Feb 24, 2009

The Future of HDR - II

HDR Videos, DVDs, and Books w LR2 and CS4

Whether its DVDs, videos, or books – High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography is flourishing with Lightroom 2 (LR) and Photoshop CS4(PS).
The authors shown above
John Doogan FNZIPP (and Adobe Ambassador),
Ben Willmore (HDR & Beyond), and
Matt Kloskowski NAPP (DVD)
take different approaches.

Last Thursday’s Future of HDR was prelude to a central question, “Where and how will our future growth proceed in digital photography as we use better cameras to provide HDR images which represent what our eye actually saw?”

What Does Each Approach Offer?
While I have not seen Kloskowski’s HDR DVD, I have seen his Lightroom DVD. His approach is simple; a nuts and bolts use of Lightroom rather than enhanced tool application. I presume he uses Photomatix for HDR the same way. I can’t speak to his tone mapping approach.
Ben Willmore briefly touched on his HDR approach in two short CS3 videos with Bert Monroy. The first shows how to use CS3 to Merge to HDR to align and create an initial image. The second uses CS3 brightness and other advanced masking tools (curves) to more carefully tone map images. He has a book out next month entitled HDR and Beyond with CS4.
John Doogan’s videos spend 2 hours skillfully showing how to use several HDR approaches. In New and Improved Adobe Photomerge and Merge to HDR in Photoshop CS4, he uses Lightroom to Merge to HDR, then either applies CS4 layer adjustments or Lightroom nondestructive graduated filters or local adjustment brushes to enhance and add subtle changes to his HDR images. As a nature photographer, I enjoyed his Landscape Photographers Guide to Lightroom and CS4. Both can be viewed on video by clicking on each title below.

My HDR Experience
I began using HDR in October, 2007. For perspective, that was 6 months after the Photoshop CS3 release. At that time, few reviews suggested use of CS3 and its HDR capabilities. Rather, Photomatix Pro was hero from that day.
As I’ve worked with CS3 and Photomatix, one interesting reaction has been, “That image seems to be ‘science-fiction’ – meaning, it’s over done.” Hindsight, centered around shooting Magic Hour shots, that period between dawn and dusk, suggests HDR should be approached carefully with Photomatix. Use of Detail Enhancer (DE) provides a histogram which rarely seems to fit the general histogram shape from the initial capture image. On the other hand, Tone Compressor (TC) seems to be more consistent; it maintains similar histogram configurations. While DE has numerous knobs and dials for tone mapping, TC only has half that amount.
When you think of dodging and burning in CS3 as well as exciting new graduated filter and adjustment brushes in Lightroom 2 (and CS4) ~ that impressive tone mapping list shows Photomatix appearing to strongly lag behind. Moreover, those local nondestructive Adobe Camera Raw 5.x brushes allow us to swiftly add subtle clipping, recovery, fill light, shadows, brightness, clarity, vibrance, sharpness, auto align, auto blend, etc.
When compared to combinations of various tools used in tone mapping from Lightroom 2 and Photoshop CS4 – the few global Photomatix knobs and dials, which only treat a global image, seem to become minor.

Brief Historical Perspective
So, what can we learn by perusing noted experts and their present approaches to HDR?
HDR began to appear through tutorials from different photographers. Early on it was Photomatix, but in 2008, Bridge and CS3 became prevalent. With release of LR2 in September, 2008 and CS4, October, 2008, Adobe Camera Raw, the underpinning of both, had become an active local brush adjustment environment. Workflow steps taking hours are reduced to 10s of minutes.
Now, HDR found a new home with more subtle nuances to its plethora of image corrections. I think advent of Lightroom 2 and Photoshop CS4 as a combo puts us in a better tone mapping situation to softly, yet persistently enhance HDR. Several people are using Merge to HDR from Lightroom. Then they go on to use the sophistication of LR/PS. Of course, you will want to find your ‘guru’ or gurus’ and follow them… Adobe eSeminars provides you both HDR and additional topics.
As you become facile in use of various combo brushes, you will produce subtle, yet evocative HDR images – eschewing that old paradigm – HDR ‘science fiction’. And, should you be interested, we think you may become leaders in helping judges, sometimes rutted in tradition, widen their horizons…

Where Few Men Have Gone Before…
For me, CS4 is definitely on the near horizon; specifically because of some of the intricate steps Doogan’s 2 videos showed me - which work only with LR and CS4. With local nondestructive tools applied to different segments of an HDR image, we suggest a pen tablet for precision in advanced tone map modifications.

HDR and Beyond
Lightroom 2 Book (p. 262-267)
HDR Tutorials
Adobe eSeminars OnDemand
Various HDR and CS4 Topics

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