If you read my newsletter on Lenscraft you will know that I’m working on a new book about HDR. You might find this odd if you know me well; following a brief fling with HDR back in 2007 I decided I didn’t like the technique and have been quite vocal about it. As a Landscape Photographer, I find unrealistic techniques make me cringe.
So what’s changed? In short, my understanding and skill with some of the software tools.
The image above which is from one of the worked examples in the book is a case in point. These images were shot on a Canon 5D and at the time I couldn’t tame the dynamic range with filters. I shot the sequence in the hope that one day I would be able to produce a realistic looking HDR image from them.
Well I think that time may be getting closer. The image isn’t yet quite as I would like it but it’s certainly appealing and doesn’t suffer from some of the obvious HDR signs that make me cringe.
And the software used for this? Nik HDR Efex Pro 2 – best of all it’s free.
The trick to making this approach work is to keep the Detail setting to “Realistic” when Tone Mapping. Also set the Depth to “Normal” and Drama to “Deep”. As you process the image be sure to increase contrast selectively as well as darken shadows. Once you have completed the Tone Mapping step it’s worth the image into Viveza where you close the shadows down and apply additional contrast if necessary.
It takes a little practice and feels as though you are engineering the HDR look out of the image. It’s time consuming but I think it’s worth the effort.