Wednesday, 28 October 2009

France in High Dynamic Range Part Two

Continuing the review of the holiday photos in HDR Tone mapping, we went to Chateau Brissac to see the European Hot Air Balloon Championships.  When we arrived the sun was on the left hand side as we look at it and the conversion to HDR has really brought out the detail on the side facing us in this image.  There was some scaffolding around the corner which is hidden in this shot.


 

While we at Les Fourneaux we went for a walk and saw this love farmhouse with a bit of a moat around it.  I had included this image in the original blog posting but I love the way that the new version has brought out the colours in a beautiful way.




The next image is another one from the Petite Andelys which was lovely ivy covered house next to the river Seine.




There was an island in the middle of the river with this large house.  This was one of the photos which I knew at the time would need to be a HDR conversion and I took the three bracketed exposures  which I used to make this image.




Another image from Petite Andelys of the view down the Seine showing the white store cliffs and the dome of the refuge next to the hospital.



When we went up to the chateau there was a slightly different view of the previous image.





The central part of the chateau at Les Andelys is the only part that you have to pay for entrance.  It's worth the nominal fee to see the information about the history of the chateau.  They have tried very hard to make it interesting and gratefully it has an English version even though none of the staff appeared to understand what I was saying.  Perhaps it's my Yorkshire accent!




 While the market at Arras was underway we sat outside a cafe drinking a bottle of wine when I took the lat two photos.  The conversion to HDR has brought out the colours of stalls and the people visitting the the market.

 


 The chairs in the photograph make a great foreground for this last photo.

 


Next time maybe some new photos and perhaps I'll be sober.  Sorry about the text in this post but I've had far too much to drink tonight.  My sister an brother in law are here from Spain are are forcing large quantities of single malt scotch down my throat. Not that I need a lot of encouragement as I'm on holiday from work this week.

Friday, 23 October 2009

France in High Dynamic Range Part One

It's nearly two months since we got back from France but I still find myself looking at the images and wishing I was still there.  We went to so many beautiful places this year and I think I managed to capture some of that beauty in my photos.  I decided that I wanted to go back through the images and attempt to add something to them which would make them jump out and stick in my memory even more.  To me the obvious choice was to use tone mapped high dynamic range (HDR) versions which would create almost surrealistic versions of the images.

I've blogged about HDR before but briefly they are made by using a program to merge several different exposures levels of a scene.   The different exposure levels may be created by using different shutter speeds on the camera to create separate under and over exposed images or by using a single image and then making copies with different exposure levels.  Sometimes when I look at a scene I can tell that the dynamic range is greater than the camera can handle and I will take three shots at the time.  Other times I will look at an image in post processing and see that it would be suitable for processing as a tone mapped HDR.  The following images are a mixture of both types but mainly are taken from single images.

In the software there is a lot of control over how the images are merged which can range from realistic to surrealistic.  In a realistic merge the aim might be to bring out some of the detail in the shadows and highlights, which a single image would lose due to the range of the tones.  The human eye can see more than twice the range in tones as a camera so this can be a useful technique in certain conditions.  In a surrealistic merge the aim is to push the contrast and saturation way past realism which gives the impression of a scene that has been painted with pastel colours and can give almost a cartoon like quality to some images.


On our first day in France we went for a walk around a village called St. Firmin and this image is of an old corrugated iron shed at the side of the road.  I included this photo in the original holiday blog for day 1 but I felt that making a tone mapped image would add an extra dimension to it.



On our second day we reached Honfluer which is a beautiful little port and on our first visit we went past this odd shelter over a shallow pool which was outside a church.  I've seen similar structures near churches all around France but never figured out their purpose.  I speculate that it could be some kind of washing ritual but if any one knows please tell me.  In the day 2 blog I have a picture from the other side of this shelter but I thought this image lends itself more to tone mapping.  In the original version of this photo the underneath of the shelter roof is almost totally black but in this version the lovely colour in the old wood looks really good.




The next image is in the harbour area of Honfluer and is looking down the line of boats moored at the wooden jetty.  The tone mapping has really pulled out the red and blue parts of the boats and also the line of weeds along the harbour wall.  In the middle right distance is the carousel and in the centre distance is the red top to the lighthouse.



