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Issue 1 - Summer 2009

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TO BE THE BEST

HDR - High Dynamic Range


Pet Photography Tips
and More...
Contents

You vs the Best


Pag e 3

D i ary of an
U n caffeinat ed
YvB P layer
Page 4

Tips for
Pe t P ort rait s
Page 5

A Chat wit h
MMARSUP ILAMI
Page 8

In troduct ory
S ES S ION on HDR
Page 9

Th e Pi n nacle Challenge
Page 14
Y o u v s . t h e B e s t
To Be the Best is a spin-off eZine from the Flickr Space Ritual An odd conglomeration of folks
challenge group You vs. the Best. Most of our who somehow manage to learn from each other
material is from our discussions and our pho- and make me better as a...well, not a photog-
to pool; it is meant to inspire you to play in our rapher that’s for sure, but maybe I qualify as a
Flickr group. “picture snapper.”

And why should you play in You vs. the Best So, join the group You vs. the Best at www.flickr.
(YvB)? com/groups/26485789@N00/. It’s easy: Shoot,
- You take photographs post, and vote.
- You love taking photographs
- You think some of your photographs just might
be The Best, and you’re willing to join a fiercely
competitive, wildly funny and, dedicated group
Contributors:
of people who feel the same about photography.
Jonas Thomén Initiative, Layout, Dictator
Why fiercely competitive? Because in order to
Danuta M. (bear.bonnell) Writer, “Diary of an
post your photo in the YvB pool, also known as
Uncaffinated YvB Player,” “You vs. the Best”
the Hall of Fame (HOF), it needs to win 5 con-
and “The Pinnacle Challenge”
secutive rounds of a challenge….that’s 50 win-
ning votes!!!! And that’s why your photo would
Maneesh (mksfoto) Public Coordinator, Copy-
be “The Best.” Tough? Sure, but 23 challenge
right Manager
categories have fixed subjects. Only one chal-
lenge varies! You’re know which subjects will
Michael (A2L) Cover Photo “Invisible Man seen
come up, and where you can flaunt your tal-
in Cardiff”
ents.... or, where you’ll need to get better.
Andy Mullen-Cragg (amcD300) Title Credit
Tough? Yes, but here’s what some of our players
say about YvB and why they like it…..
Debbie Hopkins (blueeyeddebby) Writer and
Photographer, “Session on HDR”
wratie The vast array of talent and the opportu-
nity to go ‘head to head’ against photographers
Sarah (sarah22333) Writer and Photographer,
all over the world!
“Session on HDR”
Tina McNeill I love this group! The admin are fair
Jody (dog ma) Writer and Photographer, “Tips
and don’t always vote for each other because of
for Pet Portraits”
their friendship, which I have ran into in other
challenge groups. I also like the maturity of the
Marc (mmarsupilami) YvB Player and Photog-
group...top notch photographers here!
rapher, Interview
Margiebean The competitiveness! I also like the
dr ama Pinnacle Winner
quality of the photos and you guys of course:)
-Agustín Cowper Coles- Pinnacle Winner
luzzzelmann The competition; it’s hard to push
a picture to the HOF. If it’s done, you can be sure,
All photographs and text material are still copy-
that this pic ‘has something’
righted to their respective owners. Even if this is a
free zine, you are not allowed to use text or photos
Pedro Miguel Barreiros Because I think there
for any other purpose then is intended. Everything
are some good photographers to compete
is used with permission from the owner. If there
with.
is a copyright issue, contact mksfoto (on Flickr).
Diary of an Uncaffeinated YvB Player
Getting out of my comfort zone.

I’ve been trying to get out my comfort zone, like Get a grant to do research on the effect of gour-
everyone says to. But just about everything is met cheese on photographic subject… there, I
out of my comfort zone. Today, though, I final- can finance my whole photography escapade!
ly got live captive animals, something besides OK. Got a shot or two of those fantastic whis-
those plain, boring dogs that keep winning #15. kers, and tiny paws. Get that posted ASAP on
YvB. We’ll see if the rat that ate the cheese can
Got little Algernon eating cheese. Barry found scare the cat who can get the dog.
him in the basement and put him in a glass jar.
My out-of-comfort-zone brought right to me
- no climbing into bizarre places, no cornering
weirdos on the street, no buying new lenses, no
imagination or inspiration needed here!!!

