Tag Archives: HDR

3765 – Slightly Cool, Slightly Warm

HDR is an invention of the “Digital Age” of photography. It just wouldn’t have been possible with film.

These days I mostly shun the technique. Dynamic range has become pretty good, even on “inferior” small sensors like those of Micro Four Thirds cameras. Still, there are situations like this, I on top of a tower, taking images into the sunset, where HDR tremendously helps with shadow detail.

Once you have your bracketed exposures, guesswork begins. What is the correct white balance? There is no right or wrong here. In retrospect I prefer the warmer colors and lighter tonality of the image that ended up as Image of the Day, but that’s largely a matter of taste.

2306 – Right Place Wrong Time

The idea to take yesterday afternoon off was not particularly bad, it’s only that right after I had decided to do so, the sun decided to hide behind clouds. It looked better eastwards and around Lake Ossiach, but when I arrived at the northern shore, the clouds caught up and I could only wish I had chosen the southern side. But then, it’s not a long way around, and so I tried my luck once more, only to run out of it again. Really, the very moment of my arrival in Ossiach, the sun sank into muddy clouds in the west, never to be seen again that day.

Here’s an HDR, the best I could do, same process as in the last post, only this time without color problems 😀

The Song of the Day is “Right Place Wrong Time” from the 1973 Dr. John album “In The Right Place”. Hear it on YouTube.

2305 – White Winter Hymnal

I took this image yesterday morning, right behind the house. Processing was again to 16 bit TIFF images developed in Lightroom, merged to a 32 bit TIFF in Photoshop, and then the tone mapping was again done in Lightroom. I love this process, the results are excellent, although I lose EXIF data when merging to HDR.

This particular image was problematic because of my idiocy. I had exported from Lightroom in ProPhoto RGB and imported as sRGB. Consequently it took me some time to repair the colors 🙂

The Song of the Day is “White Winter Hymnal” from the 2008 self-titled Fleet Foxes album. Hear it on YouTube.

2294 – Cold, Cold, Cold

Finally we have arrived at today’s image. It is Sunday night, I am on the train to Vienna and this is an image taken in the morning.

It was taken in the empty parking area of the shopping center around the corner. On Sundays it’s all closed with the exception of the baker’s shop. That’s where I had gone for breakfast.

The image is an HDR, five bracketed exposures, developed in Lightroom, exported as 16-bit TIFFs, merged to a 32-bit HDR in Photoshop, without further ado stored as 32-bit TIFF, and finally processed in Lightroom again. Sounds much more complicated than it is. In fact this is probably the most enjoyable way to create HDR images, at least if you already have Lightroom and Photoshop.

Oh yes, a little bit of split toning was used as well 🙂

The Song of the Day is “Cold, Cold, Cold” from Dr. John’s 1973 album “In The Right Place”. Hear it on YouTube.

2193 – Calma

“Calma” means calm in Italian, and that’s what the Image of the Day means to me: the calm of shortly after sundown.

Thursday was just as beautiful as predicted and I spent most of the day inside working, the blinds down to be able to read on my monitor. That’s after I had taken off the three rainy days before. Very bad timing 🙂

Just before sundown I took the car and went out to still catch some light. The first image was taken 50 meters from home. We live a little bit off the main street into Villach, at the end of a small road partly lined by trees. I figured I had to take images very quickly or else the sun would be down behind mount Dobratsch, and so it was.

When I arrived at the church of Maria Gail, maybe two kilometers away, a gothic church on a small hill, overlooking river Gail, I just managed to catch a few last rays, and then the afterglow that you seen on the walls in this image.

The Image of the Day finally was taken as a series of bracketed exposures, developed from RAW in Lightroom, exported as 16 bit TIFF images, merged to HDR and tone-mapped in Photoshop CS3. The algorithm used was “Highlight compression”, an algorithm perfectly suited to sunset images.

I could have used Photomatix Pro or some other HDR tool, I have a few, but when I strive for a natural and calm look, I always try Photoshop first.

The Song of the Day is “Calma” from Umberto Tozzi’s 1980 album “Poste 80”. Hear it on YouTube.

1991 – In The Morning

I have labeled this image “HDR”, but technically that is wrong. It is a fusion of three bracketed exposures, aligned and merged with masks in Photoshop. Pretty much effort went into making this as naturally looking as was possible and, frankly, I think it turned out pretty well.

