There’s no doubt about it, living on the Maine coast as a photographer is really tough stuff. For example, after a pleasant trip to picturesque Wolfe’s Neck State Park, Lori and I drove over to LLBean’s flagship store for some shopping and also Christmas light viewing. See what I mean? Brutal. As you know, I’ve been dabbling in HDR photography (high dynamic range) and found the pretty lights to be well suited for HDR (not long ago I posted my first HDR image ever). I even went ahead and shot an HDR panorama… oblivious at the time to what a bear this would end up be in post production in Photoshop. More about that later.
A crucial fact that is often forgotten by eager photographers such as myself is that Maine in the winter is almost always freezing. Let me tell you, cameras become quite difficult to operate when your hands are numb. So there I was, outside LLBeans trying to look all confident and professional while quickly swapping feeling in my fingers for tingling pain as droves of shoppers walked by staring. Having encouraged my lovely wife to browse for “about 20 minutes or so” (which is really code for “I don’t really know, but likely over an hour,” as all photographers’ wives know), I struggled to both survive the cold and find some compelling shots. There’s a video from the outing on my Youtube channel.
Continued HDR Musings
I’m learning to recognize HDR photo opportunities better and better as I practice. Like with film, HDR shots really can’t be seen in camera. Only after I’ve processed the images can I determine the results of my shoot. The whole idea behind blending bracketed layers is to pull the color and details from the dark and light areas of the image. With that in mind, what I’m beginning to look for are scenes or subjects that have elements of extreme light and extreme dark for the technique to be effective. As I continue to pursue this new technique, slowly I’m seeing my workflow become more efficient and images more appealing. My ultimate aim and current focus is to consistently produce results comparable to HDR greats such as Elia Locardi, Trey Ratcliff, and Ken Kaminesky (who I had the pleasure of meeting up with last weekend while in Montreal! More about that in a later post though). Feedback, pointers, generous monetary donations, and criticism are all very welcome.
Interesting Tid-Bits about LLBean
When it was founded in 1912 by it’s namesake Leon Leonwood Bean (I think using L.L. was a good professional move) LLBean only had one product, the waterproof boot which is still sold in the store and also displayed larger than life outside the main entrance of the flagship store in Freeport, Maine.
The LLBean campus in Freeport, Maine has it’s own zip code: 04033.
Regardless of purchase date, any LLBean product can be returned at anytime for any reason without a receipt for a full refund. (This has been successfully tested by my friend Matt who returned over $300 worth of clothes he had been wearing for over 2 years! … I’m not sure what that says about Matt O_o … but whatever, moving along…)
There are no locks on public entrances to the store since it is open 24/7/365.
My first HDR Panoramic Ever!
In all honesty, I’m not the biggest fan of this shot. I posted it for documentation’s sake as it is my first HDR panorama. Yes, it’s a nice picture of the Bean Boot outside the store, but it lacks that stand-out “wow” factor that I’m aiming for in my photography. Without going into the details of how it was processed (here’s an extensive free tutorial on Elia’s site that I found helpful), it was tricky and I’m proud that it came out at all. The long and short of my struggle was that I made the mistake of trying to create and then blend five identical 2 frame panoramas from each of my five exposure brackets. This was a HUGE waste of time. NEVER do it this way! ALWAYS create a single processed HDR image for each frame you plan to use in the final panoramic. THEN, stitch the finished HDR images together.