Nikon D7000 Technique - Mirror Lock UP and HDR

The new Nikon D7000 camera keeps on impressing me. There are a lot of little improvements in the software that really benefit photographers trying to get the most performance out of their gear. One of these is being able to shoot a bracketed HDR burst while also using Mirror Lock-up.

Nikon D7000

Nikon D7000

Let me explain why you’d do this, then explain how to do it.

Why

High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography involves taking a series of photos at different exposures and then blending the series together in software. Each photo is exposed at a different brightness level and therefore contains exposure data for certain parts of the scene. For example, the darkest photos in the sequence will contain data for the bright sky/clouds, while the brightest photos in the sequence will contain data for the shadows.

After you take the images, it is common to use a software program to merge the series together into one photo. Programs like Nik HDR Efex Pro take the best-exposed parts of each picture and then create one final image that has detail in the shadows, highlights and everywhere in-between.

Whale skeleton and hotels along Washington State Pacific coast. Nikon D7000. Processed in Nik HDR Efex Pro.

Whale skeleton and hotels along Washington State Pacific coast. Nikon D7000. Processed in Nik HDR Efex Pro.

Ok, now that you understand HDR, let’s talk about the process of taking the photos. Since the software will be merging many images to create one final image, it is important that the camera remains steady during the burst of shots. You can imagine that the photo might look weird if the camera physically moved between shots, since the software might have a difficult time properly lining up elements of the scene.

For the very best HDR photos, it is generally best to:

1. Use a tripod

2. Use a cable release

3. Use mirror lock-up

The third item in the list presents a challenge to photographers. This is because it can take a long time to shoot a series of photos while also using mirror lock up. As many of you know, mirror lock up requires you to press the shutter release (or cable release) two times for each exposure. The first push lifts the mirror and the second push trips the shutter.

Normally when you are shooting an HDR sequence, you want to set the camera to take a fast burst of photos, so elements in the scene don’t move from shot to shot. For example, if you were photographing a landscape with clouds in the sky, the clouds can actually move quite a bit from the first shot to the last shot if you don’t rapidly take the photos. In this example, the software will have a difficult time with ghosting in the clouds, creating an odd look to the image.

Enter the Nikon D7000! In Nikon’s newest prosumer SLR camera, they now allow you to shoot a bracketed HDR burst while simultaneously using mirror lock-up. This means that the camera will automatically take the entire bracketed sequence while also activating mirror lock-up before each photograph. Awesome!

The result is a fast sequence for the bracketed burst, and a stable camera as a result of mirror lock-up.

How

If want to automate the process, or just make it faster, then do this:

1. Set camera for M-Up (found on the shooting mode dial)

Set your camera's shooting mode dial to M UP. This activates the mirror lock-up mode.

Set your camera's shooting mode dial to M UP. This activates the mirror lock-up mode.

2. Activate bracketing on your camera by pressing the BKT button and rotating your command dials. You’ll want to set it so it reads 3F 2.0.

Press the BKT button on the left of the camera. Then, rotate main command dial and sub command dial until you see 3F 2.0.

Press the BKT button on the left of the camera. Then, rotate main command dial and sub command dial until you see 3F 2.0.

3. Press Menu button. Navigate to Shooting Menu (camera icon)

4. Choose Interval Timer Shooting

Choose Interval timer shooting from the menu.

Choose Interval timer shooting from the menu.

Then choose Now.

Then choose Now.

Then choose 1 sec.

Then choose 1 sec.

5. Set up interval timer to take one interval and three shots per interval (1×3).

Then set camera to take one interval and three shots per interval (1 x 3)

Then set camera to take one interval and three shots per interval (1 x 3)

6. Choose “On”

Choose On. Then, the camera will begin shooting the 3 frame HDR sequence.

Choose On. Then, the camera will begin shooting the 3 frame HDR sequence.

The instant you press OK, the camera will start taking the bracketed sequence, so you’ll want to already have your composition and focus set. The camera will then quickly take all three frames in rapid sequence while locking the mirror up for each one.

Shot 1 of 3 in the sequence.

Shot 1 of 3 in the sequence.

Shot 2 of 3 in the sequence.

Shot 2 of 3 in the sequence.

Shot 3 of 3 in the sequence.

Shot 3 of 3 in the sequence.

After you’ve completed the HDR sequence, the next step is to bring the photos into your favorite HDR program to process the HDR image. My favorite program is Nik HDR Efex Pro. It allows me to create realistic HDR images like the one immediately below, or surreal HDR images as shown at the end of this post.

Final HDR image from Nik HDR Efex Pro.

Final HDR image from Nik HDR Efex Pro.

In summary, I really like how Nikon keeps innovating new ideas. Even if the ideas are fairly small in the grand scheme of things, Nikon is always looking for ways to make our photography better. Allowing us to lock our mirrors up during the HDR burst is a perfect example of Nikon listening to feedback and implementing that feedback in the real world!

Below are some recent HDR pics I’ve taken with the D7000.

Hotel at sunset. Kissimmee, FL. Nikon D7000. Processed in Nik HDR Efex Pro.

Hotel at sunset. Kissimmee, FL. Nikon D7000. Processed in Nik HDR Efex Pro.

Bumper cars in Bend, Oregon. Nikon D7000. Processed in Nik HDR Efex Pro.

Bumper cars in Bend, Oregon. Nikon D7000. Processed in Nik HDR Efex Pro.

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