Nikon D7000, Advanced Techniques to Explore

This section comes with a warning attached. All of the techniques and topics up to this point have been centered on your camera. The following two sections, covering panoramas and high dynamic range (HDR) images, require you to use image-processing software to complete the photograph. They are, however, important enough that you should know how to shoot for success should you choose to explore these two popular techniques.

Shooting panoramas

I’ve never been much for panoramas until I visited the Grand Teton National Park. The Tetons are probably one of my favorite mountain ranges and easily identifiable, but a single frame just doesn’t do them justice. Only a panorama can truly capture a mountain range, cityscape, or any extremely wide vista.

The multiple-image panorama

To shoot a true panorama, you need to use either a special panorama camera that shoots a very wide frame or the following method, which requires the combining of multiple frames.

The multiple-image pano, as photographers often call a panoramic, has gained in popularity in the past few years; this is principally due to advances in image-processing software. Many software options are available now that will take multiple images, align them, and then “stitch” them into a single panoramic image. The real key to shooting a multiple-image pano is to overlap your shots by about 30 percent from one frame to the next (Figures 7.19 and 7.20). It is possible to handhold the camera while capturing your images, but the best method for capturing great panoramic images is to use a tripod.

Now that you have your series of overlapping images, you can import them into your image-processing software to stitch them together and create a single panoramic image.

Here you see the makings of a panorama, with nine shots overlapping by about 30 percent from frame to frame.
Figure 7.19 Here you see the makings of a panorama, with nine shots overlapping by about 30 percent from frame to frame.
I used Adobe Photoshop to combine all of the exposures into one large panoramic image.
Figure 7.20 I used Adobe Photoshop to combine all of the exposures into one large panoramic image.

Sorting your shots for the multi-image panorama

If you shoot more than one series of shots for your panoramas, it can sometimes be difficult to know when one series of images ends and the other begins. Here is a quick tip for separating your images.

Set up your camera using the steps listed here. Now, before you take your first good exposure in the series, hold up one finger in front of the camera and take a shot. Move your hand away and begin taking your overlapping images. When you have taken your last shot, hold two fingers in front of the camera and take another shot.

Now, when you go to review your images, use the series of shots that falls between the frames with one and two fingers in them. Then just repeat the process for your next panorama series.

Shooting properly for a multiple-image panorama

  1. Mount your camera on your tripod and make sure it is level.
  2. In Aperture Priority mode, use a very small aperture for the greatest depth of field. Take a meter reading of a bright part of the scene, and make note of it.
  3. Now change your camera to Manual mode (M), and dial in the aperture and shutter speed that you obtained in the previous step.
  4. Set your lens to manual focus, and then focus it for the area of interest using the HFD method of finding a point one-third of the way into the scene. (If you use the autofocus, you risk getting different points of focus from image to image, which will make the image stitching more difficult for the software.)
  5. While carefully panning your camera, shoot your images to cover the entire area of the scene from one end to the other, leaving a 30 percent overlap from one frame to the next. The final step would involve using your favorite imaging software to take all of the photographs and combine them into a single panoramic image.

Shooting high dynamic range (HDR) images

High dynamic range (HDR) can create stunning images by using the full tonal range of an image. Depending upon your preference they can look quite real or very surreal. I have found people either love or hate HDR, but regardless of what side of the fence you are on it is a wonderful way to understand the effects of exposure on an image.

HDR is used quite often in landscape, cityscape, and, believe it or not, interior design images. Typically, when you photograph a scene that has a wide range of tones from shadows to highlights, you have to make a decision regarding which tonal values you are going to emphasize, and then adjust your exposure accordingly. This is because your camera has a limited dynamic range, at least as compared to the human eye. HDR photography allows you to capture multiple exposures for the highlights, shadows, and midtones, and then combine them into a single image using software (Figure 7.21).

A number of software applications allow you to combine the images and then perform a process called “tonemapping,” whereby the complete range of exposures is represented in a single image. I will not be covering the software applications, but I will explore the process of shooting a scene to help you render properly captured images for the HDR process. Note that using a tripod is absolutely necessary for this technique, since you need to have perfect alignment of the images when they are combined.

This tonemapped HDR image combines several exposures.
Figure 7.21 This tonemapped HDR image combines several exposures.

