Thursday, 25 August 2011

Slowly, Sowly, Colour HDR

Formally revealing my interest in colour HDR and tone-mapping techniques...

Would you like to see more?

I've been experimenting for a while with HDR. Regular followers will know that I started out a couple or so years ago on my b&w work, where it suited the image.

Recently I moved onto using it in the digital darkroom with colour shots, but haven't published much until now, preferring first to play around until I'd mostly mastered it. Well, I don't claim to be there yet, but I feel comfortable enough with the technique to start to publish.

Plymouth Barbican by Night, August 2011
I'm very pleased with the way this one turned out. Would you be able to tell that I used HDR and tone-mapping techniques? If not, then I've succeeded with that aspect, hehe!

On a different note, I believe that I've bumped into a compositional issue with this shot, one where composition and the desire for "pretty colours" are in conflict. I won't say what it is because I don't want to influence you but if you do spot it, I'd love to know (after all, I may just be being paranoid, hehe!).

I'll leave it a few days, and if anyone has commented about it, I'll say what I mean in reply.

Post by: +Mark Highton Ridley
comments / critique / feedback/ likes  / tweets / +1s ..are always welcome :)

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Initial reviews of HDR software

I've been looking at upgrading my HDR software...

My current HDR software

I currently use Mediachance's Dynamic Photo HDR and it has worked really well as part of my black and white workflow, when I felt it would help with developing my artistic intent for the image. Dynamic Photo HDR is available as a free trial, which doesn't expire -- but it does watermark images.

As a reference for testing the other HDR software, I took a colour image that I'd already processed with Dynamic Photo HDR (and with further treatment in Photoshop). It's the one from my last post here.

The reviews - initial reactions

I checked out:
  • Nik Software's HDR Efex Pro - 15 day free trial
  • HDR Soft's Photomatix (version 4.1.1) - Free trial doesn't expire, it watermarks some of the images it produces though
I used a few different RAW images that I already had taken, from which I produced the different exposures for the software to work on.

The photos weren't taken with HDR in mind, so I was initially seeing how it could be used to produce realistic-looking images -- we've all seen the super-real HDR treatments of cityscapes at night but I'm not initially checking it out for those sorts of image.

HDR Efex

Good points:
  • Many presets to apply, giving you a starting point from which you can endlessly tweak
  • Can add individual control points which apply all the global controls locally, while confining them to a soft-edged radius of influence
  • Integrates well with Photoshop
  • Cityscapes, as per their video demo, seem ideal for it

Bad points:
  • Skies can be very noisy
  • On my system everything slows down horribly
    (dual core, Windows XP, 2GB Ram, loadsa free, defragged hard disk space)
Conclusion: watch this one, once it matures some more, it stands a great chance of setting new standards by which HDR software will be judged.


Good points:
  • Industry leader
  • A good handful of presets to apply, giving you a starting point -- keep tweaking to get closer and closer to the results you're after
  • Noise reduction option for underexposed images can really help noisy skies
Bad points:
  • Can produce that instantly recognisable "Photomatix" look, if not used with care
  • Suffering from complacency due to being market leader - user interface is more clutzy than it needs to be
  • Can be a bit of a struggle to get used to, hindered by the user interface
Conclusion: If you need to get to HDR right away, Photomatix comes out on top when compared to HDR Efex. But if you're reading this a few months after I post it, do check where HDR Efex has got to...

Overall conclusions for initial reactions

I was able to use both HDR applications to get close to the reference image. Although I said that Photomatix came out on top when compared to HDR Efex Pro, when compared to Dynamic Photo HDR, I'm not so sure.

So what will I do? I've uninstalled HDR Efex Pro, I'm keeping Photomatix and will keep comparing Photomatix with my current "champion", Dynamic Photo HDR.

I'll take a few shots with HDR in mind and see where it takes me.

Post by: +Mark Highton Ridley
comments / critique / feedback / tweets / buzzes always welcome :)

Monday, 8 August 2011

HDR - the colour gambit

For quite a while I've been using HDR on and off as part of my mono workflow...

What next?

..and I'm thinking of exploring the technique on some colour work.

Here's the first with that in mind. It was taken a couple of weeks ago, heading home westbound on the M3/A303 route after visiting a client site in Staines, near Heathrow.

Chicklade Bottom Farm
The road was quite stressful, so when the lighting was good, I turned off onto a side road when I got the chance.

What a treat to bump into this scene - quite idyllic and representative of the English countryside. The folk who live here must be delighted with their home.

Really, I'm just exploring for now, so I hope you like how it turned out.

comments / critique / feedback / tweets / buzzes always welcome :)


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