Shooting Nature in Alquézar in the foothills of the Pyrenees

A photography trip to Aragón

It was Easter weekend and it seemed that we should get away and do something rather than hanging around the house. So we went to a place called Alquézar in the region of Aragón. This region is not quite the Pyrenees and it is more large hills rather than mountains. There was plenty of landscape and nature to use as subject matter for photography. I had my Canon 600D in my hand, just about the whole time while there.

High saturation and contrast equals good art

The town itself was extremely picturesque, as a lot of money had been spent on the restoration of the old town. It is quite reminiscent of Pals which is closer to home. Lots of small streets that were quite like a maze and there was even a street called Calle Dragones, Dragons Street. Many of the photographs that I shot while in Alquézar were to be HDR photos, that I intended to work on later, back at base on the computer using the application Photomatix Pro. I am finding though, that when using RAW photos I can get the sort of image that I like, just using a standard RAW image adjusted in iPhoto. I like to have photos that have bright colours and high saturation and a good amount of contrast. They don’t necessarily look totally realistic, but they are in my opinion, good art.

Using Photomatix Pro

This application has improved since I first bought it and it has a number of default options that you can use. Initially there were only two options originally, one was Tone Mapping which was the one that I chose to get the typical HDR image. The other setting to something which was more like a standard photograph, but with a slightly wider range of tones. With the later version of Photomatix Pro, you get defaults such as Enhancer grunge, painterly, Compressor default or Compressor deep and Fusion intensive or Fusion two images. So you have three basic styles – compressor, fusion and enhancer. My favourite would probably be the Compressor – Deep default setting.

It depends upon the photo

If you have a photo that doesn’t have much sky in it, then the Enhancer – Painterly can look quite good. Using the same settings on an image with a lot of blue sky can look awful. Using the setting of Enhancer – Grunge will look pretty awful whatever photo you are using it with. The 11 default settings that you have available that are going to get started, but you can also make further adjustments to the way the photo is processed finally.

You can also decide to first of all choose the process you want to use, either tone mapping or exposure fusion and then just play with the sliders until you get something you like. It would be a good idea then, to save your setup as presets for yourself to use later. The number sliders that you get to play with depends upon the choice of process and method which is your starting point. You can make it so that the photo will have all of the details enhanced, so that you have an ultra-sharp image that is hyperrealistic. Or you can have the tone compression which gives a smoother look. Once you have chosen your required look, you just have to click on process and then save the image. See below for examples of the same image with two different conversions. The first one is the painterly effect and the other uses the compressor deep effect.


Stuck in Customs

The person that is most famous online for his HDR photography is a fellow called Trey Ratcliff, otherwise known as Stuck in Customs. He does some amazing shots all around the world and I have been following his work on Flickr for a few years now. Interestingly, it was Trey who has recently suggested that the EVIL cameras are very likely to be taking over from the cameras with mirrors in them, the DSLR cameras that we are used to presently, in the next couple of years. I am discussing this type of camera, the Electronic Viewfinder Interchangeable Lens, on the EvilPhotography website. I almost wish that I had bought the Panasonic GH2 or waited for the Sony NEX–7 rather than the Canon 600D, even though there are some advantages to having the Canon.

Meanwhile back in Alquézar

I had a very enjoyable time taking around 400 photographs while in Alquézar. Of course, all of the photos were nature type photos, which is okay, even though I do more often have the urge to take urban grunge type images. I was quite pleased to shoot an image of a flower, just because it was the smallest ever daffodil, narcissus flower that I had ever seen. The images that were shot of the town were all very picturesque and could not at all be described as urban. Certainly I could have spent another couple of days shooting photos in this region.

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