Saturday, April 17, 2010

Knapp's Castle

6-exposure HDR of Knapp's Castle

After a hard week at work, I was craving a little outdoor adventure. This morning, Jess and Logan and I drove up to a set of ruins called Knapp's Castle at the top of the hills behind Santa Barbara. It turned out to be a great place to take the family-- the ruins were only a half mile from the trailhead. And what a great spot for photography!

I created this image by merging 6 exposures to HDR in Photomatix. I had 11 to work with, but the most underexposed ones didn't have any valuable detail in them, so I just used the brightest six.

The output of the HDR had a pretty "grungy" sky which looked cool but was too crazy to be believable. I took one of the original exposures and tweaked it a bunch to get a good dramatic sky, then brought them both into Photoshop and blended them together.

The HDR output

One of the original exposures, edited to enhance the sky

The original sky exposure, pre-crop

Some random thoughts and lessons that may be helpful:
  • I used a circular polarizer on my lens for these shots. This proved to be really helpful--it was one of those days where the clouds were high and almost more like haze than clouds. The polarizer really helps there to add good contrast to the sky, bringing out deeper blues and cutting through some of the reflection from the haze.
  • I've been frustrated recently with the stability of my cheap ($30?) tripod. I'm planning to replace it with a really nice one soon, but I learned a good tip recently that helped here. Whenever possible, don't extend the center column of your tripod. The closer the camera is to the ground, the more stable it will be. That wasn't very ideal here, where I really wanted to be looking down at the ruins, but I think it did make it more steady. Either way, I can't wait for my new tripod :)
  • If you compare the above images, you may notice that I removed some distracting trees from around the arch of the chimney. I did this with the clone-stamp tool in Photoshop. I use the spot healing tool in Lightroom a lot, but had never used this tool. It worked great for this job--spot healing is good for removing things like sensor dust, but when you need to remove something larger and odd-shaped, the clone-stamp tool can do it. You alt-click to tell it where to sample from, then paint over the area you want to remove, and it does a nice job blending for you.
Have a great weekend!

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