Friday, 18 April 2014

4000 downloads of HDR tutorial!

HDR tutorial downloaded 4000 times!

Mission accomplished, achievement unlocked... I'm very proud to announce that after 4.5 months since it's release at the very end of November 2013, my free HDR tutorial eBook has been downloaded 4000 times! This number includes only downloads from my website but as it is available in a few other places over the internet I might assume that actual numbers are even higher. Thanks for that! And keep downloading and sharing it ;)

Note: If you haven't downloaded it yet, you can get it completely for free here. Alternatively you can read web version here.

Daily photo - Golden sunset in Warsaw

Today Daily photo is somewhat different from my typical landscape HDR images. Normally HDR is used to get balanced exposure across whole frame with correctly exposed highlights and shadows. Today I used it just for purpose of restoring highlights leaving shadows rather dark. This created rather interesting atmosphere and made the light main actor of the image.

Also I'd like to mention that this photo was taken in Warsaw, Poland by Vistula river bank. What I really like about Warsaw is that despite the fact it's quite big European city (it's capital of Poland after all) you can still find some spots that look like they are in the middle of the wilderness. It's perfect from landscape photographer's point of view :)
Golden Sunset in Warsaw

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Thursday, 17 April 2014

Gorgeous Sunset in Warsaw

Daily photo - Gorgeous Sunset in Warsaw

For a few days this week I had been planning some sunset photography in my home town but everyday it was raining and there was no sunset at all - just some boring ugly grey clouds covering whole sky and terribly flat light. But yesterday despite it was raining almost whole day just an hour before sunset the weather changed. I saw sky finally! There was hope! So I packed my gear and went to the Vistula river bank and waited for the sunset. And there it was with some amazing reds, blues and purples. It was really worth the wait!
And today the sun is shining since morning so hopefully there will be another gorgeous sunset. Yes, hopefully.

For below photo I decided to take a HDR panoramic photo to show almost whole sky. I also decided to close the frame on both sides using a bridge on one side and river bank on the other. This resulted in a nice panorama with 2:1 aspect ratio.

If you're interested in learning more about HDR photography, make sure to read my free HDR tutorial eBook.

BTW it was the first photoshoot I did with my 'regular gear' after testing my Sony NEX-6. And you know what - dimensions and weight of my Canon 5D MK III are now difficult to accept :) it's so heavy! But I can at least take a lot of shots with it on a single battery ;)
Sunset in Warsaw

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Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Up high in Tatra Mountains

Daily photo - Up high in Tatra Mountains

For today I had planned new tutorial about HDR photography but as I'm feeling a bit under the weather I have to delay it for a few days. Sorry guys.

So today I will instead just share an image taken from Sarnia Skała mountain in Polish Tatra Mountains. The photo was taken just a few meters below the summit but I didn't reach it as unfortunately I'm really afraid of heights. So I glanced at the summit, turned around, took below photo and started my descent :) the worst thing about this 'fear' is that I really like mountains and in the mountains heights are everywhere.

Ok, now a few words about the image itself. I'm quite happy with it because it has some nice diagonal layers which are almost parallel to each other. I also like light in the background as well as rocks there.

This photo is interesting for one more reason - it's one of the very few cases when I used Tone Compressor processing method in Photomatix Pro. Unlike two other tone-mappers, i.e. Details Enhancer and Contrast Optimizer, it is global tone-mapping operator. It means that it applies same 'adjustments' to all pixels (what makes the image look differently than typical tone-mapped photo). In case of two other methods, which are local operators, different pixels are treated differently.
View from Sarnia Skała

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Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Thoughts: Why is Pixoto dangerous?

Thoughts: Why is Pixoto dangerous?

Typical Pixoto notification after receiving an award.
Some time ago fellow photographer pointed me to an interesting discussion about Pixoto website. If you don't know Pixoto, it's yet another images sharing site but it works differently than Flickr or 500px for instance. After you upload your photo it starts to appear in 'duels' - it's displayed side-by-side with one more randomly chosen photo from the same category and other users have to choose which one they prefer. As your photo wins duels it gets points but when it looses a duel - your score decreases. At the end of each day the best photos (#1, #2, 5%, 10% best, 20% best etc.) are given an 'award' and your Facebook/Twitter friends are notified about that. Same thing happens at the end of each week (best photos of the week are awarded), month and year. And probably decade.

