Living so close to the Atlantic Coast, there’s never a dull (sky) moment. Perfect for HDR imaging. This is a typical example of certain seasons of the year in Eastern North Carolina. The awesomely heavy clouds seem to always be breaking to reveal the radiance of the glowing sunlight. Poetic huh!
This image, with that incredible sky was a must for monochrome. I actually added a bit more depth to the clouds and darker water areas which allowed the sail boat to stand out. As is normal with shots like this, a straight conversion is rarely adequate for portraying the drama of a scene.
Today, as promised, I’m posting a “How To Do Stuff“. Since I’m traveling right now, this is a re-post from February.This is the third post in my series on conversions from color to black and white using High Dynamic Range images. So far I’ve covered the Channel Mixer black and white presets and the Black & White preset settings in Adobe Photoshop.
Lately, I’ve seen lots or references to the Nik Silver Efex Pro 2 software and have read a few positive reviews. So, not wanting to overload on post processing software and already being familiar with the Photoshop methods, I decided to try my hand with Nik HDR Efex Pro for a B&W conversion. What you see above is the result of using Desaturation, Control Points, and Vignetting.
I have posted shots of this Shishi Lion (Foo dog) before but wanted to use him again since he has a very broad range of tonality. As you can see, the Nik software is extremely effective at bringing out the subtle color and tonal nuances.
Speaking of color, I’ve included my starting point with the original, seven shot image in HDR Efex Pro next to a more realistic presentation. It seems that everything is more colorful than reality in this software. So, a slight modification is necessary; usually just a slight de-saturation as shown here.
This conversion process is actually pretty simple and involves little more than using multiple Control Points to modify very specific areas of the image.
- Nik HDR Efex Pro – One Step at a Time
The first screen image above is the straight desaturation of the entire image without any other adjustments. The tonality is pretty flat. A straight conversion like this is usually not very satisfying and lacks drama. Even though the color version may look spectacular, the tones and contrasts (or lack of) don’t always transfer to black and white very well.
Notice how the upper left and side elements compete visually with the main subject. In the color version, the actual color dynamic takes the stage so to speak and dominates the image. And, the foreground and right side wood areas also distract because of the similar tonality.
In the second, upper right, image above, the lion has been enhanced with two control points. The first is on the light tail and mane areas with exposure pulled down and structure added. The other point is on the body for darkening. Two additional points were used to darken the wood areas.
The two lower images were darkened in specific areas to draw more attention to the lion.
- Nik HDR Efex Pro – It’s a Wrap!
The nice thing about using this software is that you can continue to make adjustments to the control points until you get just what you want. Even though the lion at this point, is now the central focus of the image, we still have more to do.
The image on the left has a slight vignette added. This is another place where the Nik software really excels.
As you can see with the controls displayed here, the variations are easily customized. I adjusted for a slight darkening at both sides with the center point placed just to the right of the mouth. It is perfect for what I wanted which was to draw attention to the lion without hiding the sides in “vignette darkness.” I thought I was finished but something just didn’t look right.
After staring for a while, I noticed that the details at the top of the head had been lost in my processing. So, another control point, set for a small increase in exposure and additional structure restored that area.
The completed image at the start of this post was finalized in Adobe Photoshop where I used Free Transform to correct perspective.
I’ll be using this conversion method a lot more in the future. And, unless someone can show me how the Silver Efex Pro software is MUCH better, I think I’m pretty satisfied.
I got close with my Nikkor 105mm Micro f/2.8.
I’ve always liked this little brass box better known as a humidor. Antiques like this are perfect for realistic HDR photography with all of the details and textures. This one has a beautiful patina that shows it’s age well. Since my wife and I are not smokers, we use this in our home office to store a few flash drives. It’s the perfect size for miscellaneous stuff.
