Thursday, November 12, 2009

HDR Images from South West Virginia.

High Dynamic Range (HDR) is a fairly new method of photographing a subject various times using different exposures and then overlaying/merging them into a single digital image. HDR application results in images that cover most of the light dynamic range visible to the human eye. Basically a static subject is selected and photographed with a camera in a tripod to avoid any shake of the camera will result in blurry images. Once the subject is framed and the lens manually focused, several exposures are made by using the same f stop but changing the shutter speed. The number of exposures varies and depends on the photographer’s preference and the dynamic range of the subject. I usually take 5 images for example at 1/500, 1/250, 1/125, 1/60 and 1/30 but may select from 3 to 5 of those to compress into the final image. It is possible to create a HDR image from just one photograph by changing the exposure of the images by +/- one f stop from the original. Then these images are compressed digitally into one and further manipulated in Photoshop or other image software. I use a full frame sensor camera for HDR.

The Appalachian Mountains in southwestern Virginia offer unlimited photographic opportunities particularly in the autumn when the tree leaves change colors. I was probably 10 days late for the colorful show; it is still a great time to go. I drove around the back roads and stopped whenever I saw some scenery appropriate for HDR. I first stopped in Narrows a small town in Rt. 61 close to border with West Virginia. It has a small park where Wolf Creek is impounded creating a small lake across which there was the red barn above. I was attracted to it by its red color and the reflections in the water.
About 1000 feet downstream, the spillover for the dike that forms the lake is located.
I decided to see what results the moving water would create in the HDR image so I tried
with the results were more pleasant than expected.

That afternoon I drove to Mabry Mill in the Blue Ridge Parkway but the lighting was not
right so decided to return the next morning. I was greatly rewarded with ideal lighting conditions as seen below.

The mill goes back to the early 1900’s, started as a blacksmith shop, then a sawmill, and finally as a grist mill by 1914. This mill according to the information is the most photographed item in the Blue Ridge Parkway. Notice the difference in color between this image and the previous one; lighting conditions were the same but the images had different dynamic ranges and were processed differently. Could I repeat the process? No.

In the way back home down Rt. 8, I passed by several covered bridges near the village of Stuart and photographed 3 of them. I found Bobwhite Bridge the most attractive; it is an 80-foot truss construction bridge over the Smith River built in 1921.

Other African Mammals.

The Vervet monkey is a very common and found widespread in Kenya and Tanzania. These monkeys have developed the habit to flock to tourists asking for or stealing food. In the process they have become at times aggressive and known to entering vehicles in search of food or other items of interest. Despite of their size, they are very powerful and can inflict terrible bites. A human without weapons is really no match for these cute creatures.

The baboons have developed same patterns of behavior as the Vervet monkeys and due to their larger size, more dangerous. They tend to move in troops along the fields looking for seeds and insects. Despite of their size they are very fast and will take on hyenas and leopards as a group. There was a famous leopard named Half-Tail that I met back in the early 1990’s in Leopard Gorge in Kenya who lost her tail to a baboon bite. This one could be a dentist’s dream—so many teeth, so little time to drill!!!

The Rhinoceros along with his other two cousins, the elephants and the hippopotamus, are the largest mammals in Africa. The one above was photographed in the Mara. Back in late 1990’s while I was in the Mara, the last naturally occurring Rhino was poached and the location where it was killed named Rhino Hill. Curiously, about 20 years later none of my guides knew as to where this hill was or knew about that event. Now there are 12 Rhinos brought from South Africa that seem to be thriving and having babies. There are white and black rhinos and their names have nothing to do with their color. The major difference is that the black rhino has a pointed upper lip that allows them to grab and browse on twigs and leaves of trees while the white one has a square mouth and grazes. Can you tell if the one above is a black or white Rhino?

The Dik-Dik is among the smallest of the antelopes at about 14 inches in height and weighting around 10 pounds. Very elusive, fast and difficult to photograph. The have huge eyes and very tiny horns and are usually found in pairs. Although not obvious, they can extend the nose as a small proboscis to assist in grabbing leave or twigs; kind of a mini-elephant trunk.

They stand in their hind legs to reach higher branches. This behavior reminded me of those of goats and gerenuks that exhibit the same behavior.

The gerenuks are my favorite gazelles due to their long necks and limbs and color pattern. The name gerenuk means giraffe-necked; those long necks and legs allow them to browse in tall brushes when standing in their hind legs. They use their front legs to pull branches down for easier grazing. Their horns are ringed and uniquely curved but are lacking in the females.

These giraffe-gazelles as they are also known. live singly or in small families. The male had a harem of two which were very inquisitive and nervous while I was photographing them. It said that like the Dik-Diks, they do not require to drink water.

The Waterbuck is a large antelope with white circular ring round the rump; this marking is unique to this animal. It is among the most common antelope living in herds. As their name implies, like to go in the water and feed in the aquatic vegetation. Above we have a female with a young one that came to the waterhole to wade and drink.