I realise that having time to play is something that is wasted on children! Everyone should spend at least a few hours a week just playing with whatever they want to, it’s great for the blood pressure if nothing else. Today’s focus was HDR.
I have a copy of Photomatix Pro, but have never really had time to get into it. I have read the manual and even gone as far as buying and going through Practical HDR (David Nightingale). However, the style never really grabbed me, I think that it’s the overdone stuff just puts me off. The subtle stuff is pretty cool though, and I can see it helping to produce a balanced exposure when not possible with a single image, but retaining a sense of a realism. As with all things though, when you don’t use something all the time, the knowledge that made sense on the first read-through just disappears so to me, Photomatix remains an application of mystery sliders with exciting names – I end up moving them through experimentation without any real understanding of what I am actually doing.
So today I was in the park as the girls were at a football training camp and I walked past an old mower. Those over-processed HDR images of rusty old American cars in unusual and dramatic scenery sprang to mind, due to the aged and wonderfully textured paintwork I guess. So I knelt down and grabbed three quick bracketed shots to see what it would turn out like as an HDR.
Here are the three original bracketed shots:
I exported them straight into Photomatix from Lightroom without any tweaking, ensuring that I had selected Align Images (by correcting horizontal and vertical shifts) as I had shot handheld. I then just went through the various presets once it had merged them (due to my aforementioned lack of real knowledge), without getting distracted with the any manual, random sliding! I must say that Fusion-Default gave the most realistic looking:
…and I would certainly use this to produce a balanced image. It really brought up the shadows well, enhancing the details nicely. Compared to the correctly exposed, according to my D7000, shot above (the middle one at 1/500sec), I think it’s a huge improvement. However, without getting too HDR mad, I did quite like Enhancer-Painterly preset. I processed it as this and took it back into Lightroom to tweak up the sharpness and lower the exposure of some light patches of grass with the Adjustment Brush to end up with this:
It does look like a cliché HDR, but Dennis looks quite cool like this. I am sure more time on reducing that slight ‘aura’ of brightness around it would help further, but I am just playing after all….
Back to the quicker, easier workflow I think. I enjoyed the playing, but I can’t see myself using HDR that often, and if I do, I think Fusion-Default is the quick and easy path for the complete novice to achieving great results when the dynamic range is wider than desired.