Wave of Stone HDR


When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.  – Audre Lorde

I find this quote profound and inspirational. My own experience has taught me the truth of this, but I tend to forget it anyway.

The remainder of this post does not relate directly to this quote. Instead, this post is about the photo processing technique called High Dynamic Range (HDR) processing. In many scenes, there is too much difference between the brightest and darkest portions of a photo for both to be exposed properly within a single image. To overcome this, more than one image is taken of a scene/subject, identical to each other except for the exposures (usually three to five images are taken each one to two stops of exposure different from each other). One image is well exposed for the highlights and one is well exposed for the dark shadows. Other frames are exposed between these. Then, through computer processing, the correctly exposed portions of each photo can be combined into a single image that has everything well exposed. (Although there are several good HDR processing programs, I use Photomatix Pro)

The photo at the top of this post is of a portion of sedimentary rock that I happened to notice while waiting at the beach for the sun to set. I came back to photograph it 25 minutes after the sunset. The rock was in deep shadow; but the sky was too bright to have good exposure in a single frame. That was a perfect situation for HDR  (high dynamic range) processing.

Image capture: I took a bracket of 3 frames with an exposure increment of 1 stop.


This is the middle exposure of the three taken, before any processing. I include it so that you have something to compare to the final processed image at the top of this post.

Raw image processing: The three exposure bracketed images were processed first in Adobe Camera Raw converter to add contrast, “clarity”, noise reduction and a little (preprocessing) sharpness. They were thensaved as tiff files. (Ferrel McCollough, HDR guru, recommends this convertion of RAW to tiff format prior to loading into Photomatix)

Using Photomatix Pro 4.2.6 HDR software, it was processed via tone mapping, Exposure Fusion/Natural mode. This gives a more realistic appearance than the more powerful Detail Enhancer mode.

Then in Photoshop Elements, various areas were lightened (dodged) and darkened (burned) to draw the eye to specific areas. Nik Color Efex Pro4 “Detail Extractor” was used to enhance the small details; but, via masking, this effect was not added to the sand or sky.

Finally, Nik Sharpener Pro was used to create the final image, which is at the top of this post.

I welcome suggestions and comments.

J. Michael Harroun©2013


18 comments on “Wave of Stone HDR

  1. Fun Photos says:

    Great visuals

  2. It is the small area of the sea behind the rock that makes the photo especially striking. The HD enhancements made all of the colors and striations stand out. Thanks for a lovely image.

  3. jrosenberry1 says:

    I love the photos and quotes, though the technicalese is beyond my understanding. 20 years ago I had a photography class with a black and white 35 mm camera and we learned about f-stops. We developed the film with actual chemicals in an actual darkroom and tinkered with exposure times. So that’s the extent of my highly-outdated knowledge. BUT I heartily agree with your calling these images “photographs” — that appeals to the stubborn old-school rebel deep down inside.

    Always look forward to your posts!

    • Thank you for your kind compliment.
      You have more darkroom experience than I do.
      Thank you for your support regarding the label of photographs vs images.
      I am glad to have readers who appreciate only the photos and quotes.

      • jrosenberry1 says:

        Wish I had advice to give you where you have asked for it! Still, I am glad for your photos and appreciate your indulging me. 🙂

      • I have been thinking further about your comments.
        I have actually hoped that the photos and quotes have been strong enough to stand on their own.
        They convey my real message. The photography information is truly incidental.
        I hope there are other people who approach my blog as you do.

  4. A very interesting photo, it is beautiful!

  5. This is a wonderful photo. It almost looks like the cross-section of a petrified tree trunk. How did the sunset photos turn out that day?

    • Thank you for your kind compliment.
      The sunset was beautiful, but not enough to anchor an image.
      However it was a very effective backdrop for a panorama of the pier.
      That pier panorama was in my Jan 22 post, entitled Pier Panorama at Sunset.

  6. TBM says:

    Lovely photo and I adore the quote

  7. Heather says:

    The layers in the sandstone make it look remarkably like driftwood. Beautifully done!

  8. Patrizia M. says:

    L’elaborazione Hdr gli ha donato un effetto veramente molto bello!!
    Ciao, Pat

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