The challenge here is to maintain the blinding brightness of the sun, but without having to sacrifice detail. This is a matter of carefully blending the original exposures and of using localized “Exposure” layers and curves to smooth out the sky. Basically we want brightness to fade out from the sun’s center along something like a Gaussian Bell curve.

HDR tone mapping programs like Photomatix Pro are pretty good at that and I could have gone that route, but as I had also to eliminate some lens flares, I tackled it manually.

Cloning out the flares was challenging as well. They were of course in the central clouds and there was simply no material to clone from. You may know that problem: if you get the right texture and luminosity, the color is off and vice versa.

The solution is, to do it in separate steps. I use a blank, transparent layer in “Luminosity” blending mode and I just clone from parts with the right texture and luminosity. In order to better see what I do, I have a temporary desaturation layer on top, i.e. above the target layer of my cloning operation. This works, because in the “Sample” drop-down menu of the “Clone” tool bar, I always use “Current & Below”. Thus I can use layers above the current layer to amplify aspects of the image, but this amplification is not taken up by the clone brush. When I’m satisfied with smooth textures, I remove the desaturation layer.

At that moment color is completely and irritatingly off. That was the reason for working under a desaturation screen in the first place: colors, especially saturated ones tend to give an impression of changed luminosity.

The final step is a second blank layer, but this time in “Color” blending mode. Here you clone from places with matching color, regardless of luminosity. If you want to, you can even use a light- to mid-gray layer in “Luminosity” mode above as a screen. Doing so you see only colors, no texture. A strong “Saturation” layer may help as well. Put them in a group, and then you can quickly turn the screen on and off.

In pathological cases it would be possible to refine the method further by using separate clone layers in “Hue” and in “Saturation” blending more instead of one in “Color”. Normally it will not be worth the hassle though.

The Song of the Day is “In The Morning” from the 2004 Norah Jones album “Feels Like Home”. Hear it on YouTube.

1860 – Further On (Up The Road)

Funny, I couldn’t remember what a lousy performer the Sigma 28/1.8 is when the sun is in your frame. It’s such a wonderful lens otherwise, and of course such an incredibly useful focal length on APS-C.

Here’s an HDR with the green reflexes edited out (mostly), and the result, while vastly different from what the sensor with any single exposure records, looks remarkably like what I believe to have seen. Same workflow as yesterday.

The Song of the Day is “Further On (Up The Road)“, and of course it’s the spectacular version from Springsteen’s “Live In Dublin” with the Sessions Band. Enjoy the video on YouTube.

1859 – Electric Ladyland XIII

I made a couple of images this afternoon, some are plagued by dust bunnies (LX5! How I miss ya!) and one of them, this one, is an HDR image. That’s one more trick a DSLR’s has in its sleeves. I gave it a mild treatment based on Photomatix Pro’s Dynamic Range Compression tone mapping method. This is particularly well suited to soft sky gradients. Due to the subject matter we are clearly again in Electric Ladyland.

As always the Song of the Day is “Have You Ever Been (To Electric Ladyland)” from Jimi Hendrix’ 1968 album “Electric Ladyland”. Hear it on YouTube.

1616 – Broken Bricks

This was an extremely stressful weekend, but successful nevertheless. I spent most of the time programming and researching technical problems. I’m going to blog about that on my programming blog soon.

It’s Sunday night now, I am on the train to Vienna, and this is an image that I took on a short excursion this afternoon. It’s a merge of three exposures from a series of seven bracketed pictures.

There was wind, the small twigs were moving, and even though I tried my best (just as Photoshop’s align function did), there were some mis-alignments. Contemplating my options I tried Topaz Clean, and there an effect that I probably have not used a single time. It’s one of those fractal algorithms, that turn your image into a curly pattern. See on their web site, it’s what they call “Unique and Stylized Edge Manipulation”.


Well, it works. Of course it’s a canned effect (although you do have some control), but – interestingly enough – it tends to look pretty natural, at least from a distance and at the sizes that I show on the web. At 100% it looks … interesting, and I guess it would look pretty good in a print.

The Song of the Day is “Broken Bricks” from the 1999 self-titled White Stripes debut album. Hear it on YouTube.