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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Natural HDR

Defeat the limits of your DSLR sensor’s latitude

Labels: How-ToOn LandscapeColumn
I've been using this Lightroom/Photo­shop HDR process often, as it fits easily into my regular workflow using the Adobe software. The amount of data you get with this method is exceptional. Not only that, but the rendering of the data is very smooth and natural looking.

My photograph here was made with a seven-stop bracket in half-stop increments. This is probably overkill, but I like to have choices. There have been times where HDR doesn't work for me due to subject motion issues or other creative concerns, and I just use the one best exposure for my postprocessing. Other times, I've made a full bracket but found the best option was blending just two exposures in Photoshop. There were no such issues with my "Oak Reflections" image, and the seven files when processed worked perfectly, containing a 10-stop range of tones with no clipping. Compare this to the latitude of slide film, which was five stops!

Once the file was saved back to Lightroom, I processed it using the Develop module for my global adjustments such as fine-tuning Exposure, and balancing the tones with Highlights and Shadows, Contrast and Clarity. There's so much data that the task was easy in spite of the contrast range. The finishing touches were done with Photoshop, which often includes local adjustment masks to bring out the final level of nuances to the image.

I know many landscape and nature photographers have strong opinions about HDR. If you've been looking for a naturalistic way of dealing with the high contrasts often found in landscape scenes like I have, I recommend looking into the options for 32-bit HDR processing. Good luck, and good light!

To learn about William Neill's Yosemite workshops, iTunes app, ebooks (William Neill's Yosemite, Meditations in Monochrome, Impressions of Light and Landscapes of the Spirit) and his PhotoBlog and online courses with BetterPhoto.com, visit his website at www.williamneill.com.


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