Summertime at San Diego Natural History Museum

Dino in HDR—While inside San Diego Natural History Museum,  I bracketed as I captured about 7 images to create this totally unrealistic image using Photomatix Pro. See the scene captured normally by my Canon 40D with 17-35 f2.8 L lens. ISO 400 f6.3 shutter speed between 1/10 sec and 0.3 seconds.

It’s nice to get away for a few days especially when it’s an easy 2 hour drive to San Diego.

You can always count on the numerous museums at Balboa Park to have exhibits that provide hours of amusement.

Actually, with so many other museums to choose from, it’s actually tough to decide.

We opted for the San Diego Natural History Museum.

“Dinosaurs” and “All That Glitters” are currently on exhibit.

Low noise at ISO 400–The image on the right shows the reverse angle of the HDR image. Taken with  the Canon Powershot G11, the lack of noise is quite impressive if you consider it was taken at ISO 400 with a Point-and-Shoot camera. Hand held at 1/6 sec @f5.

Included with the price of admission is the movie “Dinosaurs Alive! 3D.”

The 20-minute long 3D film was educational but I wasn’t blown away.

A compelling storyline is what draws me in, not the special effects. It’s probably the reason I didn’t go see “Avatar”.

Eyeing the bric-a-brac “Balboa Park Carousel Egg”—-This is as close as my wife will come to owning this, but we won’t tell her, okay? 😉  It was too bad the value of the items on exhibit were not disclosed. ISO 100 1/13 sec @ f2.8  hand held braced against the glass enclosure. See this music box from a different angle.

“All That Glitters” is probably a hit with the ladies especially those who go gaga over glittering rocks or expensive bric-a-brac. Here’s the description of the item:

This bejewelled, enamel egg holds a miniature replica of the beloved  carousel in Balboa Park. Each hand-carved animal depicts one of the actual 56 that revolve on the real carousel. The egg took 10 years to create–and yes, it plays music. By J Grahl Designs, circa 2007. Diamond, ruby, gold, platinum, silver, mother-of-pearl, glass, stainless steel, wood. Courtesy of Jim Grahl and Dr. Barry Marfleet.

Photo Gear

I tried to keep things simple this trip. I had the Canon G11, a little table top tripod, Canon 40D with my 17-35 f2.8L lens, my 430EX Speedlight and my Cybersync radio slave.

Since I didn’t want to draw too much attention to my presence with a camera, I made sure I shot with available light.

Because the items were behind glass, reflections were everywhere. I waited for folks with darker clothing to come by to help shield those reflections from view whenever possible.

Though I didn’t see signs that prohibited photography, I was certain that tripods were not going to be welcome. It’s sometimes best to be “low-key” and not draw attention to yourself and save yourself the hassles.


For those of you unfamiliar with HDR, High Dynamic Range–it’s all the rage in digital photography.

I’m making available in low resolution the images I started out with to create the picture titled “Dino in HDR”.

For the sake of expediency, I’ve down sampled (fancy way of saying they’ve been scaled down) them and put them in a zipped folder. Get them here.

I am also including a link to the software PhotoMatix Pro which I used. It’s a free trial, so why not mess around with it?

You might be intimidated by all those dialog boxes. Just mess with the sliders till you have an image you like.

The best part of this exercise is: you don’t even have to leave the comfort of your home to try this since I’m providing the starting images.

The procedure is quite simple.

  • Take a series of pictures of preferably an inanimate object using a tripod
  • Without moving your camera or changing your composition, bracket your exposures
  • Set your aperture to something small so you have good depth-of-field
  • Underexpose by 3 or 4 stops to what the meter recommends
  • Overexpose by 3 or 4 stops
  • You’ll end up with 7 exposures depending on whether you chose 3 or 4 stops of over and under exposure
  • Download and install the trial version of Photomatix Pro.
  • Launch it, then choose Open and navigate to those 7 images. Choose generate HDR.
  • Keeping things simple, choose Tone Mapping then look at the very bottom of that long dialog box under Presets, choose “Grunge”

I don’t use it much in my work but I’m sure if a client requests it, I can fake it.

The “All that Glitters” exhibit was impressive. Too bad, they didn’t list the value of their exhibits.

Would have been nice to know what an appraiser’s idea of an expensive jewel is.

4 thoughts on “Summertime at San Diego Natural History Museum”

  1. Hello Jaimie,
    Thank you for visiting my blog and more importantly taking the time to leave those kind words. I hope you’ll be a frequent visitor and will share your thoughts often to help my writing get better. I can always use suggestions on topics to write about.

  2. Hi Jo,
    It’s great of you to stop by. I can always count on you to be so supportive. I like this new theme or look for my blog. It’s easier to read, I hope. Now if I can only get the content up to par… 🙂

    Which picture are you referring to by the way? This one?

  3. BTW, Peter, I have always loved that picture of the man taking the picture at the wedding. . . nice to see it up on the blog so prominently!

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