OK, to work. Accord-


ing to Dog Ma’s “tuto-
rial on how to photo-
graph pets and captive
animals,” I should get
on eye level with them.
Good thing Algernon
is in a jar. Move the
breakfast, lunch, din-
ner dishes over on the
counter and put the jar
up there. Move over
the pots and pans from
the company the other
night and put camera
right down next to Al-
gernon. Snort. How
do I get my eyes level
with a rat’s? Mouse.
Mole. Whatever. If I
hadn’t gained so much
weight, it’d be easier! OK. Close enough. Dog- OK.... first vote against me. Humph. So the eyes
ma said have some treats ready. Well, Barry’s al- are out of focus, and there’s a glare on the side.
ready taken care of that - hunk of my prize aged No appreciation of spontaneity. And now Barry
parmesan is already in there…. But it’s all for the wants to take Algernon to the nest of the red-
sake of that prize YvB photo, eh? tailed hawk so he can see nature at work. You
wanted out of comfort zone, he says????
Getting closer to him chomping away. Arrrgh. There ya go!
Freeking auto-focus, I don’t want the reflection
of the rat on the jar, I want the rat! OK, I’ll move
the jar onto the window sill. There, that does it.
Good grief! He’s almost chomped through the
whole hunk of cheese. Do mice have cholesterol
issues? Oh wow – now there’s a thought. Text and photo by: Bear Bonnell
Ti p s f o r P e t P o r t r a i t s
Photographing Dogs

Because dogs have a short at-


tention span, I make sure I set
up everything BEFORE I pose
the dog. I first decide what
background I want to use. While
doing this, I am giving the dog
constant love and attention,
praising him, telling him what
a good boy he is, because this
puts him in a good mood and
he’ll more likely do what I want
him to do if he trusts me and
likes me. After I find the back-
ground, I decide on the depth
of field. I usually blur the back-
ground because I want the eye
to be drawn to the main sub-
ject... the dog. I choose a wide
aperture (f1.4- f5.6), but I al-
ways try to keep the whole face
in complete focus. The excep-
tion to a wide aperture is when
the background is as nice as
the dog, then I’ll shoot at f8 or
above.

Background in focus

The background is in focus be-


cause it would take away from
the shot if it wasn’t. Btw. these
tracks are inactive.

The secret weapon

Once I know where and how I want to shoot the


dog, I get the secret weapon... FOOD!! I use dog
treats, but if your dog is picky, use what ever
works. Cheese, turkey, chicken, carrots, what-
ever. Just break them up into very small pieces
because you may need them and you don’t want
to get your dog fat. Now I aim the camera at the
background, get the settings right according to
the light. Remember, you don’t have a lot of time
to shoot the animal because they don’t sit still
for more than a few minutes, so BE prepared.
Blurred background to make the dog pop. Now I’m ready.
A Couple of Important Tips able, so be prepared to adapt. So unpredictable,
that I usually shoot in shutter priority, so I can
Using the treat, I set the dog in front of the back- rotate the dials quickly. Aperture priority works
ground and tell them to sit. Most will do any- well too, your choice.
thing for the treat, so sitting down is usual easy Or, just shoot a body part but try to make it ar-
for them. I can’t stress this part enough... GET tistic..
DOWN ON THEIR LEVEL!! When you shoot at
the dogs eye level the shot comes out so much
better. And if they are laying down, you lay down
too! The floor makes a great tripod!!

But sometimes the background is just not right.


Then I shoot down on a dog, because the floor-
ing makes a much better background than
what’s behind the dog at eye level. Just use your
common sense.

Getting back to the treat, hold the treat right


above the camera lens because that’s what the
dog is going to be looking at. Shoot 3-4 shots,
then give them the cookie. Get another piece of
cookie, and do it again, and again, and again... This is Teddy the Wheaten. He’s all over my
every few shots, give them a treat or else they stream because I absolutely LOVE his fur!!
get bored. Change the dogs position. Or I should If you’re shooting your own dog, you already
say, the dog will change positions and you have know him/her well, so get the food and go for it!!
to be ready to change too. They are unpredict- Good luck!!
Photographing Cats

Cats are much harder. You can’t predict what


they’ll do, so you just have to be ready for any-
thing. Keep the camera handy because they may
lay in such a cute pose and if you have to run
to the other room for your camera, you’ll miss
it. If you’re shooting your own cats, you know
their behavior, so it’s easier to set something up.
For instance, below is a shot of Ionna. I know
she loves to play with water at the sink. So I just
turned it on and waited.

