HDR for Mobile Photos

Here is a little mobile phone photo tip for today.  Did you know that many smartphones today have the option to take HDR photos right in the camera app?  HDR stands for High Dynamic (or Definition) Range, and if you want to read a little more about the benefits of HDR photography, just do a quick Google search on the topic.  I won’t attempt to try to explain the detailed ins and outs of HDR imaging because I can’t, but I can share that it is definitely worth using at times.

I have a Samsung Galaxy S3, which I love, and on our trip last weekend to the canyon, I took the photo below with the HDR feature of my phone camera.  I was walking directly toward the sunset, which was breathtakingly beautiful but I also had good golden hour light on the trail, too.  I knew that the camera would have a difficult time capturing proper exposures in both areas, since I was pointing right toward the sunset, so I switched over to HDR mode.

By taking the picture in HDR mode, it actually produces two images with one click of the shutter.  Here are the images straight out of my phone in the order that they were produced.

Normal image
First Image – Normal Exposure
HDR Image
Second Image – HDR Combined Exposures

HDR seems to work a little photographic “magic” by taking several images with various exposures and merging them into one final image, using the correct exposure for each part of the photograph as best it can.  HDR is not a perfect process by any means, but it can help to compensate for difficult exposures at times.  While I’m not sure exactly how many images my phone camera uses to produce the final HDR image, my camera gives me what appears to be a normal picture and a HDR picture each time I use that setting, and the pictures have the same file name.

I don’t think that either of the pictures above is a good one.  In the first image, the sky was over-exposed and did not capture the beauty of the sunset at all, which is what I wanted to capture the most.  However, if I made an in-camera adjustment to the ISO, I knew that the trail area would be overly dark.  So, I opted to give the HDR option a try, to see which photo would give me the most detail to work with once I got home and had my regular photo software to make additional adjustments.  The HDR photo definitely gave me more to work with, despite the fact that it has a bit of a flat, unnatural feel to it.  I was able to make just a few more slight adjustments to get the image to more closely resemble the magnificent beauty that my eyes actually saw that wonderful evening on the trail.

On the Canyon Rim Trail just before sunset
Final image after a few more adjustments in PSE

If you haven’t explored this neat feature in your phone’s camera, give it a try sometime and see what results you get.  (On my Galaxy S3, this option is found under Settings in the camera app, then under Shooting Mode.  That is also where several other helpful modes are found, too, such as Panorama.)  I get varied results, depending on the lighting conditions, but often I like to use the HDR image for final processing adjustments.  Just keep in mind that your camera is quickly taking multiple images, and you will want to hold it very still until the processing is done. 😉

We are still in the midst of “The Big Chill” here.  Saturday’s high… the high… was just 17 degrees, and the low was 12 degrees.  Fortunately, we may get above freezing for a little while later today, even though we had another thin layer of ice fall overnight, making the roads slippery once again.  If the temperature rises to the predicted 41 degree “heat wave” later today, we will no doubt get out of the house for a while and try to take Girly Girl out for a walk, too.  The roads cleared a bit for a few hours on Friday afternoon, which was just long enough for me to slip out to do a little Christmas shopping.  Unfortunately, it is supposed to turn colder again tomorrow and remain below freezing once again for at least a couple of days.  Brrrr!!!

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DPS Photo Challenge, “Zoom”

There is a photo challenge up this week from the Digital Photography School site, and this week’s challenge is called “Zoom.” I have been enjoying all of the helpful tips from that site lately, and I have decided to start jumping into the challenges a bit, too.  The details about the challenge and links to the submissions can be found at that link.

The first photo that came to mind after reading the topic was this one.  I took it last year on a trip to Washington DC with my daughter during Cherry Blossom  Festival.  I honestly got the better end of the deal, since she was in a seminar much of the time while I was out and about with my camera having such a grand ol’ time.  Maybe that’s a bit of payback for being in labor with her for 48 hours… 😉 You know, moms remember that kind of stuff.

Ok, enough of that… on to the photo.

Wash DC Apr 2-7741

The DC Metro is such a photographic place.  Even though I didn’t have my tripod along for this shot, I really like how it came out.  I love the contrast of the train in motion as compared to the rest of the picture, and I like the amount of motion that was captured, too. ..  at 800 ISO and 1/10 sec.  I also like how it captured the glow of the orange lights on the side of the train.  This is such a fun shot, as well as a great trip souvenir, since we rode the Metro everywhere we went.

But when I think of “zoom,” I also think of “zooming in” with my 70-300mm zoom lens, too.  I discovered early on after I purchased that lens that it is a great photographic tool, not to simply zoom in on the subject from a distance, but to get some great bokeh in the background of the main subject(s) as well.  I jut love taking this lens along when I have the opportunity to photograph all of the little kids in our extended family, mostly during the holidays.  Some of my family members have wondered about me backing off so far and using the zoom lens, instead of using my 18-55mm zoom lens and getting much closer when taking pictures, but after a couple of years and seeing the results, I don’t get questioned about it anymore.  Besides, there are plenty of other family members around with point and shoots to cover the wider group shots that I don’t typically get with the zoom lens.

