Nikon D7000 Technique – Mirror Lock UP and HDR

Posted April 6th, 2011 by   |  Photography, Software, Uncategorized  |  Permalink

The new Nikon D7000 camera keeps on impressing me. There are a lot of little improvements in the software that really benefit photographers trying to get the most performance out of their gear. One of these is being able to shoot a bracketed HDR burst while also using Mirror Lock-up.

Nikon D7000

Nikon D7000

Let me explain why you’d do this, then explain how to do it.

Why

High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography involves taking a series of photos at different exposures and then blending the series together in software. Each photo is exposed at a different brightness level and therefore contains exposure data for certain parts of the scene. For example, the darkest photos in the sequence will contain data for the bright sky/clouds, while the brightest photos in the sequence will contain data for the shadows.

After you take the images, it is common to use a software program to merge the series together into one photo. Programs like Nik HDR Efex Pro take the best-exposed parts of each picture and then create one final image that has detail in the shadows, highlights and everywhere in-between.

Whale skeleton and hotels along Washington State Pacific coast. Nikon D7000. Processed in Nik HDR Efex Pro.

Whale skeleton and hotels along Washington State Pacific coast. Nikon D7000. Processed in Nik HDR Efex Pro.

Ok, now that you understand HDR, let’s talk about the process of taking the photos. Since the software will be merging many images to create one final image, it is important that the camera remains steady during the burst of shots. You can imagine that the photo might look weird if the camera physically moved between shots, since the software might have a difficult time properly lining up elements of the scene.

For the very best HDR photos, it is generally best to:

1. Use a tripod

2. Use a cable release

3. Use mirror lock-up

The third item in the list presents a challenge to photographers. This is because it can take a long time to shoot a series of photos while also using mirror lock up. As many of you know, mirror lock up requires you to press the shutter release (or cable release) two times for each exposure. The first push lifts the mirror and the second push trips the shutter.

Normally when you are shooting an HDR sequence, you want to set the camera to take a fast burst of photos, so elements in the scene don’t move from shot to shot. For example, if you were photographing a landscape with clouds in the sky, the clouds can actually move quite a bit from the first shot to the last shot if you don’t rapidly take the photos. In this example, the software will have a difficult time with ghosting in the clouds, creating an odd look to the image.

Enter the Nikon D7000! In Nikon’s newest prosumer SLR camera, they now allow you to shoot a bracketed HDR burst while simultaneously using mirror lock-up. This means that the camera will automatically take the entire bracketed sequence while also activating mirror lock-up before each photograph. Awesome!

The result is a fast sequence for the bracketed burst, and a stable camera as a result of mirror lock-up.

How

If want to automate the process, or just make it faster, then do this:

1. Set camera for M-Up (found on the shooting mode dial)

Set your camera's shooting mode dial to M UP. This activates the mirror lock-up mode.

Set your camera's shooting mode dial to M UP. This activates the mirror lock-up mode.

2. Activate bracketing on your camera by pressing the BKT button and rotating your command dials. You’ll want to set it so it reads 3F 2.0.

Press the BKT button on the left of the camera. Then, rotate main command dial and sub command dial until you see 3F 2.0.

Press the BKT button on the left of the camera. Then, rotate main command dial and sub command dial until you see 3F 2.0.

3. Press Menu button. Navigate to Shooting Menu (camera icon)

4. Choose Interval Timer Shooting

Choose Interval timer shooting from the menu.

Choose Interval timer shooting from the menu.

Then choose Now.

Then choose Now.

Then choose 1 sec.

Then choose 1 sec.

5. Set up interval timer to take one interval and three shots per interval (1×3).

Then set camera to take one interval and three shots per interval (1 x 3)

Then set camera to take one interval and three shots per interval (1 x 3)

6. Choose “On”

Choose On. Then, the camera will begin shooting the 3 frame HDR sequence.

Choose On. Then, the camera will begin shooting the 3 frame HDR sequence.

The instant you press OK, the camera will start taking the bracketed sequence, so you’ll want to already have your composition and focus set. The camera will then quickly take all three frames in rapid sequence while locking the mirror up for each one.

Shot 1 of 3 in the sequence.

Shot 1 of 3 in the sequence.

Shot 2 of 3 in the sequence.

Shot 2 of 3 in the sequence.

Shot 3 of 3 in the sequence.

Shot 3 of 3 in the sequence.

After you’ve completed the HDR sequence, the next step is to bring the photos into your favorite HDR program to process the HDR image. My favorite program is Nik HDR Efex Pro. It allows me to create realistic HDR images like the one immediately below, or surreal HDR images as shown at the end of this post.

Final HDR image from Nik HDR Efex Pro.

