Another vintage silver palace

Cold shoot, warm images, and HDR in Prescott

Richard Charpentier Arizona, Photography, Photomatix, Photoshop, Prescott, Prints 2 Comments

As I mentioned this morning, there were some issues with last night’s images from the square.  Sure it was pretty darned cold out, but that didn’t keep me from having “warm” shots.

What do I mean by warm?  Simple.  The wonderful Christmas lights added a yellowish to orange tint to almost everything.  Incandescent lighting just does that.  That’s why there’s such a thing as White Balance, and the ability to tweak it after the shot if you’re shooting RAW (which I do).

Rather than talk all around it I’d like to present two HDR images in a row for your viewing pleasure…..

The first shot above is an HDR generated after importing 3 photos from last evening’s shoot.  As you might be able to see it’s definitely toward the yellow side.  To really convince yourself of this simply look at the fake snow below the Christmas tree.  That “snow” should be white, right?

Now, on to HDR number 2.  I used the same exact settings on the HDR side of the equation.  But prior to popping images into Photomatix I decided to deal with the original shots’ white balance issues in Lightroom.

See any difference?  Maybe I’m just too picky, but I see a HUGE difference.  All from dealing with your white balance up front.

How hard was it to change the white balance in Lightroom2?  Not very hard at all.  I took my little eye dropper and sampled an area that was “near” to white from my recollection.

Other issues came up beyond just dealing with the white balance.  This morning’s photo is included once more in this post for a reason.  Additional edits were necessary to make the photo better in my mind.

Shooting at night with extreme light areas and extreme dark areas can lead to a big problem when processing for HDR.  Noise.

No, not the noise of the singing Christmas tree in the square.  Although that noise was a bit much at points and made me chuckle a little to myself.  The nosie I mean is the kind that shows up in your shots, makes the skies look too pixelated, and wreaks havoc in the foreground of HDRs as well……  Of course, some of that noise might have been exacerbated by the singing Christmas tree, you never know.

Take a look around the edges of my corner shot of the courthouse.  Noticed the faded in quality?  That’s a Vignette.  I tapered inward in order to deal with some horrible troubles in the sky.

See, this shot was composed of 3 photos that were all way too warm (yellow).  So, I first adjusted the white balance and cooled the shot down.

Next the photos were merged in Photomatix.  Playing with the luminosity, light smoothing, and tone mapping I got close to what I wanted to present.  I didn’t get all the way there though.

In all of these evening HDRs with large swatches of sky I’ve found a great deal of noise.  Stars add into the contrast of what should be a very dark region.  The HDR process, when pushed, makes a good deal of pixelation around those points of light.

The choice is pretty simple.  Scrap the fun qualities of the HDR or modify the final output to compensate for your bad spots.  In the case of the “Courthouse Corner” I decided to deal with the noisy edges by hiding them.  That simple.

Were there other options?  Sure.  I could have layered the photo further in Photoshop, brushed in a sky and skipped the vignette altogether.  On the next round with this photo I might just do that.  Keep watching and we’ll see.

In total, I’ve found 3 shots from last night’s outing worth printing so far.  I’m still sorting through, resetting white balance, and seeing what the HDR process yields.

Hope this gives you a little idea about the process, and my strange decisions on what to display and what not to display.  Just be glad I’m not printing the final photo on this post.  Blown out, way too yellow, but still fun to share with you!

Comments 2

  1. Richard:

    These are some amazing shots! Honestly, I think the yellowish /gold gives some warmth to the photos. The yellow in the second shot does drown out the courthouse.. how about somewhere in the middle?

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