Now, back to discussion I mentioned at the beginning. One, quite well-known photographer, pointed out the bad things about Pixoto and it provoked me to share my point of view about it. Especially as some other people didn't agree with him, while I do.

The worst thing about Pixoto in my opinion is that it can give beginners or enthusiast photographers like me false impression that they are already great. And although for some this can be certainly true because some photographers are simply very talented, for the majority it's not. Photography, as any skill, is about making mistakes, learning on them, improving next time, making more mistakes and so on. It takes time to master it. Years. Life perhaps. BTW did you know that we need approximately 10 years on average to reach proficiency level in a given skill? What's worse you need talent and not all of us have it.

But when you receive an award on Pixoto you might start to think that your photos are great, almost perfect (they were awarded after all so they MUST be great). They make you believe you're great photographer and don't need to learn or improve anymore. You might stop making progress. And one day you might realize your photos aren't that great really. It might be painful. And the problem is virtually anyone can win some kind of award on Pixoto. Maybe it's not that easy to win #1 of the day or month award (my best result so far is #2 of the day) but you can quite easily get "10% best of the day" in a certain category (eg. landscapes or some more specific like... cat portraits :) ). Almost every shot I upload gets some kind of award and believe me some are simply not worth it - as any photographer I have better and worse photos. In fact I uploaded a few images I didn't like just to check if I'm right... and they also won awards.

So if Pixoto is that bad why do I use it occasionally? Because it's quite fun :) and if you treat it this way you can really enjoy using it (I love voting the image! :) ). It's not a serious photography competition and you can't think about it as such. It's just fun. And despite the fact it's not a real contest, it's somehow motivating and make you feel better. I use it especially in the periods when I'm not sure about my photography skills :)

In this article I don't try to say that uploading images to Pixoto (or any other site) is a bad idea or that if you win awards your photos are bad. No. I just mean that you shouldn't treat Pixoto as some kind of oracle which is always right and tells you the truth about your images.

Finally, it isn't the problem only with Pixoto. It's the same with Flickr and 500px. How many times have you seen mediocre (or even very poor photos) images in Explore on Flickr or on top places on 500px? Way too often. I saw people whose photos had score of 99.3 and more on 500px and which were poor from technical point of view (oversaturated or bad composition). Majority of comments were something like 'great photo', 'incredible image', 'wow' but there were a few photographers which mentioned technical flaws in that very image (it was some grungy landscape shot if I recall correctly). Unfortunately photographer didn't find them helpful, he found those comments offensive (but they were not)!

And remember: the fact that your image doesn't get a lot of votes, doesn't mean it's not beautiful. Art is not about votes or likes.

Daily photo - Tatra mountains

Today's article is a bit longer than I initially planned, so without further ado here is daily image - painterly high dynamic range photo from Dolina Kościeliska in Polish Tatra Mountains. Hopefully I will revisit this place in a few weeks from now :)
Tatra Mountains seen from Dolina Kościeliska

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Monday, 14 April 2014

Street in Lisbon

Daily photo - Street in Lisbon

Although, as you know, landscapes are my main area of interest in photography, I do travel quite a lot to various cities. And when I'm there what I like to photograph most are streets because a lot of European cities are very old and this means some beautiful buildings, great detail and fantastic textures - things that really shine when doing HDR on them.

Below photo was taken when I was wandering in Lisbon 2 years ago (I loved that city and hope to visit it again in the future!). I decided to use my painterly technique on it to make the textures look nicer and a bit painterly. It's especially noticeable on the pavement and road which look like taken from some illustration or drawing.
Street in Lisbon

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Sunday, 13 April 2014

The Window

Daily photo - The Window

Time for a short break from sunset photos (although I still have a few hundred of unprocessed sunset photos... and plans to take a few hundred more in the coming week).

So today I would like to share a HDR picture I took in one of the cenotes in Mexico. It wasn't the most beautiful cenote I've ever seen but the light entering through hole at its top was really spectacular with all those gorgeous sun rays and tiny birds flying "between" them. Really stunning. And for some reasons this place resembled scenes from Indiana Jones movies (or Tomb Raider game)... don't know why, but it looked quite familiar :)

BTW if you would like to learn more about HDR photography, make sure to read my free HDR tutorial.
The Window

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