Thursday, 21 October 2010

October Night Shoot in Darling Harbour

Jones Bay Wharf,  HDR by Mark Daku. Awesome wide-angle view of a Sydney harbour icon with a dramatic sky and good foreground interest. Note that sometimes the HDR process leaves sections of the image looking low contrast (under the eaves of the wharf) and the rest appears as high contrast. One way to even this out is to process two HDR images: a regular one and a second with higher contrast. The higher contrast version is copied and pasted onto the regular HDR and the bits not required can be erased off the top layer to reveal the regular HDR underneath it.

Darling Harbour by Hamish Allen. Amazing colour in this long exposure shot in DH. Needs to be cropped and rotated to get Sydney Harbour on the level! Also, this is not 100% sharp? I suspect this is just because either the tripod moved in between the three HDR exposures or focus was not 100% accurate? AF at night is not foolproof so manual focus is a good idea. I'd always recommend using a shutter release cable. Even though it sounds pedantic, it really makes a difference between a shot that's just OK and one that's pin-sharp.
Lighthouse boat by Hamish Allen. this works extremely well because you have captured an amazing range of clouds in the sky and good illumination on the water in the foreground. Unfortunately, because of the very long exposure, the lighthouse boat moved! As a suggestion, next time you're walking past this Sydney icon, set up your tripod, use an ND filter (Neutral Density), or a Polarising filter on the lens to slow the shutter speed down further, and take the shot. What this will do is make the water in the foreground even smoother. What I would suggest you do then, is to take the same scene but without any filters and at a wide-open aperture so that the lighthouse boat is captured relatively sharp. Then, all you need do, is copy and paste that layer onto the glossy water version and erase everything off the top layer except for the boat - effectively montaging the boat into the very long exposure shot so you get the best of both worlds. It's time-consuming but should produce a more accurate result.
Hamish - this is a huge improvement over the previous version. I took the liberty of rotating the image slightly because I think the shoreline in the distance is still not level and certainly, Centerpoint tower was not 100% vertical. That said your result is awesome - very impressive sky, good exposure in the distant city skyline and vastly improved forground interest. Excellent work in the retouching department - you might find that many nighttime HDR shots require retouching simply because you're dealing with unpredictable light. Good job.

Big WOW! factor in this HDR from Hamish Allen with an almost painterly look at the Harbour at night. One issue with HDR software is that the local contrast seems to be a bit random in is placing - the tops of the buildings appear quite dark while the mid-point in the image has good contrast. Can be fixed easily enough using the technique described for Mark's Jones Bay wharf image. Or you could use the Dodge tool to brighten local areas. I's also remove that bright light section at the extreme left - but overall, a great result! (The lower version is just there to show how lightening those dark towers makes a significant difference to the resul).

A good HDR result from Kerrie Dixon. We often completely ignore the exposure problems presented by regular DSLRs, possibly because we assume there's nothing we can do about it. Shooting multiple exposures, then assembling them using HDR software is one way to go and, as you can see here, produces detailed inside a very dark pagoda as well as catching all the detail in the bright exterior. This is a bit of an optical illusion because, when I first saw this, I thought it needed rotating - but the red pillars are vertical? It might need the perspective transforming.

Waterfall, Chinese Gardens by Kerrie Dixon. Excellent use of shutter speed (with the aperture closed all the way down) to emphasise movement, in this case the water. Could be extended even longer with a neutral density (ND) filter or a Polarising filter, both of which reduce light and therefore extend exposure time considerably. Needs straightening a bit?

Another great night shot from Kerrie Dixon. Of course, one of the biggest problems here is trying to balance a long shutter speed with the movement of the boat. In general a shot like this would look a lot stronger if there was still color in the sky - we discussed this on the night. The negative side of a long exposure is that the camera records movement in the right box, the positive side is that it produces superb, almost glass-like results in the water.
Sculpture by Kerrie. This is an excellent result - even though the daylight has gone from the sky, because it was slightly overcast, the extremely long exposure picks up the ambient light reflected from the city off the clouds
Another fine HDR picture from Mark D. This addresses nicely the problems you get when are dropping and moving objects. Some photographers preferred to shoot a single RAW file and create a pseudo HDR picture from that. It's actually a neat process but, because you're extracting three pictures from one (rather than from three separate files) you do get a lot of problems with noise. Having said that, I think this is an excellent result, looking almost like the set for a horror film? I would probably get in and lighten and some of the dark areas around the girders underneath the bridge using the Dodge tool just to smooth out the effect a bit? Another thought would be to correct the distorted perspective a little bit using a layer Transformation..
Redwood house by Roger Cameron:  This is an impressive HDR picture. You managed to capture all the detail inside and everything outside - my only comment would be to lower saturation slightly because, what's typical with Photomatix is that it tends to overdo the color. Remember that when you're editing the image in Photomatix using the sliders, what you see on the screen is only an 'approximation'. It's a good idea to set the Color Saturation to about 35 or 40% only then work on it using the Hue/Saturation feature in CS. It's not until you click the 'process' button that you can actually see how it's going to turn out. You then have to import it into Photoshop for a color-managed tweak.
FourBridges by Roger Cameron: This one didn't work so well despite our efforts on the day. I'd be tempted to convert this to black-and-white just to reduce it to graphic shapes and see what that does to it?
James Craig by RogerC: again this actually works really well Roger, despite the fact that the boat was shifting. I can see from the ripples that this was a reasonably quick exposure which explains how you have minimized the blur we would normally expect to see in the rigging.  Again, the only thing I would do here would be to perhaps pull the saturation down very slightly in the sky. What do you think?
HMS Endeavour by RogerC: Again I think the color is a little bit 'hot' in this picture. You could consider backing it off by about 10%? Not much, but just enough to reduce the lolly flavor.
Shot by Kerrie Dixon - As I suspected, this scene has been reduced to quite an eerie-looking result which I personally like. Sometimes these semi-industrial areas can produce fascinating subject matter, especially if you capture them without any people. It lends a ghostly 'ambience' to the composition. I would've shifted the camera slightly to the right to have less of the city in the background and more of this large building in the foreground but it's still an amazing result considering, to the human eye, everything appeared to be considerably darker. Only possible with a tripod!
Another hot shot from Mark Daku - I think it still needs slight clockwise rotation? The overcast evening was perfect for this scene. Any sunlight in the white water in the back of the picture or on the rocks, would present significant exposure problems. The soft  lighting is also good because it forces us to use an even longer shutter speed and thus gives a more impressive smoky water effect.
Wharf by Mark Daku. Excellent job here, with an almost perfect, glassy water surface in the background and a great deal of foreground interest. As a suggestion you could have popped a bit of speedlight or torchlight into the foreground to brighten it up (if it hasn't already got some in there?) Again, shooting at this time of night is not the best solution but what you achieved here was excellent.
Another shot from Mark, taken with the help of multiple speedlights from different angles. The biggest problem here is getting enough detail in the sky - which you have done.


  1. Thank You Robin,

    It was a fun night out. I learned a lot. Also thanks for the comments.

  2. Hi Mark, many thanks - great shots. Do you have any more?