Organ HDR BTS

Lets talk!  To date this was one of the most extreme shoots I’ve done, not in the setup (thats another post coming up) but in post production.

About the Shoot:

2nd jobs aren’t always bad!  Working at Starbucks got me this gig! At the time I was unmarried and right out of college. I needed some extra cash flow to offset my crazy gear loan and general living expenses, as well as their amazing health benefits for part time employees. I met Thad Reynolds of Reynolds Associateswhile behind the counter. Thad and his team work on fixing up organs, tuning, rebuilding and the like. Turns out he was working on an article for the National Journal of the American Guild of Organists and needed some better imagery of the Masonic Temple organ he was/is working/writing on.  I agreed, it would be a fun change of pace and a nice challenge for me. After Thad sent me some snapshots of the location I decided to use a technique I have seen done, but never done myself.. It was a risk, what if they didn’t turn out? What if I didn’t do it right? All these what if’s??? After thinking a bit I convinced myself to do it. As long as I take a couple other images outside of this new technique I’ll be fine. Lets get started!

On Location Process:

Upon arrival I had to rethink several of my initial camera locations.  The venue consisted of a large central pit/gathering area surrounded by stadium style seating. The organ was at the rear of the room lofted into the stadium seating..

There was really only this one spot for my camera to grab both the organ and the pipes in one shot.  Oh well, it worked. Once I got my location settled and camera set up I started getting my lights organized.  This technique only requires one flash, sweet! I slapped my SB900 on my softbox and fixed that on my monopod. This is triggered with my Pocketwizard unit so I don’t have to worry about being tethered to the camera, or staying within range of the on camera flash working in commander mode. I purchased Promasters radio shutter remote so I could trigger the shutter from on the move as well.  (there were a couple options I had here, I could have hired an assistant to sit there and push the shutter release, or I could have set up a time-lapse using an in camera feature most Nikon bodies offer. The assistant cost too much for what they would be doing, and the time-lapse would have added hundreds of unnecessary shutter actuations that I really didn’t want.  Not to mention all of the images I would have to sort through and delete.. The wireless remote was the best decision in my mind.) A while ago I purchased the Eye-Fi ProX2 to use with my iPad to see images without looking at the camera.  This setup was without question 100% worth it for this shoot!  I could take a shot and see it straight on my iPad without moving from where I was standing.  Brilliant. After metering the room, setting my flash power and the corresponding F/Stop & Shutter speed on my camera, I was ready to let the shooting commence! The rest of the on location story is best described with this video:

You can see I ran around and flashed (SB900 flash…) everything in the frame, from every angle possible.  I wanted to give the image the HDR vibe, without the stereotypical ‘HDR’ effects you see in a lot of other images. I simply wanted nice dramatic lighting from everywhere! An hour or so later I was ready to pack up and head home.  (After shooting a few safety shots that didn’t rely on this process of course).

Post Process:

Now for the fun bit.. I’ll be honest, I’m not the biggest fan of Photoshop. If I can do it all in camera I will try my hardest.  I’m not sure if its because I’m old school and learned most of my photography on film, or if I’m just lazy and would rather not work in Photoshop.. Either way, shooting everything in camera is always the best decision.  Except for this case.. (Simply because there is no way on Gods green earth I could have hidden all of these flashes to get this image in one shot.) Right out of the starting gate I had about 161 shots that were deemed usable by myself.  Where on earth do I begin.. I ended up starting with

one of the long exposures (left) I did to help compose the image.  From here I simply chose a location and started adding images!  Now the only thing I wanted from each image I added was the section of the composition where the flash hit. So for example: when it came time to fill in the organ I used this image on the right for little bits of highlight on the right side edge of the organ. Each image I chose to add to the composition must have had at least one tiny area where the flash hit that would add more detail to the overall image.  There were a few layers where all I chose to include from that particular layer was a tiny bit of highlight on the railing in the foreground of the image.  Its these tiny details that make an image. Even though you may not notice if one were missing, the addition of 20 of these little details make a massive change in the overall look of the image.  All in all I ended up with just about 50 layers of different images, and by masking out all the undesirable portions of the image I ended up with the master copy I could take and do general edits to,(Curves, shadow lifting, sharpening.. You know the drill). The ‘master copy’ is at the bottom right below with stages of the image beginning at the top left building to the master.

Once the room was situated the way I liked, I added the organist.  Photographed the same way as the rest of the image.  One flash.  I told him to stand as still as possible as I walked around flashing him (SB900 flash..).  This is probably my favorite part of the image.  Mostly because of the way it looks with only the rim lighting.  Check it:

That being said I give you the final image! 

Gear Used:

Leave a comment and let me know if I need to explain anything in further detail!

Contact me if you have a business or project you would like me to photograph with this process!

What you would like me to talk about from my future shoots??

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