Thursday, August 4, 2011

FOR PHOTOGRAPHERS - MY FIRST FORAY INTO HDR

Lately I've been lamenting the fact that my little Nikon D40X, much as I love it, is sadly out of date because it does not do automatic image bracketing to make HDR (High Dynamic Range) imaging.  HDR images are increasingly used in commercial and landscape images where the subject doesn't move much.  It is not suitable for taking pictures of animals (sadly, as I'd love to try it with the Amigos de Animales calendar). 

I was going to upgrade my equipment and invest over $1000 in a new Nikon D7000 (if I can get it - is hard to find one in stock even in the U.S.).  I've also been investigating HDR software, which is necessary to merge and optimize the different images taken at different exposure settings (usually different shutter speeds if your camera doesn't have a setting to vary the EVs upward and downward).

My Chiriqui Camera Club buddy Edward Satterblom told me a few days ago about an article comparing different HDR software, which liked the NIK HDR Effex Pro application http://www.niksoftware.com/hdrefexpro/usa/entry.php because it is so intuitive:   http://www.outdoorphotographer.com/gear/more-gear/short-reports/hdr-software-roundup-and-review.html. This and the other major HDR applications are available for free trials by download.

So...today I tried a little experiment.  I used my good ol' D40X on Aperture Priority with a tripod and manually varied the shutter speed in some random fashion around the automatic setting, taking a total of 9 images.

I downloaded the free trial of NIK HDR Effex Pro as a Photoshop Plug-In.  Then, without reading the instruction manual, I started Photoshop and HDR Effex Pro automatically started.  I selected all 9 images to merge, which took a minute or so.  Then I selected from different pre-set options to produce the effect I liked the best.

Results:

Starting image (not cropped or changed in any way - shot as high-res jpg. Selected because it has a wide range of color values with no thought given to artistic merit):

And here is the resulting HDR image from the nine merged photos:


And this was my FIRST TRY, not knowing what I was doing!
There are infinite different possibilities using this software in the manual instead of the automatic mode.

And here is my second - note that the program
did its own thing with the sky:

And my third attempt, trying to be a bit more artistic:

OK, I'm sold!  Total cost:  $0.
When I buy the NIK software, it will cost $159.95.  And I'll be happy shooting at 10.1 Megapixels with my little D40X for quite some time.

A couple of technical notes:  
- I have the latest version of Photoshop CS5.  Not sure if it will work with previous versions.  You can also get it as a plug-in for Bridge and Aperture.

So there you have it - have fun exploring your own HDR world.

-bjd 

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