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Natural HDR - Churches & Cathedrals

Discussion in 'Landscapes, Architecture, and Cityscapes' started by NikonConvert, Jul 1, 2007.

  1. NikonConvert


    Jul 13, 2005
    Hi Everyone =)

    I have been playing around with the processing of HDRs to make them as realistic or as interesting as possible. I am not a big fan of HDRs that have low contrast, high saturation or nasty halo artifacts.

    I wont go into too much detail about how I did these but the basic principle is they are a blend of a Photomatix tonemap and a Photoshop HDR. They have been blended in Photoshop using various layer styles and adjustment layers.

    I would be interested to know what people think since I am still learning a lot about this stuff and there is so much you can do with them. Anyway here are some images from Wells Cathedral (Somerset) taken on my holiday to England in April.

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    I also made a compilation image so you can see how the HDR compares to the original exposures:

    View attachment 103639
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    I also found this nice little place: All Saint's Church - Sutton Bingham (Dorset/England). The size of this place was so different from Wells but the lighting was so lovely I just had to include these too. I am quite happy that I managed to process these how I remember seeing them.

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    All these images were taken on a Nikon D2H with Nikon 17-55mm and with a Manfrotto tripod using 9 exposure brackets (1 stop apart) for the HDR.
  2. Gale


    Jan 26, 2005
    Viera Fl
    Beautiful images
    Well done
  3. These are really stunning!! Great work, both on capture and in processing. I'd be really grateful for a tutorial!
  4. Well handled exposures on these shots, looks like your processing is about right. Fairly dramatic lighting.
  5. Beautiful! I love them all, you did a fantastic job with the HDR. #1 is my favorite, it's very dramatic!
  6. These are glorious!!! Please, please share your technique.
  7. Gale


    Jan 26, 2005
    Viera Fl
    Only think I would love to see on these great images is to fix the perspectives
  8. These are well done....

    It would be good to heard a little more of how you processed them
  9. NikonConvert


    Jul 13, 2005
    Thanks for all the great comments everyone =). I'm glad you like the results, since a few of you have asked for some pointers on these I will do my best to convey what I did here:
    • Bring your files in to PS (Photoshop CS2/CS3) using 'Merge to HDR'.
    • 'Merge to HDR' feature can be found under the File, Automate... menu.
    • Press OK to everything to get the 32bit image.
    • Save the file in EXR format.
    • Bring the EXR in to Photomatix and select the 'Tonemap' feature.
    • Select roughly the following values (Will need adjusting but is a good place to start):

    Method: 'Details Enhancer'
    Strength: 80
    Color Saturation: 50
    Light Smoothing: max
    Luminosity: 0
    Micro Contrast: Max
    Micro Smoothing: 3
    White Clip: 0.2%
    Black Clip: 0%
    Output Depth: 16-bit

    • Save that 16bit file as a TIF and take it back to Photoshop.
    • Then also open the EXR in Photoshop and drop that to 16bit
    • use the following settings (Will need adjusting but is a good place to start):

    Method: 'Local Adaptation'
    Radius: 1 px
    Threshold: 1.00

    • Copy that image in to a new layer above the Tonemapped TIF file.
    • Play with the layer types. 'Overlay' can bring interesting results

    This is where you have to play around a lot though. I almost always use 'Curves' adjustments but sometimes only on one of the layers and thus need to use clipping masks (right click on the adjustment layer to enable and it will only affect the layer directly under it).

    Unfortunately I can't be much more specific about the process because each image needed quite different treatment but that should be the common factors the treatment I use. If I have left anything out please feel free to ask and I'll do my best to help.

  10. I like them all a lot, and I agree with Gale - it would be interesting to see the fixed for perspective (if you're into that).

    I started doing some single-frame HDR stuff recently too, in some cases it really makes a for a nice image!
  11. Thanks Ed....

    I will take your info and give it a go....

    One thing I have found using PS HDR function is once and a while it tells me it cannot do the HDR as there is not enough difference in the images.... Have you ran into this and if so how do you get around it?


  12. Edd, you did very well. That's the HDR style I'm also striving for, although I mostly use it for night shots.
    I always blend manually in GIMP using layer masks.
  13. Thanks Ed for the info. Have you printed any of these. I think they would look really good.
  14. NikonConvert


    Jul 13, 2005
    The only time I came across that was when I tried to save the RAW file with different exposure settings to fool PS in to thinking I had brackets when I didn't. It never worked that way for me so I gave up =(

    I have never been interested in correcting the perspective of images. I don't really know why as I have done a lot of other alterations (HDR, Tilt Shift, Lens Blur) but since the human eye sees perspective anyway why you would want to do this?
  15. NikonConvert


    Jul 13, 2005
    You are most welcome David =). I haven't printed any of these out yet but I really should. I have just found somewhere here that will print out 1x4m for 80 Euros! I could fit a lot of posters on that =)

    Thank you Daniel. When you say blending layer manually do you mean using layer masks on each exposure? I have only don a little bit on night HDR stuff, there are so many tricks you can use to process these images it can be quite overwhelming!
  16. More or less, yes. I try to choose two, max. 3 exposures to blend together, so if I use n exposures, I end up with n-1 layer masks.
    If using more exposures it becomes really hard to have them not look flat.
  17. Mike Z

    Mike Z

    May 30, 2005
    Northbrook, IL
    I agree with all the others. The photos are spectacular! Well done.

    You indicated in your processing that you use Photomatix. I'm unfamiliar with that product, but when I checked out their web page, I saw that they have a free version of the program. Are you familiar with it, an if so, would that be sufficient for your technique?
  18. Matt S.

    Matt S. Guest

    OP: Very nice. Personally, I like funky HDR photos, but they do get tiring quickly. I think the more natural look you are going for is the real strength of the technique.

    Mike Z:

    Here's the Photomatix trial download page.


    It says:

    The trial is fully functional and never expires, but applies a watermark to images produced with one of the two Tone Mapping methods and four of the six exposure blending modes.

    I think the watermark is placed on the more useful of the two Tone Mapping options.
  19. NikonConvert


    Jul 13, 2005
    I still use this method sometimes because it is an easier workflow when the dynamic range is not too high. This is usually refered to as 'exposure blending' rather than 'HDR' though, not that this makes it any less relevant of course but just to clear things up for people who haven't tried it before. 'Photoshop HDR' processing is also quite different to tonemapping too, I found tonemaps to be much more powerful and was generally able to get much better results from it.

    A word of warning though, the 'Photomatix' tonemapping seems to have a rather serious bug. About 50% of my images have brightly coloured pixels in areas of darkness. These areas, although dark in the 32bit file, still had information and when the tonemap takes effect it makes these pixels the opposite colour to what they should be. If the area was dark orange bright blue pixels appear in a digital noise lake manner. I have not heard of other people complaining about this but it has happened with every version of PM I ever used. The good news is that this is easily fixed with layer effects.
  20. Ok, didn't know people make a difference there, since explosure blending in my eyes is using the higher dynamic range of multiple exposures. The difference is merely that one does the compression of the dynamic range by oneself using layer masks, so I didn't came to the idea to call it differently.
    But I'm warned now. :smile:
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