Setting up for shooting an HDR image

  1. Set your ISO to 100–200 to ensure clean, noise-free images.
  2. Set your program mode to Aperture Priority. During the shooting process, you will be taking three shots of the same scene, creating an overexposed image, an underexposed image, and a normal exposure. Since the camera is going to be adjusting the exposure, you want it to make changes to the shutter speed, not the aperture, so that your depth of field is consistent.
  3. Set your camera file format to RAW. This is extremely important because the RAW format contains a much larger range of exposure values than a JPEG file, and the HDR software needs this information.
  4. Change your shooting mode to continuous. This will allow you to capture your exposures quickly. Even though you will be using a tripod, there is always a chance that something within your scene will be moving (like clouds or leaves). Shooting in the continuous mode minimizes any subject movement between frames.
  5. Adjust the Auto Bracketing (BKT) mode to shoot three exposures in two-stop increments. To do this, you will first need to press the BKT button while moving the Command dial to the right.
  6. Now use the Sub-command dial to adjust the bracketing to 2.0.
  7. Focus the camera using the manual focus method discussed earlier in the chapter, compose your shot, secure the tripod, and hold down the shutter button until the camera has fired three consecutive times. The result will be one normal exposure, as well as one under- and one overexposed image.

Setting up for shooting an HDR image

A software program such as Adobe Photoshop, Photomatix Pro, or my favorite, Nik Software’s HDR Efex Pro, can now process your exposure-bracketed images into a single HDR file. Remember to turn the BKT function back to Off when you are done or the camera will continue to shoot bracketed images.

Bracketing your exposures

In HDR, bracketing is the process of capturing a series of exposures at different stop intervals. You can bracket your exposures even if you aren’t going to be using HDR. Sometimes this is helpful when you have a tricky lighting situation and you want to ensure that you have just the right exposure to capture the look you’re after. In HDR, you bracket to the plus and minus side of a “normal” exposure, but you can also bracket all of your exposures to the over or under side of normal. It all depends on what you are after. If you aren’t sure whether you are getting enough shadow detail, you can bracket a little toward the overexposed side. The same is true for highlights. You can bracket in increments as small as a third of a stop. This means that you can capture several images with very subtle exposure variances and then decide later which one is best. If you want to bracket just to one side of a normal exposure, set your exposure compensation to +1 or –1, whichever way you need, and the use the bracketing feature to automatically bracket your exposures.

 

 

Canon EOS 60D Advanced Techniques to Explore

The following two sections, covering panoramas and high dynamic range (HDR) images, require you to use image-processing software to complete the photograph. However, if you want to shoot for success, it’s important that you know how to use these two popular techniques.

SHOOTING PANORAMAS

Sometimes you’ll be in a location that is simply too big to cover within the typical camera frame. In such cases, you might consider photographing a panorama. You could always take a photo and crop off the top and bottom, making a “fake” panorama, but the purpose of a panorama image is to photograph an extended view of a scene, with minimal distortion, that can’t typically be created with one shot.

If you want to make a true panorama, you either need a special camera that can move on its own to seamlessly photograph a scene, or you can use the following method to achieve similar results (Figures 5.20 and 5.21). You’ll photograph a series of side-by-side images and stitch them together using editing software to produce one elongated panoramic shot.

FIGURE 5.20 This is the making of a panorama, with eight different shots overlapping about 30 percent of the frame.
FIGURE 5.20 This is the making of a panorama, with eight different shots overlapping about 30 percent of the frame.
FIGURE 5.21 I used Adobe Photoshop to combine all of the exposures into one large panoramic image.
FIGURE 5.21 I used Adobe Photoshop to combine all of the exposures into one large panoramic image.

I won’t get into details on how to edit the photographs, but if you have the proper  software, such as Adobe Photoshop, the best thing you can do is learn how to photographs the images in a way that will make stitching them together a piece of cake.

SHOOTING FOR A MULTIPLE-IMAGE PANORAMA

  1. Mount your camera on your tripod vertically and make sure it is level. (Shooting vertically will give your panorama more height and therefore more image detail.)
  2. Choose a focal length for your lens that is between 35mm and 50mm.
  3. In Av mode, use a very small aperture for the greatest depth of field. Take a meter reading of a bright part of the scene, and make note of it.
  4. Now change your camera to Manual mode (M), and dial in the aperture and shutter speed that you obtained in the previous step.
  5. Set your lens to manual focus, and then set your focus by finding a point onethird of the way into the scene. (If you use autofocus, you risk getting different points of focus from image to image, which will make the image stitching more difficult for the software.)
  6. While carefully panning your camera, shoot your images to cover the entire area of the scene from one end to the other, leaving a 30-percent overlap from one frame to the next.

QUICK TIP: SORTING YOUR PANORAMIC IMAGES

Pulling panorama images into your editing software can sometimes be confusing, because you’re not sure where one series of images ends and another begins. Here’s a quick tip for sorting your images.

When you’re all set up and ready to start shooting your panorama, hold up one finger in front of the lens and take a quick shot. Then start your panorama shots. After you’ve photographed the last image, hold up two fingers in front of the lens and take another photo. This will help you find where each series begins and ends and should make it easier to sort and edit your panoramas.

