28 March 2010

Nerdy photo things for a wet weekend

Have been getting more and more interested in different forms of photography recently

Started out with High Dimensional Range (HDR) which is based on the concept that the dimensional range of a photo is much less than your eye, so that in any single photo a few bits are optimally exposed while while most of it is either too dark or too light. With HDR you take several photos of the same view, bracketed around the optimal exposure and then sample the best exposure from the set. This can be done manually but is best left to a piece of software. I use photmatix pro - details here and the results are awesome. There are lots of examples of the results at my flickr site such as these from Utah.

Then I got interested in timelapse - my first efforts were with a web cam pointing out the window. I captured a winter week outside the lair. The result can be seen here. The movie was made with a photo taken every 10 minutes and then combined into a movie using some free software at 15 frames per second. It was ok but the quality is pretty shitty.

Next stage was to try and get better quality, so I dug out an old Nikon D70 and started experimenting with that. To get the time lapse it needs to be linked to a laptop and have some controlling software. First I tried to use Nikon capture control which is apparently very good but is also rip-off expensive. When you have spent 2000 quid on a camera the least they could do is give you the software to run it! Anyway I tried to use the trail version but it kept bombing and I wasn't about to spend 120 quid on software that may not work, so back to the interweb.

Then I found DIYphotobits from here which does everything I wanted and is FREE - yes you tight arsed bastards at Nikon - take note! Its a great piece of software and I can't understand why it is not more widely known about.

So then I set up the D70 and experimented. The camera battery only lasts a couple of hours which is a major bummer because it means you need an external power source (another £85 from rip-off Nikon). That is on order.

Apart from that it works really well and it is possible to do time lapse and bracket as well, opening up possibilities for timelapse HDR. So yesterday morning (saturday) I set it all up on the window sill , to take 1 shot every two minutes, bracketed +/- 1 stop. So that is 30 shots per hour (with 90 exposures). This ran for a couple of hours before the battery ran out at lunch time.

Photomatix has an excellent batch process mode which combined the three exposures in to 1 shot, I then stacked them up into a movie at 10 frames per second. The result is here.

I am not super happy with the results. First of all the view was pretty crappy. It was a dull overcast day and not much happening. Secondly the software that has stacked the images into the AVI didn't do a particularly good job this time, it's jerky. I need to have another go at compiling it. When I was loading it up to youtube I realised, as with many great ideas, someone else had beaten me to it and done a better job. Check this and this out.

Finally photo-nerd of the decade must go to this guy who put an old canon into a box, wrapped it up in duct tape and sent it into space on a weather balloon. Awesome! Total respect and great results. Check out his website.

Now time lapse, HDR from space... pass the gaffer tape

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