Monday 16 November 2009

Welcome to SAFFAscapes...


Hi everyone, and welcome to the SAFFAscapes Photo Blog...

I find myself constantly traveling to various parts of Southern Africa, either on holiday, on business or for the heck of it...

My fascination with photography in general, and more recently with HDR photography as a medium, has spurred me to start this blog to showcase the awesome natural beauty of God's creation as seen in Southern Africa, conveyed through the art of HDR photography.

Now you might as...what is HDR photography??? Quite simply put, it is a modern technique in digital photography whereby we attempt to convey a scene in a way that more resembles what the human eye would have seen if you were there with me. Oftentimes you stand with a lookout on a magnificent vista, taking it all in and being awed by it - but when showing the photo to your friends after explaining the grandeur of it all, they just don't seem as awed as you would've wanted them to be....which is understandable given that the human eye can take in considerably more light and dynamic range than a camera can with just a single exposure.

Onto the scene comes HDR - High Dynamic Range - photography. Now, you take a few different exposures of the same scene (read TRIPOD or STEADY HAND ;)), exposing each time for a different part of the scene (e.g. the sun/sky, the background, the foreground) to get the most dynamic detail out of each section of the scene. Finally, you blend them together to create a combined picture that brings together the best parts of your different exposures.


Let's take an example.

Me and my wife and a couple of our friends were very privileged to be able to hike the Fish River Canyon in Namibia earlier this year (May 2009). Before starting our hike, we set off to the main view point to take in all we can of the magnificent view of the Canyon.

I took a photo of the scene we saw. It was quite hazy, and it was raining over the far reaches of the canyon. The colours and textures of the rocks were amazing. Somehow, the single photo just doesn't do it it is (with some basic tweaks in Photoshop):

Now, you can see just how hazy the camera made it look - but in fact we saw much more than that - our eyes allowed us to see fine detail in the canyon and also cut through the haze to see into the distance.

Here is the final result of my HDR blending (and some other tweaks in Photoshop)

I'm sure you can see the difference. There are actually many ways to produce an HDR image. Many people prefer doing manual blending using gradient masks in Photoshop, while others prefer Photomatix, an app specifically developed for HDR imaging. I tend to use both, depending on the shot and the end-result I envisage. In this example, I used Photomatix to create a full-blown surrealistic HDR, and blended this back with the original shot in Photoshop to enhance the details and colours of the brooding clouds and the eroded earth.

Well - that's an overiew of what I want to accomplish/share with this blog. There are some developments coming up (which I'll share later) which will allow me to travel much more and hopefully make many interesting additions to this blog.

I already have so many images and experiences to share from our trips during the past if you would like to read and view some more, please subscribe and go on this journey of our wonderful part of the continent with me...

You are especially welcome if you currently live/work abroad and just need that intermittent reminder of where you come from...:)


Morkel Erasmus