View Full Version : Japan sunset: handling wide dynamic range

Norm in Fujino
03-13-2006, 05:50 PM

I took this photo last May and have been playing with it for some time, trying to get the best results from a bearish negative. I actually took a bracketed series, but I didn't have a tripod with me and wasn't concentrating on getting perfect registration, so I didn't want to try directly sandwiching exposures. An acquaintenance recently introduced me to a program called Photomatix (http://www.hdrsoft.com/) that offers a great deal of promise for wide DR photos like this and I've been fooling around with it lately.
In this case, the frame I used was underexposed to provide as much detail around the burned out solar disk without completely blocking out the shadows. I used Silkypix to render the RAW image into a 47MB Tiff file, raising exposure and warming the WB slightly, while also enhancing saturation a bit.
I then loaded the Tif into Photomatix and used its "Tone Mapping" function which analyzes each range of the image and compresses the wide dynamic range into something more viewable. A good deal of experimentation is required at this stage, since the preview results are not exactly the same as those produced after actually development.
The one real weakness of Photomatix is that its Tone Mapping function results in additional noise--in some cases, quite a lot of it, in fact. The output of Photomatix is a standard jpeg, so I used Neatimage immediately after Tone Mapping to radically soften the image noise, resulting in a kind of Maxfield Parrish effect. I also used local USM to open up shadows and reduce atmospheric haze, and some additional hue/saturation and luminance/contrast , followed by resizing and final sharpening.
Before resizing and final sharpening, I also tried printing an A4 size image from the full-sized file and it looks quite striking at normal viewing distance. Like a Maxfield Parrish illustration, however, it also shows lots of NR smudging when viewed too close. That's the tradeoff.
It's an interesting piece of software, though, and has some powerful applications, I can see already, not only for producing this kind of dreamy image, but for more standard images where you have slightly too wide DR and want to narrow it some. It also includes a blending flunction that can be used with multiple exposures, either entirely separate exposures or different outputs from a single RAW file.

03-13-2006, 06:37 PM
That looks very good Norm. I've messed around with that program but not too much. That photo looks like a candidate for a 2 or 3 stop gradual neutral density filter also.

03-13-2006, 07:39 PM
That's one great shot.

03-14-2006, 02:42 AM
Really Beautiful! How about posting the original so we can see the before and after effect.

Norm in Fujino
03-14-2006, 03:13 AM
Thanks for the comments, Bluedog, Tim, Jamison.
The "original" doesn't really mean much since it's an underexposed RAW file, but FWIW, here it is:


I'm still only experimenting with the program since it has some severe drawbacks if you're going for printable results, but it looks quite promising.

03-14-2006, 03:51 AM
OH Wow! I never knew RAW can give such result! Just wait till I get my first DSLR.:)