Archive for August 9th, 2010



Summer Morning: River Meets the Sea

Saturday morning I headed out to my favorite birding and digiscoping spot, along the Kennebunk Bridle Path where it crosses Route 9 by the Mousam River bridge. It was one of those clear, cool, summer mornings after days of heat, with bright sun and broken cloud cover and I was hoping to do some more iPhone HDR experimentation. When I got out of the car to set up my scope, I realized that my iPhone was back home on the charger. No HDR today!

But then, as I mounted my digiscoping camera and walked in toward the marsh I was thinking…all I am really doing with the iPhone is taking two exposures, one for bright (sky generally) and one for dark (foreground landscape generally). I could do that with my SX20IS…and actually it might even be a bit easier since I could use the exposure compensation dial…or even the auto exposure bracket built into the camera.

All the magic is in the software. Maybe I could download the images to the iPhone and use Pro HDR to combine them…or, failing that…surely there must be some software available to do it on the laptop. I just got an upgrade notice from Adobe on PhotoShop Elements 8…and didn’t that mention some kind of HDR?

So I took a bunch of experimental images using both the exposure compensation dial, judging exposure by eye, and auto bracket. Auto bracket on the SX20IS does three exposures, 1EV either side of center (you can shift the center point along the scale but you can not increase the range). By eye, I judged 1 EV to be too little compensation for the sky with clouds, though about right for the landscape, and, indeed that’s how it worked out when I came to process the images.

Back home, I found that even if I downloaded the images to the iPhone, they were just too large for Pro HDR to handle (not surprising since Pro HDR expected maximum 5mp images form the iPhone camera). Plan B.

I always try to find a free program first, and I downloaded what looked like the best of then. No. Did not work. So, after some more research, I downloaded the trial version of Photomatix Lite and gave that a try. Excellent. As easy as Pro HDR on the iPhone, and in “enhanced detail: tone mapping mode” it provides a very similar set of adjustments, and, with care, similar results. Best of all, it does the auto alignment of the images just as Pro HDR does, which makes shooting HDR handheld possible. I bought it.

And after all that…the image for today is my first Photomatix HDR. I still find that Pro HDR produces more natural results as its default, but you can achieve the same results with Photomatix with some tweaking of the controls. On the other hand, it is possible in Photomatix to do the massively overblown HDR thing too. I am not tempted that way, but I can understand the temptation.

I took the Photomatix processed HDR into Lightroom and made final adjustments…Blackpoint right, some added Clarity and Vibrance, and Sharpen narrow edges preset.

So, one more tool…one more set of imaging possibilities to bring to the landscape.