February has been a strange month weatherwise here in Victoria. We had the first snowdrops, crocuses and cherry blossoms (not unusual), but we currently have several inches of snow and (comparatively) low temperatures. I’ve had to bring in the hummingbird feeder at night to keep it from freezing solid.
This month I’ve been playing with a new piece of software: Nik software’s ‘HDR Efex Pro‘. As you may have read from some of my other Photography posts, I’m not generally a big fan of what some call the ‘HDR-look’. Having said that, I do understand the value of using HDR imaging for scenes that have an extended dynamic range. Some photographers seem to think that using film to make images is somehow more ‘pure’ than using digital technology, or that computers allow us to render photographs in ‘unnatural’ ways. I disagree. Photographs have been manipulated both in camera and in the darkroom in many ways since their earliest days, including montages. I have no doubt that if Ansel Adams was alive today he’d be quite happy to apply his ‘zone’ system to Photoshop/ Lightroom or other software.
I used four separate programs to make the image below. To begin with, I made 120 images of this scene (40 images at 3 exposures each: -1/0/+1 EV). I wasn’t planning to make photographs that day but almost always have a camera with me, so these images were made handheld. I imported them into Lightroom to start with as I use Lightroom for all of my digital asset management (DAM). I then collected these images in Autopano Pro and combined them into one HDR image. I like Autopano Pro for several reasons, not least of which is that it has the best alignment/anti-ghosting features of anything I’ve ever used. I brought the combined image back into Lightroom, then used the HDR Efex Pro plugin to process it twice, both times slightly differently. The first time I accented the shape of the clouds, and the second time I smoothed out the sky almost completely. I brought both of those images back into Lightroom again, and then used the LR/Enfuse plugin to combine them together. The final result is below:
Now go out and make some photographs!