An HDR from one RAW shot

Consider this image from Aruba, of a rental car inside:

Without a flash, a dynamic range like that is difficult. So look at the before/after:

And so yes, from that image on the left with its very black blacks and blown out whites I can still get back to a reasonable picture—provided I shot in RAW, of course. Here’s my develop settings:

This gives me a sort of one-image HDR.

What lens what used, you ask? My standard ultra-wide, the 16-35mm f/2.8 lens set to its widest 16mm zoom. Shot at 1/100th sec at f/5.6, 200 ISO.



The Seven Benefits To Wide

A lot of my teaching involves lenses, and lens choices. Tough choices, especially when you cannot just “bring them all”, for example when you travelling.

For travel, my favourite lens, as you know, is the extreme wide angle. “Wide angle” for me in this context means 16-35 on a full frame camera (10-20mm on a crop sensor camera); used usually on the wide side (16mm, for me; 10mm on a crop sensor camera).

Yes, the first reason is obvious: a wide angle lens allows me to “get more in”.  But this “pedestrian” reason is not at all the main reason I like it. First there are three additional “creative” advantages:

  1. I get nice diagonals.
  2. I can easily introduce depth (“close-far”).
  3. The wrap-around feeling that is so good for environmental shots – which is what travel shots often are.

There are three practical benefits, too:

  1. A wide angle lens is usually smaller  and lighter than a longer lens.
  2. I can shoot with slow shutter speeds without blurring the image.
  3. It is easy to get very extended depth of field, even at low “f-numbers”.

Now you see why I like wide angle lenses. “It’s like you’re there”:


Did you know I can teach you the ins and outs of your specific camera? Come to me for a short 1-2 hour session and we will fully set up your camera; I will teach you its menus and its custom settings; you will learn its quirks; and I will answer all your questions. Any camera type/brand; $125 per hour.


Snapping Away…

…at The Distillery. Today, on the short walk from my car to the gallery, I used my wide angle lens, the 16-35 mm lens, set to 16mm.

Close to a car, that leads to distortion:

When faced with a large area, when not close to anything, you do not get that, but you can get it all in. I preferred the Distillery without that huge new skyscraper next to it, by the way.

And “wide” allows you to get “into” a scene. Like in this shot: if it had a coffee on this table, I would imagine myself sitting there:

And when I aim close to the ground, and shoot from close to the ground, the ground seems to come up at me:

…and you can see the depth in a street (and the “rule of thirds” in the composition):

…and get an appreciation of the high gallery ceilings:

(yes, my works are still for sale at The Kodiak Gallery – I shall be there noon-6pm every day this week).

None of those shots could have been done in quite the same way without that wide a wide angle lens. 16mm on a full-frame camera means 10mm on a “crop” camera, which you are most likely to have.  So a 10mm lens will give you the ability to:

  1. Get it all in
  2. Show depth
  3. Show people or items “surrounded by their environment”
  4. Shoot at slow shutter speeds (lke 1/10th sec) without blur
  5. Get great depth of field (“sharp-o-matic” even at f/5.6 or f/4!)

That is why if you do not yet have a wide angle lens, a 10-20 (or if you have a full-frame camera a 16-35),  you might consider adding one. I shall not stop saying it!


Open wide!

I mean – wide angle lenses are more useful than most people realize. As frequent readers here know, I do tend to say this over and over. And let me reiterate it here, again.

Last week I shot an industrial food facility. And again, the shots I like most are the wide angle shots – like 16mm on a full-frame camera (that is 10mm on your crop DSLR).

And that gets us shots like this:

Industrial Food Facility (Photo: Michael Willems)

Industrial Food Facility (Photo: Michael Willems)

Industrial Food Facility (Photo: Michael Willems)

A wide angle lens, especially when you get close, introduces – you know it – depth, three-dimensionality, perspective, size, and hence drama; and above all, it gives a 2-D still photo credibility.

So if you do not have one yet, ask Santa now (*and you can also ask him for a gift certificate for personal training while you are at it – ask me how).

A “wide” lens is a 10-20mm lens, that order, when you are using a crop DSLR, or a 16-35 or 17-40 when using a fill-frame camera.



Michael’s Top Ten Dicta

Legally speaking, a Dictum is “a statement of opinion or belief considered authoritative though not binding, because of the authority of the person making it”. More generally, it is “a noteworthy statement: as (a) : a formal pronouncement of a principle, proposition, or opinion; (b) : an observation intended or regarded as authoritative.” Google it if you want.

So, assuming you know me and trust my judgement, you may well be interested in my Top Ten Dicta:

  1. Bright pixels are sharp pixels. The more you make your subject bright pixels, the more it will be sharp and crisp. Noise hides in the darkness, like cockroaches. Light your subject and it becomes sharp.
  2. Go wide and get close. Wide angles combined with proximity to something introduces depth and perspective into y our images.
  3. Indoors flash: point your flash up, 45 degrees behind you. This gives you the correct light angle for close-by portraits, like in events.
  4. Indoors flash: Use the “4-4-4″ rule” as your camera setting starting point: Camera on manual, 400 ISO, 1/40th sec, f/4. Then adjust for brighter or darker rooms, to give average ambient exposure of around -2 stop.
  5. Turn baby turn. Feel free to angle your shots whenever you like. Composition, simplifying, energy: whatever your reasons. It’s cool, it’s allowed.
  6. You, and the lens, make the picture. Cameras are cool – I buy a lot of them – but the picture is made by you – even an iPhone can produce cool shots – and more technically, by the lens. A good lens on a cheap body is great. A cheap lens on a good body, not so much.
  7. Go Prime If You Can. Prime lenses lose on convenience but win in every other way. I love my 35mm f/1.4 lens.
  8. Use off-centre composition and the rule of thirds in your compositions.
  9. Get close: fill the frame. This so often makes your images better, it is worth stressing as a Dictum.
  10. Simplify! Ask yourself: is everything in my image the subject or the supporting background? If not, get rid of it. A circle has 360 degrees.

That’s my wisdom in a nutshell. Do you know, understand, feel, and above all use all ten principles above?

Learn about these and much more in one of my training or private coaching sessions. There is 10% December Discount – this is a great time to consider buying a friend a session with me: buy a Gift Certificate for the holiday season!