Hi everyone. I will be gone for the next few days and have been diligently trying to get this image prepared for today’s posting. Generally speaking I am not a proponent of most HDR processing primarily because I do not like the over-processed look common to many of these images. But I am intrigued by the possibilities of using the software to to accentuate the shot through blending of several exposures. I had the opportunity to secure a copy of Unified Color’s HDR Expose software to make some test images. This image, from the Toadstool Hoodoo’s in Grand Staircase-Escalante, was processed through the HDR Expose software and is a composite from three separate exposures.
I found the software to be very easy to understand and you can see the changes happen almost immediately. The three files for this image received some initial processing in LR before being transferred to HR Expose. Transferring is very easy with a drag and drop of the RAW files into the HDR Expose window. This automatically launches the merge function. And here is the really nice part. Once the software has crunched the numbers the resulting image is not that “wacked out” non-tone mapped image you get from other software. For all intents and purposes it looks just like a flat RAW file prior to image enhancement. The software gives you a great suite of slider based controls to adjust Brightness/Contrast, Shadow/Highlight, Sharpness, Saturation, White Balance, Fine Color Tuning, Dynamic Range Mapping, and Veiling Glare. The Veiling Glare tool can help remove some of the atmospheric haze associated with many merged HDR images. It essentially helps to add contrast and detail back into the image.
Learning the controls takes some time but there is a great manual that explains most of the steps, tools, and processes along with some video instruction through the website. The video instruction is better at explaining the various tools within the program. The program is easy to use and I think the results are great. It blends well into my own workflow and the merged files can be exported in a variety of formats including tiff, jpg, bitmap and the softwares’s BEF format. The software supports a full range of Camera RAW formats and the program supports color managed files. This image was exported to Photoshop as a 16 bit, Profoto RGB, tiff file.
The exported files have none of the usual color shift problems associated with HDR images. 32 bit image editing with full fidelity is possible without having to resample the image to 8 or 16 bits. Additionally there are plugins for Lightroom and Photoshop that support the native BEF file format.
I really like the possibilities with this software and it supports my vision and workflow methodology. I am only beginning to tap into the power of this program. The processing of the final file was complex and involved quite a few luminosity layer/curve masks, color adjustments, dodging and burning and color burning. The last bit of sunlight striking the hoodoo was fleeting and gone within a few minutes of setting up for this shot. I wanted to capture the luminous glow I saw that evening and I think the HDR blend helped in achieving the final image.
Its quite a departure for me to process an image this way but I do like results. Is it a little over done? Maybe so but I like the fact that I could really pull out the details in the hoodoo and rocks and hold on to the glow. What do you think? Drop me a note and let me know. I will continue to work with this program to get a better understanding of the controls and see what else I can achieve. To find out more about HDR Expose visit the Unified Color website.
Thanks for stopping by today.