Think you know HDR? Are you exposing ‘right’ during field capture?

Do your HDR (high dynamic range) exposure captures from the field look like this?

An HDR sequence which will result in a noisy, poor quality HDR output

An HDR sequence which will result in a noisy, poor quality HDR output.

If they do, then you are not getting the best quality possible in your HDR imagery. Sure, the finished HDR image will look great especially on the web….

©Darwin Wiggett - the finished HDR image

©Darwin Wiggett – the finished HDR image

But when you make that great big print, the noise in the shadows will be very noticeable:

Noisy shadows!

Noisy shadows!

To prevent noise in the shadows you have to make exposures that push the shadows into the upper 1/3rd of the histogram. Often it takes five photos at 2 EV (exposure values) apart to get the shadows bright enough.

To place the full range of highlight and shadow in the upper third of the histogram took five exposures.

To place the full range of highlight and shadow in the upper third of the histogram took five exposures.

The dark exposure hold the tail of the highlights in the upper third of the histogram whereas the lightest exposure moves the bulk of the shadows into the upper third of the histogram.

The dark exposure holds the tail of the highlights in the upper third of the histogram whereas the lightest exposure moves the bulk of the shadows into the upper third of the histogram.

The final result looks great and when enlarged it has no noise in the shadows!

©Darwin Wiggett - The finished HDR image

©Darwin Wiggett – The finished HDR image

Noise free shadows in the finished HDR.

Noise-free shadows in the finished HDR.

Thanks to Royce Howland for teaching us about proper HDR capture techniques. We have enlisted Royce to help us teach our first HDR Photography Workshop in the Canadian Rockies. And to make our learning experience even more complete we have secured special access to the Nordegg Coal Mine which offers fantastic HDR opportunities. And of course we’ll also do fine landscapes in the secret canyons of the Kootenay Plains. Coal Mines, Canyons, and the Canadian Rockies: An HDR Photography Workshop is sure to expand your HDR knowledge and delivers access to unique image-making opportunities. If you sign up before January 31, 2014 you’ll also get our entire oopoomoo eBook library for FREE ($200 value)!

If you can’t make it out to this intense HDR and processing workshop, we also reveal our dirty little shortcut for HDR processing in our new eBook, 7 Quick and Dirty Processing Shortcuts for Lazy Photographers. But relying only on shortcuts is like biking with training wheels on…it’s out in the field, getting hands-on feedback from three instructors where the real investment in your photography is!

To whet your appetite for all the creative possibilities at the coal mine, check out a few of our photos below:

©Royc

©Royce Howland

BrazeauCollieries_3

©Royce Howland

NMP13142A

©Darwin Wiggett

Brazeau Colleries, Nordegg, Alberta, Canada (gear and chain detail)

©Darwin Wiggett

NMP13709

©Darwin Wiggett

Brazeau Colleries, Nordegg, Alberta, Canada

©Darwin Wiggett

Old Building in Nordegg, Alberta, Canada

©Darwin Wiggett

Nobody At the Wheel, Nordegg

©Royce Howland

SAM2792

©Samantha Chrysanthou

SAM3369

©Samantha Chrysanthou

SAM3413a

©Samantha Chrysanthou

SAM3651

©Samantha Chrysanthou

About the Author

I am a Canadian landscape and outdoor photographer who loves long hikes in the woods, yummy food, hairy dogs, good company and pure wilderness.

8 Comments

  1. Tom Gibson
    January 24, 2014

    Great information. I often need to adjust after my first 5 image to make sure I have a frame that does not blow out highlights. Thank you

    Reply
  2. Craig Taylor
    January 24, 2014

    Thanks for the post Darwin. I like the look of the “good” image more. It appears a lot more natural and I find a lot of mine look more like the first one – not the heavy handed cartoony look but definitely unnatural.

    Reply
  3. Anne Jutras
    January 24, 2014

    Good advice! I’ve learn a lot from your new E-book, thank you so much for sharing your knowledge.

    Reply
  4. Think you know HDR? Are you exposing ‘right’ during field capture?
    January 24, 2014

    […] Read about it HERE… […]

    Reply
  5. Claude Theoret
    January 25, 2014

    Hi Darwin the image with the stream and rockies did you use a grad filter ?

    Reply
    • Samantha Chrysanthou
      January 26, 2014

      Hi Claude,

      Darwin’s away, but I think I can answer for him on this one…this is a 3 image stitch, processed through HDR so no Grad filter. Knowing Darwin and sunlit scenes, though, I would image there was a filter involved — a polarizer!

  6. Royce Howland
    January 27, 2014

    A good illustration of this key tip in shooting for HDR! :)

    Reply
  7. Art and Craft of Photography - Using Technique to Enhance Mood | oopoomoo : create, inspire, educate
    March 22, 2014

    […] and cavernous shadow areas. To capture the entire range of bright to dark in the image I used HDR exposure blends (multiple images blended together at different exposures) to create one image with complete tonal […]

    Reply

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