The Final Word

Patience is a must when shoot-


ing pets. Not only with the pet
but with yourself. I sometimes
take 100 pics of a dog or cat
and maybe get 10 good ones.
So shoot a lot of shots. As many
as the animal will let you.
I was lying on the ground for
about 10 minutes while trying
to get this shot perfect, when
the neighbor across the street
came running over because she
thought I fell and was knocked
out! She couldn’t see the cam-
era from her angle.

HAVE FUN!!
This is Andie at 3 months. I sat on the floor, then drew her into the
natural light and shadow with a red laser cat toy. Most cats LOVE
this toy and it works for me almost as good as food for a dog.

Text and photos by: Dog Ma


A chat with MMARSUPILAMI
Marc (mmarsupilami) recently got his 50th Hall not so difficult for the treatment of pictures. By
of Fame winner. We all know how difficult that the way, the majority of my pictures are post-
achievement is! So we caught up with Marc for processed with Picasa (I am new in Photoshop).
a chat. But Picasa is sufficenty for the web but is de-
structive. So, I changed.
YvB: Hi Marc, It is quite an achievement, you
have 50 Hall of Famers in the YvB pool. Congrat- YvB: What tips would you give to members who
ulations! Members are curious to know how you would like to shoot landscapes.
have so many winning fog shots. Do you have a
fog machine or do you breathe on your lens (the Marc: Always to search a construction in the
two theories that currently abound)? picture. Never forget this. Why a big part of pic-
tures of Grand Canyon (mine also) are so bad,
Marc: This is the fog machine : not giving justice to the place? Because it’s not
Each time I go to take pictures, I go there be- possible to find a composition. Always the same
fore with a big bag and put some clouds in it. : a juniper tree in first plan of picture. For a pic-
Breathe on the lens is just for beginners!!! ture, a lone tree in a field with a long road is bet-
ter than Grand Canyon. It’s not
the landscape that makes the
picture! The photograph cre-
ates the landscape...

YvB: We know you play in a lot


of challenge groups. What for
you sets YvB apart from the
others?

Marc: YvB is the more difficult.


Five challenges to win, it’s not
so easy when there are so good
challengers...

YvB: What areas of photogra-


L’origine du monde nuageux / The Clouds Fabric phy would you like to explore
Marc, Spring 2008 outside your current comfort
zones?
YvB: Some members feel that ambience does
not necessarily require fog or mist? What do you Marc: Portrait. But I have a problem with por-
think? traits. I am very astounished how a lot of photo-
graphs are easily making public these portraits.
Marc: Oh, really? Some feel so? It’s misterious... I don’t dare without asking to people...

YvB: Tell us a little about the equipment you use YvB: Anything else you would like to add
and how you go about taking such great shots.
What is the post-processing involved? Marc: Merci, merci. Le plus important, c’est
de continuer à s’amuser. All this is just fun and
Marc: I am mad : I just bought the Canon EOS pleasure...
5D Mark II. But i am also a fan of the Powershot
in my bag when I am cycling and moutainbiking. YvB: Thank you Marc for taking out the time to
For postprocessing, Photoshop is the best and talk to us.
Introductory SESSION on HDR
Some of us look at a HDR photo, say “wow, wish Debbie: If you’re out shooting and you come
we knew how to do that” and move on. So we across the dilemma of correctly exposing for the
decided to ask the practitioners of this art form highlights or the shadows... simply think HDR
in the group to help us out. Debbie (blueeyed- and do both!
debby) and Sarah (sarah22333) volunteered and
we are extremely grateful to both of them. Both Sarah: HDR Simplified: Take a picture. Then
have stressed that for them photography is a take another that’s exposed for the highlights.
hobby and they do not hold formal degrees in it.Then take another that’s exposed for the shad-
What they are happy to do is share their learn- ows. Process and tonemap them in the software
ings, tips and tweaks. of your choice. The first question to answer is
always - does the shot NEED to be HDR? When
The definition of HDR in our category 12 - HDR, you first start its really easy to use it unnecessar-
IR & Orton says: ily. Sunsets are the most obvious choice - with
the bright sky and dark foreground. But start see-
HDR, High Dynamic Range, a technique in which ing things in the shadows. If your shot doesn’t
by combining multiple exposures with different have wide swings in the light and the dark then
exposure values you get an image that has a does it really need to be tonemapped?
larger dynamic range. Something closer to what
the human eye can see.

So what is Dynamic Range?

