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Best of ASMP 2008


Building on his background shooting film-based panoramics, Jeremy Green now pushes the envelope of digital hardware and software to create wide vision images that put the viewer in the driver’s seat. Instead of capturing a single moment, Green records a scene in parts over a prolonged set of moments, using multiple segments and an exposure bracket. Finding the best camera angle from which to capture all the elements often requires a lot of time on set, but this hardly compares to the hours spent in postproduction, running all the files through the two programs that are the muscle behind Green’s attention-getting panoramics.

Jeremy Green — Austin, TX

Web site: www.jeremygreen.com
Project: Digitally composited Texas pool panoramas using Photomerge and HDR imaging

© Jeremy Green
All images in this article © Jeremy Green

ASMP: How long have you been in business?

JG: 28 years.

ASMP: How long have you been an ASMP member?

JG: 28 years.

ASMP: What are your photographic specialties?

JG: I’ve concentrated on doing location work for the best graphic designers and art directors I could get to hire me, regardless of the subject matter. Usually my work has involved shooting people in situations and the problem solving associated with trying to make something extraordinary for travel, corporate, and institutional clients. I sometimes get hired for special projects that call for an unusual approach. I have had a strong suit in panoramic photography and have advertised my stuff nationally in source books, but the HDR/Photomerge technique began merely as a flight of fancy, sort of a digital derivation. I’m not known for only this type of work or even thought of as having it as my primary area of expertise.

© Jeremy Green

ASMP: Please describe the processes and techniques central to the making of this work.

JG: Making HDR/Photomerge panoramics requires digitally combining bracketed exposures of elements of a scene and then stitching the elements together to make a panorama. I use two programs for this work: Photomatix Pro by HDRsoft for combining the bracketed exposures of each element of the panorama into High Dynamic Range images; and Photoshop CS3 for stitching together the HDR elements to create the panoramic image.

© Jeremy Green

ASMP: What do you consider your most valuable piece of equipment?

JG: My Nikon camera and lenses will always be my most valuable pieces of equipment, but my Mac laptop is a close second.

ASMP: What is unique about your approach or what sets you and your work apart from other photographers?

JG: I’ve always had a good eye for simplicity, and I’m well trained in art and science. If I can make an image that wows me, it usually is successful in wowing whoever else it needs to. I have more experience than most in all kinds of places. Integrity is large in my book, and that translates into being a consummate professional. That I would use that term shows how “old school” I am in some ways.

© Jeremy Green

ASMP: Your work includes digital processing techniques to increase dynamic range and produce panoramic images. When did you begin using digital post production, and what were your initial reasons for using these techniques?

JG: I really geared up in digital post-production after getting re-tooled and re-schooled for digital photography, starting in earnest in about 2004. The process continues and will continue indefinitely. Once I got some confidence in this realm, the technical possibilities met with my creativity, and I started doing again what I had historically, which was to try to make images that are beautiful and/or extraordinary to me in some way.

© Jeremy Green

ASMP: How many images do you generally combine in order to create panoramics with Photomerge? What issues are most important to consider when working with this technique?

JG: There is no set rule, but most of my HDR panoramas are a combination of at least 15 and sometimes more than 60 digital files. That pool scene was a combination of 8 elements left to right bracketed 9 stops, so it took 72 digital files combined to make that one image. Because the elemental images are bracketed and then used together, movement is a problem. The camera and subject need to be relatively stationary, although there is some leeway.

© Jeremy Green

ASMP: Did you shoot panoramics before starting to work with PhotoMerge? What are the advantages of using software to produce a panoramic image (in terms of time, cost, or image quality)? What are the disadvantages?

JG: I have shot panoramic photography on film professionally since the early 1990’s. I have used it on national advertising and corporate jobs worldwide. The Photomerge function in Photoshop versions prior to CS3 was inadequate, and only marginally useful. CS3 took it to a higher level that I could confidently use on jobs. There are many differences between film and digital panoramic photography, and I guess I think the advantages in doing it digitally outweigh the disadvantages. The digital panorama is shot over a prolonged set of moments while shooting the various parts, rather than in a single moment as with film cameras. As with HDR creation, movement does not lend itself to Photomerge pans. I have shot from moving boats and cars and I have shot moving subjects with rotating lens panoramic film cameras that I could not have done with the digital technique. On the other hand, I have pushed the envelope of digital hardware and software’s capabilities just to see how far I can go and have created some panoramas that were impossible to make with any of my film equipment. For example, one of the images I submitted for the Best Of ASMP was a night seascape panorama, complete with stationary stars and clouds. This is new photography.

© Jeremy Green

ASMP: Are there any particular types of scenes that you find most suited to panoramic manipulation? Are there subjects or shooting circumstances that you think are not compatible with the panoramic format?

