Wednesday, April 22, 2009

HDR in Foymount.....


Last summer I had a serious craving for shooting ghost towns. Don’t ask me why, because I have no clue. I just felt like I really needed to photograph something completely abandoned, falling apart with an eerie feel that moved me. This ghost town bug has not left me, as I still want to find some more elaborate run down buildings.
I dragged my husband and four kids with me told them “Hey guys lets go on a field trip” they bought it. I think they clued in once they saw my gear. It was only about half hour from where I live, not far so that the kids would not be making each other mad by screaming “Are we there yet!” I also bribed them with chips from the chip wagon. You have to have secret weapons to deal with kids.

We went to Foymount, Ontario. Foymount originally was a radar base in the 50’s. It sits on the highest point on Ontario, Canada. It was a Radar base, used to detect nuclear bombers coming over the polar region from the Soviet Union, that was until the 70’s when they had develop better technology and moved else where in Ontario. The site was eventually close in the early 70’s. I did hear however that some soldiers that were originally stationed there have returned to the town and are trying to re establish Foymount. The trip to Foymount was truly amazing. The ride up was divine, lush forests, winding roads and a soft blue sky with fluffy clouds getting larger as we neared. I was very excited and could not wait to jump out of the car. My only concerns were a: hope there are no, no trespassing signs b: hope none of the kids have to go to the bathroom.
My husband did the driving that day if it were me behind the wheel. I would have parked as soon we drove into the town and made a run with my camera, he took us to the top of the hill. Good thing though, what a treat.


There are several different types of buildings at Foymount, though the barracks are the ones with the worst wear. The architect of the buildings is stunning, making you feel like you are in a Sci fi flick On the towns main road there sits several windowless buildings. Some are occupied with new owners others lay empty. Personally I think they would make an incredible gallery for an art show. Anyhoo, in this nearly deserted town there sits a tea room for tourists, yes a tea room that has tea and crumpets. Thankfully they had Ice cream as well, kids loved that part.

Before leaving town there sits a large building that is occupied by an outdoor gear store that manufactures clothing worldwide. I asked my husband to pull in the lot and I jumped out and walked around it, photographing all the beautiful detail and color. I was so focused that I did not notice how badly bitten I was from the horse flies. Their monsters!


Beautiful Colour buildings that once were barracks for the soldiers still stood there on the hill magnificently. You really feel there sense of grandeur at first glance. Hold the thought for one second, back to my kids for a sec. Now I mention earlier how they regretted it once they got there. Only Mason would get out of the van. The other three scared and bored would not leave. What were the girls afraid of you ask? Ghosts! Seriously, my oldest daughter started it. Yes, granted it was a spooky place. Run down, balconies flying in the air, windows cracked no trespassing signs EVERYWHERE. There were also pictures of Mary posted on all the windows.
This I found very interesting but my daughters found spooky. Okay so back to the old barracks and how gorgeous they look, just waiting for me to take their picture. It couldn’t just be any shot. They deserved something truly special. HDR photography would make these buildings shine in all their glory. I first took a walk around the buildings looking for shadows and angles. Aiming to get the best shot; my time was limited in Foymount because the kids would not be able to stay too long.

Something very important to note when shooting HDR is to use a tripod, if you don’t have a tripod try to find a good base to hold the camera steady. If you don’t have a base lean up against something to steady yourself and hold your breath....personally I would rather much prefer to use a tripod. I then set up my camera and take 3-9 bracketed exposure shots. Unless you are going for a certain look you need to watch out for the wind otherwise your shot will be blurred. With any luck it will be a slow wind and you can time it.

I like to use Aperture priority to control the depth of field and when I am shooting HDR I want complete depth of field. Play around and see what you like. Your white balance should not be set on auto. If you are using models for your HDR shots then they will have to stand very still for a period of time, other wise the shot will be blurred and the images will not align correctly when using the merge function in Photoshop, as you will see in my example image. The clouds are blurred and the high grass is blurred. I could not control the wind factor….oh well can’t have everything…I got the shot I was going for though.
Below are examples of three different exposures I took to be able to merge later in Photoshop.

Here comes the best part, watching it come alive…..
When I got home I opened up Photoshop CS3 and went to work. I like to use the HDR merge right in Photoshop and then take it through Photomatix for tone mapping.
Go to File/Automate/Merge to HDR
Then go to Filter/Photomatix and play with the settings.
There is no right or wrong way in using Photomatix, it is what you like and what works for the image. What is it you are trying to achieve? Play around with the settings, have fun exploring Photomatix.
Now I want to convert my image to 8 bit and a window will pop up , adjust your exposure and gamma settings. If I want to take the image further I will adjust the curves in Photoshop for more contrast and pump up the saturation.
Go to Hue/Saturation and pump up the sat and darken just a bit.
Open up curves and make adjustments for more depth in your image, almost making appear like it will jump out at you. You are aiming for the shadows here to make them stand out more.
Now go to your layers palette and duplicate your image and set it to hard light at about 23%
Voila! Your HDR image

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