Landscape HDRs can be realistic

Richard Charpentier Arizona, HDR, Notes from Rich, Photographing Arizona, Photography 6 Comments

3 exposure HDR. All work done in Photomatix.

It’s a fact. HDR doesn’t have to be surreal.

While shooting in Vulture last Saturday John asked me my opinion on HDRs for landscape.  We were walking along between buildings when the question was posed, so we stopped and set up a few landscape HDRs for processing later.

Personally, I think HDRs for landscapes ROCK!  It’s my belief, at least how I see the world, that I have more success representing the scene I witnessed with HDR.  It could be that my vision is a little funky of course…….

John’s concern was that there would be too many tell tale signs that the image was in fact an HDR.  You know, Halos, unrealistic shadows, too much of a crunchy painted quality, etc……..  I assured him all those issues didn’t need to crop up in an image and we’d try one out on Sunday.

We spent so much time on workflow, the ins and outs of Photomatix, Topax, etc, that we almost didn’t play with the landscape.  But as I browsed the library I saw the landscape images, stopped on them, and decided to take a crack at it.

0 EV from the original RAW file.

Glad I did it.

In the span of about 5 minutes we tuned the 3 exposure HDR to a point where it was agreed, that was very close to the scene we witnessed on Saturday.  What a nice way to demonstrate how quick it was to use Photomatix in a less stylized way.

If you’re digging HDR, try doing some super realistic images with it.  Sure, the stylized stuff is cool, and I enjoy creating those types of images.  But there’s a whole big world of what you can do with HDR.

Comments 6

  1. Rich,

    Have you played around with single-image HDRs? I’ve found it a quick and easy way of getting local contrast that really punches up landscapes without having to create or photograph images at different EVs. The effect is very natural and for many folks who only have a single image of something he or she would like to enhance this might just be the ticket.

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    Yup, I have done single image tone maps, and you’re right. You really can do a lot with them. Also, when considering them, consider trying out the Topaz suite as well. Some very slick stuff can be done there too!

  3. Rich,

    I have the full suite of Nik software. It appears that there are many similar offerings at Topaz.

    What particular Topaz apps do you find most useful for HDR?

  4. I just finished a week of shooting at Big Bend National Park. The high mountains an canyons throw plenty of 5+ EV contrasty exposures. I shoot several scenes with NG filters and HDR to compare results. One advantage of this trip is that I am traveling with my development/processing gear, so after the session I have very fresh in my mind how the scene actually looks. In some cases I was processing the image 30 minutes after the actual capture time.

    It was a struggle to get a realistic HDR image. In the best of cases, I will get the image to look real, but the light behavior was not the one from the real scene. The -microcontrast & smoothing – settings create non-existing shadows and grayed areas in the photo.

    Still, if someone sees the photo and does know how the scene looked…it looks “real”.

    Here is one:
    .-= Adolfo Isassi´s last blog ..Big Bend National Park =-.

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    Hey there! I hope you had a great trip!

    I do agree, sometimes the shadowing isn’t super realistic. Done wrong, I’ve seen super purple shadows that don’t belong anywhere. Still, as I’ve been playing with HDR and dialing things in, comparing to original exposures, etc, I’ve been becoming more and more satisfied with where I can take HDR landscapes.

    I will be doing some comparisons with some neutral density filters this spring. One of the projects I’ve got in mind. We’ll see what we can do. More and more I find myself toying with Topaz and just dealing with single exposures.

    I’ll be popping by your blog later this morning. Big Bend is on my list of places to see. 🙂

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