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Thread started 13 Nov 2005 (Sunday) 14:00
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More HDR Comparisons (4 pics)

 
Scottes
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Nov 13, 2005 14:00 |  #1

jfrancho had started a thread on HDR comparisons. This got me more intrigued (I was already interested) and I finally went out and found a decent scene.

As best as I can tell this is the The Mother Church of the Church of Christ, Scientist. (Pardon if I've messed up this title. I've have no knowledge of the Church - I just love this grand architecture.) I do know it's in Boston. :-)

I shot this about 5:15 this morning. Actually I shot 5 frames at 2/3 stops apart. The images were shot with the 17-40 L @ 17mm, so there's come perspective issues. I'd like to run the final through PTLens to clean this up. I then processed one in RAW, and merged all 5 using Photoshop CS2's HDR Merge, Photomatix Pro 2.1, and HDRShop 1.0. No post-processing was done beyond resize & sharpen - except for the HDRShop version which simply required PP.


This is the best RAW shot that I had - also the brightest. Note that I did nothing to this image except process it as-shot, resize, and sharpen. It's quite likely that I could have gotten a slightly better version if I had gone through a full post-processing exercise, but that wouldn't have been a fair comparison. I know a lot more about PS processing than I do about it's HDR Merge function, let alone Photomatix Pro's HDR.

IMAGE: http://www.itsanadventure.com/postimages/MotherChurchRAW.jpg


This is the version from Photomatix 2.1 Standalone. They also have a Tone-Mapping Plugin for PS but the standalone is supposed to allow more control so I used that. This program allows the most control of everything I played with, but I'd say that it comes with a fairly steep learning curve. I think it would take me a while to really understand this program, but I think it would yield much better images than the others. The standalone is $99, the tone-mapping plugin is $69, or both for $109. http://www.hdrsoft.com (external link)

Note that I have no idea why the sky came out so banded. I absolutely think that more knowledge of the program would eliminate this. Please try to ignore the crazy banding.

IMAGE: http://www.itsanadventure.com/postimages/MotherChurchPixHDR.jpg


This version is from Photoshop CS2's HDR Merge function. By far this gave me the least control, by orders of magnitude. But it was the easiest to use, there's no doubt about that. (I guess these things go hand-in-hand.)

Note that I cleaned up all the star trails in this image. I didn't do so for the others.

IMAGE: http://www.itsanadventure.com/postimages/MotherChurchPSHDR.jpg


This is the version from HDRShop 1.0. The initial, no-reading-of-docs version that I did was useless. This required me to read a few quick tutorials, and this was very necessary. After reading the docs and playing a bit I got an image I could use. But it required some post-processing, since HDRShop "squeezed" the image to a 3-stop range. I had to use some Levels & Curves to get to this version. I'm very curious as to why HDRShop munged the final version so poorly, but I'm sure that it's due to a lack of knowledge on my part.

HDRShop is available from http://www.hdrshop.com (external link). Version 1.0 is free, the current version 2.0 is quite expensive - $600 for a commercial license, unknown discount for an academic version for students and faculty only.

IMAGE: http://www.itsanadventure.com/postimages/MotherChurchHDRShopLDR.jpg


My conclusion? CS2 does a fine job, but experience and skill will probably want me to get more control. I'm very anxious to see what CS3's HDR will be like, but that's a least a year away knowing PS's release schedule. HDRShop, though free, probably requires a good amount of learning and experience. I'm sure it will require a decent amount of both to get better than CS2, but it *will* get better than CS2 I'm sure. Photomatix definitely requires some learning & experience but will most likely produce the best final image in the long run. I'm not going to jump on paying $109 for Photomatix unless I really get into HDR. But knowing me I will get into HDR and I will eventually purchase it.

You can take my 100-400 L away when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers.
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Duder
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Nov 13, 2005 17:15 |  #2

interesting. although I'm not sure night scenes are the best examples for HDR apart form getting a bit more detail in the lights.

I had a chance to test the HDR process on a recent trip to Yosemite by taking triple bracketed exposures of many bright high contrast scenes, and I have to say I've been very happy with the results, and was able to generate a much more satisfactory (and realistic) dynamic range than a single image was capable of.

here's a couple previous examples I posted.

some of the Yosemite examples.

more yosemite


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nitsch
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Nov 13, 2005 17:21 |  #3

Thanks for sharing Scottes, very interesting. As Duder says above it would be interesting to see some daytime scenes too.

Duder - great shots in those links - most impressive! :D




  
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Scottes
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Nov 13, 2005 20:03 |  #4

I agree, not the best example for HDR. But it does show HDR at work, and more importantly it's what I needed since I was doing some night shots. So for me, these are the absolute very best examples possible. :-)


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photodd
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Nov 14, 2005 11:13 |  #5

I agree that (except for the banding) Photomatix looks pretty nice. Let us know if you get that part of it figured out.


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jfrancho
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Nov 14, 2005 14:16 |  #6

Nice job. The Photomatrix version definitely shows the most detail in both the well lit areas and the shadows, especially the tower on the right. I've been having a tough time with HDR shop. I suspect it has to do with the images I tried using to set a calibration curve. I'll have to take a look at the Photomatrix version. Thanks for putting this up.



  
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Scottes
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Nov 14, 2005 15:21 |  #7

You know, I calibrated HDRShop and discovered a Gamma of about 1.8. The image you see above used a Gamma of 3.9. No kidding. But this may be because I didn't know enough to know how to use one or more of the other parameters. I'd be very curious to see what a knowledgable person could do with the series - it would be far more enlightening than my quick attempt.


