Cell Phones, HDR and Panoramas

Hi Folks:

This started out as an idea for a blog post, evolved into a one-hour presentation for our local camera group, and now I’ll try to compress that into a blog post. We’ll see how it goes.

There are several questions to begin with, the first of which is: why do this? The answer is to extend or expand the capabilities of your camera, no matter the camera. There are at least five different reasons that I know of to combine multiple exposures into one image. These are two of them. The second question is, why cell phones? This post doesn’t only involve cell phones, but cell phones are ubiquitous. Some people only make images with their phones, despite the technical challenges, but the bottom line is that it depends on how you’re planning to use your images.

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An HDR Comparison

Hi Folks:

When you mention the term HDR, many people’s thoughts automatically jump to tonemapping and the results that can produce. That’s not what this post is about. If you don’t understand what HDR is all about or why you might want to use it in your photography, I suggest starting here: Why Use HDR? I’ll wait…

Okay, welcome back. I recently acquired a Sony A7R III and one of the features of this camera is that it has a very wide dynamic range – 12 to 14 stops are claimed. To that end, HDR capture with this camera isn’t often necessary. However, a friend of mine and I were out at Victoria’s famous Butchart Gardens last weekend and I wanted to try bracketing a few exposures just to see. Now, when it comes to the question of how many exposures to make and at what EV levels, there’s really only one answer: it depends. It depends on the scene and it also depends on the camera you’re using and what capabilities it has. For my experiment I decided to shoot 5 bracketed exposures at -4/-2/0/+2/+4 EV. Here’s an example of one of those combined images after having been pushed around a bit in Lr.

Water Dragon
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Photo of the Month – June: Collecting Stories

Hi Folks:

There’s an old adage that says ‘A picture is worth a thousand words’, and since we’re both writers and we’re both photographers, in a given month we can collect a lot of ‘words’. In June we shot nearly 600 images between the two of us, and choosing one image is never an easy task. That’s my excuse for choosing two images for June. 🙂 These two images were chosen both because they’re good images in their own way and because of the stories they have to tell… Continue Reading →

Creating ‘Solarized’ Images in Lightroom

Hi Folks:

Solarization or the Sabatier Effect is a technique that goes back to the 19th century. While it was likely first discovered accidentally, it came to be used for creative purpose. Solarization is a technique of grossly overexposing a negative so that some or all of the image becomes reversed – the brightest become darkest and vice versa. This was sometimes seen even in early Daguerrotypes and was later adapted to printing as well.

Fast forward a couple of centuries, and overexposing your sensor simply gets you a histogram with no highlight detail… not nearly as exciting.

While it’s possible to create this kind of effect in Photoshop using layers and blend modes, as I’ve mentioned in earlier posts I like to play around to see what I can create in Lightroom. Now, since Lightroom doesn’t work natively with layers, it’s really impossible to do this with just Lightroom, so I turned to the LR/Enfuse plugin from Timothy Armes instead. Originally created for merging HDR exposures, the LR/Enfuse plugin can be used creatively in other ways as explained here: Using the LR/Enfuse plugin for Lightroom. LR/Enfuse is donationware, and well worth whatever you can afford to pay for it.

Creating this effect in Lightroom is actually quite simple. Essentially one begins with an image, converts it to monochrome (B&W), duplicates it and creates a negative version of that. Then the two are joined together using LR/Enfuse. We’ll go into that in a little more detail. Continue Reading →

The ‘Orton Effect’ in Lightroom

Hi Folks:

As with many photographers, almost from the time I started making photographs I also began playing with them.  For negatives this involved darkroom work, with slide film I would try mounting two images in the same frame, but all of this became a lot easier when I got into digital processing.

In Lightroom 2 (I think), Adobe introduced the ‘negative clarity’ slider, and while it was fun to use on its own, one day I wondered what would happen if I made a virtual copy of an image, overexposed both the original and the VC slightly (dual mounting slides in the same frame holder made the overall image darker), and applied negative clarity to one, then combined them using the LR/Enfuse plugin.  The result was this: Continue Reading →

Using the LR/Enfuse plugin for Lightroom

Hi Folks:

There was a question on Twitter today asking people about their favourite Lightroom plugin.  While I have a few that I use (including Jeffrey Friedl’s export plugin for Flickr), one of the plugins I use the most is the LR/Enfuse plugin from Timothy Armes.  In essence the LR/Enfuse plugin allows you to combine multiple exposures into one image, and I use it in three different ways: Continue Reading →

Photographing Moving Water: Another Look…

Hi Folks:

I’ve written two other blog posts on using digital techniques to mimic using a slow shutter speed when photographing moving water.  They are:

Photographing Moving Water &
Photographing Moving Water Revisited

If you want to go and have a look at them, I’ll wait… Continue Reading →

Photo of the Month – Garry Oak Sunset

Hi Folks:

February has been a strange month weatherwise here in Victoria.  We had the first snowdrops, crocuses and cherry blossoms (not unusual), but we currently have several inches of snow and (comparatively) low temperatures.  I’ve had to bring in the hummingbird feeder at night to keep it from freezing solid.

This month I’ve been playing with a new piece of software: Nik software’s ‘HDR Efex Pro‘.  As you may have read from some of my other Photography posts, I’m not generally a big fan of what some call the ‘HDR-look’.  Having said that, I do understand the value of using HDR imaging for scenes that have an extended dynamic range.  Some photographers seem to think that using film to make images is somehow more ‘pure’ than using digital technology, or that computers allow us to render photographs in ‘unnatural’ ways.  I disagree.  Photographs have been manipulated both in camera and in the darkroom in many ways since their earliest days, including montages.  I have no doubt that if Ansel Adams was alive today he’d be quite happy to apply his ‘zone’ system to Photoshop/ Lightroom or other software. Continue Reading →

Playing With Clarity in Lightroom

Hi Folks:

This is just a quick idea I came up with last month as I was playing around inside Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. The Clarity Slider is part of the Basic panel in the Develop module, and normally it’s used to increase mid-tone contrast in an image. In Lightroom 2.0 Adobe provided the option to use ‘negative’ clarity as well, which can be used to give all or part of the image a dream-like effect. I used negative clarity in my image titled ‘Do Bicycles Dream?’


It’s a tool, and like any tool, it can be used or abused. Anyway, this is my first spring here in in the city of flowers, and being a true Canadian I was both surprised and delighted to see crocuses and snowdrops peeking their heads out of the ground at the beginning of February. Up north February is synonymous with ‘mid-winter’. Not too far from where we’re living right now, one of our neighbours had their entire lawn erupt in crocuses and other flowers:

Crocus Panorama

Now, to extend the dyamic range of my hdr images I tend to use Timothy Armes’ LR/Enfuse plugin to combine the images I’ve made at different exposures. Thinking about how it works though, got me thinking about combining other sorts of images. I took a close-up image of my neighbour’s crocuses and processed as I would normally in Lightroom’s Develop module, then created a Virtual Copy of that image and turned the Clarity slider all the way down to -100. I then used the LR/Enfuse plugin to combine both images together. The result is below.

Blended Crocuses

At first glance it appears as though the image has simply had negative clarity applied to it, but there’s detail in it as well, especially if you zoom in on it. It would be possible to create something similar in Photoshop using layers and Gaussian Blur, but not exactly. Anyway, it’s just something to play with.

Have a great day,

P.S. You can find more of our posts on photography and Lightroom tutorials here, and you can find links to over 200 other sites that have Lightroom tips, tutorials and videos here.