Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Winter wonderland

Ok, so wonderland is probably a bit of an exagerration, but we've have had a fairly nice amount of snow here over the past couple of weeks.  The snow wasn't originally the primary focus of this post, but it has ended up being longer than I'd anticipated, so I'll get back to the original point of this in a future post.

The photo below was shot a couple of days before Christmas at about 4am (it had just finished snowing and I wanted to get out with the camera before the general public had trampled dirty footprints all over it).  It also gave me the chance to do a bit of playing around with long exposures and HDR.

So, this was shot on the Nikon D200 with the Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 lens (this lens and its counterparts being the originally planned point of this post).  It's a tonemapped HDR composite of 7 shots from 1/250th to 15 seconds in 2 stop increments.  The camera was setup on a tripod and I used my trusty Nikon MC-20 remote shutter release to capture each shot.  I was not in bracket mode, and manually adjusted the shutter speed for each shot (so make sure you have a rock solid tripod with you for this kind of thing).

To detail the process just a bit, it's a composite of 7 images, all f/8 @ ISO200 and, as mentioned above, each being 2 stops apart from 1/250th of a second up to 15 seconds.  The NEF files shot by the camera were brought into Photoshop for some initial modifications to the white balance, saturation and vibrance and then they were all exported out as JPG files at 100% quality.  The initial adjustments were made to a single image that gave me the best overall visibility & detail for the snow & tunnel, then those identical settings were applied to the other 6 images.

Those 7 JPG files were then loaded into Photomatix to perform the HDR magic.  After some adjustments inside Photomatix, the resulting TIF file was then brought back into Photoshop for a final slight curves adjustment resulting in the image above.

White balancing this one (or these 7) was a little tricky due to the mixed lighting around the area.  Other than the street lights, there was no extra light added to the scene to help with the exposures, and this area is sheltered from the headlights of cars passing by.  The street lamps are a mix of LED street lights and the traditional HPS lights, giving pretty extreme colour temperature variances throughout the shot.

I decided to lean my white balance more towards the warmer tones of the sodium street lights.  I think this helps to lead your eye towards the tunnel and beyond through it.  The blue tones from the LED illumunation just helps to add to the coldness of the snow surrounding it.

So, anyway, that'll do for now.  I'm hoping to get out there and do some more playing around with HDR techniques in the future, but it's way too cold to be going out right now, and I'm getting a little bit sick of snow to be quite honest. :)

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