For our purposes in photography, Dynamic


range (DR) is the range of luminance values from
the darkest to the brightest. The DR of the real-
world scene in front of you is the range of dark-
est to brightest portions available to your eye,
film or imaging sensor. The DR of a camera is
the subset of the scene’s DR that can be cap-
tured without being clipped on the highlight end,
or reduced to noise or outright blocked up on
the shadow end.

This brings us to why HDR?

In some situations the contrast of a scene is


higher then your camera can capture in a single
exposure... this is why you need to take multiple
exposures with varying exposure time.

We will now have Debbie and Sarah take over.


Over to you ladies:

Cedar Creek Grist Mill by Sarah


Spring of 2007, Woodland, Washington, USA
Debbie: How to shoot for HDR 7. Increase your shutter speed by 2 stops and
To get all the exposures correct in a scene try take your second shot (trying not to move cam-
this....also if your camera doesn’t support auto era or Tripod).
bracketing this method will work: 8. Continue in this manner, increasing by your
A.) Pick your camera settings. shutter speed by 2 stops until you reach the
faster (the higher of the 2 you made a mental
1. Exposure mode to AV (Aperture Priority)... note of earlier) of your shutter speeds.
This will be changed to manual mode but not 9. That’s it....done...you have all the shots you
just yet. require for HDR.
2. Metering mode to spot or centre weighted.
3. Select an aperture setting, in this example I’ve Now to understand exposure stops.
used f/22.
4. Select your white balance setting, not the au- In photography the use of stops helps us think
tomatic setting. of light in a series of units and that makes work-
5. Image quality RAW (although you can still do ing out exposure values much easier.
HDR in jpeg format...but some information is
lost). The amount of light that reaches your camera
6. Set the ISO to the lowest setting. sensor is controlled by your aperture value and
Focusing... turn this to manual. shutter values and each time your shutter speed
is halved, (from 1/125sec to 1/250 sec for exam-
B.) Evaluate the range. ple), or the aperture is made smaller (say from
F8-F11) the amount of light that hits the sensor
1. Squint at the scene you have chosen and is halved. This halving means we’re reducing the
identify the darkest and brightest areas. exposure by a stop.
2. Now point your camera at the darkest area
and make a mental note of the shutter speed.

3. Now point your camera at the


brightest area, the aperture will Tonal Shutter
remain constant as you are in Region Aperture Speed Stops
AV mode but the shutter speed
will change, so make a mental Darkest
note of the new shutter speed. Shadows f/22 1/2 sec 0 stops
C.) Compose your shot.
Shadows f/22 1/4 sec 1 stops
1. Put your camera on a tripod.
2. Focus the lens manually (this Mid-Tones f/22 1/8 sec 2 stops
will stop it drifting between ex-
posures).
3. Now switch the exposure
Highlights f/22 1/16 sec 3 stops
mode to manual (M) making
sure you set the same aperture Brightest f/22 1/32 sec 4 stops
you used for the initial read- Highlights
ings.
4. Change your shutter speed
to the lower of your two shutter speed read- For HDR, if the shadows of a scene meter at
ings. 1/2sec at F22 and the highlights meter at 1/30sec
5. Turn your drive mode to self timer or use a at F22, then the time the shutter needs to remain
remote release/ cable release (this will prevent open has to be halved 4 times between correctly
camera shake). exposing the two areas, covering 5 stops in all.
6. Take your first shot.
Sarah: Using auto-bracketing

Unless you’re luckier than me and have one of those 17 FPS


cameras, use a tripod. AND use a remote for the shutter. It really
sucks to miss a great opportunity because you moved the
camera when you pressed the shutter. Hopefully your camera
can bracket at least 3 shots. In order to get 5 exposures, I set for
3 bracketed shots at +2 0 -2. Take those 3 shots then change the
bracket settings to +1 0 -1. You’ll end up with two 0 exposures -2 exposure
shots one stop apart. This is an arguable point, but I really truly
believe that no HDR needs to be more than 5 shots. If you get
your kicks taking 9 exposure brackets then you need more
hobbies...

+2 exposure

-1 exposure +1 exposure 0 exposure

And this is what the final result will look like after tone-mapping and final processing [explained later]
- Strength 70.
- Colour saturation I play with
but usually between 50-70.
- Luminosity 0 or plus 1 but will
play to see what effect I get.
- Light smoothing I normally
stick to the centre circle.
- White point 2.5-3.5.
- Black point quite close to the
left hand marker... may move it
just slightly.
- Colour settings to my liking.
- Highlight smoothing reduced
to get rid of highlight artifacts.
- Shadow smoothing, to my lik-
ing.

