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HDR Before and After image processing

A lot of people ask if the color in my images is real. Is it created with Photoshop or filters or some magic formula? The answer will vary depending on the image but over the last few years I have been refining a method using High Dynamic Range image processing as Tone Mapped images.

I use an application plugin for this purpose, Photomatix plugin for Aperture. The idea is to create a 32bit image from a bracket of separate exposures so that all details in a scene are captured at best exposure. The controls in the plugin allow you to re map the tones so that an 8bit or 16bit file can be created with all areas of the scene showing best exposure.
There is a tendency for HDR images to look oversaturated and unreal. This is due to tones being all in the midrange and can be controlled to a large degree.

When shooting a sunset such as the one at Kilcunda above I wanted to show just how the original colors looked. All photographic reproduction calls for some remapping of tones so that very high dynamic range original scenery reproduces on the target media. For me this is a digital reproduction to photo paper for framing. HDR processing gives a much better capacity to achieve this.

In the example above the before image is auto exposure and color balance showing very little detail of the bridge itself or much density in the sunset. This is due to the image sensor not having the capacity to expose across such a large exposure range. The after image shows the result of combining 3 exposures two stops apart.

Most people are so used to seeing photographic aberrations such as low dynamic range as normal and so their impression of HDR is that there is some form of enhancement going on. While this is an enhancement HDR is as valid as any form of photographic manipulation. Everything from asking people to smile to waiting for the light to improve or selecting a specific exposure is an enhancement of sorts.

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Smooth-barked Apple (Angophora costata)

In amongst the two day shoot for the 2011 Golf course tree calendar, Stephen Frank from Tree Logic and I came across this Smooth Barked Apple at the Spring Valley Golf Club in Clayton South.
It is near the 15th Green and has been in its current location far longer than the golf course itself. The Smooth-barked Apple (Angophora costata) is one image I am working on for reproduction as a panoramic format framed image. These are produced from 3 sequential images each with a 2 stops bracket exposure so as to create an HDR image with a wide exposure range to work with. Subsequent tone mapping allows an image to be produced that shows every detail in optimal tone. Fine tuning this image for digital reproduction on cotton rag paper is the next step of the process and refinement could continue for a few weeks. Order one now online or come down to the market stall,  St Kilda Esplanade Sunday to have a look at the result.

You can order the calendar direct online from Tree Logic now but it is a very limited print run.

Melbourne’s sand-belt golf courses provide a green oasis within what is predominately a busy urban environment. They are designed to be aesthetically pleasing but the primary function is to provide the ultimate sporting challenge. As the turf weaves its complex path of bumps and obstacles, the use of trees define space, provide a sense of nature, privacy and comfort. And regardless of how well a golfer is hitting the ball, trees contribute to a sense of well-being and an ultimate enjoyment for the game.

Stephen Frank on Golf course trees.