Too much processing…or was it?

I guess they say that patience is a virtue, which I’m sure has been said a million times to beginner photogs, especially landscape photographers.  The greater part of the landscape canvas can’t be controlled and re-takes simply aren’t possible.  The flip side of this ‘con’ is that every sunset is different, especially if clouds are involved.  No clouds = boring compositions.  Forgive me if I’m repeating myself but clouds really make the difference.  There have been times at supper where I’ve looked out off of the front step only to retreat back inside knowing that I’m not missing out on much.  If you’re photographing anything, it will look better during the ‘golden light’ hours at sunrise or sunset but for the landscape photography that I’m interested in, I know I won’t come away with much I’m interested in unless there are clouds.

Last night doesn’t fall into the boring category though!  I’ve been waiting all summer for some interesting clouds and last night was a great night for shooting.

There was a storm brewing as we were driving across Kincardine around 7pm and even at that time there was some nice light (approx. an hour and half before sunset).  We raced home from an appointment and I grabbed my gear, threw on some bug spray (which was waaaaaay too little in my ankle area) and out the door I went.  I had my eye on a particularly marshy area that I hadn’t been to yet but I had driven past it every time on the way into town.  I had in mind that it would be a good outcropping of rocks for foreground but it turned out a lot better than I had thought.  You’ll see from the photos that hidden behind all the reeds was a low area that would be great for reflections.

If you’ve started to read all the available resources online, you’ll inevitably read about High Dynamic Range photography (or HDR) for short.  HDR includes blending 3 images (shot at different exposures) and blended to make a stronger looking image.  Why HDR?  Because a particularly contrasty scene (bright areas and dark areas) may not be able to be captured in one picture by the camera.  The camera can’t capture the same dynamic range that the human eye can.   Some hate HDR, some only shoot HDR photos.  I fall into the middle for using it – if it works and looks good, its worth it but I’m not going to sit at the computer for hours and tweak an image just to say I’m an ‘HDR specialist’.  Chances are if you can’t get it to look good in less than 5 minutes, you should move on.

Here is the final image I produced using Nik’s HDR Efex Pro.  This is using the in app processing with very little adjustments afterward in Aperture (which I use as my library manager).  I processed this after the shoot late at night and my final thought was that it was too much processing.  It didn’t look realistic so off to bed I went.

After sleeping on it, I reviewed the three shots that produced this image and here is the -2 exposure straight out of the camera in RAW format….not that far off from ‘reality’, right folks?!?

There are plenty of HDR examples that are over processed and have that grungy look but this looks to me like I was fortunate to get some good clouds as well as good colours as the thunderstorm progressed towards me.  The HDR process only enhanced the photo and didn’t create something out of nothing like I had originally thought.

For fun I thought I’d try something different.  I reprocessed the same 3 photos for an HDR image but instead of using any presets in HDR Efex Pro, I used the first preset, aptly called ‘Default’, which resulted in a very boring image but I wanted to see if using Aperture’s processing ability (most using an ‘S’ curve in Curves) and some light Saturation/Vibrancy could result in a ‘better’ image.  Here’s the result:

Finally, for you purists out there that demand it be straight from CNN!  Here is a ‘regular’ photograph (i.e. one exposure, processed in Aperture).

As usual folks, beauty is in the eye of the beholder – tell me what you think in the comments – which one do you like best?

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3 thoughts on “Too much processing…or was it?

  1. That’s tough! I like the single-exposure one the best overall, but with Efex Pro, the effect brings a lot of drama which is not so universal for display purposes from a decorating perspective. Well done!

  2. Like Laurie I prefer the single exposure, but I tend to have the inbuilt habitual attitude that you can’t improve on God’s creation & I’m not sure how much that’s influencing my choice. I kinda wish we’d had to make the choice before you gave us the technical details so I could have judged each image purely on its visual merits.

  3. Welcome again Kathy, that’s a good point, perhaps next time we’ll do a little blind taste test and I’ll see if I can create a poll in WordPress next time we break down the process!

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