HDR Versus Plain Old RAW

DSC_9631_30_29_28_27_tonemapped.jpgKeep in mind this was a quick and dirty test with some quick and dirty results but just playing around with it has given me reason to explore HDR a bit more than I have done to date. The first image was about 2 stops under what the good old matrix metering in the Nikon suggested. The 2 stop under image held the highlights and color that is the sun way better than the “normal” exposure did. So that was my starting RAW file for the 30 seconds worth of adjustments that I did using Apple’s Aperture highlight and shadow adjustments. My goal was not aesthetic but more to try to match the results of the HDR image at the top of the page. If you don’t know aperture, the highlight and shadow adjustment in that software is an almost magically easy way to do exactly what the name of the tool suggests. There are equivalent ways of doing the same thing in Photoshop and Lightroom. So here is what about 30 seconds of messing with the highlight and shadow sliders can do in terms of matching an HDR. Not bad except for the halos both dark and light and the noise. Now here is what photomatix does with just screwing around with a couple clicks. Amazing the only thing I don’t care for is the banding in the image areas with no detail. Maybe I will mess with it and see if I can get it to stop doing that. I could probably do a better job in photoshop with the same set of exposures and twisting them together using a bunch of different techniques and time but I think this photomatix thing is worth spending some time with and maybe even setting up a tripod to do it correctly. The days of a graduated neutral density filter or putting images together by hand in Photoshop may not be over but I think it might be getting close. On a more creative note, I did notice some interesting motion artifacting (if that is a word) using a few of the various options that photomatix has available to try and counteract moving things (it was me that was moving the camera in this case). I say interesting because I may just find a use for this software by creating those effects intentionally with a moving subject and see how it goes from an aesthetic standpoint.

Are these ready to go finished images? No. So I guess here is my point. I could always do this in about a million different ways. Use a grad ND filter, mess around with cutting physical masks in the darkroom, combining images in photoshop using hand build methods, etc. Have I done this? Yea but I haven’t done it on spur of the moment stuff that I was not sure would work out. With software like photomatix and what will probably be built in to about everything down the road I will probably experiment a whole lot more with images that I would never have spent the time on in the past.


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