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UncleDoug
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Nov 15, 2005 12:33 as a reply to  @ Scottes's post |  #8

Here's a hint for landscape HDR photographers....

If you are in a situation where you would whip out you SND filter, 10 to 1 it will be perfect for HDR.

HDR seems to work best with scenes that have large areas that are hi-contrast to eachother.

Try morning or evening for starters, just before the sun is up or just after down.

Any of you who are following the thread I started for "photo science geeks" should find both of these threads to be vry complimentary on the coneptual basis.;)


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jfrancho
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Nov 15, 2005 14:00 |  #9

Doug, you have a good point. And I think we've all thought of those situations. I've been trying to use it as a solution where the scene is irregularly lit, like a home interior with well lit windows. I wonder if I'm not trying to run before I learn to walk. In fact, my first try was a still life with a flame. Maybe I should try a simple sunset, or light sky/dark house type of shot, where the subject is too large or too far to be properly lit up with a flash.



  
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Scottes
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Nov 15, 2005 14:25 as a reply to  @ UncleDoug's post |  #10

UncleDoug wrote:
HDR seems to work best with scenes that have large areas that are hi-contrast to eachother.

I agree with this, but it should still be able to work with scenes such as above.

And it does, it's just not an ideal example. Duder's daylight examples were great - I'd love to see them compared as I have - before & after as well as comparing the version produced by the different HDR programs.


The first time I played with HDR was a shot much like UD or Duder describes, though it probably had a 7.5- or 8-stop range. Basically a lot of bright shadow areas with a bright cloudy sky. The resulting HDR composition was quite lousy - very flat and just not very good. I hadn't thought about HDR in over a month because of that shot.

But then I was looking at all these bright lights and thinking that HDR should be able to help. And it does. It may not be a perfect example of how wonderful HDR can be, but it does prove that something can be done. And it certainly taught me about HDR - both in a general way and how HDR can handle a scene like this.


I found that I am depressed about the lack of control with ALL of the HDR programs listed here. I really think that I should be able to control on a per-image basis. Ideally I'd like to be able to describe a curve for each individual shot, and then use that curve to decide what parts of each image get "contributed" to the final HDR composition.

Instead, the process is much too automatic when considering a per-image contribution. The images are mashed and calculated automatically by the software, and then one is given the ability (basically) to control the exposure and gamma curve against the entire image. I would love more control than this, as I said, on a per-image basis.


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jfrancho
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Nov 15, 2005 14:59 |  #11

A per image curve sounds like a "sexy" feature.



  
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UncleDoug
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Nov 15, 2005 16:27 as a reply to  @ Scottes's post |  #12

Scottes wrote:
I agree with this, but it should still be able to work with scenes such as above.

It CAN work. Sounds wierd but HDR is a moody beast. Very subjective as to how much "more" you can get from oan image. Check my website, under the portfolio section there is a Resorts gallery. Some interior HDR's there. The H&S feature of Photomatix is usually the way to go if you are trying to get a good view out of an otherwise blown out window.

Scottes wrote:
And it does, it's just not an ideal example. Duder's daylight examples were great - I'd love to see them compared as I have - before & after as well as comparing the version produced by the different HDR programs.


The first time I played with HDR was a shot much like UD or Duder describes, though it probably had a 7.5- or 8-stop range. Basically a lot of bright shadow areas with a bright cloudy sky. The resulting HDR composition was quite lousy - very flat and just not very good. I hadn't thought about HDR in over a month because of that shot.

But then I was looking at all these bright lights and thinking that HDR should be able to help. And it does. It may not be a perfect example of how wonderful HDR can be, but it does prove that something can be done. And it certainly taught me about HDR - both in a general way and how HDR can handle a scene like this.


I found that I am depressed about the lack of control with ALL of the HDR programs listed here. I really think that I should be able to control on a per-image basis. Ideally I'd like to be able to describe a curve for each individual shot, and then use that curve to decide what parts of each image get "contributed" to the final HDR composition.

Instead, the process is much too automatic when considering a per-image contribution. The images are mashed and calculated automatically by the software, and then one is given the ability (basically) to control the exposure and gamma curve against the entire image. I would love more control than this, as I said, on a per-image basis.

You have massive control if you shoot raw...

When you are working with Photomatix in it's current form you have to think ahead abit. I found that it took me messing with the controlls for about a week and realy thinking about what is going on with tone maping and how Photomatix deals with images before I figured out what to do in RAW conversion to get the results I wanted.

Somewhere(have been having trouble with attached images lately) on this post is an HDR that covers 11 stops. Taken about 20 minutes after sunset.


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jfrancho
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Nov 15, 2005 18:00 |  #13

Wow.



  
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Scottes
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Nov 15, 2005 19:55 |  #14

That shot it pretty wild UD!

I'll have to play with the H&S. I did a little more post-processing on the PS version - some perspective fixing and the standard processing stuff - and posted it here. I'm already thinking about getting this printed, but perhaps some more time with Photomatix will yield and even better image.


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Duder
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Nov 15, 2005 20:13 as a reply to  @ Scottes's post |  #15

I tried photomatix a few months back but I never really experimented with it as I was more interested in CS2's HDR at the time. I've had another look at photomatix the last few days and I think it may have more potential to produce the sort of results I'm after. although I have noticed some weird banding and noise issues with it, especially in skies. on one image I ended up combining a CS2 HDR and a Photomatix HDR to produce the final image, and I was extremely happy with it.


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