HDR

Friday Image No.119

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Higger Tor, The Peak District, UK. Fuji XT2, 10-24mm Lens, 0.6 ND Graduate. Three images at 2 stop intervals blended to HDR in Lightroom.
Higger Tor, The Peak District, UK. Fuji XT2, 10-24mm Lens, 0.6 ND Graduate. Three images at 2 stop intervals blended to HDR in Lightroom.

Christmas is almost here and I’m going to take a break. I will be back in the New Year with lots more information and videos. I would like to leave you with the image above which I captured the other morning in the Peak District.

Here’s to a great 2017’s photography for everyone.

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Book Launch: Nik HDR Efex Pro 2

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Four image HDR blend with Tone Mapping in Nik HDR Efex Pro 2
Four image HDR blend with Tone Mapping in Nik HDR Efex Pro 2

 

A few years back HDR became for many people one of the most hated terms in photography. I believe this was in part due to the overuse of techniques that produced extreme examples of HDR. It was probably also due to HDR being used to resurrect images that should have been allowed to die a natural death. In short, if you don’t like the HDR treatment and style of image you have typically seen, you may not be interested in HDR.

But by disregarding HDR techniques you are also disregarding a very useful tool that help you produce images of excellent quality. The key to this is being able to master and control the traits of HDR that we often pick up on. The image at the top of this post for example is an HDR image yet appears to be a natural photograph; the HDR treatment has been chosen to suit the image. The same can be said of the following black and white image.

Three image HDR in Nik HDR Efex Pro with B&W post processing in Nik Silver Efex
Three image HDR in Nik HDR Efex Pro with B&W post processing in Nik Silver Efex

My latest book which has just launched on Amazon, provides you with the tools necessary to control the HDR process and look using Nik HDR Efex. It follows the proven and popular format of marrying information with hands on practical exercises.

  • The first art of the book discusses how to shoot and prepare HDR image sequences prior to merging.
  • The book then covers the process of generating the HDR image as well as applying Tone Mapping techniques.
  • The book then concludes with three full length worked examples for which you can download the accompanying image files from my Lenscraft website. This allows you to follow the process on your own computer from merging the initial images through to post production enhancement with other Nik filters.
Mastering Nik HDR Efex Pro 2
Mastering Nik HDR Efex Pro 2

The book is priced at just £3.99 (or similar in other currencies) and can be purchased from Amazon in the Kindle format.

Links to the book on Amazon UK and Amazon US are given below. Alternatively, you can search for the book title “Mastering Nik HDR Efex Pro 2”.

Link to Amazon UK

Link to Amazon US

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Realistic HDR

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Derwent Water, Keswick. Canon 5D MKII. 4 Image sequence merged to HDR with Nik HDR Efex Pro 2.
Derwent Water, Keswick. Canon 5D MKII. 4 Image sequence merged to HDR with Nik HDR Efex Pro 2.

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.

HDR Problems in Lightroom

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Sony RX10, ISO80, f/5.6, 1/40"
Sony RX10, ISO80, f/5.6, 1/40″

If you are a Lightroom user you are probably aware that the recent release of version 6 included Photo merge for panorama and HDR photography. In fact, that seems to be pretty much all that was in the new release. In the past I have written about the merge to panorama but not about HDR.

Over the weekend I made an exploratory trip to Wales with a friend and found myself on the banks of a river looking at quite a nice scene. At the time I was shooting Infrared but as the sky clouded up I decided to switch to conventional colour photography using the Sony RX10. Unfortunately the dynamic range of the scene appeared to exceed the capabilities of the Sony (even with a 2 stop ND grad filter for the sky) so I decided to shoot some HDR sequences.

Shooting HDR images in the Sony is a snap. The auto bracketing function allows you to set multiple exposures at quite wide exposure gaps. For this particular shot I chose a 1 stop interval for 3 images. This would give me a correctly exposed image, one that is under exposed by 1 stops and one that’s over exposed by 1 stops. (You can also use 2 stop intervals and a few other combinations if you like). The plan was then to combine these in Lightroom into a new DNG file that could be processed.

When I processed the images I decided to set the Ghosting option as the images were captured handheld which could have introduced movement. I also expected the trees and plants in the scene to be showing some movement between shots as there was a slight breeze. When I processed the image files and zoomed in the foreground looked quite good.

Foreground close up of Lightroom HDR at 100% magnification
Foreground close up of Lightroom HDR at 100% magnification

But when I looked at the upper part of the image I found a significant amount of blending artefacts in the leaves of the trees.

Lightroom HDR at 100% magnification showing ghosting
Lightroom HDR at 100% magnification showing ghosting

Following this disappointment I thought that I would try the blending in Nik HDR Efex to check the results.

Nik HDR Efex at 100% also showing ghosting
Nik HDR Efex at 100% also showing ghosting

It was a little better but still not perfect. What I did like about the Lightroom version though was that it looked totally natural whilst the Nik version appeared “fake”.

Then I tried reprocessing the RAW file with careful editing. The result is the one you see at the top of this page and came out much better than I had expected. The moral of this story is that you have much more power in your RAW files than you might at first think.