  Nikon D5100.

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Posted by on September 14, 2012 in Helmets & More

 

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My First Road Trip part 2

The next part of our awesome road trip was about 30 Kms from Pune, a small village known as Saswad, which houses an awesome Fort known as Jadhavgadh. We started our journey early, had breakfast at the Machan and got out buy around 9:30 am. The drive back to Lonavala took about half an hour considering the crazy fog, we also got lost in one of the by lanes, anyways we hit the expressway soon enough and made it to the outskirts of Pune in about an hour and a half. Here it gets tricky passing Pune and onto Saswad took a good 2 hours, crazy traffic and bad road. At a time even google Maps failed and we had to ask a cop for directions (surprisingly he looked and behaved like Manoj Bajpai). After a fairly crazy ride up a fairly broad ghat (Mountain) we reached our destination.

The first thing you notice about the fort is the people, they are all dressed in traditional Maratha outfits. Our welcome was accompanied by a blow of trumpets and a crazy beating of drums by a frenzied security guard, we also got the very firangi “tilak on the forehead” treatment. We quickly finished all the formalities and headed towards our room, please to note had booked a suite which was a surprise for the lovely Mrs. I was surprised by the room – it was big and had a large balcony with a crazy view – do check the image below for the view. We settled in and ordered food, some traditional chicken in coconut gravy with bread, the food was finger licking good. I would strongly recommend that you try the local cuisine in the Hotel; it’s absolutely to die for. After a quick siesta we moved towards the pool, the Mrs quickly jumped in, me on the other hand thought the water was a little too cold for my liking and hence went on to check the Fort.

The Fort is not very large, if you have been to Rajasthan it may almost seem like a Haveli what stands out is how well it has been maintained and how the entire Hotel has been built around it. The lawns surrounding the Fort are massive and make for some great bird and flower photography. I ended up spending quite a lot of my time taking pictures. Late evening we decided to head back to the room – post more chilling time we went for dinner – the dining room is pretty standard looks like something out of a clubhouse, but the waiter suggested that we dine at the balcony. This turned out to be a great suggestion as it was only us and the experience of eating there was amazing. The starter we ordered was something called Jadhavgadh ke Sholay (Fires of Jadhavgadh – loosely translated) a tandoori paneer dish; we ordered it basis the interesting name – not bad it was, for main course we ordered mutton for a change, a dish called Mutton Tambya Cha Rassa – hands down the best mutton dish we have eaten, the mutton was softer than the paneer, we finished the meal with an awesome Kulfi (local hand churned ice-cream).

Day 2 was pretty much filled with photography, swimming, dinning had an absolute blast, before I forget the Breakfast – absolutely amazing and they had a decent spread also; to give you an idea, my breakfast included muffins, breads, juice, cereal, poha, parathas, grilled veggies, juice, eggs to order and milk shake – I could not move for a few hours after that but totally loved it. Moving on, day 3 is when we left for Mumbai, again got out by about 10:00 am the drive this time was surprisingly fast, the roads were empty and we reached the expressway in about 40 minutes. From there on it was a 2 hour drive to Mumbai – we stopped at a Khopoli, did not feel like eating so had ice-cream and then drove on. Took about an hour 15 to get to home once we hit Mumbai, the little Ashoooooo as usual welcomed us (he also makes an appearance on our blog 🙂 All in all, our first roadtrip was kick-ass we had a blast stayed amongst trees and in a Fort, drove across some of the best roads in the country, could not have asked for more during our mini vacation.

 
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Posted by on September 4, 2012 in Trips & Rides

 

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My First Road Trip

Awesome View!!!

My first Road-trip! This was an idea me and Yooti (my wife) had been playing with for a while. This year we finally decided to put it to the test, our poison a short trip through Lonavala and Pune in Maharastra – the Mrs being an expert on off-beat vacations figured destination 1; a PondProperty called The Machan. This is a secluded property about 20kms away from Lonavala. I, to begin With, was very skeptical about going there (the place does not have TV or connectivity!!!); anyways, after much debate and discussion, finally decided to go there and the rest, as they say, is History.

Sensational!!!

The trip began with a few disasters. I was unwell to begin with; next, we drove to an ATM, tried withdrawing money but the transaction failed, Of course the bank conveniently sent us a text saying money deducted – this took an hour to sort. Then mad rains in Mumbai! We got stuck in a jam at Parel which would just not move; anyways, we weaved through that using the back roads of Wadala and got out of the city – took us an hour but better than what most people managed. By now, memories of a certain Goa trip were coming back in my head, but the awesome drive across the Expressway made me forget them.

Yayyyyyyyyyyy Open Roads

Tree House!!!

