Seaport Village & Coronado Bridge | San Diego, CA

Simply Sublime | Pier Cafe | Seaport Village | San Diego, CA
Simply Sublime | Pier Cafe | Seaport Village | San Diego, CA

Just a few steps outside of Seaport Village takes you into areas controlled by the Port of San Diego where, as far as I can tell, there are no regulations on shooting with a tripod, or at least I was lucky enough not to be noticed. (See my last post about the Tripod Police in Seaport Village). From a pier just off of Seaport Village property I was able to capture this image, looking back toward the San Diego Pier Cafe and the Coronado Bridge.

Simply Sublime | Pier Cafe | Seaport Village | San Diego, CA

Simply Sublime | Pier Cafe | Seaport Village | San Diego, CA

While I really liked the photo I shared on Saturday and the story that goes along with it, I think this was my best photo of the day. I’ve been trying to catch a great photo of the Coronado Bridge for awhile but haven’t found the right angle. So far, out of my Coronado Bridge photos, this is my favorite!

A bit about how I captured this photograph

This photo is a 6-frame HDR (high dynamic range) captured with my tripod mounted Canon 7D and 24-105L lens. Shutter speeds ranged from 1 second to 30 seconds at f/16 and ISO 100.

When I’m capturing an HDR I don’t rely on auto-bracketing (unless I’m shooting handheld). Instead I switch over to Manual mode, set my desired aperture, in this case f/16, and find the middle exposure by setting the appropriate shutter speed (i.e. when the light meter reads ‘0’).

Once I take that shot I adjust my shutter speed down a stop so my light meter reads ‘-1’, usually three clicks of the wheel, and take another shot. I continue stopping down until my histogram shows that I have no clipped highlights (i.e. the histogram doesn’t touch the right side of the graph).

I then spin the shutter speed wheel the opposite direction to ‘+1’ on the light meter, take the shot, and then continue to step up until my histogram shows that I have no clipped shadows (i.e. the histogram doesn’t touch the left side of the graph).

By following this procedure I make sure I have details in ALL areas of the scene. Sometimes it requires 3 frames, sometimes 9 or more! It all depends on how much contrast there is in the scene you are capturing. For the photo above I required 6 frames.

The most important step in capturing photos for HDR

Make sure you have data in both the shadow and highlight areas of your scene. If the data isn’t there (shadows are too dark, or highlights are blown out) the computer won’t know what to do with those areas and they’ll end up looking icky when you process them – lots of noise (grain), weird colors, halos, chromatic aberrations, etc.

Its imperative to learn how to read your histogram to ensure you have sufficient detail in all areas of the scene  – make sure your darkest photo in the series doesn’t clip highlights (isn’t touching the right side of the histogram) and your brightest photo in the series doesn’t clip shadows (isn’t touching the left side of the histogram).

Post-processing on the photograph above was done in LightroomPhotomatix ProPhotoshop. and Nik Color Efex Pro. There are quite a few steps here, so I’ll save that for another day.


I hope you enjoyed a peek inside my creative (and technical) process. Learning the steps above helped me make huge strides with HDR photography, and I hope they are helpful to you, too!

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