HDR Photography is DEAD!

Is HDR Photography Dead?

In many situations, new cameras do indeed render HDR Photography redundant.

We use HDR to increase the “dymanic range” of our work – capturing extra detail in the highlights and shadows. Older cameras had a limited range, was was proved by lightening an under exposed shot. The “noise” would be intolerable, making a mosaic like pattern in the dark areas.

However, newer cameras allow you to brighten darks areas, and to an extent, recover burned highlights sufficiently to get away with just 1 exposure of most scenes.

In this tutorial we shoot a traditional HDR subject, a cathedral interior in Manchester. The shadows and bright windows usually have a huge dynamic range which HDR was perfect for.

It only applies to RAW Images by the way – if you’re still shooting JPG, you are in the wrong place;-)

The photo was taken, hand held, with a Canon 5D Mark 3 – watch and see how much detail we can rescue using just LIGHTROOM and no other tools

Full Video Tutorial – HDR without HDR….

Creating Vintage Photos Made Easy in LIGHTROOM

How to Create That Vintage Look in LIGHTROOM

In this short tutorial video, we look at editing a beach shot at Alnwick, Northumberland. It was a bright day with strong clouds, so lots of mid tones and some crisp shadows to play with. There are many ways to process such a shot, in this session we’ll take you through the whole process of using Split Toning to add that lovely vintage feel, a process that is surprisingly easy in Lightroom.

The Vintage look can be added to any kind of photo, not just landscapes. Many fashion images will have cool or even green tones added to create a light, pastel feel.

Here we add yellows to the highlights and blues into the shadows – this makes a beautiful effect which you can add to any image.

Vintage Effects in LIGHTROOM…

How to get from this RAW file:-

before the vintage lightroom effect

To this classic “vintage” look in under 5 minutes

vintage lightroom effect


Here is how to apply a Vintage look in LIGHTROOM

9 Affordable Gadgets To Transform Your Photography

Photography Kit Which Doesn’t Cost The Earth

1 – Angle Finder – £20 – £200

If you shoot low down, maybe for landscapes or createive atchitecture shots, so see through your camera, you’ll either have to lie fly on the floor or guess your compoisition. This is where your “angle finder” comes into play. It allows you to look “down” through your camera – so you don’t have to get quite so low. It saves your back, knees and I find it makes me more creative.

2 – Cable Release – £10 – £170

Really useful for people doing exposures on tripods – the act of pressing the shutter will cause a little wobble on your camera, blurry shots result. So using a cable is one solution – allowing you to press a button on a lead rather than touching the camera. Ideal for landscape and architecture in the day, and pretty much anything at night. There are affordable “intervalometers” now available which let you do many timed “things”, e.g. wait 1 minute then take 5 photos, each one second apart, each being 5 seconds…. that’s is now do-able for about £20!

3 – Polarising Filter – £20- £200

One of the only filters you can’t “fake” in photoshop, the polariser changes the light before it hits the camera – the physics of how it changes isn’t really that important, but it affects reflections. Cars become a richer and less reflective, you can see straight through water to the river bed, reflections on food can be changed and blue skies go REALLY dark!

Get a “circular” polariser if you are shooting digital – they work with the Auto Focus systems better apparently.

4 – ND Grad Filters

Do you like photos with dramatic skies?

Pretty much every landscape photographer uses ND Grad Filters – the ND stands for “neutral density”. That just means they don’t change the colours in your photo – it doesn’t make it warmer, cooler or purple!

The “Grad” bit means that they change from “clear” to “dark” gradually – so the top bit is dark, you put that over the sky. The bottom bit is clear, you put that over the land.

To use these you will need to buy:-

  • Filter Holder – Cokin P/ZPRO/XPRO or Lee are popular
  • Adaptor rings – screw this into your lens, then the filter slips on to it. One for each lens size you have, so a 77mm one would do for most canon L lenses, maybe a 58mm for the USM range etc.

5 – Tripod – £50 – £1000

Tripods are used to reduce motion blur on your photos – soft, blurry shots happen when the shutter speeds get longer – typically in lower light or indoors.

SO we use tripods to keep the camera perfectly still whilst taking the shot.

But not only that – tripods also force you to take time, to compose the shot more carefully, think more about the photo, take shots lower down, use smaller apertures…. it’s far more than “just reducing blur”.

6 – Ball Head – £70 – £1000

There are a few different head types for your tripod – the “tripod” are the “legs”, the head is the thing you put your camera on and move around.

Many use 3-way heads, which have 3 distinct levers to tweak and move around to compose your work.

I’ve always found these time consuming and restrictive – especially when the sun is setting and you have seconds to shoot before the sun goes down.

Ball heads have one “lock” knob/switch which you slacken off – the camera then becomes loose and you can move it to any angle you like. Portrait, landscape, pointing up or down, tilted…. you name it, you can do it. All this time you look through your camera and compose the shot.

Once you’re happy you just need to tighten that one switch and you’re done. It’s very very quick and easy compared to the alternative.

7 – Yongnuo Flashes and Triggers – £10 – £100

If you are curious about adding flash to photos but are on a budget, these are idea.

There are 2 choices of flash:-

  • Manual – ideal for those using them “off camera” as they are really cheap, powerful and really simple to use
  • ETTL – Lots of clever technology inside which works with your camera to calculate how much power the flash fires. More for “on camera flash”

If you are using manual off camera flashes, then got just £10 get a 603 trigger – these “talk” to the flash and tell it to “flash” when you take a photo. The flash can be 100m away and it still flashes!