SHOOTING HIGH DYNAMIC RANGE (HDR) IMAGES

A fun and popular way to create images is through a technique called high dynamic range (HDR). When you create an image that has a wide range of tones (shadows and highlights), such as a landscape image with a very bright sky, you need to decide what areas you want to emphasize and adjust your exposure to match. We can often find an exposure that is a balance between overexposing the sky and underexposing the ground. HDR photography allows you to photograph several different exposures of the same scene, capturing the shadows, midtones, and highlights, and then combine them to create a single image in editing software (Figures 5.22, 5.23, and 5.24). For photographers who want to do some serious HDR shooting, I recommend using Adobe Photoshop or HDRsoft’s Photomatix Pro. I’m not going to get into the details of how to edit your image, but I will walk you through the steps to set up your camera and create the photographs for HDR.

FIGURE 5.22 I created this HDR image using the same method as in Figure 5.24, but notice how, in HDR, recovering detail in the shadows and highlights is not limited only to color photographs. The images in this scene were more important to me than the colors, so I converted the shot to black and white, and the HDR processing brought out details in the well-lit and shaded areas.
FIGURE 5.22 I created this HDR image using the same method as in Figure 5.24, but notice how, in HDR, recovering detail in the shadows and highlights is not limited only to color photographs. The images in this scene were more important to me than the colors, so I converted the shot to black and white, and the HDR processing brought out details in the well-lit and shaded areas.
FIGURE 5.23 To create an HDR image, I shot three consecutive photos at different exposures using AEB (Auto Exposure Bracket) mode.
FIGURE 5.23 To create an HDR image, I shot three consecutive photos at different exposures using AEB (Auto Exposure Bracket) mode.
FIGURE 5.24 Using Photomatix Pro, I merged the three exposures in the previous image to create the final HDR photo.
FIGURE 5.24 Using Photomatix Pro, I merged the three exposures in the previous image to create the final HDR photo.

Note that it’s absolutely necessary to use a tripod when using this technique, because all the images must be aligned perfectly to combine them during the editing process.

The first step is to set your camera to automatically bracket your exposures. You will want one image that is underexposed, one that is overexposed, and one that is right in the middle. The 60D allows you to set this up so that it automatically photographs a series of three shots with each of those exposures.

SETTING UP AUTO EXPOSURE BRACKET (AEB) MODE FOR HDR

SETTING UP AUTO EXPOSURE BRACKET (AEB) MODE FOR HDR

  1. Press the Menu button and use the Main dial to get to the second shooting tab, and then use the Quick Control dial to highlight the Expo. Comp./AEB item (A). Press the Set button.
  2. Scroll the Main dial to the right until the exposures are set to two stops between each shot (-2, 0, +2) (B). Then
    press the Set button. (Note that this setting will remain in place until you change it or turn off your camera. To set it back to normal, just scroll the Main dial to the left until only the center line is highlighted in red.)
  3. Next, press the DRIVE button on the top of your camera. Use the Quick Control dial to select High-speed continuous shooting mode. (This will allow you to photograph your three bracketed images very quickly. This is important because some things in your image may be moving, such as clouds or leaves.)

Now that Auto Exposure Bracket mode is set up, let’s go through the steps to create photographs for an HDR image.

SETTING UP FOR SHOOTING AN HDR IMAGE

  1. Mount your camera on your tripod, and then set your ISO to 100 to ensure clean, noise-free images.
  2. Set your program mode to Av. During the shooting process, you will be taking three shots of the same scene, creating an overexposed image, an underexposed image, and a normal exposure. Since the camera is going to be adjusting the exposure, you want it to make changes to the shutter speed, not the aperture, so that your depth of field is consistent.
  3. Set your camera file format to RAW. This is extremely important because the RAW format contains a much larger range of exposure values than a JPEG file, and the HDR software needs all of this information.
  4. Focus the camera manually using the hyperfocal focusing method discussed earlier in the chapter, compose your shot, secure the tripod, and hold down the Shutter button until the camera has fired three consecutive times.
  5. Download the images to your computer, and create the HDR image using specialized editing software.

BRACKETING YOUR EXPOSURES

In HDR, bracketing is the process of capturing a series of exposures at different stop intervals. You can bracket your exposures even if you aren’t going to be using HDR. Sometimes this is helpful when you have a tricky lighting situation and you want to ensure that you have just the right exposure to capture the look you’re after. In HDR, you bracket to the plus and minus side of a “normal” exposure, but you can also bracket all of your exposures to the over or under side of normal. It all depends on what you are trying to do. If you aren’t sure whether you are getting enough shadow detail, you can bracket a little toward the overexposed side. If you aren’t sure you’re getting enough detail in your highlights, bracket a little toward the underexposed side. You can bracket in increments as small as a third of a stop. This means that you can capture several images with very subtle exposure variances and then decide later which one is best.