Christmas Break HDR

Over Christmas break I went to northern California for a family reunion.  I was not looking forward to the reunion, although it turned out very well, but I knew that the drive their I would get to see one of the most epic mountain in the Pacific Northwest, Mt. Shasta, measuring in at over 14,000 ft above sea level.  I also knew I would get to see the inspiring redwood temperate rainforests.  I was already interested in HDR by a simple Google search, but now I finally had a good excuse to try it out.  When I came back from the vacation, I find out I have access to the fantastic HDRSoft Photomatix Pro software, which is much better and easier than most other solutions.

First, Mt. Shasta:

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I honestly don’t think the photos came out very well, but I do think the effect of adding in three exposure, which adds way more detail to the over- and under-exposured, makes it more life like.  The first one, doesn’t actually look that HDRish, even though it is legitimate HDR.  I just really liked how the trees looked like silhouettes.  It wasn’t the best time to be trying to photograph the mountain in its prime because of the beautiful yet extremely annoying clouds.  The clouds cover up the peak.

Castle Crags:


I didn’t bring my tripod up for this one.  I didn’t even plan for HDR for this shot.  I took an exposure that I liked more and one I liked less.  I didn’t know that Photomatix could do such a good job of de-ghosting and aligning.  It turned out looking almost exactly like what I saw with my own eyes, which is kind of the point of HDR.

Redding Sun-dial Bridge:

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“HDR” version:


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These shots are of the Sundial Bridge in Redding.  This bridge was designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava.  I decided shots that focused more on specific aspects of the bridge than the whole bridge.  I think that in many ways one can appreciate the bridge more is we look at the parts and marvel at the sum.  I tried to do the fake-HDR thing by importing only a single photo, and it did indeed make it look more popping, though I would argue that neither of them is better than the other.

Montgomery Woods:


On the way towards Montgomery Woods there is a great view of the Ukiah valley.  The was a lot of fog, mist and low-lying clouds that blanketed both the road and the valley, creating a really amazing scene.  It almost looks like one of the hills is an island in the sea of clouds.  I did decide to do HDR with this, even though I did do it handheld.  It came out looking absolutely gorgeous.


I also thought I would try a long shutter speed with HDR.  I took two different exposures with different shutter speeds, which were both obviously long shutter speeds, and added them together.  I think it looks really great, but some of the sticks, ferns, and the myriad of other things on the right side of the image look odd, though I can’t really put my finger on it.


We also got a family photo with everybody on my dad’s side in this redwood forest.  I came up with the idea of doing an HDR of the background, since I would be unable to get everybody to hold still.  So I took a few shots with everybody gone, and did an HDR scene.



Then I added everybody back on through Photoshop.  Honestly, I think in some ways HDR made the photo look worse, but in some ways, it made it look so much better.  The top half of the background looks off to me somehow, but again I can’t put my finger on it.  The extra definition it adds, though, priceless.  I decided to do no noise removal on the photo of the group because it would cause to much detail to be lost in the faces, which are kind of important.  One thing I found when adjusting the HDR batch was that if I used automatic de-ghosting and set de-ghosting on its highest intensity, it seemed to add noise, or at least emphasize it.  It made everything look awful.  The only solution to this, which works almost perfectly, is selective de-ghosting.

I have way more photos from this trip, as do I with my Vancouver trip, but its kind of tough to catch up.

I do believe that HDR is one of the coolest photography techniques every invented.


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