Arches National Park HDR

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I was going through some photos I took on a trip through Utah in March this year and saw that I'd taken a hand-held 5-shot sequence. I've never done HDR before so I just tossed the photos into Nik HDR Efex Pro 2 and made a few adjustments. The contrast was terrible that day and now I wish I'd taken more HDR sequences just so I could have had something more but I suppose one shot is better than none. I may play around with HDR some more in the future but it seems sort of gimmicky to me for some reason...perhaps it's the crazy overdone photos on Instagram.

9176989217_95cf7edcd3_b.jpg
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Tower of Babel by logicaldistortion, on Flickr
 
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we were at arches and canyonlands the past few days as well. with the heat, sun, and smoke from nearby fires it was tough conditions for photos. tried to get out for sunset shots each night and it never worked out.
 
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Great example of hdr done right.. I'm guilty of over cooking them myself.
 
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we were at arches and canyonlands the past few days as well. with the heat, sun, and smoke from nearby fires it was tough conditions for photos. tried to get out for sunset shots each night and it never worked out.

I think Arches is by its very nature just a tough place to photograph. There are so many formations that demand just the right timing that you'd need to spend several days there to cover just a few of the highlights. I'm sure the fires didn't help matters any for you!
 
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Nice one! You may want to try 32 bit HDR in Photoshop CS6, delivers nice natural looking results.
 
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Please don't take this wrong, but I have an opposite reaction to the comments on that photo. While I might not call it "overcooked", I do think that it is just unnatural. I have almost no hands on experience with HDR, but I have come to appreciate the technique when not "overcooked" as you say.

In this particular shot, I can't put my finger on what I am having a problem with, other than to say that it just does not seem natural. To me it screams that it has been manipulated. Since HDR is not something that I have done, I can't say what I would have done differently, but my criticism is similar to what I may say about a shot where it was obvious that flash was used. The key to flash photgraphy to me is using the flash without a viewer knowing that you used flash. That is the only way I can describe my reaction here.

Maybe if the background were less blown out and closer to the foreground exposure, it might hit me better? I always thought (and I may be misunderstanding the entire HDR thing) that HDR was useful in balancing the dynamic range in a photo. Like using a split ND filter. So if the foreground may have been underexposed in a "normal" shot, I would have thought that the goal was to properly (whatever "properly" means) expose the bright background and then just open up the foreground by combining layers.

I guess it takes a great deal of nerve to criticize someone on a technique that I have never used, but just saying that I am not crazy about the shot. I welcome anyone who can enlighten me if I have the theory wrong. HDR is one of the things on my bucket list, but the older I get, the more difficult it is to learn new tricks.
 
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That shot is fantastic!!!
 

Butlerkid

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The OP did not ask for a critique.... so I won't give one.

That said, I did not leave a comment saying "Nice shot" either......
 
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Please don't take this wrong, but I have an opposite reaction to the comments on that photo. While I might not call it "overcooked", I do think that it is just unnatural. I have almost no hands on experience with HDR, but I have come to appreciate the technique when not "overcooked" as you say.

In this particular shot, I can't put my finger on what I am having a problem with, other than to say that it just does not seem natural. To me it screams that it has been manipulated. Since HDR is not something that I have done, I can't say what I would have done differently, but my criticism is similar to what I may say about a shot where it was obvious that flash was used. The key to flash photgraphy to me is using the flash without a viewer knowing that you used flash. That is the only way I can describe my reaction here.

Maybe if the background were less blown out and closer to the foreground exposure, it might hit me better? I always thought (and I may be misunderstanding the entire HDR thing) that HDR was useful in balancing the dynamic range in a photo. Like using a split ND filter. So if the foreground may have been underexposed in a "normal" shot, I would have thought that the goal was to properly (whatever "properly" means) expose the bright background and then just open up the foreground by combining layers.

I guess it takes a great deal of nerve to criticize someone on a technique that I have never used, but just saying that I am not crazy about the shot. I welcome anyone who can enlighten me if I have the theory wrong. HDR is one of the things on my bucket list, but the older I get, the more difficult it is to learn new tricks.

I didn't take it wrong at all Rick. The thing is that I don't necessarily disagree with your assessment although I took the photo, combined the shots, and posted it. The background IS over-exposed and the sky is just the wrong color to me but I think I see the possibility in adjusting this into a decent shot. This photo is officially now my "test bed" into learning how to properly use HDR, but I'm fairly certain I'll always prefer getting a single frame as close to the final product as possible in-camera. I'll definitely put more care into any future HDR shots though!

Here's another shot from the same day that is a single frame and processed a little more carefully.

9177173673_16a10eb5d5_b.jpg
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Tower of Babel by logicaldistortion, on Flickr
 

Butlerkid

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To the OP....I agree the overall color does look "off", even in the single shot. Are you using Auto WB? You don't say what post processing s/w you use. Perhaps you could adjust the color...?? On very sunny days, there can sometimes be an excessive amount of cyan.
 
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The second one with the road center line into the rocks is much better to me. Do I understand that this was not an HDR shot, but a single frame? If so, looks like you nailed the sucker.

Perhaps HDR is only necessary in shots where the dynamic range is to great for the sensor to handle in one exposure. However the second one was processed (or not processed), it looks grand. The colors in the Soutwest are just remarkable - one of my favorite places to shoot.
 
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To the OP....I agree the overall color does look "off", even in the single shot. Are you using Auto WB? You don't say what post processing s/w you use. Perhaps you could adjust the color...?? On very sunny days, there can sometimes be an excessive amount of cyan.

No Auto WB, I shoot RAW and adjust in ACR/CS6. All of my photos from Arches look really "off", like there was a haze in the air that couldn't be seen with the naked eye and I just can't get them to look "correct" to my eye. I hate to waste desert SW landscapes but I may try some B&W on them. The only photos that day that came out of the camera in an acceptable state were some macros that I took of the flora.
 
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Try it a little warmer and set your sharpening amount at 90 and detail at 60 in your NEF processing.
 

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