I wanted to show the beautiful workmanship on the top of the box. The shot below gives you an idea of the extent of the workmanship. These images were made from 3 exposures shot at 2/3 ev apart. Nik HDR Efex Pro was used for most of the tone mapping. I did sharpening via High Pass filter, adjusted Color Balance and did final Curves adjustments in Adobe Photoshop.
I really enjoy photographing musical instruments. They’re great subjects for High Dynamic Range photography and make an artistic impression on me visually; like making music with a work of art. This is one of my guitars that I enjoy playing when I want to relax with something classical or even Celtic.
This abstract image was created using 5 exposures spaced -2 to +2 ev. I started with seven exposures but found that the darkest and lightest were not needed for this subject. The -3 ev exposure actually caused problems in Nik HDR Efex Pro where the deep shadow area inside the sound hole was rendered in a marbled, redish tone. I find that certain extremes don’t do well with the software.
I used 5 control points in HDR Efex Pro to enhance certain areas of the image. I specifically wanted to bring out the cross-grain brilliance of the wood. For that, I used one control point and emphasized Structure while dropping the Exposure a bit for a more true to life appearance. The wood in this guitar has a deep warm tone that only comes with age.
After control points were completed, I set Tone Compression to -20%, Whites to -20% (to bring out the texture of the top strings) and Warmth to -15%. I then imported the image to Adobe Photoshop and set Curves for a very subtle increase in contrast. I finished by modifying Hue/Saturation to change the Red saturation and lightness to +30 and pull Blue back to -7.
I have included a comparison using the middle shot of the bracket next to the HDR version to show just how one raw exposure has almost enough dynamic range to compete with the multiple exposure image. As you can see with the single exposure image on the left, the shadow and highlight areas are not easily recoverable without quite a bit of Photoshop editing. (I did all modifications with Camera Raw). And I’m not sure if I could get the beauty of the cross grain with the single image.
When you visit the Korean War Veterans Memorial on the Mall in Washington DC, make sure to take a close look at the expressions on the faces. I’ve captured a few here.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers website contains the following: “The Korean War Veterans Memorial was authorized by Public Law 99-572 on Oct. 28, 1986 “…to honor members of the United States Armed Forces who served in the Korean War, particularly those who were killed in action, are still missing inaction, or were held as prisoners of war.” The law established an advisory board of 12 veterans appointed by the president to coordinate all aspects of the memorial’s construction. The site is located adjacent to the Lincoln Memorial directly across the reflecting pool from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. There are 19 statues sculpted by Frank Gaylord of Barre, Vt., and cast by Tallix Foundries of Beacon, N.Y. They are approximately 7’3″ tall, heroic scale and consist of 14 Army, 3 Marines, 1 Navy, 1 Air Force. They represent an ethnic cross section of America with 12 Caucasian, 3 African American, 2 Hispanic, 1 Oriental, 1 Indian (Native American). You can find much more information about the memorial at http://www.nab.usace.army.mil/projects/WashingtonDC/korean.html .
The artist, Frank Gaylord, has done a wonderful job of portraying a very definite feel with the memorial. The Korean war, referred to as “The Forgotten War or The Unknown War” seems to emote a sense of defeat with no real triumphant end for the United States involvement.
Mr Gaylord’s work is worth a trip to the Capitol Mall.
These beautiful tulips are part of the gardens at Forest Park in St Louis Missouri. Starting with 4 exposures, I was able to get a nice tonal blend without losing some of the detail in the water.After combining the images in Adobe Photoshop, I worked with shadows/highlights to balance the tones in the flowers and bring out the texture in the water. I used curves to add some depth. Sharpening caused quite bit of noise so I used the Photoshop Surface Blur filter (Filter > Blur > Surface Blur) with Radius at 5 pixels and Threshold level set at 10 to eliminate the noise without destroying the edge sharpness on the stems, leaves and petals.
The resulting High Dynamic Range image below gives just the right balance between the tulips and the water and preserves the life of the scene. And that Red Tulip? I guess the gardener has a sense of humor.