HDR photography techniques & gear with professional HDR photographer Jason Connolly

Cleveleys During Sunset

Cleveleys During Sunset

I recently have had the great honor of interviewing a wonderful photographer from Northern England, Jason Connolly.  His work in High Dynamic Range (HDR) Photography is nothing short of fabulous, as his main concentrations have been on the beautiful, picturesque English countryside.

Jason’s work affects me personally as I am from the same part of England as he is, and have seen many of the lovely locations he photographs.  Jason’s photos are among some of the most stunning I have ever seen, and I am sure you will agree that he has a very special talent as you view some of his beautiful images in this article.  On with the interview!

Hello Jason, please tell me when did you actually get into photography?

I got into photography around may 2006, why then? Well, before then I had a 3MP Olympus “point and shoot” camera which was used mainly for family shots, and when I went on family walks where I just tried to capture, or for documentational purposes, the beautiful countryside in Lancashire and Cumbria, which I love.  It really wasn’t for artistic purposes as my work is now.

I then decided on an upgrade for my camera, and as I was searching the Internet for new cameras, I found a web site that gave free tips on how to take better pictures (this site had an adjoining photo forum called digital-photo-forum.com which is no longer in existence), I though that’s great for nothing, but I was then invited to join the photo forum in May 2006, and to learn from other amateur photographers through kind critique and helpful tips and hints.  The photography work on the site was an inspiration to me; I had never really taken notice before, and suddenly I wanted to create stuff like this.  So, I started to concentrate on my pictures and got loads of help and critique; I was hooked from then on, and my little upgrade for my camera gradually went from a better compact to a DSLR in September 2006.  This took some time convincing my good lady wife, has we had to get a credit card loan out to pay for it.  I didn’t like doing that, but I was glad I did!

Foxgloves Over Windermere

Foxgloves Over Windermere

So what would you say inspires you artistically?

I would say beautiful landscapes and scenery with great light and color, sunsets and ‘olde worlde’ and rustic views too.  I also love architecture, especially church interiors, which since HDR came along I like even more.  When I am driving up to the Lake District in Cumbria, and I look around at God’s country, I want to capture that and share it through my photography. I get goospimples a lot when I think of this, and dare I say a little emotional.

Bench in the Church Grounds

Bench in the Church Grounds

That was a great answer Jason, and that brings me to ask what influenced you to explore HDR photography?

I guess my main influence which inspired me on to explore HDR photography was a guy called Marvin Collins, who was on my first photo forum that I mentioned earlier. You can see his work at http://www.redbubble.com/people/mcollins.  In my opinion, his landscape shots are fantastic. They are amazing, the color, the details.  I wanted some of that!  I also wanted to be able to get that better-exposed shot, and some of my digital photo magazines I read were showing off HDR work of church interiors from readers pictures, and I was inspired very much.  Ok some may say it’s cheating but I don’t care, the finished product, in my opinion, is what counts. This doesn’t mean to say that you shouldn’t do your utmost to get the best you can in camera.

Jason, what kind of camera and lenses do you use? (can you be specific about the models, etc.)

  • Camera: Nikon D70s 6MP. 3
  • Lenses, AF-s Nikkor 18-70mm DX. AF-S 55-200mm VR DX. Sigma 70-300mm APO DG.
  • Flash- nikon SB600
  • 10 GB memory cards
  • A Lowepro slingshot 200 for carrying my kit,
  • An Arctic butterfly for cleaning my sensor
  • A shutter release cord.

Fantastic!  So, what kind of tripod do you use, if any?

A small and neat Slik Pro 340 DX.

Okay Jason, here’s a fun one:  If there was no limit on your budget for photography equipment, what would you buy (include name brands and models, etc.)?

I really would like to purchase a full frame digital camera, such as a Nikon D3 or D700 with a new set of FX lenses, such as the 14-24mm f/2.8 AF-S, Nikon 24-70mm AFS f2.8 G, and the Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 G AF-S VR IF ED Lens.  I’d also like a good, sturdy tripod, not sure which one though.  And I’d also like the new version of Adobe CS4–these are all on my ‘wish list.’

Meet the Swan Family

Meet the Swan Family

Okay Jason, what, in your opinion, do you think has contributed to making your photos excellent?

Well, first off, practice makes perfect!  The more you shoot, the more you know what works.  The art of composition was the first thing I had to master, so getting that right was a must, and also the right lighting too; early morning and before sunset are the best for me, but that doesn’t stop my shooting at other times of day.  I also love being creative with my work, some people as me if my pictures are paintings.  At first I was a little offended by that, but it’s what I like, I can’t say I have one piece of work untouched, as I have to dabble around with all of them in Photoshop.

St. Thomas

St. Thomas

Do you have any favorite books, and also favorite photographers?

Not particularly, well actually there are loads of artists work I like (including yours Zoe), but haven’t really got any favorite photographers as such.  I don’t follow anyone’s work around in particular, it doesn’t matter who’s piece of work it is, if I like it, I like it!  I tend to look at the work not the artist or photographer, maybe I’m just different.

As for books, no, I don’t do much of the reading side of photography.  I’m a typical bloke who doesn’t read the instructions, just does it!

Castlehead Viewpoint

Castlehead Viewpoint

So Jason, this brings me to the last question:  What is your ‘real’ profession, or is it art/photography?

I am a train driver based at Blackpool north in the NW of England.  I would love to get more involved in Photography as a career, but I would have to sell a lot more pictures before giving up the day job !!

Bridge at Waddington

Bridge at Waddington

You can view some more of Jason’s amazing photographs at http://www.redbubble.com/people/jadon.  Also, in our Techniques section of this web site, you can catch up on how to create an HDR image courtesy of a very in depth tutorial from Jason right here on the IDP web site as well!

Down the Stairs

Down the Stairs

 

Jason Connolly’s updated gear for HDR digital photography;

  • Nikon D300
  • Nikon MB-D10 Battery grip
  • Nikon D70s
  • Nikkor 18-70mm DX lens (No Longer have)
  • Sigma 18-200mm OS lens
  • Nikkor 18-55 mm DX VR lens
  • Nikkor 55-200mm DX VR lens
  • Sigma 10-20 mm lens
  • Sigma 70-300 mm lens
  • Tamron 90mm macro lens
  • Nikkor 50mm 1.8D lens

Tripods:

  • Slik 340pro DX
  • Slik 500DX

Software used

  • Photomatix HDR and Photoshop

What is your equipment for your HDR photography? Share with us below in the comments.

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