Before sunrise

I was scheduled to meet friends in downtown Portland for breakfast this morning and, given a fairly sleepless night, I thought I’d get a jump on the day and see if I could get some controlled images of the city and the river to use for learning HDR technique.  I left the house about 5:00AM and was on the Eastside Esplanade with the camera pointed at the city by 5:45.    The goal was to take a series of images with more control on setup than I normally exert… firm tripod, level camera, cable release, auto-everything “off”.  After collecting 7 images from each of 3 views I finished this portion of my morning by grabbing a couple of straight shots of the reflections.


I headed home after a wonderful breakfast at Fuller’s Cafe with friends I had not seen in some time.  I processed the next two images using Photomatix Pro with the intent of trying to create a fairly realistic view while retaining detail in highlights and shadows.  At this time of day the range of illumination is extreme.  Point sources of bright light coming from lampposts and street lights.  Dark zones along the sea wall and under the bridges…not to mention the sky.  Diffuse colors in the reflections.  Moving water in front of the camera.  An interesting challenge for sure.  I’ll keep coming back to these images as I explore HDR processing.

This image results from combining 6 images in Photomatix.  I thought I had 7 images with unique exposures but the last image was a duplicate of the 6th.  Turns out that the camera won’t auto-bracket for exposures longer than 30 seconds.  Makes sense since this is the threshold for moving to “B” shutter speeds.  Never occurred to me while there though.  The shots were made with a 50 mm lens at f/8.

I wanted to see if I could capture the highlights on the dock that the perimeter lights create.  I’m not sure if these lights are sodium, tungsten or halogen but the light looks yellow/warm to me.  The goal was simply to keep the detail in the dock which was very brightly lit.  I had switched to a 10.5mm lens to grab a very broad view.  After merging the 6 exposures in Photomatix I brought the result into Photoshop to correct the fisheye effect.  I wasn’t happy with the color cast created in Photomatix and will go back to see if I can do better.  For now the image is shown in black and white… one of the few images that I have done that I actually like in black and white.

After the experiment I know I have a lot to learn about HDR processing but the initial results give me hope.  I’ll collect more sets of images to play with as I try to learn how to read the contrast and light values of a scene when I know I want to use HDR for presentation.  Fun stuff this photography.  Always something to learn.



One thought on “Before sunrise

  1. Wow – I don’t think I have ever seen these cityscape images before and they are wonderful. I especially like the last B&W one. Well done Bruce.

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