I have driven by this park almost every day during my commute to work for four years. I never thought anything about it. I just knew it was there. This evening, I was headed to a holiday part and had some time to spare. As I drove through Lovejoy, Georgia, I looked over at this little park and noticed the green gel they installed for the holidays, the little Christmas tree, and the big sign, “I [heart] Lovejoy.”
I decided up front I wanted to try a nine-shot HDR and Focus-Stack. So, I set up my tripod, mounted my camera, set up my external release, turned on my camera . . . nothing. Battery dead. So, back to the truck I went to get my backup battery.
Back at it.
But, before I forget, here is my gear-list!
For this first photo, I shot three, three-shot HDR brackets at three focal points. In post-processing, I cooked down all nine photos into three HDR shots with different focal points. I loaded them into Photoshop, stacked and auto-aligned the images. If your head is spinning, here is a great Youtube tutorial by one of my favorites, Gavin Hoey. He can help you better that I . . .
Well, I messed something up, because you can see in this photo that my photos did not align properly.
I have an idea what happened, but I am not sure. I have seen videos that said that layer masking is the way to go instead of auto-stacking and aligning. Take a close look at the water ring around the fountain. Notice something screwy? Yeah, me, too. I have some work to do there. If you can help me out, hit me in the comments.
Every scene I shot, I went with a bracketed set to render an HDR shot, but NONE of the HDR shots came out right. Really. So, I focused on individual photos.
For this photo, I took the under-exposed photo from the bracketed set.
I loved the glowing green water, so I tried to do something to highlight that amazing color. I added some exposure, contrast, clarity, and saturation for tonal adjustments. Of course, I added some luminance to fix noise and fixed the barrel distortion.
Mayor’s Park has a sidewalk that encircles the pond. I spent about an hour slowing working my way around the park. I looked at my watch and realized that I was about to be late for my dinner party! So, I grabbed my gear and quick-timed back to my truck. But, dad-gummit! Here is another shot!
As I “hoofed it” (an old Army term) to my truck, I looked left and saw all three elements in the photo I wanted – the fountain, the sign, and the little “Christmas tree” (it was not a real tree; It was some wire with lights on them). So, I dialed in the polarizing filter and shot a three-frame HDR shot. I am not happy with the buildings in the back, but what are you going to do? My favorite element of this shot is the texture on the water.
Here is the last photo on this post, I promise. I am working my way back to the truck as quickly as I can so I won’t be late for the party. I look left again. Dang it! Another photo!
This is the “normal” exposure with some minor tonal edits and noise and barrel corrections.
Here are the lessons learned.
First, that place you don’t think will ever be fun to photography? Just wait. One day, the conditions will be ready for you to shoot it.
Second, always, always, always carry the gear you need to shoot he genre you love.
Third, always, always, always carry extra batteries.
Fourth, HDR is not the magic pill. Sure, it is fun and can fix some tonal-range problems, but it will not always come out like you want it.
Fifth, “auto” – anything in Photoshop might not work.
Sixth, keep working the scene. Change perspective. Change vantage point. Change angle. Keep working it and take as may different shots you can!