You may have noticed that some of my photos have a different feel to them...a little surreal. That's because I use a technique called HDR to get up to 9 exposures of the same shot. These are then merged together with the result that every nuance of light and shade is captured. Take the shot below of Lake Grasmere in the Lake District for example.
I took this 30 minutes after sunset, one of the two sweet times for photographers (the other is just after sunrise...not an early riser me). The difficulty at this time is that the light is starting to fade so even correctly exposed the probability is that the foreground would have exposed well but the mountains in the background would have been too dark.
HDR is a great solution as if you take say 3 shots with 1 stop difference you will be able to expose accurately for each of the varying lights. I took 9 shots for this photo, I'm lucky to have the amazing Nikon D300 that allows for that but great results can be achieved with 3 photos.
Here's a rundown on how to take HDR photos.
DSLR camera. The point and shoot cameras, as far as I know, don't have the capability for HDR.
Tripod. This is essential - any movement will destroy the photo.
I also use a remote trigger but this is not essential.
That's it! People often believe they need some special equipment for HDR photography but that's not the case.
Ok, so if you have a Nikon D300 this is what you do.
First, set your camera to aperture priority. For HDR, the aperture should never change, only the shutter speed should change.
At the front of your camera, on the right hand side at the bottom, you'll find the function button (fn). Press this and look at the display screen at the top of the camera. It will say 0F. Use the dial at the back of the camera to adjust this to at least 3F. I usually use 9 but any number above 3 is fine.
Next, we need to adjust the exposure interval. This is what dictates the difference in exposure between each photo taken. Press the function button again and use the front dial to adjust the exposure interval. The Nikon d300 gives the option of 1/3, 1/2, 2/3 or 1EV intervals. I usually use 1 full stop to make sure that I get the full range I need.
Lastly, adjust the dial on the top left of your camera to CH - continuous high speed setting.
Now the camera is ready to go, put your camera on the tripod. Make sure there are no moving objects in the scene you want to capture. Movement and HDR don't mix.
Now go to menu, and to camera settings. Scroll down until you find Interval Timing Shooting. Click ok and if you're ready to go, click on now. If you want to set the timer do that instead.
This guide is for the Nikon d300 only. If you have another Nikon, the settings are probably similar. Check your manual and you'll find the instructions there.
For any other make of DSLR, I'm afraid I don't have the knowledge, but as far as I know, most DSLRs have bracketing capabilities. Again, check your manual.
Once you've taken the bracketed photos, you will need the correct software to merge the photos together. If you're using Windows, I highly recommend Photomatix...you can get a free trial here: http://www.hdrsoft.com/
If you're using a Mac, Nik software HDR efex is great. A free trial is available here: http://www.niksoftware.com/hdrefexpro/en/entry.php
If you'd like any more advice on how to take HDR photos, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
In the meantime, have FUN!