Shooting HDR sets if you don’t have an AEB (Automatic Exposure Bracketing) setting on your camera

02 Nov 2011

Not every camera has an AEB (Automatic Exposure Bracketing) setting. Here’s the technique that I was using before I realized that my camera’s had an AEB setting…

You can still capture bracketed photos with any camera that has an Av (Aperture Priority), Tv (Exposure Priority), or Manual mode, and with a very small amount of practice, you can get it pretty quickly.

Here’s how to collect your set of three shots with no AEB setting:

  1. Put the Camera into AV mode
  2. Put the aperture setting somewhere in the middle (4-5.6 range)
  3. Press the shutter or shoot a shot to see what the settings are that the camera chooses for you.
  4. You will use this information to adjust your aperture in preparation for the shot.

Here’s how: Your two constraints are:

      1.  You want your slowest shutter time (brightest picture) to be no slower than 1/60th  of a second
      2.  You don’t want to run out of contrast when you have a very fast shutter speed at the limit of the camera (meaning you want a shutter speed slower than 1/1000 or 1/1600).

The adjustment is pretty easy, with a couple of rules of thumb:

      – Start with the aperture at f4.0. Shoot a test photo, or get the camera to display the settings for you (the images in the manual are too small to see whether the appropriate info displays as you shoot. If not, go into playback mode, and hit the “disp” button).
      – If the shooting time is faster than 1/400, then move your aperture to f5.6
      – If the shooting time is slower than 1/240th, move your aperture to f3.2
  • NOTE: these are my guesstimates – after you’ve shot a few “brackets”, you will get a feel for what 3 bracketed photos look like, and you can adjust manually…
      • – With the new aperture setting, shoot a test photo, or get the camera to display the settings for you.
        – You now have the info you need to take the photo. Switch into “manual” mode, and set the aperture to the number you decided upon. You will not touch aperture again for this series of shots
        – Set your timing to be (approximately) 4x as fast as the speed the camera “suggested” and displayed. i.e. if it suggested 1/200th, set it for 1/800th. If it suggested 1/250th, set it for 1/1000th.
        – Frame your photo, lining up landmarks so that you know your approximate framing. Take your first shot
        – Adjust the timing to be the suggested timing. Re-frame to line up your landmarks. Take your second shot.
        – Adjust your timing to be (approximately) ¼ the speed the camera suggested. If it suggest 1/250th, set it for 1/60th. If it suggested 1/400th, set it for 1/100th. Frame your photo, lining up landmarks so that you know your approximate framing. Take your final shot

    You now have your 3 photos (plus possibly 1 or 2 “junk” photos). Now’s when you get to use PSP to have
    some fun with them.


    Creating your own HDR (High Dynamic Range) photos

    01 Nov 2011

    I’ve had a few inquiries about some photos I’ve posted to Facebook, photos like this one:
    Thailand - Islands off Phuket (HDR Image)

    The photos were shot using a technique called “High Dynamic Range” imaging (Wikipedia Article). HDR Imaging is not a new technique, but what is new is how easy it is to produce HDR images thanks to software such as  Corel’s PaintShop Pro X4.

    Quick HDR Overview:

    The concept behind HDR imaging is pretty straight forward: three shots are taken of any given scene – one at “normal” exposure, one under-exposed, and one over-exposed, and the three shots are combined to pull out details that are not visible in a typical photograph.

    Here’s an example set:

    Shot at normal exposure Shot Over-Exposed Shot Under-Exposed
    Exposure: 1/160 sec.
    Exposure: 1/40 sec.
    Exposure: 1/640 sec.

    If you check out the over-exposed version of the shot, you’ll notice the extra colour that gets pulled out from the foliage, and the colour of the tiles in the pool. The under-exposed version of the same shot pulls out the details in the clouds that are washed out in the two other versions of the photo.

    Here’s what the combined photo looks like:

    High Dynamic Range version of the same scene

    High Dynamic Range version of the same scene

    You can see that the HDR version of the image shows both the details of the cloud, and the colours and details of the pool and foliage.

