Mistakes are Good When Learned From…

Themed 365 Project

After I processed this shot I realized that I couldn’t quite utilize it for any posted themes so I’ll use it as one of my own and I’ll call it Mistake. For the mistake I made might be beneficial to others struggling with basic HDR principles and processing.

I really loved the look of the interior of this 1800’s grist mill in central NJ. The textures, lighting and contents were perfect for an HDR application. The key to nailing this shot was proper composition of the contents and the proper management of the extreme lighting inside this building. Through previous experience I knew that the standard 3 shot exposure would come nowhere near encompassing the range of dynamic light of the scene. I settled on 6 and even that wasn’t nearly enough.

My basic work-flow for shooting this scene, like most others, went like this:

1. Establish proper positioning of my camera and tripod. This is not the best composition but I was restricted by space and limited maneuverability.

2. Double check settings on the camera. Aperture priority, manual focus, white balance, and proper bracket spacing (in this case, 1 stop difference).

3. I predetermined that more than 3 brackets would be needed but since my camera only takes 3 brackets I preset it to 0, +1 and +2. Snapped away using continuous shooting.

4. Moved my AEB to -1, -2, and -3 and snapped off the last 3.

5. That’s where I made my mistake….. I didn’t check my histogram thoroughly and missed the fact that even at a shutter of .7 sec (which isn’t very fast) I blew out the highlights in the 2 windows in the shot.

6. Wasn’t till I went to process the shot that I noticed the highlights in the histogram were gone.

7. Now in some cases you can create a virtual copy of the fastest shutter and change the exposure and it will work but after experimenting I would probably need 4-5 more exposures to retain the details in the windows.       That wasn’t happening here.

8. I processed the shot anyway and the result was exceptable for the interior but not for the windows. Lesson Learned! Check your histogram!

I hope this brief tutorial helps all those who are struggling with the technique and understand that even though I’ve been shooting brackets for 3-4 years I haven’t mastered the learning curve yet. Please email me if you have any further questions, I’d be glad to help!


15 thoughts on “Mistakes are Good When Learned From…

  1. I’m almost certain that I would have called it The “Daily Grind” Mistakes are just oart of it, by calling it mistake you put a negative touch to something that the rest of us would die to achieve.

  2. Thank you for sharing your workflow, Mike. I actually like the window light. It has a softness that is a nice counterpoint to the sharp angles and roughness of the wood. Just my opinion, though.

  3. Mistaken identity perhaps – who are you and what have you done with Mike? One day I may appreciate your tips on workflow but for now my mistakes will remain just as they are, while your mistakes still end up looking just fine!

  4. Your mistakes would be my masterpieces lol I never check the histogram, I need to get in a habit of doing so…thanks for the reminder! I am in love the interior of the room…so many details, great colors and wonderful light! I’m not even sure I would have noticed the window with so much good to look at.

  5. This is a beautiful photo with stunning details. Some people at my camera club were talking about taking an almost black photo for the windows and masking out everything but the window for the HDR processing.

  6. lololo I don’t even know what you are talking about.I’m just a point & shoot grandma. All I see is wonderful wood grains & colors.I almost feel like reaching out to toutch the wood.I feel like I am right in that room.That is what your lens has done for me.

  7. I think the term mistake is relative…for you,maybe,according to the high standard you have set for your photo art but not for the average person. Now, I like the blown windows because it is a realistic view of the contrast in lighting between outside and inside this mill and gives one an idea of the working conditions for those in that bygone era. Can you imagine working in the dark,dusty interior?…and dangerous I might add.I like the process you have outlined for your processing as it makes me appreciate your photos all the more.Your subject IS the interior and that you have pictured very beautifully.

    1. Thanks Karen, I’m beginning to believe that the blown windows are okay. Thanks for taking the time to comment extensively on this shot.

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