High Dynamic Range Photography

National Building Museum fountain

The central fountain inside the National Building Museum. I used Topaz Adjust to bring out details in the stairway and corridor areas.

I’ve dabbled a bit with high dynamic range (HDR) photography, but I haven’t done anything more than dip my toes in the water, so to speak. Last year I downloaded a couple of trial programs and bought a Dummies book on HDR photography. I love the way it looks and wanted to try it out.

When we went to Yellowstone and Arches national parks last year I took a lot of photos with multiple exposures with the idea that I would someday combine them for HDR. But I got busy with school and work, and they’ve sat on my computer, untouched.

Last month I joined a photography group on Meetup called the DC High Dynamic Rangers so I would have a reason to get out and do some photography. I used to belong to a camera club that did outings, and I kind of missed the photo trips. There are a lot of places I’d like to go, but I just don’t want to go by myself.

Detail of eagle urn, National Building Museum

This HDR image shows the detail of one of the many eagle urns that line second-floor walkway at the National Building Museum.

I still don’t understand my HDR software yet, and I’m dabbling with three different trial programs to see which one I like the best: Fhotoroom HDR (which used to be called Artizen), Oloneo Photo Engine, and Photomatix. I also purchased a plug-in for Photoshop called Topaz Adjust. I like it very much, but it only works with one image at a time. And my version of Photoshop is so old — CS — that I think it’s starting to fossilize. Some of the plug-in software I want to use won’t work with it, so I guess I need to spring for an updated version.

eagle urn detail

The original photo of the eagle urn doesn't seem very detailed when compared to the HDR image.

For both images on this blog post, I used the Topaz Adjust plug-in to create a single-file HDR image. The original eagle close-up looked just fine — until I applied the filter to it. Once I saw the detail in the HDR eagle, the original looked like it was just flat color.

This HDR photography is going to take some work for me to get fluent with any of the software packages that are out there. So far, I really like the Topaz plug-in and I plan to play with a lot of my existing images to see what details I can pull out of them. Stay tuned.

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