Friday, April 1, 2011

[CA Roadtrip] The problem with HDR…

…is sometimes I just can get it to look just right. Here's what'd be a gorgeous use case for the technique: a sunset. Shot into the sun that just barely hides behind a cloud. In front of us, red plants on the ground. A -2.0/0.0/+2.0 exposure bracket certainly gets us everything we need in terms of pixels.

But a straight up and down HDR can't quite distinguish between the darkness of the plants, and the darkness of the darker bits of sky, so we can't quite get the balance right. Gradiented filters just look awkward. So it is in with the mask we go!

A first attempt, I mask with exposure modification while still in Photoshop with 32 bit, before I even flatten the image down from the full on HDR master:
Sunset over Big Sur HDR
but it doesn't really look good. Possibly because of me being still too clumsy with the masking brush, possibly some other reason, but it doesn't come out quite the way I had hoped.

Second attempt, just layer the +2 and the -2 exposures, and mask in the flowers from the lighter onto the sky and ocean of the darker one.
Sunset over Big Sur
If anything, I'd feel this looks worse. But then, I'm not sure. Maybe this could've been saved with better brushing in Photoshop. Maybe you all really like this and I'm just being my usual obnoxiously perfectionist self.

I honestly don't know.

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