    So how do you create HDR images yourself?

    On the camera

    1. Check in your camera manual for a setting called “Automatic Exposure Bracketing”. If available, and not indexed separately in the camera’s manual, it will likely be listed under the Av (Aperture Priority) or Tv (Exposure Priority) sections.
    2. Follow the instructions in the manual to set up Automatic Exposure Bracketing mode.
    3. Depending upon the camera model, this may involve needing to press the shutter only once (most point ‘n shoots), or you may have to press it three separate times (more typical for D-SLR’s). Check to confirm you have 3 shots of the same image by going into “playback” mode.

    In PaintShop Pro X4

    1. Under the “file” menu, hover over “HDR” until another menu appears
    2. Select “Exposure Merge…”:
      This opens up another window in the application that is 100% focused on HDR photography. It looks like this:
      HDR Edit Mode in PaintShop Pro X4

      You now need to load up your bracketed photos into the program. To do so, click on the “+” sign near the bottom of the window, and select the bracketed photos

    3. Align your photos:
          – In the area at the left of your screen, you will see the Alignment Method is set by default to “Edge-based”. Click on “Edge-based”, and select “Feature-based” instead – it does a better job.
          – Select “Auto Crop”, then press the “Align” button
          – Once the process finishes, you should be able to select your three thumbnails at the bottom and see that the view on the main screen is now fully aligned, even if you didn’t use a tripod to do create your photo set.
    4. Remove the ghosts:
      Use the tools at the bottom to “Paint In” or “Paint Out” portions of the image, such as in the case of a moving person or vehicle in the image, or foliage blowing in the wind. I’ll let you experiment with this part, but here are a few hints:

          – when you paint something in on one of the images, you are also painting it “out” on other images
          – do your alignment before your painting, or else it will erase the painting
          – use a bigger brush for defining the areas, then correct with the “eraser”
          – don’t forget to include the shadows in the areas painted in or out!
    5. Hit the Process button to move on to the next stage of editing
    6. At this point, you can just hit the next “Process” button at the bottom of the screen, and you have a merged photo which much better displays the richness of the scene you captured. Alternatively, you can apply some of the effects available (either as presets, or as individual settings) to create a photo you find is pleasing. One thing to note: If you try some of the effects, you can always get back to the “plain” merged image by clicking on the reset button at the bottom of the left panel – but you may have to scroll down using the scroll bar to the right of the photos to make that button visible!
    7. On the final page, you get the option to “Fine-Tune” your image – with tools at the top for straightening and cropping the image, as well as some other basic image editing options. After any such adjustments, just hit “Save and close” to save your finished work.

    If you can, please let me know any areas where you hit problems, so that I can update the post for others.

    A couple of final notes:

      – The software is available as a 30 day trial here, so you can try this out at no cost!
      – If you start to shoot larger numbers of photos, you may want to consider using the “batch” mode – it will create the basic merged file for you for all of your sets of images, then you can decide which shots to revisit for further editing.

    – Enjoy –

    The Future of Flight: Changes in the Air

    21 Sep 2011

    Very interesting read on near-term and longer-term innovation in commercial flight – a few of which have been borrowed from “best practises” in the soaring community.

    Ultimate Resources for Coaching & Strategy

    21 Sep 2011

    Not MMA, but the sport played with a flying disc (Frisbee is a trademark of Wham-O )

    I sent these on previously to Renegade Province members via Facebook, but then had to dig them up for someone recently.

    A very comprehensive list of links to Ultimate coaching and strategy resources on pages 40 and 41 of the most recent version of Ultimate Canada magazine, found hereNot sure what’s happening with the archive, it appears to be moving around a bit. The magazine containing the links is here, currently on pages 50-51 if using the navigation at the top of the page, but marked as page 10-11 on the pages themselves!
    Back issues of the magazine can be found on the Ultimate Canada website here.

    If you find either resource useful, buy a Canadian a beer!

    P.S. I was reminded to post them here by a friend posting this humourous link to Google+.  Not quite in the same vein as the original postings, but for completeness should probably be added to the list!

