More Handheld HDR

Supercharger #1
Supercharger #1

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Yesterday I talked about shooting HDR brackets handheld; today’s image is another example of that technique. There are many occasions or situations where a tripod is out of the question. Often those same situations present difficulties due to the extremely broad dynamic range of the subject; that is when a bracket set can assure that the entire dynamic range is covered.

In this image the light on the polished metal was extreme and a single exposure would have left the sky overexposed while the shadows would have been underexposed. By shooting a three frame bracket at +2, 0 and -2 EV I was able to capture the clouds in the sky, the details under the carburetors, the reflected light on the black drive belt in the lower right of the frame and the reflections in the windshield. By combining the three exposures in NIK HDR Efex Pro 2 I was able to bring the broad dynamic range under control.

One of the features of NIK HDR Efex Pro 2 that really helps with handheld images is the Align Images feature that can be applied at the initial merging of the brackets before any other processing takes place. I keep this feature checked for all my HDR work because even on a tripod there can be slight movement between frames; of course when shooting handheld there is bound to be some movement and this feature along with a 20% Ghost Reduction application usually solves that issue.

Finally I used the Balanced preset in NIK HDR Efex Pro 2 as my starting point to tone map the image. A little tweaking there opened up the shadows and tamed the highlights while bringing the clouds out in the sky. I then returned the image to Aperture 3 for final adjustments to exposure and some enhancement of the red and yellow color channels to saturate the brown on the car. A little adjustment to the blue channel saturation and luminance further strengthened the contrast between the clouds and sky. Lastly I sharpened the image and then took it into Photoshop CS5 and used Content Aware fill to remove a small patch of white at the edge of the photo that was there from the corner of the event sticker in the windshield.

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