Here we have two photos taken with the same lens (Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L) and from the same spot.
I haven’t posted anything here for a month. Work has been crazy and then we had the Thanksgiving holiday. But thanks to me eating more sugary pies and cookies than I knew was good for me, I’m home sick from work, and have time to go “digging for gold”. That’s what I call it when I look through old photos I’ve taken which may not have caught my attention the first time around. I do more of this in the winter months, since I spend more time indoors.
I know, I’m a wussy. Another thing I did while being sick was watch some National Geographic and BBC Earth documentaries. These camera men are out there shooting in the harshest conditions on the planet, yet I don’t take my camera out when it’s a little wet and chilly outside. I’m ashamed of myself.
Alright, so what did I find?
I shot this in March 2012. EOS 7D, 17mm, 10 secs @ f/8.0, ISO 100. I probably bypassed it because of the lens flare at bottom left. It was also the “normal” exposure of an HDR set, and sometimes I overlook those as single exposures. I did not adjust the colors at all because I like the warm/cool contrast of the sky and incandescent lights. I adjusted shadows, highlights, sharpened, and used some distortion adjustments to compensate for the way 17mm optics bowed the pillars near the edges.
Here’s the thing: on an image like this, I could get crazy with raising shadows so every detail is easily discernible. But to me it looks less natural, and I prefer it looks close to the way it did when I was standing there. Some dark shadows are fine.
What a front porch! Because there weren’t any people around, you can’t really see how massive those pillars and doors are. If you click on the photo to look closer, you can make out the “TEMPLE OF JUSTICE” just above the pillars. Directly behind me when shooting this building is the Washington State Capitol, which shows up in some of my other posts.
I took this photo in May 2013 with the old Canon Powershot G3 with an infrared filter over the lens. After converting the overly magenta original image to black & white and doing contrast and sharpening, I worked on a split-tone effect. This applies one color to highlights and a different color to shadows. It takes some of the punch and stark contrast out of the simple black & white, but I like the effect.
This building fascinates me because it used to be a brewery where they made and distributed beer. There is a newer building further up the hill, but both have shut down. It’s part of the earlier history of the town which is no longer functioning, but is still around for us to see.
The Canon EOS 6D that I’ve had for just over a month has a feature that my EOS 7D (which it replaced) did not have. First of all, I switched to the 6D because my favorite types of photography benefit more from a full-frame sensor than high speed, toughness, and a focal length multiplier, all of which are advantages the 7D has over the 6D.
The 6D is slower, has less magnesium and more plastic in it’s body, and my 200mm lens is no longer a 35mm equivalent of 320mm for angle of view. But the 6D is absolutely incredible in low light settings, and my 17mm lens is now actually 17mm instead of 27mm, which makes for spectacular wide shots, like the one below. Though you probably can’t tell from looking at pictures in my posts, the increase in image quality when editing the files is significantly higher with the 6D.
So in a situation like this, where the sun is going down and there are deep shadows, HDR should be more useful, right? I do like how this shot turned out. Amazingly, this photo is from 3 separate exposures, combined by the 6D to create a JPEG image. And just like a any multi-exposure HDR, the camera needs to be held still. Some of the softness in this image may be due to me hand-holding the 3-shot sequence. The 6D’s big brother, the EOS 5D MkIII can create a RAW file from multiple exposures, but I have to shoot 3 separate RAW photos and combine in software if I want to go that route.
So how well does this in-camera HDR mode work? It does help maintain shadow detail. The images appear to be lower contrast. Since they are JPEG files, there has been some in-camera sharpening and contrast, in addition to the HDR process. This means the file needs less work in post processing, and that’s a good thing, because I was not able to push this photo very far at all to recover color in the sky without a pixelated texture breaking out in the sky. That’s the disadvantage of JPEG files: whatever the camera did to it, you can adjust it some, but not nearly as much as you can with a RAW file. Take a look at the two photos below.
The first thing to note is the depth of color and detail in the lower image, which the upper image simply can’t compete with, even though it’s technically an HDR. Also, notice the odd streaks or striations running through the sky of the upper photo – and I did not push the JPEG nearly as far as the RAW, yet the RAW retains very smooth gradations from blue to orange. I also think that despite being HDR, the JPEG has lost some shadow detail that the lower RAW file still retains.
I may play around with this in-camera HDR mode a bit more before a final judgement, but my initial conclusion is that a properly exposed RAW file can yield better results than the in-camera HDR mode, which spits out a JPEG that’s more limited in editing possibilities.
This last week I took my wife and kids to the state capitol. We’ve lived five miles away for six years, so it’s about time we visited. If you’ve looked through my other posts you may have seen some of the infrared and nighttime HDR photos I took of the outside of the capitol building. This is some of what’s inside!
I thought it was fascinating that this massive structure of marble, brass, and plaster cost only 7 million to build around 1925, and yet some “minor damage” from a 2001 earthquake was completed for $128 million.
The doors to the janitor’s closet. Well, it said “custodial room” next to the door, but that’s the same thing right?
Our guide said this massive chandelier weighs 10,000 pounds! That’s like three of my cars! The bulbs are low wattage, and only need to be changed every 10 years or so, even though they are never turned off.
In the corners of the upper floors, it gets dark because the light from the central rotunda is blocked by heavy marble walls. These lamps cast a dim light. I was intrigued by the shadows on the ceiling.
Down below the edge of the photo, rows of desks and chairs accommodate the house members when they are in session. The furniture has been there over 80 years.
Olympia is a clean and relatively small town, so sometimes it’s easy to forget we live down the road from the state capitol. This was an interesting field trip and a great test for the new EOS 6D in low light, indoor environments. I’m just amazed at how much detail I can pull out of the shadows without it falling apart!