Photomatix ~ You get what you pay for.

I have been toying around with two HDR programs, the free HDRtist and a trial copy of Photomatix, which is arguably the best HDR program for the amateur/hobbyist. I have done several side by sides, using both jpegs and RAW format images. There is no doubt about it, Photomatix is so much better that I would be forever disappointed using the free HDRtist, knowing how much better my images could be with Photomatix. So I’ll suck up the cost for yet another photography gadget (refer to previous post about turning into my father) and shell out either $79 bucks for the Aperture plugin, or $99 for the full stand alone version. The Aperture plugin is cheaper and would be more convenient to use right from Aperture, but the extra $20 gets me features I would use, so I’ll probably buy the stand alone.

Here’s an experiment from earlier this morning, a difficult shot in a darkish area with lots of shadows, and I took 3 hand held exposures (so the software had to align them.) HDR lets you see what the eye can see and a camera’s single exposure cannot.

Update. After reading Linda’s comment, I thought I’d post the best regular exposure that my camera could take of this image. With many shadows, some areas will be overexposed and some under. This is where HDR (the above image) shines.

The NUT doesn’t fall too far from the tree

My eFriend San Diego Momma Deb recently wrote an interesting post about her father. She proudly described his many virtues, and her feelings about her perceptions of his shortcomings. It sounded right to me. I think we all want to be proud of our parents, and when we are very young, it is easy to be so. But then we grow up and things change. We see their human imperfections. We become disappointed and get hurt in one way or another, either in actuality or in imagination. Even later, we see that we aren’t so perfect ourselves, and slowly we accept our parents the way they are. If we are spiritual enough, we get to the point of being grateful for it all, the good and the bad. After all, they are at the root of our very existence, so we owe them everything.

One of my fears about all of this is that, although I love my father, I don’t want to turn into him. As a physician, I might understand genetics better than most. I know that many of our thoughts, feelings and behavior are driven by genetic scripts that are more powerful than we generally believe. Add to that the effect of their parental influence when we are young. We model their everything. That leaves less and less room for what we want to believe, that we are sovereign, independent, driven by our own free will. These points are driven home to me when I see not only the physical resemblances to my parents, but also to their mannerisms, emotional makeup, and such. Sure, there are differences. Some of my values clash with theirs. After all, there is the natural rebellion against our parents that is typical of the adolescent transition into our own adulthood, and often results in conflicting views of the world. And we are children of a different time and history. But still…

Well, all of this is much more serious than what I set out to write in the first place. I just don’t want to turn into my father, that’s all. I want to be me. Unique, individual me. So how do I explain my life-long fascination with photography? Let me go back in time a bit.

My father’s father was born at the end of the 1800’s. His having a camera was a remarkable thing. Picture the big boxes covered by a black cloth. Picture glass slides with photo emulsion to capture the effects of light. Picture little gizmos that metered light, something that had to be done before each and every shot, to determine the shutter speed and aperture settings in order to not waste the precious and time consuming products and process. Picture the developments in the camera, the best coming out of Germany. I can remember him hunched over his Rollei, framing his picture on the upside down/inverted image in the large but dim glass viewfinder at the top of the camera. And I can remember his darkroom, where he developed his own film.

Flash forward to my father. For some reason, he felt compelled to also have his own darkroom. He built one in every home he has ever owned, except for the retirement home they just moved into a few years ago. Mind you, my father was a workaholic and rarely, if ever, used any of these darkrooms. He also had a plethora of cameras, lenses, photography gadgets, books, boxes of slides (the oldest are made of a tin like metal), lighting systems, projectors, screens, etc, etc, etc.

So it is not surprising that I had my first camera when I was 8 or 9 years old. I can vividly remember my Kodak Brownie.

It was very simple to use, without the need to adjust settings. You just needed to know that the outdoor light was sufficient, but not too bright. Rolls were easy to install. It had a tiny little viewfinder on the top for portrait shots, and a separate one on the side for landscape shots. It also had a separate flash attachment, a big bulky thing with a huge tin bowl into which you inserted separate one-use-only bulbs. They went off with a cool pop, sometimes a little smoke with a unique odor I can still remember, and sometimes they were a total dud.

I, too, have had a long series of cameras over the years. I totally understand the relationship of light and film, shutter speed/aperture/depth of field, contrast, white balance, etc. I have developed black and white film in a darkroom, and now I use computers for post-processing digital images. I feel a warm, comfortable feeling about cameras. I drool over the latest and greatest. Why? Why do I do this?

My life’s work and life in general have kept me busy doing other things, but more recently my interest in photography has been reborn. It coincided with Gail’s interest in birding. Those two hobbies are a match made in heaven.

So, I think I’m turning into my father and grandfather, sharing their inherited or transmitted values. Maybe I’m not as unique as I think I am. But I’ll at least put my own stamp on it, using the technologies of my own time.

I’m grateful for what I have been given by my parents. I’m proud of them. They’re not perfect. Neither am I. I’m more like them than what I ever expected. And that’s not a bad thing. It’s a good thing! A great thing! 🙂

First try at HDR photography

This is a sort of continuation of my previous post. Please refer back to it for proper cred to Lee at Tarheel Ramblings for the idea. I was unaware HDR photo editing even existed until he opened my eyes to it. HDR stands for High Dynamic Range. It is a method of digitally combining several shots of the same image, taken at different exposure settings, to capture as much exposure information as possible out of your camera, and get an image that is more true to life, or even an artsy “truer than life!” (I just made that up. Ha!)

I just downloaded a free HDR program for the Mac called HDRtist. So here is my first effort. This first effort is actually a “fake” HDR because I am only using one image for the tone mapping, instead of several. But at least it is an image taken in RAW format, which captures way Way WAY more digital information than a simple jpeg.

Here is a simple jpeg version of a shot I took this past fall. I actually like it:

And here is an HDR version:

I think I like it more. What do you think?