Rusty and shiny Ford pickup trucks

During my vacation this summer I came across the beautiful city of Seward, Alaska. Even though it was raining most of the day, I had some good photo opportunities. One was at a parking lot where I noticed these two Ford pickup trucks. I was excited about these two similar cars with ages between them standing there next to each other. The rusty grandpa next to the shiny grandson. This seems to be very typical to Alaska. You can see there cars and even airplanes still in full operation where at other places they would have been thrown to trash already.

I had my EOS 600D camera with me, with the EF-S 18-55mm standard zoom kit lens attached. The camera was set into P mode, which is my standard setting when travelling around. ISO was set to 200 due to the dark and rainy sky. I went down to my knees about at the height of the cars to get a nice perspective. Focal length was 24mm.

This is the original photo I took. The camera had calculated an aperture value of f/10 which is quite good and gives a nicely sharp photo. Shutter speed was 1/200 sec. Although I like the image, there are some points that I'm not satisfied about: First of all the sky is nearly completely burned out. There is no cloud structure visible anymore. On the other hand the shady parts of the cars around the wheels are much too dark. In other words, the image has too much contrast. That's why I did my first try in HDR technique with that photo.

I hesitated for a long time to use the RAW image format because I felt it difficult to view and to handle and first of all I was afraid of its file size. But about half a year ago I started to shoot in JPG and RAW format simultanously. And that's my advatage here. The RAW image contains much, much more detail information about the scene, than a JPG can. You cannot see the detail at all, but when you adjust exposure in a RAW processing tool, you'll be impressed how much structure and detail appears in white and black areas. And this will be the technique to create a HDR version of a single RAW image.

For RAW processing I use Canon's Digital Photo Professional (DPP) tool. The latest version even has a built in HDR processor that I wanted to try out. I opened the RAW image and made 3 versions of the photo with exposure adjusted to -2, -1 and 0. These 3 images I savend as 16bit TIFFs. Then I opended the 3 files in the HDR processor and got a composed version of it. You can adjust several parameters, such as contrast, saturation, detailnes and so on. The tool has some presets of these values, but none of them were satisfying to me. I learned that you have to be very careful with parameter adjustment to maintain a natural, realistic scene. If you overadjust them the photo looks very strange, unnatural and cartoonish. More like a painting than a photo.

And here is the result. My first HDR photo ever. I think it looks much better than the original one. There is much more detail in every part of the scene. The sky looks great. You not only have the clouds back in the scene, the now darker sky increases the impression of a rainy day. The daker areas are also full of detail now. I like the result and this encourages me even more to use RAW image format in future.

And, because I love this old rusty Ford, here is another shot of it directly to the front. It's simply a great car. Unfortunately I didn't see it driving and thus couldn't hear the sound of it's engine.