Sometimes I can get such good results with my iPhone that I wonder why I lug my big heavy DSLR and lenses around….OK, not really, but when the circumstances are right you definitely do well on the iPhone. Basically, you need something that doesn’t move and which is in good light. And, you need the right software. I’ve talked about Pro HDR before, but recently I’ve been having fun with something called Snapseed.
It’s put out by a company called Nik Software that creates plugins for Lightroom and Photoshop, and which I’ve wanted for years. They’re a little too expensive for me to be able to justify, but essentially the same technology is now free (down from 5 bucks after the company was recently bought out by Google).
Here is one recent shot, followed by the original, non-Snapseed-ed image:
The above is a little more processed than I usually like, but I was just learning and having fun with the software. I realize that there are all sorts of bogus filter-effect apps out there, and Snapseed does indeed include some filters, but more importantly it enables an impressive amount of very hands-on pixel-level editing. For example, I was able to selectively increase the saturation on the red bushes at the bottom of the frame, as well as on only some of the golden leaves.
Here I was able to bring down the almost-blown highlights in the fallen leaves while raising the contrast and brightness in the circular tiles at the bottom, which were lost in shadow in the original:
Here is a photo of the moat that I very nearly fell into while standing on a ledge to get the photo above. I used HDR Pro first, to meld two photos taken at different exposures, then I used Snapseed to tweak the photo until I got a result I liked. I love how the light shines on the big green lotus leaves.
(Don’t miss the giant Koi half-hiding under the leaves.)
Today we went to Muir Woods, a grove of huge redwoods that I remember fondly from when I was a kid growing up in the area. It was great to be able to take my own kids there. Although they didn’t approach the trees with quite the same quiet, pensive reverence that I prefer (to put it mildly), they had their own fun take on the environment and pursued it with abandon. Pictures of G&Z will have to wait until next post, because this one concentrates on the trees.
These are all taken with HDR, or the technique of mixing a light, normal and dark exposure to mitigate the camera’s limited ability to record a wide range of luminosity at once. Using it is a big benefit in this environment, because the forest makes for a whole lot of shadows. This is the first time I’ve really experimented with HDR B&W, but I think it suits the subject.
These last two were taken outside the park…
I’ve written before (most recently here) about high dynamic range (HDR) photography, where you compensate for the camera’s inability to render detail in light and dark areas simultaneously by combining multiple photographs of the same subject. Well, it turns out the technique brings a lot to my iPhone, as well. There is a built-in function to take HDR images, but the output isn’t nearly as good, I’ve found, as when you use a little app called Pro HDR.
Here is a screen grab of it in action. You let it take one light exposure and one dark, then combine them as so. You can even hand-hold, and as long as you aren’t too unsteady it merges the images without lots of artifacts.
Here is the result. I chose to include the sun in the image, which inherently causes lots of flare and desaturation, but even with this the shot looks pretty good. It looks much better than would have been possible with a single exposure alone in these conditions.
Here is another shot of the same subject. Notice the details in the highlights and the shadows without the end result looking overly fake (although you can tweak it for that effect if you wish).
Now here are a couple old photos taken with the program. First, a thimble-full of sake before drinking it.
And, someone’s illegally parked bike tossed unceremoniously into the bushes. Great quality photo for how dark it was.
Here are some more photos that I took from our trip to Nanzenji with my mom, Maki, Genbo and Zoe. These two are HDR, or high dynamic range, photos. That means I mix three exposures for each image; one taken “dark”, one “normal”, and one “light”. This is useful in scenes that combine very dark parts and lighter parts, because the camera does not have as much range as your eye in finding detail in light and dark at the same time.
Take this shot with the leaves, for instance: the sun was shining directly on the leaves, making them very bright. Meanwhile, the wall and tiles were in shadow. If I had exposed for the very bright leaves, then everything else would have been dark. And, exposing for the tiles on top of the wall would have totally blown out the highlights in the leaves. So, I combined three exposures in Photomatix, which a pretty good result, I think.
Similarly, I love how you can see down into this stump. Your eye can do it, because it benefits from millions of years of evolution, but CCD sensors simply aren’t that good. If I had kept the shutter open long enough to resolve the shadowed area at the very bottom, everything else would have been very overexposed. So, I used three shots. If only we could do this in more areas of life.
I have several new toys that are combined in this post. First, a new Voigtlander macro lens that I haven’t had much of a chance to experiment with. Second, a new piece of pottery from my friend Kamada-san (a bread and cheese platter). And, third, a piece of HDR software, Photomatix. It really isn’t suited much to this kind of shot, which doesn’t have such a high dynamic range anyway, but it does create a cool effect, I thought.