The North Cascades Highway gets snowed in for the winter, so we decided to take a trip up there before the snow arrived. It was also a good time for fall foliage, so we wanted to see what the mountains had to offer. The colors in the trees as we drove up were very nice but, the higher you get, the more you are into the evergreens and the foliage becomes sparse. However, we had something equally attractive awaiting us.
It was an overcast day as we drove up with any hints of sun from the lower levels gone as we got higher. There were some really cool bands of clouds to see as we drove. At one point we had the valley in sight and the tops of the mountains but a band of cloud in the middle. It was while on a stretch of road with nowhere to stop so no shots of that. However, as we got up to Diablo Lake and then Washington Pass, we got plenty of mountain tops in and out of the clouds.
I experimented with both normal shots and HDR. With the shadow of the valleys and the brightness of the clouds, the dynamic range was pretty wide, and I thought HDR might give me some more processing options. I was glad I made that choice as it really helped to get detail in all parts of the images. That will be our last trip up there this year. The snows will be getting heavy before too long and then it will be a waiting game until the pass is cleared in the spring.
I heard that a DC-3 had arrived at Arlington. It was a plane that had been with Air Atlantique in the UK for many years and was familiar to a friend of mine that had worked there a while back. I am not sure if I had seen it in the UK or not but had definitely seen shots of it. It came in during the week and was parked on the ramp at Arlington over the holiday weekend. Unfortunately, the weather was not great. However, with nothing much else to do, I figured I would head up and see it.
The rain was pouring down as I left home but it was actually drier and even with a hint of light up in Arlington when I arrived. Even so, the conditions were not great. However, the clouds, while plentiful, did seem to provide some interest to the sky. Consequently, I went with HDR to try and make the best of the conditions.
I am not sure what the plans are for the plane and whether it will remain in its old RAF colors as a Dakota rather than a DC-3 or C-47. We shall see. Hopefully it stays in the area and I’ll get to see it flying.
I decided to try a little experiment with my slide scanning. Having scanned a bunch of slides and negatives using a DSLR and macro lens set up, I had come across a few slides where the image just didn’t seem to work out very well. A big part of this is that the original slides were not very well exposed so I was starting from a less than ideal place. However, when editing the raw file, I found I wasn’t able to get a balance of exposures that I liked, despite slides supposedly having a very narrow dynamic range.
Since I could see some detail in the original slide, I figured an HDR approach might be of use. I took three shots of the slide with differing exposure – an inconvenient thing to do when tethered since the AEB function didn’t seem to work on the 40D in that mode – and then ran the HDR function in Lightroom on the three exposures. Despite the borders possibly confusing the algorithm, it seemed to do a pretty reasonable job of getting more of the image in a usable exposure range. This is not a great image and would not normally be making it to the blog but, as an example of getting something more out of a problem shot, I thought it might be of interest to someone.
As the sun starts to set, the clouds that are a regular feature of the Pacific Northwest start to have a benefit. They can be lit in all sorts of interesting ways and it is slightly lazy but still worthwhile to get shots of them. The levels of contrast in the shot are fine with the naked eye but a bit of a stretch for a camera sensor. It can do a decent enough job but it is the sort of thing where bracketing for HDR might give you more to work with so I did give that a go.
I was taking some shots for work recently where the sky had some nice cloud detail and the foreground was in a lot of shade. Since the pictures were needed for a project, I was covering my bases and shot some brackets to allow me to do some processing in HDR later. Some people hate HDR but I have always been looking to use it to get a shot that reflects more the human eye’s ability to deal with extremes of contrast. With a wide range of light levels in a shot, HDR can give you a more usable image.
However, when I was processing the shots, I was struck by how I could use the middle exposure alone and, with some helpful adjustment of exposure, shadows and highlights, I was able to get much the same sort of result as the HDR image provided. The raw files seem to have enough latitude for processing that going to the bother of taking and processing the HDR image hardly seemed worth it. There are still situations where the range of exposure is so wide – outdoor sunlight and shady interiors – that it is still probably necessary to bracket and process later. However, for a lot of the situations I used to use HDR for, there seems little point. How many of you still shoot HDR?
