Clingendael Landgoed, and a bit of HDR
The jewel in the crown, as it were, is the beautiful Japanese Garden. However, because it is small and ecologically fragile, it is only open for a few days a year during spring and autumn. This is where I visited yesterday.
Parking is difficult so I decided to go by public transport, but I did not realize it coincided with the NN Half Marathon. As a result there was no public transport, so I had to walk from the station – a distance of about 4 km. And then about half way there, in the middle of Den Haagse Bos (a wood in the middle of the city) the road was closed even to pedestrians while the runners passed.
I asked an official if it would be closed for long, and was informed up to an hour; if I wanted to get to the other side I must return the way I had come and follow the detour. This would have meant an extra couple of kilometres! So I walked back a little way, waited until the marshal had his back turned, pushed my way to the front of the waiting people, moved the heavy barrier aside and ran across the road. Unfortunately, the marshal turned and spotted me!
He shouted and I froze, and then he began to run after me waiving his arms. Thinking that I did not want the humiliation of a public arrest, I streaked off into the woods hoping I would loose him. Luckily he decided his duty lay with preventing others from crossing and soon gave up the chase. I blame his high-visibility jacked for his aggressive attitude! I emerged from the wood after about a hundred meters feeling very pleased with myself and continued my journey.
The Japanese garden was quite crowded, and like any woodland very high contrast, making photography quite challenging.
I decided it was a good opportunity to practice HDR (high definition range). Let me explain.
Have you ever taken photographs of woodland in bright sunlight? I’ll bet you were disappointed with the results. Shadows appear black, and highlights are blown out. This is because the difference in brightness between the shadows and the highlights (known as the dynamic range) is beyond the range of your camera’s sensor.
To overcome this problem, there is a technique known as bracketing and HDR to ‘extend’ the dynamic range of your camera. At its simplest, you take 3 photographs, one exposed correctly for the shadows, one exposed correctly for the mid tones, and one exposed correctly for the highlights. Then you combine the 3 photos in software such as Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom. The result can sometimes be amazing.
• Most DSLRs & mirrorless cameras with electronic viewfinders have a ‘bracketing’ mode. For my Sony Alpha 7ii the option is under the ‘Shooting Mode’ menu. Consult the manual or Google for your particular camera.
• Set your camera to Aperture Priority, and select an appropriate ISO. It is important that these 2 settings are the same for all the bracketed photographs, especially aperture, as this will affect the depth of field.
• Take a trial photograph, and check the shutter speed. This should not be lower than 1/60 (in aperture priority, the camera will set the shutter speed, and the photo exposed for the highlights will be a one stop reduction in speed, in this case 1/30, which is about the slowest speed that will guarantee sharpness). If it is lower than 1/60, adjust the aperture or ISO down.
• Switch to Bracketing mode. The camera will then automatically take 3 photographs when you press the shutter.
• Focus, and press and hold the shutter. It is very important that you keep the camera as steady as possible, so there is minimum difference in perspective between the photographs. (Using a tripod will completely eliminate any difference, but hand-holding will usually work fine after a bit of practice).
And here is the result of the three pictures on the left:
• I used Photoshop. Open the bracketed photos in Camera Raw, and save as JPEG. Do not perform any enhancements or adjustments.
• Open the 3 JPEG photos in Photoshop. Choose File>Automate>Merge to HDR Pro…
• Assuming that you only have the bracketed photos open, click All Open Files.
• Click Open.
• And here’s a really cool trick. Any movement in your subject during the bracketed photos (such as leaves moving in the wind) will cause what is known as ‘ghosting’, where the photo looks out of focus. To eliminate this, check the option Remove Ghosts. (Photoshop will then include only the parts from the best expose photo).
• Click OK.
• When Photoshop has finished its magic, it will open the combined image. I like to enhance this by opening it in Came Raw (Filter>Camera Raw Filter).
And that is essentially it.
• Make sure you are shooting in RAW format.
• You can set the number of pictures and the exposure difference. My Sony Alpha 7ii will allow 5 pictures (other cameras up tom9), with an exposure difference of up to 1 stop. However, I recommend 3 photos to begin with. Also, the more photos, the slower the merge process will be in the chosen software.
• If your camera does not support bracketing, you will have to use a tripod and set the exposure difference manually for each shot.
• Most cameras will also have an HDR mode, but to use this you will need to select JPEG as your shooting mode. I really do not recommend this mode.
• Not suitable for fast-moving subjects, or a trees on a very windy day. Also, water will tend to look like ice.
• Results can be sometimes be disappointing: this is because the final merged image is much lower in contrast, and in may cases it is actually the contrast is what gives the photo its drama. In this case you can better choose your best exposed photo of you bracketed set, and reduce the highlights and in lighten the shadows in Camera Raw (or Light room).
While I recommend using either Photoshop or Lightroom, there are dedicated alternatives:
Click here for more info on HDR software
And even free versions, which I have not evaluated:
Click here for more info on FREE HDR software
If you would like mor information about Landgoed Clinendael and the Japanese Garden: