the structure of things / 29 March, 2009 [click for previous image: DIFC 2009 #1]
the structure of things / 29 March, 2009 [click for next image: the end of play]
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Title • the structure of things

This is one of those shots that nearly didn't happen, not because I didn't shoot it - clearly I did - but because the way in which I approached it simply didn't work.

This is a sculpture in the Gate Village (a part of the DIFC) and I decided that the most effective/dramatic way to shoot it would be from the ground, looking up. The problem with this idea though was that the sky was about 3 stops brighter than the sculpture. One solution would have been to have thrown some flash onto the sculpture, but this would have caused two problems. First, any light would have been visible in the metal spheres, and second, I'm crap at lighting at the best of times :)

So, the obvious solution, or so I thought, was to shoot an HDR sequence. The problem with that idea though was that the different sections of the sculpture move - a bit like a very large 'executive toy' - and it was a windy day. I shot it anyway, and hoped I could fix any motion artefacts when I processed it. I couldn't; i.e. neither Photomatix or FDRTools could produce an image that came anywhere close to looking OK.

I was about to give up on it when I realised that the solution I was trying to use was much more complicated than the problem required; i.e. I just needed more light on the sculpture - I didn't need a 32 bit image, tone mapping, and the whole HDR process. The much simpler solution, which didn't occur to me until after an hour or two, was to blend two of the exposures - the -3 EV shot for the sky, and the metered exposure for the sculpture - using a very rough mask to blend the two images. If you're interested I've posted both originals (the -3EV then the metered exposure), the mask, and the blended image here:


And if you want to follow up on this technique you can take a look at my Creative workflow: part one tutorial which covers this technique in a lot more depth.

Anyway, I guess the short version of the above is that one of the things that can get in the way of producing a good image is having a mindset that just doesn't work for the image/scene at hand; i.e. I've been writing about HDR for months, so that was the approach that first came to mind. By the same token, if I was more used to lighting the scenes I shoot, I probably would have tried to use flash, reflectors, and so on - which would have taken quite a while to set up, and would have generated its own set of problems. The actual solution though, when it finally did occur to me, was much simpler and quicker - I just wish I'd thought of it sooner :)

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