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