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Saturday, 28 March 2009
HDR image from Golden Temple, Bylakuppe
Category: Digital Room
I'd been trying to do High Dynamic Range (HDR) merged pictures for a while now, but was hardly happy with the sharpness I got. This time, @ Golden Temple of Namdroling Monastery, Bylakuppe in Coorg / Kodagu (during a Nagarhole / Kodagu trip), I thought the pictures were reasonably sharp after the HDR merge:

To get an idea of the lighting situation inside the temple complex, check out the non-HDR images in an earlier post :Golden Temple @ Bylakuppe, from a Dec 2007 visit to the same place. In that picture, the idols are too bright and the remaining portions are dark. This is indeed an ideal situation to try out the HDR technique.

This HDR is created from three pictures, taken using the AEB settings in Canon EOS 400D. I set the AEB to +/- 2EV in Av mode, f/8, ISO-100 for three images, 1/3s for the base image, 1/13s for the dark image and 1.3s for the bright image. The camera was mounted in a tripod with the Canon EF-s 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens @ 31mm.

Dynamic Range is a measure of the camera's capability to collect details from dark as well as bright regions. When the camera's dynamic range is not sufficient enough for a scene, one may use more than one frames with different exposures and merge them using software for a higher dynamic range.

Usually three shots (mid-exposure, under-exposure and over-exposure) are taken but more than three is also possible. All shots should have exactly the same frame but different exposure values. Its advisable to use a tripod for this, since any non-aligment of frames will spoil the merge result. Also, this is possible only for frames with little or no movement. Canon cameras have a setting called Automatic Exposure Bracketing (AEB) which will help to take three different shots with different exposures.

The basic idea of merging is to use the intensity of the image itself as a mask for merging. We should use the mid-exposure image as base and add brighter portions from the under-exposed image as well as the darker portions of the over-exposed image. I have used GIMP to do this but the procedure should be similar in all softwares.

Let me outline the procedure of merging three different exposure pictures for a HDR result in GIMP:

  1. Start with the normal exposure picture (lets call it the base image) and open the Layers Dialogue (Ctrl-L).
  2. Create a new layer (lets name it the 'Dark Layer') and select that layer.
  3. Open the under-exposed picture. Select all (Ctrl-A) and copy (Ctrl-C).
  4. Go back to the base image and paste (Ctrl-V). Go to the layer's dialogue, right click on the pasted layer and 'Anchor Layer'. The pasted layer should merge with the 'Dark Layer'.
  5. Right click on the 'Dark Layer' and 'Add Layer Mask' (default settings will do). Keep the selection on 'Dark Layer'.
  6. Go back to under-exposed picture and convert it to gray scale (Image -> Mode -> Grayscale). Now select all (Ctrl-A) and copy (Ctrl-C).
  7. Go back to the base image and paste (Ctrl-V). Go to the layer's dialogue, right click the pasted layer and 'Anchor Layer'. The pasted layer should now be the layer mask for the 'Dark Layer'.
  8. Right click on the 'Dark Layer' and 'Apply Layer Mask'.
  9. Right click on the 'Dark Layer' and 'Merge Down'.
  10. Create another layer (lets call it 'Bright Layer') and selct that layer.
  11. Open the over-exposed picture, select all (Ctrl-A) and copy (Ctrl-C).
  12. Go back to the base image and paste (Ctrl-V).
  13. Go to the layers dialogue, right click on the pasted layer and 'Anchor Layer'. The pasted layer should now be the 'Bright Layer'.
  14. Right click on the 'Bright Layer' and 'Add Layer Mask' (default settings will do). Keep the selection on 'Bright Layer'.
  15. Go back to over-exposed picture and convert it to gray scale (Image -> Mode -> Grayscale). We need to invert the image. For this open the curves dialogue (Colors -> Curves), move the bottom-left point to top-left and top-right point to botom-right. Save this, select all (Ctrl-A) and copy (Ctrl-C).
  16. Go back to the base image and paste (Ctrl-V). Go to the layer's dialogue, right click the pasted layer and 'Anchor Layer'. The pasted layer should now be the layer mask for the 'Bright Layer'.
  17. Right click on the 'Bright Layer' and 'Apply Layer Mask'.
  18. Right click on the 'Bright Layer' and 'Merge Down'.

The HDR picture is ready. This procedure may be extended to merge more than three pictures as well. To control the layer mask, one can adjust the color curves or edit the gray scale image in step 6 and 15.


Posted by usandeep at 12:01 AM
Updated: Friday, 15 May 2009 4:07 PM
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Friday, 27 March 2009
Black Ibis couple near Hunsur
Category: Birds 'n Animals

Another bird couple picture, this time of a Black Ibis couple near Hunsur on our way to Nagarhole:

The settings are the usual with the Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L telephoto lens. No tripod, Av mode, f/5.6, ISO-100 and 1/400s. I used partial metering to avoid the camera being mislead due to the bright mid-noon sky in the background.

