Motivation is a photography blog that discusses the creative aspects of photography. The posts will include thoughts about images and their interpretation, photographers and their work, technique, workflow, my ongoing projects, and perhaps even the occasional off topic rant.

32 Bit Processing In Lightroom

There was, in the latest edition of Photoshop User magazine, a very interesting tutorial. It spoke about merging bracketed exposures into an HDR file but, rather than tone mapping the file in HDR software, bringing the file into Lightroom or Adobe Camera Raw and processing it using the sliders there. This apparently gives a nearly halo-free image with a more photo-realistic effect than that typically attained with HDR software tone mapping. Shortly thereafter, a friend sent me a link to a very nice on-line video tutorial by Mark Johnson about using this technique. I thought I would share the tutorial link. Just click here.

This is definitely a technique that I will be trying out!

Looking For Natural HDR

I have not had all that much experience using HDR.  In general, I find the cartoonish look that one can (but need not) get very faddish and unimpressive...... just dial up the tone compression.  Sometimes I think that 'look' has become far too accepted.   I  have begun (unfortunately, in my opinion) to see it regularly even in 'high class' photography magazines like B&W/Color. But, I understand it doesn't have to be that way.  In fact, I believe it is far, far harder to produce a natural and believable looking HDR image than a grungy, surreal one.  I used my very recently acquired NIK HDR Efex Pro to generate a realistic looking botanical image which I posted here.  I do have Photomatix as well, but find the NIK product somewhat more intuitive and easier to work with.  So I decided to use the NIK software to try my hand at an HDR landscape shot.  This is from a series of 6 exposures taken at the Swift River in New Hampshire on a workshop with Nancy Rotenberg and Les Saucier that I attended last year.

Swift River, New Hampshire, HDR Image

It isn't perfect in terms of maintaining a natural look, but I think it isn't bad for one of my initial HDR landscape attempts.  The slight haloing around the very distant trees protruding into the sky on the left is not nearly as marked on the full scale image and is accentuated here by having converted the photo to a small jpeg.

Another Botanical Experiment

I recently wrote a post about trying different photographic experiments to express what attracts me to making photos of flowers and plants.  I found the images from that post intriguing, but didn't think they were quite what I was looking for. Last weekend, as I was out with my "Sunday Morning Shooting Buddies" at a local botanical garden, I found myself walking through a room that had some particularly harsh lighting.  My initial thought was that the lighting would not really allow any good photos to be made there, until I saw some beautiful leaves that were there was a good use for harsh lighting.

There was a problem though. I have previously photographed backlit leaves and stems but few of them have ever 'made the cut'.  Why?  Because the image in my mind, the one that I am trying to express, is that of the backlighting bringing out sharp detail.  The problem is that the details in leaves and stems have never been as sharp as I have imagined them to be.  Even though they have been in focus, the lines and edges are, in reality, not razor sharp......there is always some fuzziness at the edges.  The fuzziness might not show at small image sizes, but when you enlarge them significantly they are there.  And if I tried to sharpen them in Photoshop to the degree I wanted I would get artifacts  in the surrounding areas of the plant or leaf.  Now, I am not complaining about reality, it is just that the reality doesn't quite match the way I would like to portray it.  It isn't that I want to change nature, it is just that I want my photos to look like the way I see it (the way we all see it, since the lines do look sharp and it is only when we look really closely that one can see they aren't).

On that day I tried another experiment.  We have all seen HDR images that look unnaturally sharp. I was wondering if I might be able to utilize the HDR technique to make the lines that I felt were important appear the way that I wanted them to, yet still look natural.  In addition, I wanted to emphasize those lines by selectively focusing on them and using a macro lens, and was hoping the HDR technique would not add unnatural looking sharpness or halos to the parts of the image that I intended to be out of focus.

Backlit Leaf HDR Photograph

Backlit Leaf I

Copyright Howard Grill

To me, this experiment seemed to work, and this is a technique I will likely use for a good many of my botanical photographs.