Friday, 15 January 2016

HDR Photography #1.5

Hindsight is a powerful thing as it allows us to reflect on what has happened and use a new fond perspective to influence future actions. When looking back at the 'HDR' landscape I had completed, I felt as if it was still lacking some final touches. Although I had some ideas, I decided to ask for some critique from photographers that I know, as I have the tendency to over think creative situations. I really appreciated the impartial constructive criticism as it thankfully reaffirmed similar thoughts that I was having about the photograph.

Although I felt that I was close to the result I ultimately wanted, I still felt that the photograph did not properly represent a sunset scene.It was missing the required colour vibrancy, but also, the foreground was still underexposed. Although I was apprehensive, I used the 'Dodge' tool to further brighten the foreground. I was pleasantly surprised with the results, but perhaps this was due to the amount of time between the edits. To intensify the colour, I created separate layers of blue, green, yellow and red and set the layer mode to overlay. The 'Opacity' for each of these layers was set to 20%, 25%, 15% and 25% respectively.  I know I have said this previously, but the final version of the photograph is as follows:

Although I was happy with the previous version, I feel that the edits have really enhanced and improved the photograph. I suppose, if anything, the key thing that I have taken from this experience is to take the adequate time when it comes to the post production workflow. At the end of the day, any work that I produce needs to stand against my standards because I don't want to be in the position where I am revisiting old work and creating a multitude of edits.

Saturday, 9 January 2016

HDR Photography #1

Since discovering the work of ‘Trey Ratcliff’, I have been enamoured with the idea of having an attempt at HDR photography. In the past, it had been a style of photography that had often repelled me as I found it to be garish and unrealistic. It looked far too processed and an unrealistic representation of the world. In hindsight, this was a close minded view on the topic that was spurred on by poor research. I had, and still do to an extent, have the mentality that everything must be achieved in camera with minimal post processing. A photograph can be 90% there, but it needs some tweaking in post production to make it great. If a photograph is terrible, there is little that can be done to save it. Adobe Photoshop is a fantastic program, but I don’t think there is a tool present to polish a piece of shit.

However, upon finding Trey’s work, I came to appreciate HDR in a new way. I loved the vibrancy of the colours and the range of visible detail that was present. Most importantly, I found Trey to be tasteful in his edits. Although his work had a dreamlike and surrealist quality to it, it wasn’t pushed to a garish extreme. I continued my research and I came upon two videos on Youtube by ‘B&H’ called ‘An Introduction to HDR’ and ‘Creating the Realistic HDR Image’ which presented me with a clear vision of what I wanted to achieve. I want to create high quality photography that accurately documents the world that I see before me. By utilising HDR, I feel that I can further myself as a photographer and assist me in producing the work that I envision.

I recently took a walk to the shop and decided to take my camera along, just encase the opportunity for some photography presented itself. I took a few photographs and I realised that the exposure in the image was not too my liking. Even though I did not have a tripod with me, I decided to attempt some HDR. In hindsight, I wish that I had brought my tripod, as it would have reduced movement when taking the exposures. I could have increased the ISO and Shutter Speed to compensate for this, but I felt that the final photograph would have too much noise to work with. For each photograph, I held the camera close to me, took a deep breath, took the photographs and exhaled. As I mentioned previously, I had no tripod with me so I had to adapt. I used bracketed exposure which was set accordingly, depending on the light that was present in the scene.  Although some DSLRs can take five or more exposures when bracketed, the camera that I used, the Canon 600D can only take three exposures. As it was late afternoon, the sources of interest that I gravitated towards involved the golden hour light. The sun was setting at this point, so I thought the rich and warm colours would help contribute to a great final photograph.

