I Learned a New and Improved HDR Processing Technique

I stumbled across a new technique recently for processing my high dynamic range (HDR) photographs. This new technique is very well detailed in Kah Wai Lin, in a tutorial he wrote for HDROne (site/magazine). And even though it’s more of a processing over processing of HDR images and the RAW HDR file itself, it’s leading me to better, more realistic-looking photographs.

Check this out. This first image I processed the easy way, 3 images (-2EV, 0EV, +2EV) imported into Lightroom, slightly adjusted in Lightroom, then externally tone-mapped in HDR Efex Pro from Nik Software.

Grand Lake 20120729 528 HDR

And then the image below is the result from following Lin’s process almost exactly. The other difference is that this image was first RAW-processed through Photomatix Pro (instead of HDR Efex Pro, like above). And instead of using Topaz Adjust like Lin’s process entails, I used Color Efex Pro and DFine 2.0 both from Nik Software. Take a look at the result.

Grand Lake 528 HDR (Lin)

Grand Lake 528 HDR (Lin)

What do you think, between these two images, which looks better to you? And why? I’ve already stated my thoughts, above. One last note here too, I’ve got to watch out for color noise artifacts more. This set of images were taken at ISO 800, and while my Nikon D90 performs quite well at high ISO, when processing HDR with any technique, the noise seems to get more pronounced in the end product. Overall, there are more details in the sky, better looking wood grain and colors, and it just looks more like what I saw shooting that night in downtown Grand Lake. Yes, it is a more tedious process to follow along, but I think in the end, Lin’s technique is well worth the extra effort (I just need to get a faster Mac with more RAM to speed up the processing/loading times in this method! Ha! Honey?)

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Lensbaby Composer

Last Saturday I was able to take a free class at Denver Pro Photo, given by Russ Burden and the Digital Photo Academy, on using the Lensbaby Composer.

After a 15 minute spiel given by the Manfrotto representative, Russ then walked us through using the Lensbaby Composer system and turned us loose on the streets photographing the many Victorian homes and gardens surrounding the Denver Pro Photo store.

After 20 minutes or so of getting acquainted with the lens system, I was able to start enjoying its use and learning its limitations and quirks. But I had a great time using the Lensbaby Composer and took home several dozens of images from that session. Glad I was able to attend and learn more about this unique lens system. It’s a lot harder than it looks! The Lensbaby Composer is roughly a 50mm f/2 lens out-of-the-box. Using the supplied magnetic pencil, you can change the aperture of the lens by removing the aperture ring and inserting another ring with a larger hole. Each ring is labeled with the approximate f-stop opening, so to make the Lensbaby Composer an f/5.6 lens, simply insert the f/5.6 aperture ring and you’re set. The system comes with rings from f/2.8 on up to f/22 for maximum depth of field, relatively speaking ;)

Your camera must be set to manual mode to use the Lensbaby, so you become quite familiar with using your camera’s histogram for exposure evaluations. Quite frustrating at first, but something your ease into and pickup rather quickly if you know how to read your camera’s histograms — which is an art onto itself.

My best results were had by straightening the Lensbaby Composer to shoot/compose straight up, then twist the front element to obtain focus. Once you subject is focused and somewhat composed, I would then bend the front of the Lensbaby Composer to “warp” the focus away from the subject and/or focus point, to make everything but the subject of my composition out of focus. Does that make sense?

Again, straighten out the Lensbaby Composer, compose and focus like it’s a normal 50mm lens, then begin bending the front element of the Composer until you get your desired de-focus effect.

Denver Pro Photo building via Lensbaby Composer

After shooting for an hour, I got to the point where I could use this lens system quite handily.

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Adobe InDesign Video Tutorial – Photobooks

Here’s a cool, short video tutorial from Layers Magazine on Adobe InDesign Video Tutorial – Designing a Photobook.

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