Easter Egg Hunt-2087

I don’t share my pictures of the little kids much online, but this one is a great example of the point I just made.  This was taken last Easter at the full 300mm focal length, and I just adore the end result.  It was a bright and sunny Easter afternoon at a nearby playground on one of the first warm days we had after a particularly cold winter last year.  I took over 100 photos of all the little kids, and their parents (my nephews and their wives), were pretty thrilled with the results.  Being so far away while shooting kept the kids from “posing” for the pictures too much, although I did shout out to them a few times to “hold still” to make sure I captured a great smile from them.  😉  You know, little kids at the playground are more interested in having fun than posing, and that is what is so great about using a zoom lens for times like this.  Nothing is fake, including the smiles, and the “zoom” helps to focus in on them and not so much on what all is around them.

Thanks to DPS for the fun topic.  Can’t wait to see all the submissions by others!


Water Lilies

I have been absent online for a bit, but it’s been fun… learning more about using PSE9 that was just recently released.  It is a great tool, although I still use Lightroom for my basic photo editing.  I have found many great free action sets online that run in PSE9, and I like them better than most of the actions I have in Lightroom so far.

I have a favorite photo from a 2009 trip to Grand Cayman that I recently pulled from my trip archives to re-edit, and it is now much closer to what I envisioned when I took it.  By adding an adjustment layer and removing much of the yellow that was in the background and taking away from the beautiful floral bloom, the flower itself now stands out more.  Using a black brush to remove the opacity of that adjustment over the yellow in the center of the flower kept the bloom vivid while muting the background just a bit.  I love the end result, and I think it’s finally time to send it for printing and framing.

Taken at the Queen Elizabeth II Botanical Gardens in Grand Cayman

Isn’t the water-lily just one of the most beautiful, delicate flowers ever?

Fair Fotos – Long Exposure Night Shots

For the first time, I had the opportunity to take my camera gear and tripod to the fair this year to try some long-exposure night shots.  My husband accompanied me and helped to get things set up and keep from getting trampled by people near the carnival rides that I wanted to shoot.  It would have been tragic for someone to run into the camera and tripod there at night, and I highly recommend having someone accompany you for that very reason if you ever attempt these type of photos.

Just for the record, I shot at 100 ISO, used my Tokina wide-angle lens that I absolutely love and used my remote.  Certainly these shots can be attempted with other lenses, but the wide-angle lens helped to capture more of the field of view without having to back up further and possibly have more people and objects in the viewfinder.  I also used the lens hood for it, too.  For this first time out, I kept my UV filter on the lens, knowing that it would probably impact the photos a bit (flares), but given that the midway was so crowded with younger kids and teenagers who were not necessarily watching out for someone like me with a camera, I was honestly a little afraid of taking it off and risking something happening to the lens, even with my “lookout” on the watch.

I was quite pleased with a few of the shots overall, but it was also a good learning opportunity.  I quickly learned that to get a pleasing image, I needed to do more than just randomly open and shut the bulb manually with the remote.  I needed to watch the pattern of the ride very closely to attempt to capture a full light pattern.  It was also difficult this time out to find a position with no obstructions of some kind in the field of view.  In a less crowded and obstructed midway, I might could have done a better job at finding more suitable locations to shoot from.

Ferris Wheel @ 5 seconds… (was mostly still at the time)…


Ferris Wheel @ 11 seconds… (was running a bit faster)…


Orbiter ride @ 10 seconds…


Ferris Wheel again, different angle @ 13 seconds –
Really liked the patterns in the center of this one…


Back to Orbiter ride, different angle @ 2 seconds –
Obviously needed a little more time,
but I liked the ride worker in the foreground…


Another ride (I forgot the name) @ 8 seconds –
Pattern was very random but managed to catch one circle pattern…


Same ride @ 5 seconds –
More symmetrical pattern near end of ride cycle…


Orbiter again, much better angle with the sign @ 6 seconds –
This is my favorite shot of that ride, and the smaller Tornado ride
is also seen in motion toward the bottom left of the Orbiter…


Below are good examples of the need to watch the ride pattern.  I took several shots of the Eclipse ride throughout its life cycle, and caught some bonus shots of the Ferris Wheel in the background at various stages, too.  I like this series of photos that start with the spinning Eclipse and stationary Ferris Wheel, then work their way to the stationary Eclipse and the spinning Ferris Wheel.

Eclipse @ 6 seconds – half ride pattern/revolution…


Eclipse @ 12 seconds – full pattern/revolution…


Eclipse again with spinning Ferris Wheel @ 8 seconds –
One full pattern/revolution on Eclipse near lower/slower end of ride cycle…


Eclipse @ 11 seconds near end of ride cycle…

Fair (Long Exposure)-5403

Eclipse stationary with spinning Ferris Wheel @ 9 seconds…

Fair (Long Exposure)-5405

The Hammer @ 8 seconds – one full revolution…

Fair (Long Exposure)-5406

The Hammer @ 4 seconds – half revolution…

Fair (Long Exposure)-5407

We had a truly great time taking the photos as a small part of our evening at the fair, and I suspect that I will give it a try in future years as well, as long as the weather cooperates as well as it did this year.  We had several people stop by to chat and ask about how to take these photos, and we even showed some of the photos in the viewfinder to a few of them.  I love visiting with people, and it’s even more fun to talk photography… lots of fun, for sure!

I’m ready to set out again sometime soon for my next long-exposure night shoot… just need to decide on my next target!  It’s just such great fun, and people love to see the results!

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