Digital Photography Advice
HDR Part 1
HDR Part 3 Hellyer Park
HDR Part 4 Uvas Canyon
Santa Teresa Pueblo HDR Sunset
HDR Sunset Norred Trail
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High Dynamic Range
Experiments, Part 2
from part 1, here
are more experiments using Photomatix to generate HDR pictures. Note
that this is the free trial version of Photomatix, which adds
watermarks to the pictures. The pictures were taken using at least
1-stop exposure bracketing steps between the pictures. They were
tone-mapped in Photomatix, then edited in Photoshop and converted to
Quicksilver County Park
HDR pictures often look like paintings. For centuries, painters have
learned how to represent extremes of light and dark in their creations,
by using proper colors and shading. They can't actually capture the
true dynamic ranges of scenery, but they can give an impression of it,
while still maintaining details in both the most brightly lit areas and
the darkest shadows. Photographs have not been able to do the same
until HDR processing, so people aren't used to seeing it. Also,
Photomatix can accentuate and saturate colors, making them look almost
surreal. This can make for very dramatic and appealing photographs, at
the expense of realism. The pictures can be tweaked so they look more
This is another shot of the
picnic structure at sunset. The clouds are very bright, while the sky
is very dark.
This is a
rainbow seen from the Mockingbird Lane staging area. In a normal
photograph, if the foreground were exposed properly, the rainbow would
be washed out and hard to see. The HDR picture darkens the sky and
brings out the colors of the rainbow, while still maintaining rich
colors and details in the foreground.
A forest shot like this on a
cloudy day is not too hard to expose properly, but the Photomatix
rendering intensifies the colors while brightening up the scene.
Oak Grove Park
with sunlight filtering through the trees are often difficult to expose
properly. Either the dappled sunlit areas get overexposed, or the
shadow areas are too dark. This HDR version tones down the sunlit
areas, while maintaining details in the shadows.
In this scene,
the sky and clouds are dramatically highlighted. This was taken with a
polaroid filter, which darkens the sky relative to the clouds, but
Photomatix increases that contrast even more. Also, the colors of the
mapboard are enhanced to the point where it looks like a painting. This
will be seen more later. This can be toned down by reducing the color
In this shot, the Santa Teresa
Hills and the Almaden Valley homes are brightened up, while the sky is
Mansion and Edenvale Gardens Park
The sun is behind the clouds,
so the sky is very bright. The building is backlit, and the lawn is lit
by indirect light.
This picture of the Hayes
Mansion looks like a painting. The colors of the roofs and flowers are
This looks even more like a
painting. The buildings are backlit and in shade.
The color saturation on the
tree leaves is dramatic
The ring in
the foreground is in deep shade. The lawn in the background is sunlit.
The buildings are backlit. Normally, this would be a very difficult
shot. Below are two of the original raw pictures that make up this
shot. The one on the left is exposed properly for the background, while
the one on the right is exposed properly for the foreground. HDR
processing combines the two so that detail can be seen in both the
foreground and background objects.
|Here the background
buildings and lawn are properly exposed, but the ring in the foreground
and the trees are completely black
|Here the foreground is
properly exposed, but the background is so over-exposed that the lawn
buildings are nearly indiscernible.
These pictures of the Martial
Cottle Ranch were taken mid-day, with the fields in the foreground in
full or partial sunlight. Compare these with the pictures in Part 1, where the fields are in deep shade.
County Park, Cottonwood Lake
picture of the group picnic shade at Hellyer looks like a painting. HDR processing lightens up the
under-side of the shade structure. The contrast between the Below are
two of the raw pictures
that made up this HDR shot:
the shade structure and lawn are properly exposed, with detail visible
under the shade, but the sky on the left has lost a lot of detail. The
sky to the right is OK.
the bright sky on the left is properly exposed, with much more detail
visible in the clouds, but the foreground has gone nearly completely
black, and the sky to the right is too dark.
The colors of the grass and
leaves are enhanced.
The sun is directly behind the
clouds. The bench and plants in the foreground would normally be
silhouetted, but are brightened up by HDR processing.
The sun is just to the right of
This shot shows more foreground
The sun is to the left of the
picture, illuminating the bushes in the foreground, while the trees in
the background are shaded by clouds.
The sun is just to the left of
the picture, side-lighting the grasses in the foreground.
Santa Teresa Park
The Bernal-Gulnac-Joice Ranch. The HDR photo maintains the details on
the shaded side of the buildings and the wall, as well as the clouds,
while darkening the sky.
The old barn has dark wood. The wall and parts of the barn are in
shadow. The clouds and sky are bright. There is a wide range of tones
here, but details are visible in all.
Shooting up the Joice Trail towards the sun behind the clouds and
trees, HDR brings out the foreground details, which would otherwise be
lost in the shadow.
Shooting west along the Norred Trail, the hills are partially backlit,
so are in shade, while the clouds are lit by the sun. The HDR picture
brings out the details on the shaded parts of the hills.
On the path leading to Santa Teresa Spring, the foreground is mostly
brightly sunlist, as are the clouds. The spring area and the trees
along the canal are in deep shade.
pond at Santa Teresa Spring is in dappled shade on sunny days, making
it particularly difficult to expose properly, especially without
burning out the sky in the background. In this HDR picture, details can
be seen in the deepest shade, while shading in the bright clouds in the
sky can still be seen.
This is shooting along the row
of trees in the parking lot, showing how the colors are enhanced.
Vasona Lake County Park
Lake County Park is arguably the most scenic County Park, at least on a
year-round basis. At this time of year, Christmas light displays are
put up all over the park for the Fantasy of Lights
program. At the time I went, the skies were clear and cloudless. Vasona
has a wide variety of environments, which makes it good for testing out
various HDR conditions. Unfortunately, it is a busy park, with lots of
people running around, which does not make for good HDR pictures. I had
to wait until people were cleared out of the scene or were not moving
fast before taking the pictures. Below are some examples of the
pictures I took. I used a different tone-mapping technique on most of
these, called "Tone Compressor," which gives more contrasty pictures,
but a little more realistic-looking than the method I used in the
pictures above, called "Details Enhancer." I also used PhotoImpact to
process the pictures, adjusting the brightness and contrast and
enhancing the sharpness.
This is on the Los Gatos Creek Trail. It has a mixture of brightly-lit
areas and deep shade.
picture demonstrates what happens when you have moving objects in a
composite HDR picture. This is the same section of trail, but with a
jogger running down the middle of the trail. The individual pictures
making up this shot were taken a few seconds apart. Note the ghosting
effect. The ghosts in the middle of the trail are the same jogger in
different pictures. The people on the side did not move as much, so the
ghosting effect is less apparent. This picture was also tone-mapped
using the Details Enhancer, while the picture above it used Tone
Compressor. Note how the contrast is lower, and it looks more like a
This is the group picnic area, shooting from the deep shade of a
grove of trees into the brightly-lit lawn and picnic area.
is a backlit picture. The sunlight is reflecting off the waters of Los
Gatos Creek and causing the leaves of the foreground bush to glow.
is shooting across the creek at the row of Christmas lights and red
sweetgum trees in the parking lot. The sky was darkened with a Polaroid
Shooting through the trees at the lights and sponsor sign.
Pictures by Ronald Horii. Page created 12/27/08, updated 1/28/10