Black Ibis is not as aquatic as most other species of Ibis, like the Black Headed Ibis so abundantly seen in the agricultural fields around Mysore. Both sexes of the Black Ibis look alike . So, the ones in the picture may be a couple.


Posted by usandeep at 12:01 AM
Updated: Thursday, 7 May 2009 12:33 PM
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Red-wattled Lapwing from Nagarhole
Category: Birds 'n Animals

Met this bird while driving along the Nagarhole national park, during a trip to Nagarhole / Thirunelli / Kushal Nagar:

This is a Red-wattled Lapwing, thanks again to Gowtham and John for identifying it. The scientific name of the bird is 'Vanellus indicus' and it has a characteristic loud call, resembling the phrase 'did he do it?'. I initially shot the bird from inside the car, but since it was at a much lower plane, the background came out as distracting. Then I got out of the car and sat on the road for a shot from the same height as the bird :) Fortunately, the bird stayed there for a few shots!

The pic is taken using the Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L telephoto lens, handheld, Av mode, F/5.6 and ISO-400 for a 1/500s exposure. I later did some cropping (3888 to 2400px) and contrast adjustment using GIMP.


Posted by usandeep at 12:01 AM
Updated: Friday, 15 May 2009 1:02 PM
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Sunday, 8 March 2009
Tea Estates @ Meppadi
Category: Nature 'n Landscapes
This pic is the result of taking a different route from Kozhikode to Bangalore / Bengaluru - this time via Meppadi, Vaduvanchal and Gudalur:

This is a bad pic as far as the technical details go ... Av mode f/5.6 (too small a DOF for this landscape ... I should have atleast used the A-Dep mode) ... so I dont have the faraway peak in focus. I would have loved getting a sharper background. It was not the best time for a landscape pic either, with the afternoon sun blazing down.

The pic is taken with the Canon EF-s 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens @ 18mm, handheld with an exposure time of 1/250s. But, somehow, I liked the frame and Preethu liked it too ... So, I ended up doing some brightness / contrast / color adjustment to salvage the picture and this is what I got.

By the way ... the peak in the background is Chembra, the tallest in Wayanad @ 2100m.


Posted by usandeep at 12:01 AM
Updated: Thursday, 30 April 2009 8:06 AM
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Bird Couple @ Meppadi
Category: Birds 'n Animals

I spotted this tiny bird couple sitting on a fence surrounding a tea estate near Meppadi:

Thanks to Gowtham for identifying these as Pied Bushchat, with the scientific name 'Saxicola Caprata'. The first two are the female and the last one is the male. Pics are taken using the Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L in Av mode, f/5.6, handheld, with the car's window glass as support :) The first pic is @ ISO-100 and 1/250s, while the second and third is ISO-200 and 1/400s.

Updated on 3rd April 2009: I had initially posted only the 1st and 3rd picture, but while browsing through the pictures again, I found the 2nd picture better than the one I posted initially :) Hence a 3rd picture in the post.


Posted by usandeep at 12:01 AM
Updated: Thursday, 30 April 2009 8:09 AM
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Portrait of a Deer!
Category: Birds 'n Animals
This is another shot from my weekend drive along Bandipur, to Kozhikode and back to Bengaluru / Bangalore. Found this spotted deer female, just next to the Bandipur sanctuary office and she had no problem staying just a couple of meters away from me and stare!

Infact, she was standing too close for the telephoto lens I had on the camera. She watched me curiously, while I changed to Canon EF 180mm f/3.5L (macro) lens! Even the 180mm was too close for a full frame and this is the widest frame I could get. As usual, I used the Av mode, no tripod and the car's window glass as support. Since, the light was fading fast, I bumped up ISO to 800 and got 1/200s @ f/3.5.

Guess, she was looking for something to eat and unfortunately I had nothing good to give her. After a while, she got bored and walked away.

I had experimented a bit with GIMP and adjusted the contrast curve for an altogether higher contrast. Guess, in the process I might have lost the original colors. I am not an expert in post processing and is looking forward for comments from post processing experts and tips on the same :)


Posted by usandeep at 12:01 AM
Updated: Thursday, 7 May 2009 12:30 PM
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Saturday, 7 March 2009
Wild Cock @ Bandipur
Category: Birds 'n Animals

February - April is surely the best time to spot wild life @ Bandipur. In the last couple of months, I was able to spot so many of the usual suspects, like deers, monkeys, wild bores, peacocks, elephant herds and a variety of birds. This time, its a male jungle fowl that caught my attention:

This bird, considered to be the direct ancestor of the domestic chicken also looks very similar to the home grown variety. I've spotted this bird a few times before, this being the first time when it all resulted in a decent shot!