The next three images are all from Trouville sur Mer which we visited while staying at Honfluer.  I really loved the architecture here and the first image is a different photo of the castle house.  This was at the end of a row or fairly ordinary looking houses and the owners had really gone to town converting the original part of the house and then adding a massive extension in the form of a castle.  Through the fence on the left is the big arched wooden door with the large old fashioned door knocker.  The chain goes down to a pretend wooden drawbridge.  Totally bizarre, but at the same time truly wonderful.



The next image was a gift shop with a difference.  I love the really steep L-shaped roof with the window in it and the twin gable ends with the cream and black wood framing.  Then there is the sort of lychgate with the roof that matches the building and the sign hanging down.  The telegraph pole does spoil the overall image a tad but in the tone mapped version even the telegraph pole has quite a nice texture.



The final image was the hotel from the original post but the saturation from the tone mapping has made the paintwork almost fluorescent.  I think maybe I pushed this image too far but I don't care.  I loved the original version but this one shouts out and grabs you by the throat.  Looking at the two images side by side I can see that the reds are so blown out that there is some detail being lost so maybe I'll re-process it and try and get some of the detail back.



Our next stop was Fougeres and this image was of the river next to the chateau.  A version of this image was in the original blog post but in this version as well as tone mapping the image I have cropped in much tighter.  I did the cropping to remove the skyline and also the buildings on the right of the image.  I feel the new crop gives much more emphasis to the stone wall, the weeds in the river and the willow trees in the park.  I'm not sure if I should crop even more from the right hand side to completely remove the building in the distance and that little patch of weed on the right hand side near the bottom. 



The next two images are from the gite at Les Fourneaux near Doue la Fontaine where we stopped for a week.  The first is of the gite with my car parked outside the garage.  This was one of the photos where I took three images in the camera because the sun was high and I was facing almost directly into it. On the original images there was quite a bit of flare down the left side which went very odd when I did the tone mapping.  I ended up cropping it off because it went a sort of milky light blue down the gable end of the gite.  The sky is totally blown out and the tone mapping has bee unable to rescue it, but I love the image because it just brings back so many memories of our stay in the Loire Valley.




The final image in this set is called 'La Jardin de Tranquilite' and is my favourite of all the tone mapped images from France.  To be honest it was the first one I processed in this way and the one that gave me the idea for the whole exercise.  I have printed this image out on matt photo paper at A3 and I think it is stunning, maybe a bit busy but stunning.  It is of an area in the garden of the gite where the owners have hung lots of different types of wind chimes which made beautiful noises as the breeze blew.  There's also lots of nice plants, plant pots, statues and pieces of slate with peaceful types of words painted on them.  I took the name for the picture from the slate behind the Buddha statue, although I think it might be spelled wrongly because it has a double 'l' in it.  I could be wrong, I'm no expert in French.



By the way, clicking on an image will bring up a much larger version (about half full size in this set).  Next time the rest of the tone mapped HDR images.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Final Stop, Arras


When we arrive at Arras on Friday it was quite busy but we found a place to park in the Place de Heroes quite close to the hotel.  If you look closely you might be able to spot my car.  What a beautiful place, the architecture in the square is stunning.  Three sides are filled with buildings as in the photo and the fourth side has the Hotel de Ville (Town Hall).  Our hotel was right in the corner of the square looking out onto the Hotel de Ville.  The hotel owner advised us to move our car to an underground car park in the Grand Place, just around the corner because it was much cheaper and there was a market on Saturday.



We had a drink, a walk around then got showered and change for dinner.  We went to a Bistro/bar at the other side of the square which, to be honest wasn't terrific but it was quite cheap and filling.  We had plenty to drink and then staggered back across the square back to the hotel for a night cap.  All the buildings were lit up and the moon had just risen above them.



Even from our bedroom window the Hotel de Ville looked magnificent with the enormous clock tower and all the fancy windows in the roof area.  I was just hoping that the chiming of the bells every quarter hour didn't keep me awake like they had in Fougeres.  In the end I think we'd had enough to drink to allow us to sleep through the bells. 




However, very early next morning we were awoken by the market traders setting up their stalls.  It was still dark when they started arriving, first just one or two and then the whole square was full of vehicles ans stalls.