8 – Flash Bender – £12 – £30

Pointing your flash straight at a person is a sin – it makes them look terrible! So there are hundreds of “modifiers” available, from humble “stofen diffusers”, gary fong light spheres and little “snoots”.

Flash Benders are a square of vinyl with wire inside – and velcro to strap it to your flash head.

These can be used in so many ways – on camera you can use them as spot lights, diffusers, flags etc. Really handy. Off camera, get one on each flash to stop unwanted light entering the camera, creating spots of light on backgrounds etc. etc.

9 – Flash Gels – £5-£20

Imagine a scene where the background would look amazing in red….

Well that’s where flash gels come in – these are transparent plastic oblongs which you fit over the end of your flash to colour the light which comes out.

They come in many many colours, the simplest are fixed with velcro. You stick little “spots” of velcro on to the gel, and put a little belt of velcro over the flash head. They stick together and that’s it.

There are also colour correction gels – where you can make the flash the same colour as street lights (orange) or maybe fluorescent tubes.


Snow Photography in the Yorkshire Dales

Snow Photography at Settle and Malham

It’s not been the snowiest of winters, but on a trip out with Richard Spurdens, we were treated to some great Snow Photography opportunities.

Add to that fast moving clouds and ever changing light, you get infinite variety of snow photography without having to move far at all.

The trip started near settle where we got the bush and tree shots – lots of walls creating strong shadows on the white snow. Views across to Pen Y Gent were Impressive, using Richard’s 400mm prime you can see the walls and cliffs in detail.

From there we headed to Scalebar Force, which was snow free… we still got lots of photos, but that’s for another blog!

Finally we went to the inevitable Malham Rakes Tree for a sunset which never really got going.

It was cold – really cold – but we had a great day and got some great shots.

St Mary’s Lighthouse, Whitley Bay

Landscapes in Bright Sunshine

You can’t shoot landscapes in the afternoon, you have to wait for sunset  –  right?

Well it’s certainly easier to get great shots when the favourable low, warm sunset light is making the sky glow orange, but you can still create something usable when the sun is out.

These images were all taken at about 2PM, using the following kit:-

  • Canon 5D 3
  • Canon 17-40 F4L
  • Hiada 10 stop filter
  • Cokin Z-Pro 2 stop ND Grad filter
  • Tripod and ball head

Pretty standard stuff.

How to Do It

The first thing to remember with 10 stop filters is… you can’t see through the view finder when it’s on!

Makes focussing and composition the usual way, tricky to say the least!

So certainly with the 5D 2 and 5D 3 you can switch to Live View mode and use the screen. This may vary with other manufacturers and models – but so long as there is some light around, and contrasting edges to focus on, LIVE VIEW works just fine.

For exposure, just use the live histogram or the light meter as normal.

Here are some of the shots

England’s Biggest Waterfall

High Force – Teesdale

It may only be 70 feet tall, minute compared to the giants in Yosemite or South America, but High Force, high up in Teesdale, is very impressive in flood – as it was on this day!

With it being winter, you can see the falls from the road through the leafless trees. Its too obscured to create a decent shot, but adds to the build up.

I tried 2 techniques on the day –

  1. using the 70-200mm I’d do fast shutters to capture the texture of water flowing over the cliff. These had fast shutters and honed in on then water rather than the surroundings
  2. using the 17-40mm – I used a 10 stop filter and ND grad to create a surreal texture in the water and clouds – leaving the rocks being the only “real” looking thing in the scene

Here are a selection of shots

Really bright sun behind the falls on this one


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Zoomed in to 200 mm to capture the top part of the falls

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Again with the 70-200mm, even closer in

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Added detail in the rocks with sharpening, used the 70-200mm to zoom in and avoid the sky
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Showing the contrast between hard, linear rock structures, and the chaotic flow of the water

192 tynedale teesdale high force70-200mm showing perhaps the best demonstation of the flow of water as it splashes down

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70-200mm taken from the approach path – this is quite a distance away, yet it’s already really loud and impressive

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Black and white version from the same view point

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Wider shot from the approach path181 tynedale teesdale high force 180 tynedale teesdale high force

Close up to the falls, we see the right falls – a very rare sight as they only flow when the tees is very high.

used the 17-40, a 10 stop filter and ND grad over the clouds to get a 30 second photo
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Same set up as the above, just gone portrait and used the boulders to “point” to the water fall. Clouds were blowing past pretty fast as you can see!

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Heavily cropped shot as there was lots of water blobs on the left of the shot – made this square shot and kept a little flare in the dark areas for interest, just love how sharp the stone looks in the foreground

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Tripod higher up on this one, so you get less emphasis on the foreground boulders.


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Taking advantage of the bright sunshine to get a high contrast shot

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Didn’t get many from this view point because of spray wetting the lens, but shows both falls nicely

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This went down really well on facebook!
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Wider shot with the 70-200mm with small fall on the left 219 tynedale teesdale high force


Photos of Newcastle

Back to Newcastle….

Before moving to Leeds, I lived in Newcastle – great city, bit nippy though!

I was shooting some hotels for a client who needed some evening and day shots of their property, so had a while to kill before it went dark.

Here’s what I got up to – a walk along the quayside, then around the city centre. See how many of these places you can name