Normally I like my HDR images to look natural
However, Natural HDR is often a contradiction in terms
Unnatural because the user likes the “HDR-look” or
Because the program can’t “do natural well”
The former is fine; the latter is not
Coffee & Pastry at Buck Hollow Overlook
Shenandoah National Park
I’ve written numerous HDR posts. The common theme in each is that I prefer the resulting image to be 100% natural looking
The reason for HDR is to extend a camera’s limited dynamic range
It does this by combining several exposures which, combined, cover the scene’s entire tonal range
If you use HDR with a single image your true goal isn’t a natural looking image – or you’re misguided ;-)
If you use HDR with multiple images but with over-the-top HDR-program grunge-like settings, again, your goal isn’t a natural looking image
Some HDR-programs have great difficulty “doing natural” no matter what the user wants or does; making a cartoon is easy
Yesterday I went to Shenandoah National Park more to acclimate our prone-to-car-sickness puppy to long rides than for photography – but of course I brought my gear.
The first stop, after Panera’s for breakfast pastries was
Buck Hollow overlook – the best breakfast spot on the planet
While there, I put my coffee mug on the overlook wall, pastry on the mug, and made this post’s image which I’ve shot 100’s of times in 100’s of weather conditions
To check the current state of the art in HDR programs I also made four bracketed exposures.
My original exposure is the EV -0.67 below (I always make a “good as possible” image before moving on)
The brackets were 1-stop increments around this starting point – one below & two above
With minimal comment here are the results.
I’ll comment more tomorrow because Photomatix Pro just came out with a new release which seems very nice (based on a quick look).
Neither of my other two HDR programs, HDR Efex Pro (HEP) & HDR Photo Pro (HPP) have been updated in a long, long time
In the interim Photomatix has made significant improvements and further increased their lead over competitors.
I put the four exposures through the three HDR programs with the results shown (all using default settings).
Note that the EV – 0.67 exposure (my original exposure before deciding to bracket for HDR) is just fine. Check the histogram – the camera’s dynamic range was not exceeded.
This should lead to an acceptable image – especially if you shot RAW which retains some dynamic range (beyond what the histogram shows) that is lost in the conversion to jpeg.
I took that exposure in Capture NX2 and did nothing more than use NX2’s D-Lighting shadow/highlight recovery option.
Next, I used my Color Efex Pro 4 Basic Processing Custom Recipe to improve tonal & color contrast.
From the camera – after NX2 – after CEP4 (click to enlarge)
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