 To begin with there didn't seem many punters out doing their shopping and the stall holders were looking pretty bored.






We eventually got up and decided to have a look around.  The market filled the square and stretched out into the surrounding street and also into the Grand Place.  In the Grand Place there was also a big funfair set up although it wasn't open when the market was there.  All the buildings in this square were just the same as in the Place de Heroes.  It's quite amazing that all the buildings look the same yet each one was completely unique.



Down one of the side streets was this fish stall which really made me smile.



In the afternoon we went for a walk around other parts of the town.  The first place we looked at was the Cathedral which had been almost completely destroyed during the First World War.  There were photographs in the Cathedral showing how little was left of it and how it had been renovated over the next 90 years.  It appeared to be complete although they were still working on the outside.  Most of original stained glass had gone and also the majority of the statues.  This statue was obviusly quite modern but I love its plain simplicity.



In a side room there was an exhibition of art work and this photo image by Christophe Leleu was amazing.  I spent quite a bit of time looking at this image and wishing that I had the artist ability to do things like this.  Many of the other exhibits were very good, but this was the one that caught my imagination.


After the Cathedral we went to the Museum and went to an exhibition about Napoleon in Egypt.  We had one of those players that told us what everything was in English and it was very good.   I wasn't allowed to take photos in the museum which I thought was a bit unfair but the staff were watching me very closely because I had my camera slung around my neck.

The rest of the town was fairly uninteresting so we sat outside in the square with a bottle of wine and watched the people go by.  We discovered that there was some kind of fete going on in the square on Sunday, so after the market had packed away there was more activity as they started to set up some different stalls and two stages.  There also seemed to be a lot of strangely dressed people about but I don't know if that was normal for Arras on a Saturday night or if it was to do with the fete.



We went to a lovely Italian restaurant for dinner, which was very nice but quite expensive.  After dinner I decided to take some more photos or Arras at night while Lynne watched some television.  From our window we had seen this strange thing being moved about the square so I thought I needed a photo.  So it looks to be Napoleon in Egypt, on a camel, just like at the museum.  How odd.



From the far end of the square the Hotel de Ville looked even better all lit up.



I walked around into the Grand Place to look at the fair and tried to make some action shots of the rides.  I think I like this one the best because of the smoke in the atmosphere and the buildings in the background.  The tower in the background was a church which was up one of the back streets.



The following morning we had to pack up to head back to the ferry.  There was lots more early work on the stalls in the square and all the bars an restaurants in the square were setting up tables.  It looked like it would have been a good fete.  We had seen some dancers practicing on the stage and there some guys busy setting up the sound system.  As we were leaving some dignitaries were arriving in fancy clothes and there were lots of runners limbering up for a race.  We wish we could have stayed but we had to get back to Calais for the ferry.



So that was the end of the holiday, it's taken me a while to get through the photos but I did take over 1200 so I don't think it was too bad.  I might just do one more post with a selection of photos that I haven't shown from the holiday.

Monday, 5 October 2009

Out on a Windy Day

It was really windy on Saturday morning so I thought I'd take Evey out for a walk from our house, through the woods into the playing fields and then back home past the horses field.  I've started a new blog where I'm adding a picture a day using only my 50mm lens, so that's the only lens I had with me.

In the woods I took a few images of the big old trees, but mainly their trunks.  It was a bit dark in the woods but I thought the shape and the texture of this tree was quite stunning.


I just liked the lines down the trunk of this tree and the one behind it.  It was very, very windy at times and it was a bit scary to see how some of the trunks of the big trees swayed around.  I was a bit concerned about whether they were about to blow over on top of us.


There were some black rain clouds being blown along in the wind and at one point we had a big rainbow across the sky.  In my other blog I had a picture of one end of the rainbow, and this is the other end taken a bit later.




When we got to the playing fields I was trying to get Evey to run after the ball on a string and bring it back to me.  At one point she even brought it back to me, which is quite unusual because she not usually any good at retrieval. 





But eventually she got fed up and just stood near to where it landed and looked into the distance with an air of disinterest.





After that we headed back home and I took this portrait of one of the white ponies.