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I’m back from my first day exhibiting work at the People’s Photography exhibition on the railings of St. Stephen’s Green and it was an enjoyable day even if the recession seems to have hit the photo sales market!  During the day I had the chance to chat to a lot of people, including a couple from Malaysia who told me they were visiting their daughter, who is studying in UCD.  I told them that I spent 2 weeks in Malaysia last summer.  Unfortunately I had no images from that trip on display so I promised them I would post a shot on my blog instead.

This proved a good excuse to look through my shots from that holiday to pick out one to post – I have still only processed a handful of photos from the trip, more than a year later, and really must dedicate some time to finishing the task.  Tonight though, wanting to post a shot quickly, and needing sleep, I didn’t venture far into the shots and having found this image of the Oriental Village – essentially a shopping centre at the foot of the cable car in Langkawi – I decided it would do the trick.

I suspect the Oriental Village is the Malaysian equivalent of Bunratty Village in Clare: naff, corny and tacky, but the tourists love it.

I found it photogenic, not because of the “authentic” oriental buildings or the very obviously man-made lake which is an excuse for some careful placement of fishing boats, but because of the setting in which it was situated.

To photograph it then I was always going to use a wide angle to ensure that I got as much of that background into the frame.  I composed the shot to try to avoid cropping the top of the mountains behind, and did my best to expose for the background as much as the foreground, though this proved challenging due to the mist hanging over the mountains.

As a compromise I actually created this particular image from a single RAW file, processed to three different exposures: as it was from the camera, -2 stops underexposed, and +2 stops overexposed.  I then ran these three variants of the same file through Photomatix to perform a psuedo-HDR processing on the image – mainly what I was after was an end result which took elements of the shadows from the overexposed shot, elements of the highlights from the underexposed shot, and elements of the midtones from the in-camera shot.

The process sounds more complicated than it is – Photomatix is very much “plug and play” and even if you let it do its own thing, will generate 5 variants of the merged exposure for you to choose from.  Here, I opted for one that is as photo-realistic as possible.

Bringing the result back into Aperture I processed it as usual, finding a need to increase the contrast in particular.  This had the unfortunate side effect of blowing out the top left corner to some extent – something which I will fix at some point in the future.  For now however it will do – did I mention I need sleep?

By the way, tomorrow (Sunday) People’s Photography continues from 9.30am until 6pm so if you’re in Dublin drop over and say hello – I’ll be opposite Elvery’s on the north side of St. Stephen’s Green.  And I hope those Malaysia tourists visit the blog and enjoy the token shot.  And they’ll be glad to hear I now have some more shots of the real Malaysia, taken in Penang, to post in future weeks.  Stay tuned.

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