Into the woods

After a long spell of bad weather my Saturday started sunny and it remained so until sunset. I had set my alarm clock at 6.00 am, knowing that the sun would rise at 6.30 am. I looked out my window and I was greeted by open skies and foggy trees in the distance. Fog and clear skies form a good combination so I decided to head out into the woods. I found this great open place with old and majestic trees that I thought would be excellent for the shots I had already thought up in my  mind. I often form these images in my head that I would like to shoot in real life. I then ponder about the ‘how’, ‘when’, and ‘where’ question and start to look for the right places. I found a place not long after my pondering so that’s where I decided to go (nature photography tip: know your places). I knew from experience that sunny skies and misty weather conditions go well together and my experience proved me right once more:

HDR forest sunrays

HDR forest sunrays

To clarify how I took these photo’s I must first explain that a camera does not have the dynamic range of the human eye. Our eyes can adjust to various intensities of light, thereby letting you see detail in dark places, even when there’s a bright light source in your point of view (to a certain extent, the human eye does have its limits of course). Unfortunately, for the camera this is a different story. If you have very dark and very light area’s in your camera’s field of view, it’s dynamic range is not large enough to accurately expose both the light and the dark places. You as a photographer have to tell the camera what to base the exposure on (dark area, light area, or the area in between). You basically want every point of your photo to be exposed correctly. The way to solve this is to shoot several bracketed photo’s, each about 1 stop apart, and digitally merge these later on using HDR software (I used Photomatix Pro). You will get a range of photo’s that will go from underexposure to overexposure, thereby toning down the highlights and lighting up the shadows. The software will determine what area’s of your 3, 5 or 7 shots are correctly exposed and combine these into 1 image. You have to use a tripod though to get images that accurately overlap. After some small fine tuning in the software you can get a ‘realistic’ HDR photo that more resembles what your eyes actually saw. You can do this to varying degrees but I like to keep it more realistic in stead of the abstract you often see with HDR photo’s as well. What you would use depends on your personal taste of course.

So in summary: know your area, weather conditions, choose a correct lens (in my case a Nikon 10-24mm), decide to bracket, know how to work with HDR software.

After my visit to the forest I went to the heather of National Park the Meinweg. The heath bushes have almost reached their full flowering stage and are already creating seas of blooming pink/purple colors. No HDR this time as I did not take my tripod with me (in stead, I used an extended monopod to get a higher point of view).

National Park the Meinweg

Until next time!

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