JG: I have always used panoramic photography to put the viewer in my shoes. Get them in the driver’s seat of the situation. I have had less success with conveying the beauty or drama of distant subjects, even though that’s what panoramas were originally all about.

© Jeremy Green

ASMP: Your work also includes High Dynamic Range (HDR) image transformation. Please talk about your process and workflow for these techniques.

JG: I have had little success with Adobe Photoshop CS3’s HDR plug-in, although my guess is that it will improve and become useful in future versions of the program. My work starts with combining a set of bracketed exposures of each element of the panorama with Photomatix Pro and saving these HDR elements to a folder. Then I use Photoshop CS3 to stitch together the HDR elements from that folder. Most of my time is spent in physically finding a good camera angle and shooting all the parts for the panorama. My computer spends a tremendous amount of time running these digital files through the 2 programs to make the final images. Usually I need to do some retouching, cropping, and/or color work on the composite image.

© Jeremy Green

ASMP: What are the advantages and disadvantages of the HDR process? Have you found situations where your use of HDR imaging has been problematic?

JG: The main advantage to HDR is that you can render detail everywhere in an image, from the darkest shadows to the brightest highlights. That’s what “High Dynamic Range” means. You have an image that better represents the range of tones that the human eye/brain sees. Through tone mapping in the HDR program, you can create or diminish a degree of surrealism that is inherent in HDR photography as it stands today. I enjoy the digital surrealism to a degree, and of course I have gone too far with it at times in experimenting and playing with it. It’s not for every situation or subject. As stated earlier, the process doesn’t lend itself to situations that are fluid, moving, and beyond your control.

© Jeremy Green

ASMP: How do you adjust your shooting procedures when planning to shoot HDR images? What types of exposure or lighting parameters are required?

JG: In shooting HDR, I use a wide bracket of exposures in one-stop increments. For the pool shot, the bracket was 9 stops due to my camera’s ability to shoot that wide a bracket automatically and due to the subject’s brightness range. I usually shoot 5 stop brackets for scenes of average contrast and range of brightness. I level my tripod and practice my pan before shooting, making mental notes and taking visual cues of where and how much to overlap each section of the pan. I usually overlap each element liberally, and I almost always shoot with my camera set vertically rather than horizontally. It gives me greater vertical dimension and allows room for cropping off scalloped edges that result from the Photomerge process.

© Jeremy Green

ASMP: Your pool and swimming hole images have a very distinctive color palette with bright blues and greens. Please talk about this. Do you manipulate the colors independently from working with the other techniques?

JG: The high color saturation is inherent with HDR in default settings, and although it’s often unreal and inaccurate, it can be toned down easily and often lends itself to HDR’s surreal appearance. This is all adjustable during the process with sliders within the application.

© Jeremy Green

ASMP: What steps did you take to become proficient in the HDR and Photomerge techniques? Do you have any recommended educational resources for this?

JG: Time on task is the best way to become proficient with anything in digital photography. I recommend lots of play. It’s so much fun to make these images, and it’s not rocket science (at least not on the program user’s part … maybe more so on the programmer’s part). Google HDR photography and you’ll have more sources of inspiration than you have time to ingest. Cultivating an eye for panoramic photography may be more of an aesthetic development. I’ve been seeing and shooting panoramas for so long that I don’t know.

© Jeremy Green

ASMP: Does your workflow change when you are using a combination of HDR imaging and Photomerge techniques in an image? Please describe any special considerations you need to account for when working with both.

JG: The main thing about my workflow that changes when making HDR Photomerge panoramics is the increased post-production time. Lots of time watching the blue progress bar creep across the screen. I had to pull an all-nighter on a job for the first time in years due to my underestimation of the processing time needed to get the job done on deadline. It reminded me of darkroom marathons of old.

© Jeremy Green

ASMP: How have you adjusted your fee structure to reflect the extra digital production costs of HDR and Photomerge processing? Do you do the post processing work yourself or employ a digital tech / Photoshop expert?

JG: I charge for the time, energy, and materials I have invested in developing my professional services and techniques. Part of my fee structure is based on the way I see and do things and on what I can bring to the job as a photographer. I charge for my time and expertise as well as my accrued knowledge and assets. I do post production work myself if my technical knowledge or artistic sense is a factor in how the work is done. I like to keep my hand in the work as much as possible. Otherwise, I gladly let a trusted assistant do the work he/she is capable of doing.

© Jeremy Green

ASMP: Are you using any special avenues to market your work in HDR and panoramic imaging? Do you use any particular approaches or targets that differ from the strategies used to market your other work?

JG: I haven’t done anything special in my marketing yet, but my marketing concepts are changing and are only starting to catch up to my development as a digital creator.

ASMP: Have you experienced any competitive advantages with clients from being skilled in these techniques?

JG: I know from my past marketing campaigns that panoramic photography is a tiny niche that has limited appeal and fits only special projects … but I like special projects.

© Jeremy Green