Malta in HDR / by Neil Alexander

Typical street scene in Victoria on the Island of Gozo, Malta (Click for larger)

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Don't believe everything you read about HDR techniques!

Whilst on a whistle stop tour of Gozo in Malta last week, I shot quite a few street scenes but as this was a family trip I decided not to take a tripod for this particular excursion. I came across several scenes that I knew would make for good photographs, but the light was quite harsh and the contrast between the highlights and the shadows was extreme to say the least. I could see just from looking that a solitary frame was going to leave me with either blown out highlights, or very dark shadows and a middle of the road exposure would leave me with a bit of both. So not knowing what would really happen in post, I shot a 5 frame bracket. Holding my camera as steady as I could and shooting on burst mode (8fps), I got what appeared to be a fairly well lined up sequence. Initially I tried an automatic alignment in HDR Efex Pro, but the results were far from satisfactory. I then tried Photomatix, and was blown away. Using the semi-auto alignment setting, the application managed to perfectly align the images possibly losing only about 5% of the frame in the process. From there it was a simple case of manipulating the sliders until I had an image I was happy-ish with. Then I opened up the result along with a couple of the other frames in Photoshop. A little masking and selective manipulation and here's the result. Admittedly the fact that even the brightest of the frames was shot at a decent 1/125 sec at F8 with VR helped, but it just goes to show that a tripod isn't required for HDR 100% of the time.

Fishing boat in Marsascala Birzebugga harbour, Malta (Click for larger)

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This one of the boat was a little easier. It was shot around 30-45 minutes after sun up, so I was on a tripod anyway, but the boat was bobbing around in the water a little. I generally always try to use the MB-D10 grip on my D300 when I'm shooting specifically for HDR. The fact that I can shoot at 8 frames per second definitely helps when you're not shooting a scene that is completely static. Show me one that is - even clouds will blur if you take long enough between your exposures.