New Photos: HDR, Historical Overlay, and a Bunker Crawl
koppie — Wed, 10/05/2011 - 19:53
I recently went on a "bunker crawl" through San Francisco with my good friend Billy Coye. We started with WWII-era fortifications but branched out to the Sutro Baths and a Nike missile site in the Marin headlands. On this tour, I tried two new things I'd never done before: HDR, and historical overlay. Yes, there will be pics. :-)
High Dynamic Range photography (HDR) is a technique where you take multiple photos of the same thing at different exposures, and then blend them. It works best for scenes with, well, a high dynamic range, ie. a high variation between light and dark. For example, here are three photos I took of the Nike radar tracking system in the Marin Headlands:
The darker photo does a great job of showing off the beautiful cloud pattern, but the subjects in the foreground are blacked out. The lighter photos do a great job of showing detail in the foreground, but you lose the clouds. Combine the photos, and you get:
Historical overlay is taking a modern shot of something, and then superimposing an historical photo on top. I was inspired by a beautiful series of photos from WWII. There are lots of historical photos of San Francisco so I may try to make this a Thing. But in the mean time, here's one:
The concept is rather simple: I went to the Sutro Baths, I quickly found an historical photo of the exterior online (on my smartphone), and then lined up my shot to match. When I got it home, I photoshopped the historical photo on top of mine. A little layer masking, blending, and some levels adjustment, and you have the final photo. (Note: my photo is also HDR.) I'm very pleased with the result and intend to do more.
Here's the rest of the Bunker Crawl:
I've been slowly going through the rest of my photo backlog and discovered other bracketed shots I'd taken. "Bracketed" means I took the same shot at different exposures. At the time I was trying to find the "best" exposure, but that's exactly how you make an HDR photo! Here's a bracketed shot of the barracks at Fort Point:
And here's the HDR:
Gorilla at the San Diego zoo:
Here are a couple sunsets down on the San Francisco waterfront:
And finally, just in time for the holidays, the Hanukah candles. Usually it's hard impossible to capture both the detail of the flame, and the candles themselves. Unfortunately flames move a lot; out of dozens of shots, this was the only one that worked as HDR:
This was a fun experiment and I'm definitely doing more HDR and historical overlays. I know there are a lot of interesting historical photos of San Francisco. Any requests?