This was a gang of two male and a female, all started running as soon as I was around. I stayed as much away as I can and used the Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L telephoto lens. This shot of one of the males is @ Av mode, f/5.6, ISO-400 for a 1/250s. The bird was running in to the shade and hence the relatively higher exposure time. Infact, I was pleasantly surprised to get a reasonably blur-free picture, even without a tripod :)


Posted by usandeep at 12:01 AM
Updated: Friday, 17 April 2009 2:52 PM
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Elephant @ Muthanga
Category: Birds 'n Animals

Every species on the face of earth is facing extinction ... so is the Elephants @ Bandipur, Mudumalai and Muthanga. Elephants in these adjoint wild life sanctuaries located at the trijunction of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala are facing all sorts of problems - forest fire, lack of food, lack of water, vehicular noise, suffocation from plastic ... you name it and they have it. Infact, anybody driving along the NH212, which cuts across Bandipur and Muthanga can see plastic and other litter all along the road side. Heavy in-disciplined crowd gathered to see wild life, sneering, howling and growling at the wild animals, not allowing them to go across the highway. This time I even saw a person posing less than 10m from a giant mammal ... that too turning away from it!

 

I was about 100m from her and stepped out of the car for a better shot. After all, she had a lot of easier targets between us ... if she chose to have a go at the people! Her gang was waiting to cross the road and was discouraged by the large number of vehicles and people all along the road. As soon as the crowd cleared a little bit and she was making a move, a police patrol jeep came in, stopped right in front of the herd and started honking for practically nothing! If anybod thought that they were trying to clear the crowd ... no way ... they soon became part of the crowd.

Well ... this shot is using the Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L telephoto lens. One thing I've learned from my previous attempts at shooting the giant mammal was that the exposure reported by the camera is almost always a shade brighter than what I liked, irrespective of the metering mode. So, I opted for a -1 EV exposure compensation, Av mode, f/5.6 and ISO-200 for a 1/400s hand-held shot.

I hope good sense will prevail upon the authorities and some sort of control will be imposed on traffic and the in-disciplined crowd within sanctuary limits. If it doesnt happen soon, we'll have to tell the coming generations that 'a forest existed here when I was young'!


Posted by usandeep at 12:01 AM
Updated: Saturday, 18 April 2009 2:41 PM
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Sunday, 1 March 2009
Sunset & Bird's Nest
Category: Nature 'n Landscapes
Yet another sunset shot from the terrace of my new home @ Ulsoor / Halasuru, Bangalore / Bengaluru:

I used the Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L telephoto lens this time too, but operated it with slightly more open shutter compared to last time (See the post 'Some Sunset Snaps'). No tripod required, because the sun was still bright, full manual mode @ 1/4000s, f/25 and ISO-100. The shot is a little sharper than last time and I could crop it to less than 1/3rd of the original size (3888px to 1200px).

Later, I felt that I should have used the 2X converter too for a closer shot. But, if I tried to go downstairs for the 2X converter, the sun would have gone down the horizon. Next day onwards, the climate became a little cloudy and I could not get a proper sunset shot. By now, the tree has already become covered with leaves ... and I am posting this picture for now, atleast for this year :)


Posted by usandeep at 12:01 AM
Updated: Wednesday, 22 April 2009 12:57 PM
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Saturday, 28 February 2009
Clouds, Sun and the Valley
Category: Nature 'n Landscapes

This is the last set of pics from the Vavul Mala trek series:

This is what we saw from Masthakappara, our day 2 camping site. The small hills covered with clouds were our stepping stones! Literally, since the trail up is along these hills. The valley to the right, about 1500m below, has villages of Anakkampoyil, Muthappanpuzha and Thenpara, where we started the trek. Like most treks, I carried only the EF-s 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens for this and no tripod. Focal length @ 18mm, Av mode, f/8 for 1/60s.

Soon after the sunset, the sky turned into a deeper shade of red. With the sun deteriorating I had to resort to ISO-400. Using the same lens @ 18mm, Av mode, f/6.3 and a -1EV exposure compensation, I got a 'just enough' 1/20s exposure. The pic is a little more grainier than I would like.

Next day morning, with the sun rising from the heights of Vavul Mala, the clouds way to the sunlight. The hills visible are mostly from Wayanad, including Chembra and Swargakkunnu. Straight out of the camera, the pic was a lot more duller and I did a contrast adjustment in GIMP to salvage it. The lens and focal length is same @ ISO-100, Av mode, f/6.3 and no exposure compensation for a 1/160s exposure.


Posted by usandeep at 12:01 AM
Updated: Tuesday, 31 March 2009 12:32 PM
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