Friday, January 13, 2012

Making a Photograph

Several of the photography gurus that I follow stress the difference between taking a photograph and making a photograph.  What is the difference? Taking a photo is simply pointing and shooting, hoping for the best.  Making a photograph takes time - time to carefully choose a location, paying attention to light, composing the shot, and possibly spending time in post processing to make my artistic vision a reality.

The following photograph was made on a day trip with my mom up Highway 1 from San Luis Obispo to Cambria and back. The shoreline at Cambria was our first stop. I pulled out my tripod, borrowed my mom's neutral density filter and made my composition.  I wasn't done there, though.  This High Dynamic Range (HDR) image is a composite of five images. Pressing the shutter was just the first step of many.

Wedgewood Accessway - Cambria, CA
Here are the original RAW images:

Why did I need five images? My goal was to capture detail in both the highlights and shadows.  In this scene capturing that range required five images.  I was able to determine this while I was shooting by watching my histogram as I modified the shutter speed. In the darkest image I made sure that the histogram wasn't touching the right side of the graph.  In the brightest image I ensured that the histogram wasn't touching the left side of the graph.

Darkest image - histogram isn't touching the right side of the graph

Brightest image - histogram isn't touching the left side of the graph

The next step in making my photograph was to combine these five images into one using Photomatix Pro.  Again, my goal was to maintain detail in both the highlights and shadows, but now in a single, composite image.

Tone-mapped image from Photomatix Pro
Once I have the tone-mapped image I can start making my artistic vision take shape. I did a bit of cropping, and added a bit of contrast, and then for the final touches I took the image into Topaz Adjust to bring out detail and color.

The finished photograph
I MADE this photograph. It is my artistic interpretation. What do you think?


Jen said...

I think it is beautiful! And I agree with the "make." I haven't tried HDR but I hope too soon. Great blog post!

Angela Andrieux said...

Thanks, Jen! You should definitely give HDR a try. It is so much fun! I love the extra detail that it can bring out in a photo. :)