2012-03-04

First HDR - Highway 21

I photographed this bridge near Boise, Idaho today.  The highway curves down from Federal Way, to the East, on the way to Lucky Peak Reservoir.  This was a cloudless, late winter day, facing into the just setting sun.

This is my first HDR shot, with a variety of other manipulations, briefly discussed below.

Highway 21, Idaho.  Click for larger image.

Here are two of the four shots that formed the basis for the HDR.  This is the under-exposed and over-exposed versions (middle-exposure not illustrated).  The spread was 1-1/3 stops between each for a total of 2-2/3rds. 


A grey-card was used to set the middle exposure and this was a mistake, given the sunset (see this article: Using a Grey Card).  The grey-card perfectly exposed the bridge, but with sunsets, you should underexpose more than normal to bring out the colors.  Even with the bracket, the low-exposure was not low enough and the sky still washed out.  The scene also lacks contrast.  However, if you look at the high-exposure, there were few shadows to be found and I'm not sure I could do better.

I did not use the camera's built-in HDR, wanting more control over the merge process and, in the end, four separate shots were used, as opposed to the normal three.  With PaintShop Pro X4, I blended three shots for the HDR, choosing one of the options called "LocalTone" -- this gave the image a slightly-contrasty black-and-white feel, which you can see in the bottom half of the image.  Next, I made a separate HDR, choosing more normal colors and using a bunch of trickery, overlayed the bridge and sky over the first HDR. This became the final image. The image took several hours to edit, with attention to details that probably weren't necessary.

This scene deserves to be photographed again, for a lot of reasons.  To begin, even with the sunset, the sky was uneventful and in the winter, everything was grey.  The other issue was we arrived about 10-seconds before sunset, giving my friend and I only a few minutes to work.  It was dark before we could explore other compositions.

The other problem was operational.  I am still used to film cameras.  Did I bother previewing images on the LCD to check the exposure?  Nope.  And for a few moments I had to fiddle with the new Nikon camera's exposure compensation controls.  Mixing bracketing and exposure compensation got confusing.  Lessons learned.  On the plus side, I had the White Balance set to daylight, purely by accident, because I forgot to check.  Fortunately, this was exactly what it should have been.

Later this spring, when the grass is green and the trees have leaves, I'll mount a second expedition to the same location and we'll approach the bridge from a few different angles.


Related articles:
HDR Techniques for Stanley Forest Burn
NewPort Bya (Yaquina Bay Bridge)


White Balancing
Using an 18% Grey Card



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