The RAW files for each photograph were stacked in Adobe Photoshop through the ‘Merge to HDR’ function. As the shots were handheld, I ticked ‘Remove Ghosting’ and changed the mode to ‘32 bit’, which allowed me to tone the stacked files in Adobe Camera Raw. The sky was extremely overexposed with no colour or cloud detail present. I lowered the 'Exposure' by '2.75' stops to bring back this information. Although this solved one problem, it darkened the fore and middle ground too much. Too counteract this, I lightened the shadows by ‘+35’ to help balance it out. I then lowered the 'Contrast' by ‘-10’, increased the 'Clarity'  by ‘+40’ and included a simple S-Curve to further balance out the image. Although I wanted to remove shadows, I didn't want to remove them entirely.
There is a plethora of colour and vibrancy during the golden hour and I want to ensure that this is properly represented. I increased the 'Saturation' by ‘+15’ and the 'Vibrance' by ‘+30’ to introduce more colour and intensity back into the image. I fine-tuned this by increasing the separate colour values in the ‘Saturation’ and ‘Luminance’ sub-menus. Finally, I included a minute amount of sharpening and removed ‘Chromatic Aberrations’After I had finished toning the photograph in ACR, I felt that the foreground was slightly too dark for my liking. To remedy this, I utilised the ‘Dodge’ tool with the brush set to ‘514’ to cover a wide area, and the ‘Exposure’ set to ‘45%’. I didn’t want to overkill it; just enough to brighten up the shadows and further balance out the photograph.

I am extremely pleased with the final result as although this is my first proper attempt at HDR photography, I feel that it’s solid attempt. The stand out features of this photograph is the silhouette of the tree, especially when it sits in front of the golden hour sky. This photograph is far from perfect as I feel that the colour in the foreground isn’t correct which I feel is due to the ‘-2’ exposure I utilised. 

I will be uploading the remaining photographs from the photo walk over the following weeks. Make sure to sign up for the email list to keep up to date and be informed of each blog that I upload. Thank you!

Blog Notes

Trey Ratcliff:
B&H - An Introduction to HDR Photography:
B&H - Creating the Realistic HDR Image:

Saturday, 2 January 2016

My New Year's Photography Resolutions

Although I have achieved a lot in 2015, I feel as if my progress has begun to stagnate. It’s difficult for me to pinpoint the specific reason for this, but I want to ensure that this negativity does not continue any further. I don’t want to look back in one year’s time and find myself in an even worse position than I was before. So as it is customary for this time of year, I thought it would be an excellent opportunity to outline some photography goals that I would like to achieve in the upcoming year. I thought that these would be more achievable than the typical goals I set for myself like losing weight etc. My New Year’s photography resolutions for 2016 are as follows:

  • I will set up a photography studio space at my house which will be utilised regularly.
  • I will photograph at least two gigs a month, with an emphasis on attending gigs outside of the Enniskillen and Omagh areas.
  • I will update my photography blog at least once a week and my photography social media at least twice a week.
  • I will go on regular photography walks.
To ensure I keep these goals, I will be updating my blog regularly and if it should happen that I fail, my shame will be set in stone for the entire world to witness. I see this as an opportunity to hit the reset button, rectify any mistakes and move forward with my photography endeavours. Let’s do this!

Friday, 1 January 2016


My name is Jason Gallagher, I am twenty six years old and I am a photographer. I do not consider myself a professional or an amateur at this craft, but simply an individual who enjoys documenting the world around me. From developing photographs in a darkroom, to shooting on DSLR cameras, photography has always been a part of my life. What draws me towards photography the most is the documentation aspect as each photograph captures a moment in time. There is a timelessness and emotional value attached to photographs; essentially they resonate and find importance with people.

It was approximately four years ago, when I decided to take a more serious approach to my photography and create a profession for myself. With the purchase of my first DSLR, the Canon 600D, I began my ongoing journey. While enrolled at the ‘South West College’, I was fortunate enough to study photography for a semester. The experience was enriching and I found the knowledge to be a cornerstone in my continuing development as a photographer.
It wasn’t long after this that I found myself in employment with the ‘South West College’ as a Media Intern, while photographing gigs for ‘GiggingNI’ and ‘PlanetMosh’. These experiences allowed me to not only develop my photography skills, but also allowed me to improve my communication skills. I eventually left the South West College, enrolled with Ulster University and continued my work as a freelance photographer with the aforementioned publications.
This had led me to working with ‘Henchman Promotions’ which has allowed me to shoot my first festival, ‘Monster’s of Rot V’ in August of 2015. Although I continued to photograph, my output slowed down for the remainder of the year due to personal reasons. After some much needed time off, I now feel renewed and full of vigour. It's a new year and I am determined to achieve my goals.