Final HDR image from Nik HDR Efex Pro.

In summary, I really like how Nikon keeps innovating new ideas. Even if the ideas are fairly small in the grand scheme of things, Nikon is always looking for ways to make our photography better. Allowing us to lock our mirrors up during the HDR burst is a perfect example of Nikon listening to feedback and implementing that feedback in the real world!

Below are some recent HDR pics I’ve taken with the D7000.

Hotel at sunset. Kissimmee, FL. Nikon D7000. Processed in Nik HDR Efex Pro.

Hotel at sunset. Kissimmee, FL. Nikon D7000. Processed in Nik HDR Efex Pro.

Bumper cars in Bend, Oregon. Nikon D7000. Processed in Nik HDR Efex Pro.

Bumper cars in Bend, Oregon. Nikon D7000. Processed in Nik HDR Efex Pro.





Nikon D5100 Released – 1080p 30fps and 16MP

Posted April 5th, 2011 by   |  Photography  |  Permalink

Nikon keeps upping the ante with their entry level camera systems. The Nikon D5100 is a substantial upgrade over the D5000 and incorporates many of the D7000 features in a smaller body. One of the neatest elements of the new camera is Nikon’s new in-camera HDR. In this mode, the D5100 takes two exposures (one bright, one dark) while the shutter is open. Then, using in-camera processing, it combines the two into one final image.

Pricing for the D5100 looks like it will be $799.99 USD for the body. Not bad!

D5100, image courtesy Nikon, Inc.

D5100, image courtesy Nikon, Inc.

D5100, image courtesy Nikon, Inc.

D5100, image courtesy Nikon, Inc.





Old Mill District – Bend, OR

Posted March 22nd, 2011 by   |  Photography, Software, Travel  |  Permalink

Took a trip down to Bend Oregon a few days ago for a family wedding. While there, our extended family went out to dinner at an Italian restaurant in the Old Mill District. The Old Mill District is a great place to take photographs and I enjoyed capturing the buildings during the evening/dusk hours. All these images were taken with the Nikon D7000 and 18-105mm kit lens – a great little setup for travel. I’m loving the image quality from the 16.2 MP D7000.

Blue Hour over Orvis. Nikon D7000, 18-105mm, camera braced against railing.

Blue Hour over Orvis. Nikon D7000, 18-105mm, camera braced against railing.

Blue Hour over Regal Cinemas. Nikon D7000, 18-105mm, handheld.

Blue Hour over Regal Cinemas. Nikon D7000, 18-105mm, handheld.

Pond and stores near sunset. Three image HDR processed with Nik HDR Efex Pro. Nikon D7000, 18-105mm, handheld.

Pond and stores near sunset. Three image HDR processed with Nik HDR Efex Pro. Nikon D7000, 18-105mm, handheld.





Content Aware Fill in Photoshop CS5

Posted March 15th, 2011 by   |  Photography, Software  |  Permalink

I was working on some of my Yosemite photographs the other day and came across this one taken from Tunnel View. As soon as I opened it up, I noticed jet contrails in the sky and was ready to immediately close it to find another one without the contrails. Honestly, I didn’t want to spend the time to clone out the contrails using the Photoshop clone stamp or healing brush or spot healing tools.

Then, I remembered the Content Aware Fill tool! Content Aware fill allows you to select a region you want to repair and then simply press the enter button on your keyboard. Photoshop CS5 does the rest. Honestly, the tool is embarrasingly easy to use. Just draw a selection around the area, activate the Fill Tool, choose Content Aware Fill and press Return/Enter on your keyboard. Done!


Notice the contrails in the sky above El Capitan.

Notice the contrails in the sky above El Capitan.

The first step to fixing problem areas in your photo is to make a selection around the offending “thing.” In the case of the photograph above, the offending “thing” is the contrail. So, choose the lasso tool and simply draw around the contrail.

Choose the Lasso Tool from your tool bar.

Choose the Lasso Tool from your tool bar.

Here's the simple selection drawn around the contrail.

Here's the simple selection drawn around the contrail.

After you’ve made the selection, you have to activate the Fill Tool. Do this by going to your menu in Photoshop CS5 and choose Edit –> Fill…

After choosing Fill, you’ll need to change the method from Foreground Color to Content-Aware.

Choose the Fill Tool from the menu Edit --> Fill... Then choose Content-Aware from the pull down menu.

Choose the Fill Tool from the menu Edit --> Fill... Then choose Content-Aware from the pull down menu.

The next step is to either click the OK button or press the Enter/Return key on your keyboard. After this, Photoshop CS5 takes over and completely repairs the area.

Draw a selection around the area you want to fix with the Lasso Tool.

Here's the result after using Content Aware Fill inside the selection.

