Thursday, August 16, 2012

My foray into HDR images - Bruce Peninsula National Park

I'm a luddite when it comes to new digital technologies and I've been particularly slow in adopting HDR as a way to achieve a wide tonal range in my images. Most of the HDRs that I see are grossly over-processed to the point of looking unnatural, so I've steered clear until recently. 

In most cases, I simply prefer to use ND grad filters to bag the photo in-camera rather than rely on post processing (I hate spending more time at my computer). However, there are some situations when this isn't possible, including when the composition is complex and a grad won't fit the scene, or when I'm shooting with an ultra-wide lens that has a curved front element that cannot be easily filtered.

In these situations, I've been relying on HDR lately. I shoot 5 images of the scene bracketed at various exposures (- 0, -1,. -2, +1, +2) and use PhotoMatix Pro software to combine them into single HDR image. It took me a while to get the hang of the adjustments (there are lots of sliders and it's easy to make the image look very fake!) but I'm finally getting ok at it. 

Here are a couple HDR images that I've shot recently in Bruce Peninsula National Park, near my home. Let me know how they look to you.

Thanks and happy shooting!

The Grotto. Techs: Canon 5d mk II, Sigma 12-24mm. 

Halfway Rock. Techs: Canon 1d mk IV, Sigma 12-24mm.


  1. Nice job -- these look really natural to me. My feelings about HDR are similar -- I've produced a couple of images using Photomatix that I like, but have found getting natural results from it a really nuanced process. I've also tried Photoshop's HDR processing with less-good results.

    Nice work, Ethan!

  2. Both images are really well done Ethan, they look very natural to me. For a while I struggled with trying to find HDR techniques that I was happy with. I agree that almost all of the time the automated processes will turn out completely overdone images. I've had good luck blending manually in Photoshop and do that almost exclusively now. You've done a good job controlling Photomatix though, the results are really pleasing.

    I still use grads when I can but HDR is nice for horizons that include trees or other objects that will get uneven blend lines with the grad.

  3. Nicely done Ethan. Although I use the 'overdone' method sometimes for clients (at their request) I too prefer the more natural look. I've lately exported the images (from Lightroom 4) to HDR Pro in PhotoShop CS5 to create a 32 bit file and then reimport it back into LR4 for final processing there. Much easier to create a natural look than Photomatix, I find, and more intuitive using the LR4 controls.

  4. Thanks for the feedback guys, glad to know I seem to be on track with HDR. I'll try to Photoshop method too, will be interest to compare the results.
    Good shooting!

  5. Anonymous4:54 PM

    These look great Ethan. I wouldn't have realized that they were bracketed exposures unless you said so. I am so looking forward to your workshop in September I can't tell you. See you then.

  6. Lovely post , I like this blog ..
    Stock images

  7. Very beautiful effect, and it does look reasonable, not over-produced.