We finally reached Lonavala, managed to withdraw money and then go searching for booze, don’t get it…. any shit is expensive in Lonavala. Moving on, Yooti, my expert Navigator, guides me towards The Machan. Note here, the drive is awesome, the roads are not, it’s a single lane road and covered in fog during the monsoons, make sure all the lights in your vehicle are working. After passing Bushy Dam and a lot of naked people, we finally turned onto a dirt road and find destination 1 – The Machan.

Like I mentioned, I was skeptical about this, but as soon as I entered the property, I was absolutely blown away…….. the reception is built on a pond which overlooks the 25 acre area. We checked in and walked towards our tree house with some assistance from the very helpful staff, surprisingly we had to walk into the forest to get to our room.

Brilliant Property

Randomness!!!

Finally we climbed a spiral staircase and reached our Machan; the room was like something out of a Jim Corbett Novel – very rustic and absolutely in sync with the surroundings. We settled in and ordered some food. At this point I must mention if you ever visit this place, do order the spicy chicken chilli, it is the craziest dish ever…. full of masala and crazy hot. Anyways, most of my time at the Machan was spent photographing the brilliant landscape and property, and going on nature trails; a suggestion: travel with an extra pair of shoes, I got mine wet in the waterfall and they just don’t dry here!

Dinners are simple but the setting just takes it to another level…… a man made tent, fireplace and candle lights just hits all the right notes. About the TV bit, I thought I would not survive but I did not miss it much! I would highly recommend this place, it amazing, non commercialized and blissful. Do check some pictures we have put up of our stay around this post. If you have any other questions about the place, do write to us via comments below….from here we now move to our next destination Jadhavgard which we will cover in our next post.

Greenary!!!

 
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Posted by on August 30, 2012 in Trips & Rides

 

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Our First DSLR

It’s been a while since I wrote a post on photography; anyways, this post is about a DLSR that we picked up a few months ago.

Here is the story in brief – After months and months of contemplating and mental masturbation, we finally gave in and bought a Nikon D5100 DSLR. Before this purchase, we used to used an Olympus super zoom and a Sony Cybershot – this has been probably the longest debated purchase in our life – check the picture on the right, the camera looks pretty kick-ass. As soon as I bought the camera, I thought I was Yousuf Karsh – for people who don’t know who he is, Google/YouTube him – legendary photographer, shot some of the most iconic pictures of our time (Click here to view his work).

Moving on, the” Karsh feeling” crumbled in seconds as soon as I tried manual focus; could not shoot any image without it being blurry. At a point, my uncle and I started questioning the store owner, if the camera had an issue; finally figured that the lens has an option and quickly switched it to auto and then everything was fine. Rode home and realised the shopkeeper has removed the lens, struggled for about 15 minutes on that – finally saw a video on Youtube and figured it out (Thank God for Youtube and some awesome Tutorials). Intense studies followed basis the manual, online guides, etc. I think I got around to using the camera 2-3 days after actually buying it; by now I knew most of the important navigation buttons.  Like with most new things we buy, I started carrying the camera everywhere, (if you have read my earlier posts on mobile photography you know this is a obsession), made an effort to go on photo walks, try and take weird angle pictures and all that jazz, I would even walk up to people and ask permission to take their pictures – have put up some pictures showcasing my photography escapades in this post.

After about a month I realised that the lens I got with the camera was not good enough….. actually the kit lens was fine, it’s just that I am so used to a zoom lens, so after another month of mental masturbation I went and picked up the 55-300mm lens. Again that had its own learning curve, but adapted to it faster due to a comfort with using zoom features in my earlier camera (do note, still manual focus is a massive challenge). By now, I had started using photography jargon also: DOF, Shutter Speed, Aperture, Lighting Conditions and everything that one needs to convince themselves they are photography experts….

So what is the point of all this? A couple of things I would like to highlight here; nothing comes remotely close to a good DSLR – people will tell you a lot of things, will you use it regularly, too expensive and so on, but once you use a camera like that everything else feels sad. Personally, I think one needs a lot of commitment to actually see some results with a DSLR, an insanely expensive camera does not guarantee superb shots, like with anything you need to practise to get good at it. Some base level Photoshop understanding is required, purists can fight this, but generally all photographers use some amount of post processing. All the reading in the world will not get you practical experience – need to go out and shoot, after a while it will become a pain to lug the camera around but you need to make that extra effort. Be ready to spend money – these things are an addiction; have bought new lenses, a camera bag, automatic shutter control and a camera stand so far.

I try and take the DSLR on all my bike rides, have put up some pictures in this article and across the blog, but to be honest, sometimes it is just about riding, so photography takes a back seat, I do hope to use the video recording function on the camera to share some awesome trips on the blog. Till then, check out some shot using our new DSLR and do share any of your photography and Bike stories in the comments section below.

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Posted by on July 2, 2012 in Helmets & More

 

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