Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Durdle Door in HDR - real or Hypereal?

Durdle Door
Originally uploaded by Di Di's Trip pics

Rough Guides' photography is classically show-it-like-it-is-but-on-a-really-good-weather-day, yet the reality of acquiring such images within the given timescale, with the given budget AND in the UK isn't quite as luxurious as perhaps a wannabe travel photographer would hope for. Plus, not being too conversant with the region and not having the time to research every little detail, I often turn up at places and don't known what to expect. There are some measures I take which help; for example, I always carry a compass so I can work out where the sun will be at other times of the day or how the subject will be illuminated at sunrise or sunset. But what to do if to get to that shot it took a long drive followed by an uphill walk and five pounds in parking fees only to discover it's about to piss down with rain any moment and I most certainly won't want to return and reshoot it any time soon?

As with any landscape shot, it's incredibly difficult to render all the different elements in one shot by metering on just one part of it. Meter on the sky and you underexpose the rocks, meter on the sea and blow out the sky. Unless you're there amidst the most incredible sunset or sunrise, it's highly unlikely that you can do anything to alter the light in the shot (you'd need god-like powers, I'd imagine and failing that, perhaps steal a few floodlights from a nearby football pitch). It actually wasn't all that tricky to get to Durdle Door but, in case I run out of time later on and don't manage to return, I knew I had to take the shots seeing as I'd made every effort to get there.

The sky was stormy yet there was interesting diffuse light illuminating the sea and the rocks. There were no huge areas of dark shadows like there would be if there had been no cloud cover but, equally, there was still a discrepancy between the light levels on the different parts of my composition. A few test shots revealed a fairly dull and lifeless Durdle Door. It's such an iconic Dorset image that I could hardly return to Sarah with these grey-day shots.

I'd heard and read a bit about HDR (High Dynamic Range imaging; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_dynamic_range_imaging) processing in the last year or so and, despite being thoroughly impressed with the fairground-bright colours achievable using the process, I wasn't sure such vivid brilliance would be appropriate for a Rough Guide shot. BUT, what if I could use the process to create an image that might not be an exact rendering of what I saw but yet something that makes the scene more desirable than a wet June weekend would otherwise be?

It's really easy to take the bracketed exposures on the D2Xs; just whang the camera into constant shooting mode and then choose how many bracketed exposures to take. In this case I went for 5 exposures; one on the nose, two under and two over. They looked pretty odd when flicking through the memory card and I left Durdle Door feeling pretty disillusioned and knew I'd probably need to return on a sunnier day.

This image here is my first experiment with Photomatix the HDR rendering program. I've only got the trial version (hence the watermarks) but I think I'm sold on it already so might fork out for the full version. I feel I ought to upload the dreary, one-shot Durdles so you can see quite how much illumination and colour the process has brought to the composition.

BUT, does it look real? Or does it look hypereal? Should I continue using this process for the dreary days or should I camp out and wait for the perfect sunrise? Well, sunset; I'm certainly no early riser and, according to my compass readings, I reckon Durdle Door will look better in the evening light than in the morning.

MOT highs and woes

Not being a regular vehicle owner, I'm not too well versed in the ways and means with which one deals with MOTs, mechanics and garages, so forgive me if I award more interest to the ins and outs of my garage experiences of the last few weeks than a normal person might.

I was more than faintly aware from the pre-purchase RAC report that Bertie wasn't likely to pass the MOT first time so it came as no surprise when, upon returning to D&P Motors, I discovered the mechanic waving the results printout close to his chest with a look of apprehension in his eyes.

I'd calmed my nerves while the hour-long test was taking place by wandering around Flitwick's vast array of shops - Tescos, to be precise - and invested in some top kwall-a-dee supermarket chic; a £3 red handbag that will go wonderfully with my favourite polka dot dress, should I ever be reunited with the less-than-practical side of my wardrobe, plus some leggings and some shorts (so I can pretend I'm 25 again).

I knew the van was pretty rusty so it failed on three counts of corrosion. Oh, my poor darling Bertie, you're 25 years old! If only I could simply dress YOU in the car equivalent of leggings and shorts to avert the tester's gaze from signs of age and decrepitude.

The pre-purchase RAC report, Al's test drive (and he knows more than a thing or two about vehicles) as well as my own experience in the preceding few weeks had concluded that the brakes pulled to the left just a little as they're applied but they failed monstrously and were 48% out of alignment. Gosh. That's quite a lot, I thought. The test allows a 25% tolerance either way but 48% is way out of the safe zone and the mechanic pronounced this vehicle DANGEROUS to drive. Oh dear, I live four miles away, how will I get home? I pondered. Even more oh dear than that though; I just drove nearly a thousand miles in a dangerous vehicle. Does that make me a good driver for accommodating the off-centre steering and braking within my driving style OR a stupid one for buying and old vehicle with less than a month of MOT remaining? Hmmm.

The MOTman gave me a number of another garage that does welding so I got straight on to them and somewhat bamboozled the poor man (Mick the mechanic, Mick-anic...hee hee heh) into taking the vehicle the following day. I drove back to my mum's slowly and in a sorry state with a big question marks hurtling through my mind; what if Mick pronounced it too costly to fix? What if there were underlying steering issues that meant more tweaks than just to the braking system? How does a braking system work anyway? Actually, how does an engine work, come to think of it......

Yes, it wasn't the first time I realised I knew absolutely NOTHING about this kind of thing and that I would just have to trust (not to mention pay) the experts to sort it out.

It's a few days later now and Mick called this afternoon to tell me it's all fixed, he'd even taken her back to the MOT garage and could confirm she'd passed the test. Hoooray, thought I. And it's not going to cost the several hundred pounds my nightmares were predicting; it cost about the same as I managed to get the vendor to knock off his selling price upon reading the results of the pre-purchase RAC report. So...maybe I do know more about this vehicle owning malarkey than I thought I did; and I've learned just a tiny bit more now.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Thank you!

Hello my lovelies,
I just thought I'd say a quick thank you to y'all for taking the time to read my blog. I've had loads of lovely comments from friends over the last week and, I must say, I'm really quite surprised so many people are interested in my escapades!

Thank you all so much and I shall tell you more stories soon.