Portland Union Station

Portland Union Station HDR

Nikon D3x, Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8, 40mm, f/5.0, ISO 640, 9 exposures

This is the result of my first HDR attempt.  By that I mean going out with my camera with the intent of taking a bracketed set of photos to produce an HDR image. As usual, I happy, and I’m not.  I’m actually quite happy about the final outcome – yes I know, I can hear several of you who know me right now… You’re thinking, “What?  Your happy? You are never happy with your work.”.  Well, true – I’m also not happy :)

Shooting: I’m happy I got something on a first attempt.  Considering I’ve never done this before, it was raining, it was pretty dark (about 5 minutes to 7pm) it came out okay. I’d gone through what I thought the process would be in my head.  It turned out to be different then I thought, so was a good learning experience.  For instance, I knew my camera would shoot up to 9 bracketed exposures, but I’ve not really played with it much before.  I got down to Portland, set up my camera (in the rain), put it bracketing mode, set the option for 9 exposures, composed, locked everything down, closed the eye-piece shutter and very carefully pressed the shutter button.  It took *one* exposure.  What? You mean I have to press the shutter button for each one?  I don’t want to do that!  It means I’m touching the camera between each exposure (not good), and I have to keep count of where it is in the cycle, or it will just start over again (say if I took a 10th exposure). Clearly, I have to read more about the bracketing options or find another solution.

So, Yes, I’m happy.  When I reviewed the 9 exposures while there I thought I pretty much had nothing.  It was really hard to judge never having done this before, so I expected pretty poor results when I got home.

Processing: I’ve never done HDR processing before either – though I’ve read other peoples blogs, watched some screen casts and some video training.  Clearly, I have a *lot* to learn here too.  I’m glad I made it through the merging and toning process with something that’s probably okay for a first attempt.  It was a lot harder and more complex then I expected.  I like how the roof(s) of the station came out and I really like the wet sidewalks, train tracks and passenger platforms look (though I’m noticing right now that they look much better in the full size photo).  I’m not too keen on the artifacts that showed up in the roof of the passenger platforms – they are not there in any of the exposures, so I think it has something to do with the merge process. I’m also not excited about the bright blue halo around the UNION STATION neon sign.  It’s clearly there in the +EV exposures, but not in the -EV exposures.  I couldn’t find a good way to remove it because all exposures where there is little or no glow are nearly black outside the neon letters.

I would love to get some feedback and thoughts from some of you HDR and URBEX photographers on shooting and processing.  I think this could be a lot better.  Also, if there are any HDR/URBEX photographers in Portland/Vancouver that would like to shoot together sometime – contact me, because I haven’t found you yet.

  1. Geekgirl

    I really like this. I’m especially noticing the crane in the background – it really stands out and looks cool. I’m looking forward to seeing more!

  2. Wayne Frost
    Wayne Frost01-13-2011

    Very nice first attempt. at HDR, all it needs is a train in the station. You might check the Nikon documentation, I believe that the camera has an interval time you have to use with it when pressing the shutter release button just once. Something else you could do is attach a shutter release cable, put the camera in burst mode, and then press the button on the shutter release a few times, if it is in burst mode it will fire off at least five shots before you have to hit the release button again.

    If you like railroad related shots you might want to check out Joe Perry’s blog, Chasing Steel

  3. John

    Thank you Wayne. You are right – I really needed a train in the station. I think now that I have tried HDR once I’ll be trying it some more! :) I was with my wife who had an appointment in Portland and I grabbed my camera and tripod on the way out the door. I wasn’t sure where I was going to end up or what I would photograph. We ended up close to the station so I went that direction, not knowing the train schedule or having anything particular in mind. When I make a planned trip to the station I’ll check the train schedule first.
    Thanks for the ideas and link to Joe’s site – nice HDR railroad images. I did read up on the interval timer tonight. Kind of embarrassing to think I’ve used the D3x in the studio so much, but not taken it out and needed the interval timer. Out in the rain wasn’t the time to figure it out – I have it setup for next time now.

  4. Dave

    I like the composition of this. Everything draws me to the left with that tasty perspective and then I naturally read to the right and get drawn left again. An idea occurs to me as I look at this about a composite between an HDR image and a standard exposure where the HDR stuff is used as a means to manipulate the viewer’s attention in focal areas and the standard exposure fills gaps between areas of interest. This is something we see in painting where the artist allows saturation, clarity, and level of detail to fall off in areas that are less important and keeps things punched up in areas of particular interest. Keep it up John this is exciting to see.

  5. Ryan Sexton
    Ryan Sexton05-13-2011

    Great shot, I love the glow of the neon.

Leave a Reply