    Selectivley Colouring Photographs

    08 Sep 2011

    A colleague asked me recently about how to do selective colouring of photographs.  While I can enjoy some of the selectively coloured photos, it wasn’t something I was inspired enough by to look up how to do it before.

    Here’s my test image – a small backyard shrine, shot as we travelled along one of Bangkok’s canal’s.

    For those of you that can’t picture what I mean by “Selectively Colouring Photograhps”, here’s the sample I created while learning the technique myself:

    Selective Colouring of a photo using PaintShop Pro

    Click on image for full resolution version

    However, with the question asked, I searched, found a few tutorials, and recommended the one I found the easiest to use. It actually dates back to version X2 of PaintShop Pro, but the instructions still work, as the tools have not changed locations.

    Here’s the tutorial:

    Note that in the tutorial, it says you can do either step 6 or step 7 – that they are two different ways of achieving the same thing.  In my experience, I found it far easier to get good results using the method suggested using step 7 (eraser tool) than step 6 (lassoo select). Mainly because if you keep your edits small, and you screw up, it is easier to just undo the latest edit.  For me at least, reducing the lost work every time I screw up is key.

    A couple of other observations that helped me be as productive as I could be while using the tools:

    • The zoom tool is your friend – the more zoomed in you are, the easier it is to avoid colour leakage, or under-colouring
    • Reduce your brush size as you get to the edges of the objects, then again, then again…
    • Consider turning off visibility for the coloured version of the image. To do so:
      • Look at the “layers” display towards the right edge of the screen (if you’ve adjusted the layout of your screen, you may need to make the layers control visible again).
      • You should see a little “eyeball” icon. Clicking it will turn off or on the visibility of the layer
      • If you turn off the coloured layer, you will see a grey and white checkerbox where you’ve erased.
      • I found using this mode, it was easier to see where I hadn’t erased enough (or had erased too much, and needed to undo).

    Try it out, and if you produce a photo you’re proud of, post a link to it back to here as a comment!

    HP-24 Project

    31 Aug 2011

    I have mentioned this to most of my flying friends, but for those of you who are “makers” not “aviators”, you may want to check out this facebook page and site which documents the creation of a high-performance homebuilt carbon fibre sailplane.

    Older updates can be found at:

    More recent updates are available on Facebook, at

    The amount of design work (both low and high-tech) is mind-boggling.  As a bonus, the guy that is creating the design is a genuinely nice guy who has been of assistance to countless owners of previous “HP” aircraft, including my RHJ-8. Have fun!

    MS FINALLY adds RAW file support…

    29 Jul 2011

    For the photographers out there, a Codec pack is now available for native RAW support in Windows Explorer and MS Photo Gallery for Windows 7 & Vista – about friggin’ time…​oad/en/details.aspx?id=26829

    As simple as tying your shoelaces…

    05 Jul 2011

    A TED Talk applicable for Ultimate players (and any other sport, I guess): a simple tweak on tying your shoe laces that keeps them knotted, no double knot’s necessary!  Do the rest of you already know this? What else am I missing <grin>.

    Earthquake Information

    03 Jul 2011

    When the ground starts shaking, as it did in Taiwan here a few minutes ago, the USGS (US Geological Survey) provides info on any earthquakes that happen worldwide. If you read their info page, it says details are usually available 20 minutes after an incident. My experience is that it is usually about 45 minutes after the event before the info can found online for quakes in Taipei / Japan (based upon the 8 or so earthquakes I’ve experienced so far this year).

    By Country:

    For Taiwan:

    McCready and Speed-to-fly resources (Aviation)

    28 Jun 2011

    Gliding is all about flying efficiently, and one of the main things we try to do is minimze the amount of time we are spending in sinking air.  These links are probalby not worth reading unless you’re into aviation in general, and have at least some interest in how we glider pilots maximize our time aloft. 

    These articles both give much more clear explanations of speed-to-fly than I’ve ever managed to do, so I thought it worth bookmarking them for future consideration.  (part of a series of 7 articles at