Content Aware Fill mysteriously knows exactly what to replace and exactly what to keep. Honestly, it is astounding!

Fixed! Simple to use and amazing results.

Fixed! Simple to use and amazing results.

The more I use Content Aware Fill, the more impressed I am with the tool. I find I use it for repairing everything from dust in the sky to zits on a face to trash in a landscape photo to hair on someone’s head. If you haven’t upgraded to Photoshop CS5 yet, then this tool alone makes the upgrade worthwhile.





Triptych for GOAL Assignment

Posted March 10th, 2011 by   |  Photography, Software  |  Permalink

Each month I give out a GOAL Assignment that is designed to encourage you photographically. The GOAL Assignment for March, 2011 was to create a triptych. Here’s an example from some photographs I took a couple days ago at the Tacoma Museum of Glass which features work from Dale Chihuly.

Triptych of Tacoma Museum of Glass. Nikon D700, 14-24mm f2.8.

Triptych of Tacoma Museum of Glass. Nikon D700, 14-24mm f2.8.

I took each photo in the series with a Nikon D700 and a Nikon 14-24mm f2.8. I was photographing a fundraiser event called the Chair Affair for a local charity called the NW Furniture Bank. During the event, I stepped outside to shoot some images of the building at dusk in order to add another dimension to my coverage. I’ll detail how I put together the triptych in next month’s newsletter.





Iao Valley

Posted November 22nd, 2009 by   |  Photography, Travel  |  Permalink
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Iao Valley, Maui Hawaii. HDR processed in Photomatix Pro. Nikon D700. 24-70mm f2.8. Gitzo CF tripod.

The most common thing to photograph in Iao Vally, Maui is Iao Needle (below). However, if you go to the valley at sunrise, and point your camera down the valley, you’ll be rewarded with a beautiful view. This image was taken yesterday morning just as the sun peeked around Mt. Haleakala and struck the opening of the valley. The contrast was intense, so it required a number of different exposures to capture all the detail. In this case, I used 9 stops to capture everything from the clouds to the valley walls.

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Iao Needle. Nikon D300s. 24-70mm f2.8. Gitzo CF tripod.

Iao Valley is frequently shrouded in clouds because of its location on Maui. It is also one of the wettest regions on the island. Because of this, I recommend shooting early so you can capture the early morning sunshine. If you wait, then you are likely going to be photographing the rest of the day with overcast skies like the photo below.

Another view of Iao Needle. Nikon D700. 14-24mm f2.8. Gitzo CF tripod.

Another view of Iao Needle. Nikon D700. 14-24mm f2.8. Gitzo CF tripod.





Canoes in the Chugach

Posted September 30th, 2009 by   |  Photography, Software, Travel  |  Permalink

Alaska is such a photographic paradise, that it is hard to stop posting images from this great land. It seems like everywhere you turn there is a fantastic juxtaposition between mankind and nature at its grandest.

These canoes were pulled up on the beach at Spencer Lake, which is just below the Spencer Glacier in the Chugach National Forest. We were preparing to go out on some rubber rafts to explore the ice bergs and glacier when I noticed these two lonely canoes over to the side. They had a certain look about them that I just had to photograph.

HDR image of canoes below the ... Lake

HDR image of canoes below Spencer Lake in the Chugach National Forest.





Some HDR from Denali NP

Posted September 18th, 2009 by   |  Photography, Software, Travel  |  Permalink

Last week’s trip to Denali NP presented some high contrast lighting to deal with. One of the “downsides” of having good weather in a place like Denali is that your camera isn’t able to capture all the detail from the shadows while also capturing detail from the clouds and sky.

To overcome this issue with the camera, I took a series of exposures at different brightnesses and then ran them through software called Photomatix Pro. After compressing the tones, I brought them into Photoshop for a little more burning/dodging.

Toklat river, Denali NP. Nikon D300s, 12-24mm f4, Gitzo CF tripod.

Toklat river, Denali NP. Nikon D300s, 12-24mm f4, Gitzo CF tripod.

HDR Black and White from Polychrome Overlook in Denali NP. This image was created from a 7 frame HDR burst in Photomatix Pro, then converted to B&W in Photoshop. Nikon D700, 28-75mm f2.8, Gitzo CF

HDR Black and White from Polychrome Overlook in Denali NP. This image was created from a 7 frame HDR burst in Photomatix Pro, then converted to B&W in Photoshop. Nikon D700, 28-75mm f2.8, Gitzo CF

Fall colors. Toklat River, Denali NP. Nikon D300s, 12-24mm f4, Gitzo CF tripod.

Fall colors. Toklat River, Denali NP. Nikon D300s, 12-24mm f4, Gitzo CF tripod.





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