Pinnacle Point Sunset

Pinnacle Point Sunset
Pinnacle Point Sunset

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After my post last week about HDR processing I decided to follow up by processing an image from multiple exposures. In this case I shot four frames at +1.3, +.3, 0, and -3 ev then merged them in NIK HDR Efex Pro 2. I was watching the histogram while shooting which is how I came to use these settings. The histogram was fine on the dark end but was still blown out at the upper end until I underexposed it by 3 stops. That frame was the one that made the image work.

After merging and tone mapping the merged image I returned it to Aperture 3 where I cropped it slightly, added some sharpening and enhanced the definition and vibrancy. I also tried creating an image as vibrant as this using only the 0 ev frame but it was way too dark and noisy. From this experiment I have to admit that it is definitely better to use multiple images when the exposure range is as wide as this sunset was. Without the multiple exposures the lake and mountains in the center of the image would still be too dark and lacking in detail.

I am also including the four frames I used to create the HDR image below so you can see what I was working with to create the final image.

DSC_6450 DSC_6449 DSC_6448 DSC_6446

17 thoughts on “Pinnacle Point Sunset

    1. Glad to share Phyllis I think that is how we all grow better. By sharing what I’ve learned I’m forced to think about how and why I chose to edit an image in the manner I did. Thank you.

      1. Hey Nick…..nice image! Appreciate you walking us through the process…..How important is Nik Effex Pro to this process. Could this image have been built in
        Photoshop alone? Thank for posting!!

        1. Thanks Phil, the merging can be done in CS5, maybe earlier versions too I’m not sure about that. The capability exists for tone mapping there as well; though I haven’t been pleased with the PS results when I tried to use it. NIK HDR Efex Pro 2 has several presets that allow me to experiment with the initial look for the merged files. Though there are many stylistic presets I tend to stay in the “Realistic” pallet for scenes such as landscapes, etc.

          During the merging process HDR Efex Pro 2 has a couple of features that work better for me than any of the other HDR apps I’ve tried. The “Image Alignment” feature works very well which I have verified by turning it off and merging files that were shot from a tripod in the field. When it was turned off there was severe misalignment but when turned on the alignment was spot on. I carry a Benro tripod because it is compact and very well constructed but it isn’t as rock solid as a larger more robust tripod and from this experiment I learned it does shift slightly when I’m manually adjusting my exposure values making the alignment feature very handy in post.

          The second feature is the “Anti-Ghosting” setting. I use this whenever there is movement within the frame such as what wind sometimes causes. It can be dialed in in twenty percent increments and works very well but it depends on the images as to how much should be applied. I try to stay at a low setting usually 20% and evaluate the completed merger to see if that is enough. If it isn’t enough it is a simple matter to step back and increase the amount and remerge the images. If the scene is really static having the setting up too high, say 80-100%, can add aberrations to the merged file. I find that “less is more” is the best route to take so for that reason I try to use 20-40% most of the time. In this image I applied 20% which kept the clouds still without adding artifacts to them. When using the anti-ghosting setting HDR Efex lets you choose which of your bracketed images you want to make the master file and suppresses the others. Imagine a flag in a scene; the frame that has the flag where you desire it can be used as the master and gives you some control there.

          As for your question regarding whether PhotoShop can be used to accomplish the same or very similar results I think the answer is probably yes. R.C. Concepcion has a book on using CS5 titled “The HDR Book” that gives his take on using CS5 to create HDR images. Even though he is a Photoshop expert with NAPP he does use NIK HDR Efex Pro 2 and Photomatix in his workflow which leads me to think that using Photoshop alone may be more time consuming than using plugins. I have friends who love “going down the rabbit hole” in Photoshop who say that anything I can accomplish with plugins they can do in PS but these are folks who don’t mind building layer upon layer to get there. Personally I’m usually more interested in getting to where the image is in my mind’s eye and like using the plugins to save me the amount of time required to get there.

          Thanks for asking and giving me the reason to expound on this subject. I hope I haven’t rambled on too far here; explaining why I use NIK HDR EFex Pro 2 helps me better understand it too.

  1. Amazing post-processing! Really appreciate your willingness and desire to share your steps and process with us.

    1. Thanks Brian that is one of my main goals with this blog. I believe that sharing what works for me will help others and also help me to better understand what I’m doing as well. Learning is not a static endpoint thing but rather a never ending journey of discovery and growth.

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