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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Rembrandt Solution


What painting’s Grand Masters can teach today’s digital photographers

This Article Features Photo Zoom


Sunrise from the summit of Sunlight Peak, Weminuche Wilderness Area, Colorado. For a high-contrast scene to look natural, merge the local contrast in properly exposed highlight and shadow areas.
In situations that lend themselves to split-ND use, the digital Rembrandt solution is much quicker and often produces better results. Landscapes are good candidates for this technique if they have shadow and highlight regions that aren’t intermingled with each other. Ideally, there should be a region of naturally darker subject matter between the highlight and shadow zones where you can hide the split-ND transition. A flower-filled meadow in shade with peaks in sunset light in the background and a band of dark evergreens in between is a classic split-ND setup.

The Rembrandt solution also reduces problems with motion. Let’s say the wind never quite stops completely, so that a few blossoms are still blurred even in your very best frame. If you use the Rembrandt solution, only one layer (the shadow layer) is visible in the image region containing the flowers. You’ll see slight motion blur in the blossoms that moved during the exposure, but you won’t see totally unnatural ghosting, with two versions of the same blossom faintly visible through each other. The only region where motion could be a problem is under the transition zone of the filter. Usually that can be placed on the midground or background, where there’s unlikely to be noticeable subject movement.

The Rembrandt solution is a powerful tool, but it won’t work in every situation. The best approach is to capture a wide range of exposures while you’re in the field, so you’ll be able to experiment with both the Rembrandt solution and your favorite HDR software. You then can decide, case by case, which technique will make your image as strong as it possibly can be.

To see more of Glenn Randall’s photography, visit www.glennrandall.com.

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