Remains of the Day

I had actually intended to post another image today, but chose to post-process and upload this one instead, following a great question I received on Twitter today.  The, in short:  When shooting HDR brackets in low light environments, would I rather open the aperture more, or would I rather increase the ISO, if trying to maintain reasonable shutter speeds (read: 30 seconds or faster)? Answer: I’d be far more inclined to open that aperture more. Take today’s photo for example; by the time I shot this, the sun was already down.  So I turned to my trusty Nikkor 50mm f/1.4, dropped my ISO to L1.0 (Nikon speak for ISO 100), set my aperture to f/2.0 (only because I wanted just a wee bit more depth of field than the wide-open setting of f/1.4 would give me, and bracketed away.  I ended up with the fastest exposure being 1/125 sec and the slowest 1/30 sec.  Not bad, and I was off to shoot my next set elsewhere without having to wait several minutes for the bracketing to completer, had I dialed in f/11 or f/16.  The above said, everything also depends on the importance of what you’ve got goin’ on in the background.  In this photograph, the background was not as important as the subject, and I lost nothing by letting it blur out with the larger aperture.  Had I been shooting a scene where I also wanted the background objects to be crisp and clear, I would have closed her down to f/5.6 or f/8 (and raised the ISO to 200) and fired away, and still been done with the brackets in a reasonable time.  Bottom line, for me at least, is I’d rather open the aperture up more, and lose depth of field, than increase the ISO, because I prefer really clean (relatively noise free) RAW brackets to work with when shooting HDR.  Your results may vary! (NOTE: Yes I do shoot the Nikon D700, and yes it handles noise really, really well, but I still choose to shoot my HDR brackets at ISOs no higher than 200 because I don’t like how Photomatix increases noise significantly when working with brackets with high ISOs)..


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Cheers Jacques – pretty much what I thought. I’ve been shooting rooms today, just after sunrise 😉 so there’s a lot of contrast between the light outside and dark inside. Also using Magic Lantern to bracket 9-13 shots on my Canon 550D, I have to be sure to aim the focus point at the lightest part of the image to enable the camera to gauge the shortest exposure and enable a full range of images.
Agree that anything above ISO 200 is a pain on PM and using smoothing tools looses detail, so its a bit of a juggling act.

oh – BTW – thats a lovely image the 50mm really does the trick

Nice shot Jacques. I only shoot on ISO 100 (hate noise) but maybe need to open my lens more as I normally shoot around f5.6

Really nice image, Jacques. Nice photo tip also.

I’m a big fan of the 50mm for HDR regardless of what light is available because I do love the shallow depth of field. However, I totally agree with your assessment. Great post Jacques!

No doubt at all that choosing a bigger aperture is preferable to higher ISO for noise. The depth-of-field trade is pretty clear. There are alternatives. An image can be layered and layer masked in PhotoShop to level exposure without adding the noise of a “detail enhancer”. In the case of the subject picture, multi-eposure averageing (exposure fusion) can actually IMPROVE noise. Finally, in this case, since the lighting is pretty flat to start with, a single frame HDR or even no HDR at all is an option. The issue is: detail enhancement … the big-daddy of noise magnification. PhotoMatix is not the ONLY way to go and sometimes defaulting to an enhancer is just looking for trouble with noise while other approaches are viable alternatives. But, I am “wierd”. I DO NOT default to an enhancer as my default work flow. 🙂 🙂 However, if “grunge” is your game or goal, an enhancer is hard to beat … noise and all. (Yes, I shoot a D-700 as well.)

Keep on punching out the work. Butch

Thanks, friends.

Mark: I’m lucky in that the D700 has the ability to bracket up to 9 brackets at 1/3, 2/3 or 1 stops EV apart, up to longest shutter speed of 30 seconds. When I need to longer than 30 seconds, I’ll use my Promote remote, though I rarely need that these days, unless the scene is REALLY dark.

Jim: You said it, the fifty ROCKS for URBEX HDR, especially when it comes to shallow Dofs!

Butch: You are absolutely right, I could have done this shot without HDR, or with one RAW file run through Photomatix. Shooting brackets for this scene did nothing more than to grunge things up a bit.

Great grungy shot – I love it. Nice info too.