Monday, November 7, 2011

Back in the Saddle Again

I've wanted to catch you up on my efforts with HDR (see previous post). But I must not have wanted to do it that badly, I hear you murmur. Well, keeping a roof over and food on can be a time consuming business, which some of you may have noticed.

Last winter I was approached by a very successful Australian interior designer, Fiona Lochtenberg, to do an in-depth photo shoot of her new house at Tamarack, the famed ski resort just south of McCall, Idaho. I might add that it is most famed within the court system of Idaho, where the unfortunate property and anyone financially related to it have been bouncing around for years. In spite of the financial/legal issues surrounding the place, people with disposable income still find it quite an attractive place to be and own. And their reasons are quite apparent.

To do this shoot, which was going to be mostly interiors of a many-roomed mansion, I invested in a new Tamron SP 10-24mm zoom, equivalent to about a 16-37mm for those still stuck in 35mm slr film equivalents (me). It proved to be ideal for the job and I'm glad to have it.

Right up front I knew I was going to shoot this job in HDR (high dynamic range), even though I'd never used this technique on a job before. I figured I had done enough to have a solid enough grasp of it going in. As it turned out, I probably could not have done a better job without it, even though I would do several things differently today and did make a few mistakes along the way.

The weather was gray and gloomy during the last days of December and pulling an interesting shot of the exterior would have been quite a challenge using a straight forward technique. I relied on a heavy dose of HDR on this shot, giving it that surreal, dreamy aspect that is so easily achieved with it. In this case I forgive myself however, and am pleased with the results. I think the way the house blends into the environment, notwithstanding its imposing architecture, is admirable and pleasing. In retro-thought, I may have done well to have lighted up the windows, giving it more of a sanctuary from the harsh winter feeling. That was accomplished with this night shot:

The texture of the snow and the white highlights of the trees were not there in the straight shot version of this photo; I simply couldn't have done this without HDR.

The interior of the house was both a challenge and an exciting opportunity, with lots of design to make a photographer happy.

The house was replete with well-designed features and details which of course made my job both interesting a time consuming (I had a total of about eight hours to do the whole thing, which was adequate but just barely.

This second story patio overlooked a ski run that passes just a couple of yards from the walls of the house:

One of the most intriguing rooms of the house is the kitchen, which is on the interior wall of the main living room/dining area. The other three walls are glass, offering a fantastic view over Tamarack towards Donnelly. There is very little besides a Kitchen Aid to inform one that this is actually a kitchen and not a wet bar.

This is the open balcony of a guest room:

Because of the hundreds of files that resulted I would have been hard pressed to process them all adequately using just Photomatix so I purchased a program called HDR Express. There are many fewer controls and manual tweeks with the latter and it did indeed speed up the process significantly. I found myself dissatisfied with many of my favorite images however, so ended up going back and re-doing them with Photomatix, taking advantage of the hands-on adjustments it gives me. Both programs are great and I think each deserves some space on your hard drive, especially if you're going to be processing HDR shoots that result in more than a few dozen viable images.