Once I have the image to my lik-


ing I save it and ALWAYS finish it
off in photoshop...trying to get it
looking either realistic or as way
out as my mood takes me at the
time

For sharpening which is always


my final step I tend to go to fil-
ters-other- high pass and set it
between 2 and 5. The picture
looks greyed out but don’t pan-
ic. In the layers palette change
your blending mode to overlay
Beached boat (HDR) by Debbie
and voila job done.
Fall of 2007, Tenby, Wales, UK

Debbie: Tips and Tweaks Sarah: Tips and Tricks - Tonemapping

This is one of my personal favourite HDR images. I use Photomatix 3.0 Beta. I’m going to post my
starting settings with a few cautions. But keep
The shot is bracketed at -2, 0 and +2 exposure in mind that you should never be afraid to move
at f11. I did try it with an f22 but was way over that slider all the way left or crank up a setting
exposed and blown highlights. To auto bracket, and check out your options. But if you like the
go to your camera menu - look for AEB, hit set look of my shots, here’s how I do it:
(least it is on a Canon) and move the sliders to
-2, 0 and +2 and hit set again. -Strength 70-85 *usually 80
-Color Saturation 50-55 max
-Luminosity 1 or 2 - I don’t use this setting to
Each of the 3 shots was loaded into photomatix lighten the midtones. That’s what Gamma is for....
pro and then tone mapped. With details enhanc- -Light Smoothing high or very high - medium will
er selected I have my settings at: look 3d and fake. If that is your thing then so be
it.
-Microcontrast 6 or 7
Tone Settings

- White .4 to .9 - but really play


with this one depending on the
shot
- Black .2 to .4
- Gamma 1.0 to 1.4 - this is what
I used to lighten midtones
- Temp whatever you need - but
get this in camera if you can
- Saturation Highlights - this
can help if the sun area is blown
out
- Saturation Shadows 0 - I don’t
mess with these much
- Microsmoothing 0 to 10 use
this if you have fences or bridg-
es that have halos on the lines...
dont overdo it - it will also light-
en midtones
- Highlight, shadow smoothing
- don’t use these much either.

Look at this one. You can see


the perfect detail in the back of Basking 101 by Sarah
the flower, but the sky is well Spring 2009, Portland, Oregon, USA
exposed.

Final processing

If you want a natural look (that’s what I call mine) Here are a few links that may be helpful:
then it’s important to open it up in PS or what- Photomatix software (http://www.hdrsoft.com/)
ever you use and layer the 0 exposure back over If you wish to buy it, the good soul stuckincus-
the top. In extreme lighting situations I will blend toms is offering a Photomatix Coupon Code
2 different exposures back over the top - one for with 15% discount at his blog which also has a
light and one for dark. I change the type of layer HDR tutorial (http://www.stuckincustoms.com/
to overlay or soft light and reduce the opacity to hdr-tutorial/)
anywhere between 10 and 30%. That will give
you a more saturation and contrast while keep- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_dynamic_
ing detail. Get as dramatic as you want. My final range_imaging
adjustments are usually curves, contrast and http://www.cambridgeincolour.com/tutorials/
sharpening. Then you have a beautiful magical high-dynamic-range.htm
mystical HDR that is guaranteed to get you into http://www.vanilladays.com/hdr-guide/
explore. As long as you’ve remembered to in-
clude a kitten posing for a emo self portrait at
sunset.

Text and photos by


sarah22333 and blueeyeddebby
The Pinnacle Challenge
Twenty-eight months after You
vs. the Best blossomed into life
on Flickr, a “best-of-the-best”
contest was organized. Named
“The Pinnacles”, it was de-
signed and built by Taryntella2
and mksfoto, 2 YvB admins.
YvBers were allowed to post
three of their photographs that
had previously won Hall-of-
Fame status in a contest that
lasted 4 rounds and resulted in
a semi-final roster of 6 extraor-
dinary photos. Two photos tied
for first place, one taken by dr
ama, a physician from India,
currently living in the USA; and
the other taken by Augustin
Cowper Coles, a graphic de-
sign university student in Ar-
gentina. Here are their photos.
Check out the this link for the
4 other photos in the semi-final
round, taken by photographers
from Sweden and the USA (Se-
attle, Virginia, NYC)

“apathy” by dr ama

“Night Vision II” by -Agustín Cowper Coles-