While scanning through some images, one of the shots that showed up in my catalog was an HDR processing of some shots of a US Army Chinook. It had been processed with a plugin that I had previously experimented with. I thought it looked over vibrant but I was impressed with the way the dark interior of the helicopter had shown up while the outside was also well lit. I decided to have another go at processing the images.
I used Lightroom initially to do the processing. It came out surprisingly well and looked not unlike the outcome from the plugin. However, there was some ghosting on people in the shot and there was a lot of chromatic aberration. I have noticed issues with Lightroom making a worse job of it than Photoshop so I decided to try HDR Pro in Photoshop as well and use Camera Raw for tone mapping. The outcome was very similar from an overall perspective. However, the ghosting was virtually eliminated and the aberration was not apparent either. It clearly is still a better bet than Lightroom.
I was at the Museum of Flight for the IPMS exhibit but, while I was visiting, I figured it would be churlish not to take a picture of the M-21 that dominates the main hall. It is actually a bit difficult to photograph and there is a lot of contrast with the background and it is always busy so a bit cluttered. I knew it wasn’t going to be a great shot but decided to crop tighter on the airframe and shoot bracketed exposures and maybe go with an HDR process. It isn’t great but it came out better than I had expected.
Just before Christmas we made a trip to Vancouver Island to see Butchart Gardens at night with their illuminations. We got there before the sun went down and took a stroll through the Japanese Garden, a section that is closed for the night event. At the bottom of the garden, you come to Butchart Cove. There was a hole in the trees that provided a very predictable but worthwhile frame for the view into the cove. I decided to go for HDR for the shot given the extreme range of light between the shady trees and the exposed cove.
A while back I saw a Scott Kelby video on YouTube about the HDR functionality in Lightroom and that in Photoshop. I had assumed that they were the same prior to seeing his video but he showed that the Photoshop version of the HDR was significantly cleaner than that in Lightroom. I was interested in how this could be but I wasn’t too concerned. The Lightroom version was so easy to use I figured the impact was not so much that it would show up in my shots.
Then, I found out I was wrong. I was in the cockpit of the Comet at the Museum of Flight’s restoration facility at Paine Field. I took a sequence for HDR because the cockpit is very dark but the view out of the windows is much brighter. It isn’t particularly important since the view outside is nothing special but I did it anyway since I was there. The lighter shot had quite a bit of shadow noise and, when I created the HDR in Lightroom, the noise was very conspicuous on the finished version. I decided to try it in Photoshop to see what happened. The difference was significant. I include both of the full shots as processed along with the section of cockpit shadow so you can see the impact.
The east side of Lake Washington used to have a lot more train traffic. A line ran up that side of the lake but the railroad closed it down and then the interstate was rebuilt and went over the previous right of way. In Bellevue, the tracks crossed a valley on a large trestle bridge, the Wilburton Trestle. This wooden structure was modified at some point to allow an expansion of the road that ran underneath it but, once the railroad was closed, it fell out of use.
For the longest time, I didn’t even notice it. While it is close to the interstate, it is off to one side at a time when you don’t have much time to look around. When I finally noticed it, I was amazed I had driven by so many times. Even then, I never got a chance to take pictures. I was hoping for better weather but winter has not really helped in that regard so, one afternoon, as I was heading back from Bellevue, I stopped off to check it out.
Wooden trestle structures are a curious thing and very typical of old American railroads. The dull light may not have helped emphasis the structure much but it does reduce the contrast you can get with something so sheltered underneath. Even so I used HDR a bit to help manage the exposure range. Supposedly, the future for the trestle will be as part of the expanding trail network for the eastside. It is suggested that it will reopen to trail users by 2020. I think I shall ride down to it at that point to check the view out. I imagine it is pretty good from up there.