Closer to Heaven (HDR)

Closer to Heaven (HDR)

The story of this photo

Closer to Heaven (HDR) - Dynamic Before-and-After - Blend the original photo and the final image using a simple slider

Closer to Heaven (HDR) – Dynamic Before-and-After – Blend the original photo and the final image using a simple slider

I took this photo at a recent HDR workshop I held. It is a 8-exposure HDR image of Fortress Marienberg in Würzburg, Germany. It was shot across the Main river at the blue hour.

If you take a single shot at the blue hour, you would usually try to shoot right around the time where the artificial light (e.g. the lighting of the fortress) is of about the same brightness as the ambient light. This is important to get a balanced exposure and not overexpose the building. However, that time window may only be a few minutes long.

So, what do you do if you miss that point? Well, you either come back the next day and hope for good conditions or you use HDR. That is a prototype situation for using HDR: A large dynamic range that exceeds the capabilities of your camera. If you take multiple exposures of the scene, you can create a well-balanced exposure even if you fail to take your best shots at the perfect time. In addition to that, the blue tones get more intensive towards the end of the blue hour when the blue starts to fade to black. So when the blue tones are really intensive and just as you would like them to be, the highlights will actually be too bright in relation to those blue tones if you take only a single shot.

In this case, I shot many AEB series throughout the entire blue hour. But I deliberately chose to use one series that was produced right before it was too dark. That was the series that gave me those great blue colors.

To summarize this little lesson: When you’re out shooting at the blue hour, be prepared to shoot exposure series. That will help you a lot in the post-processing.

How it was shot

How it was tonemapped

  • CA reduction and white balance correction on all source exposures in Adobe Camera Raw
  • Saved the 8 images as TIFFs
  • Applied noise reduction (Topaz Denoise) to each of the source images [details]
  • Resulting TIFF images were then used as input to Photomatix (Details Enhancer option)

How it was post-processed

  • Post-processing was done in Photoshop
  • Some retouching to remove a huge ugly crane
  • Topaz Infocus (sharpening selectively on some parts)
  • Levels layer on the sky (more contrast)
  • Saturation layer on the sky (master)
  • Levels layer on the clouds (brightening)
  • Saturation layer on the clouds (desaturation)
  • Slight vignetting [details]
  • Watermarking [details]
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13 replies
  1. Dick Parkans
    Dick Parkans says:

    Fantastic. I have done a few HDR pictures. Your picture makes me want to get out and do more. Maybe next week because I will be on vacation

    • farbspiel
      farbspiel says:

      I made you go out there and do some HDR? What more could I ask for. I hope you’re having fun with it, Dick.


  2. Lewis Mann
    Lewis Mann says:

    Great image! Your work with the Nikkor 10-24mm zoom convinced me to buy one for my D3100. I have to bracket exposures manually. But, I’m used to it now. I’ve been learning lots from your processing technique. Thanks!

  3. Jane
    Jane says:

    I hate it when there is a crane spoiling your view. I like the new Dynamic B and A feature, I am amazed that you were able to get back the details in the castle as it was blown out before. Have you tried BW effects plug in yet? Its really great and does more than Black and White.


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