The story of this photo
This HDR image was shot in the Solitude palace in Stuttgart, Germany. During the blue hour. I was scouting some locations for a new video course that I am currently producing, and even though I have been at this palace quite a few times, I never shot it during the blue hour. This time I did! Visiting some well-known location at different times is worthwhile after all. 😉
New post-processing workflow
It’s also always good to try something new in terms of post-processing, right? Well, with this image, I did just that. Most of my previous HDR images where created using the Details Enhancer method in Photomatix. This time, I tried a new workflow that makes use of some new features in Photoshop CS6 and Adobe Camera Raw. I actually bypassed Photomatix completely with this image and did the tone mapping with Adobe Camera Raw (ACR).
Now, wait a minute! Isn’t ACR a Raw converter?
Yes, it is. But in the newer versions, you can open 32-bit files with ACR. This allows you to work with real HDR images and bring those 32 bits of tonal range down to 8 or 16 bits which is exactly what a classical tone mapping algorithm will do (albeit using a different method). The result is a natural-looking HDR image. What’s even better is that if you tell ACR to open the tone mapped image in Photoshop as a smart object, the whole tone-mapping step is non-destructive.
What does this mean? It means that you can go back and change the tone mapping settings at any time, and this is really cool! You can even create differently tone mapped versions of your image and blend them together in Photoshop. All of this works in a really convenient way. You don’t need to juggle around with different files, and you never have to leave Photoshop and ACR.
How the photos were shot
- Taken from a tripod
- Twelve exposures (ISO 100, f/8, 30s – 1/60s, steps of 1 stop)
- Manual exposure bracketing [details]
- Camera: Nikon D7000
- Lens: Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5G ED
How the HDR image was created and tone mapped
- CA reduction, lens correction and white balance correction on all source exposures in Adobe Camera Raw [details]
- Exported the 12 images as 16-bit TIFFs files from ACR
- Applied noise reduction (Topaz Denoise) to each of the source images individually [details]
- The 12 resulting images were merged to a 32-bit HDR image using Photoshop’s Merge to HDR function.
How the tone mapped image was post-processed
- Post-processing was done in Photoshop CS6
- Topaz Adjust for enhancing the colors and the lighting [details]
- Local adjustments
- Levels layer for more contrast
- Saturation layer
- Spotlight effect on the center aisle [details]
- Walls and pillars
- Levels layer for more contrast
- Saturation layer (decreased the Reds, increased the Master)
- Separate tone-mapped version with more contrast blended in (Blending Mode: Soft Light, 78% layer opacity)
- Highlight recovery: Walls to the left and right were too bright. Fixed with a separate tone mapped image layer.
- Separate tone mapped layer to bring out the highlights
- Levels layer: improve contrast
- Arches at the far end
- Separate tone mapped layer to enhance the details in the arches
- Saturation layer: master
- Global adjustments