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The Complete Photographer Message Board › HDR Photography for Holiday Lights (at Deerfield)

HDR Photography for Holiday Lights (at Deerfield)

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Guy H.
user 7900969
Group Organizer
Dallas, TX
Post #: 37
It is getting closer to our December 5th field trip. Five pictures from our last trip are posted in the "20131210 Holiday Lights" album. They are examples.

I learned a couple things by reprocessing those images.

1. All of the HDR sequences were seven images with 1-1/3 EV spacing. That adds up to 7 * 1.33333 +12 = 21.33333 EV between the brightest lights and the shadows. That 12 EV camera dynamic range assumes ISO 100. That was my downfall. For some of the scenes, that may have been a little short. More below. This year I will try 2 EV spacing and take a second sequence 1 EV higher for a total of 14 exposures.

2. It has been only two years but the software is much improved. Lately my favorite is HDR Expose 3 which arrived late last summer. The HDR developer modules producing the 32 bit files have improved and tone mapping is much improved. Photomatix has a beta out for free download which shows promise. Not certain what Nik / Google is doing. Their software does appear to work with Lightroom but fails in Photoshop CC.

What we will need:

1. Tripod
2. Remote shutter release
3. Extra batteries
4. Extra EMPTY memory cards
5. A Wide Angle Zoom lens. All the pictures in the gallery were taken with a 16-35mm (20-45mm effective with crop factor) zoom.

Modern cameras have an EV latitude of 12 EV AT ISO 100. This sensitivity is degraded at higher ISOs. Do some tests before our trip to characterize your camera. Consult the DXOMark Camera Database. This database is a very valuable reference for both cameras and lenses.

For instance, I used a 1D Mark IV. A grand total of 29 pictures in two sequences were at ISO 100. My patience was short lived because the longest sequence was an excruciating 25 seconds. At ISO 100 the camera did have a 12 EV dynamic range.

So the ISO was increased to 800. The longest shutter speed dropped to 5 seconds. But looking at DXOMark, the dynamic range dropped to 11 EV. Still not bad.

But as the evening wore on and as the rain increased the ISO was pumped up to 10,000. Maybe that wasn't so good. Although the longest exposure dropped to a reasonable 1/15th second the dynamic range dropped to only 8 EV. That is undoubtedly why I didn't have enough dynamic range with blown out highlights in some of my images. I should have taken more pictures with a larger spacing!

The sensor of the 5D M iii is somewhat better. At ISO 10000 the dynamic range is 9 EV rather than only 8 EV. But it is best to keep the ISO less than 3600 on modern cameras - or take more pictures. Check DXOMark for your camera sensor characteristics!

For the older cameras with only 3 instead of 7 settings, the routine is to:

At ISO 100: (12 EV Camera dynamic range)
1. Establish the fastest speed where there are no blown out highlights using +- 1-1/3 EV spacing.
2. Step down the shutter speed 4 stops (EV) or 12 clicks in 1/3 EV steps
3. Take another Sequence
4. Repeat Step 2 & 3 two times (9 images)
5. Don't forget to step back 6 stops (EV) or -24 clicks to take the next sequence.

At ISO 3200: (9 EV on a 7D)
4. Repeat steps 2 & 3 three times (12 images)
5. Don't forget to step back 12 stops (EV) or -36 clicks to take the next sequence.

Don't forget the mirror lock-up function for exposures between 1/30 sec to 1/2 seconds. Rapid fire will not work with mirror lock-up enabled. But live view automatically locks up the mirror. Rapid fire works in live view! I use live view for all HDR sequences on a tripod.

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