I have been asked a couple of times how I got the pictures of Lowestoft pier during my Easter trip to Norfolk. So thought I would give a brief tutorial on some of the techniques I used to get from this .....
First things first, the final picture is in fact three images stitched together to create an HDR image. That's because as you can see from the original exposure there is detail in the brighter area of the image like the clouds and sea but under the pier is completely black. This is due to the dynamic range of even the most advanced cameras not being able to replicate what the naked eye can see, therefore if we want to show what the scene truly looked like when you were there you need to either use some additional lighting or High Dynamic Range (HDR) techniques.
The first thing for capturing an HDR image is make sure you have a good quality tripod as this will make the stitching together of the images easier in which ever software you choose to use. Once I had the camera and composition set up I first exposed for the highlights, in this case it was the horizon on the left hand side of the image as this is where the sun was rising from.
I then slowed down my shutter speed by 1 stop to let more light into the camera to capture the mid tones in the images. You can see that the highlights I exposed for before are now more blown out and the detail has been lost but the detail in the shadows under the pier are starting to come through.
I then decreased my shutter speed by another stop to let even more light in to expose for the shadows under the pier but again the brightest parts of the images are now completely none recognisable due to them being completely bleached out. This is because I was only interested in the shadow detail in the pier in this exposure.
Once I had captured these images I then needed to import them into Photomatics Pro, there are plenty of other software’s that can do HDR but I have found Photomatics to give the most realistic outputs. I will not go into the detail of how to use the software but the basic function of HDR software is to take the broad dynamic range you have captured across the three images and compress it into the range that we can see in one image.
Once I had the three images stitches together I needed to remove the aerials and seagulls that might attracted the viewer’s attention. This is a simple process in Photoshop by using the "Stamp" tool (Ctl+S). The stamp tool allows you to take an area of your pictures and copy it to another area, so over writing the content you want to remove. In this case I selected an area of the pier which had a similar level of light to below the aerials and copied that area across and the same for the sky.
After that I simple cropped the image to 16x9 to give it a more of a panoramic look which I felt helped elongate the pier even more the lead the viewer’s eye further into the image.
You don't need a pro level DSLR to use this technique all you need is a camera that allows you to shoot manual and some processing software. So that's a very basic description of how i captured and processed this image, so get out there and get shooting!