Sunday, August 8, 2010

Dying Sunflower #1 in HDR

Based on the my adventures in HDR, I thought it would be fun to revisit my first sunflower picture and apply the technique.  Above is the final result.  I thought the intermediate steps and a discussion of the film analog might be of interest.  

The "Metered Exposure" is the middle shot of a +/- 0.7 EV bracket automated by the camera.  This is the starting point without corrections.  With transparency film, the bracket would have been 1/3 stop based on an incident light meter reading, and color would have to be corrected in camera.  

The "HDR Output" is the result of  processing all three exposures through the Photoshop CS5 Pro HDR action.  This is one of the most improved features of Photoshop.  My only criticism is that all the presets are rather gaudy, so I made my own starting point.  The HDR workflow will always need some levels adjustment to get good mid-tone and dark separation.  The film analog here would be to create one or more highlight masks to use with the single best exposure.         

Straight Metered Exposure
HDR Output w/levels adjustment

The HDR output still felt a little cheerful, so I ran it through the Bleach Bypass process in Nik Color Efex Pro.  With film, the bleach bypass is exactly what is sounds like - you skip the bleach step, which increases contrast in the mid tones and de-saturates the color.

To get the same look on film, I would have started medium format or 4x5 fine grain transparency stock, like Fujichrome 50.  I don't think 35mm film, especially with Kodachrome going extinct, is capable of the resolution or long shoulder and toe on the gamma curve.  

Camera: Nikon D700 
Lens: AF NIKKOR 180mm f/2.8D IF-ED "Leni lens"
Exposure: ISO 200, f/22 @ 0.6s, tripod (Gitzo Basalt GT2830 and Gitzo GH2781QR ball head)
Lighting: Window light 
Location: Grand Center Artist Lofts GPS
Processing: Lightroom 3, Photoshop CS5 HDR Pro, Nik Color Efex Pro

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