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08-21-2010, 12:07 PM   #1
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Blown Highlights - Is HDR the Only Solution?
Lens: DA 18-55mm II Camera: K200D Photo Location: Northern Adirondacks ISO: 100 Shutter Speed: 1/15s Aperture: F8 

This spot had so many possibilities, but I didn't feel as if I could tap them. The light was very bright on the opposite shore in midafternoon sun, with the near shore in shadow, but the colors on the water and woods were deeply saturated and beautiful. I tried a polarizing filter but that didn't tone down the falls. This shot is straight from the camera, no PP except resizing. EXIF embedded.

Is there any way to handle such a setting but to use HDR? I'm not well versed in the technique, and it often looks artificial to me. So how would you deal with this picture? Any help appreciated.



08-21-2010, 12:14 PM - 1 Like   #2
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Better and more qualified replies are coming....but that doesn't look too bad to me for the circumstance, if they were what I think they were. Sometimes it is just not possible to get all the dynamic range in a shot. Shooting RAW and processing proficiently can often help bring out the shadows if you preserve the highlights, which are mostly not recoverable.

HDR is one solution, and if done carefully and not over-cooked can render a decent image that appears quite natural. I haven't had too much luck with HDR, but have seen many that have. It could be worth a try.
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08-21-2010, 12:31 PM - 1 Like   #3
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QuoteQuote:
Is there any way to handle such a setting but to use HDR?
Yes, you can dial in some negative exposure compensation, -0.5 or -1 stop as the situation warrants. You can also bracket, that is take 3 or 5 shots with different values of underexposure. In difficult situations I usually have my K-7 set to autobracketing, with the compensation set to -1 EV, -0.5 EV and 0 EV (no compensation).
08-21-2010, 04:03 PM - 1 Like   #4
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I would try a plus/minus 2 exposure (shutter speed) bracket and spot meter the white water of the falls for the initial middle exposure. Then do some creative processing to generate the final image. There are other things I would try (purposely metering different parts of the scene and making an exposure for each (using the same focal point for all)) but they basically amount to the bracketing.



08-21-2010, 04:11 PM - 1 Like   #5
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Scenes like this I always shoot on tripod with three exposures like Ole said. Except that I first find a good mid-point exposure (sometimes as much as -2EV) and then bracket -1, 0, +1 EV or even -1.5, 0, +1.5 EV. Then blend in PP. This is HDR but there is no reason it need look artificial. You are likely used to the shots that come out of certain HDR software, which also applies colour toning (a second process) to get exaggerated contrast, edges and saturation.

An example from this week.


Coarha Beg Upper


(Shot with the DA 12-24mm.)
08-21-2010, 04:40 PM - 1 Like   #6
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Tough to say without being there etc. but I'd say you should be able to get away with underexposing and pulling up shadows afterward with this one. The K200D should have enough shadow recovery in RAW to balance the image without HDR or other types of merging.
08-21-2010, 05:29 PM   #7
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Thanks very much for your help, folks. I was shooting full manual and tried different shutter speeds and apertures based on metering on the shaded areas, but wasn't systematic. I also didn't have my tripod along (kicked myself, too).

Confirming what some of you said, highlights didn't preserve any details -- I couldn't bring them out with adjustments. I'd read somewhere that it was better to shoot digital to overexpose some rather than to underexpose, but apparently that's not universally true. The K200D does preserve a lot of details in shadows, and I'm able to bring them out with curves or levels adjustments.

I'll go back when I can on a sunny day this week and give your suggestions a try. I have a Mac and use GraphicConverter and am trying to learn Gimp, which doesn't seem fully implemented with Mac OS. Until recently, most of my PP has been basic stuff. I've experimented with HDR using a feature in GC called DRIMaker, and haven' t been satisfied with it. I'll explore further.

Thanks again for taking time to help me figure out how to improve pix of this sort.

08-21-2010, 05:33 PM   #8
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Shoot RAW for maximum dynamic range and detail, not jpeg. If the dynamic range of the scene exceeds what the camera can capture, set the camera on a tripod and bracket (1 stop increments is fine for most scenes). Try not to alter the aperture control as that will affect the DOF of your bracketed images. Combine during post processing.
HDR shooting is fine for static subjects but can be a challenge when there is noticeable subject movement (trees in the wind, moving persons, etc.) as image ghosting can result when combining the shots of varying exposures.
08-21-2010, 05:53 PM   #9
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Thanks, Creampuff. I was shooting JPEG, and will give it a try with RAW. I suppose that moving water might cause that ghosting you reference, too.
08-21-2010, 06:41 PM - 1 Like   #10
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Also were you using the ISO 200[100] extended dynamic range on the k200?

I have found it helpful to check the histogram after the exposure, and use exposure compensation until you don't have that spike on the extreme right side.

Paul
08-21-2010, 07:02 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by Tamia Quote
Thanks very much for your help, folks. I was shooting full manual and tried different shutter speeds and apertures based on metering on the shaded areas, but wasn't systematic. I also didn't have my tripod along (kicked myself, too).

Confirming what some of you said, highlights didn't preserve any details -- I couldn't bring them out with adjustments. I'd read somewhere that it was better to shoot digital to overexpose some rather than to underexpose, but apparently that's not universally true. The K200D does preserve a lot of details in shadows, and I'm able to bring them out with curves or levels adjustments.

I'll go back when I can on a sunny day this week and give your suggestions a try. I have a Mac and use GraphicConverter and am trying to learn Gimp, which doesn't seem fully implemented with Mac OS. Until recently, most of my PP has been basic stuff. I've experimented with HDR using a feature in GC called DRIMaker, and haven' t been satisfied with it. I'll explore further.

Thanks again for taking time to help me figure out how to improve pix of this sort.
You read this everywhere and people swear by it, but in reality, I find that it will ruin more shots than it saves. Most of the time in bright light, you can't view the LCD well, and it can fool you anyhow...bet you have discovered that too! The histogram will also fool you, and while useful, it is far from a guarantee that you didn't get over the edge just enough to ruin the shot. I stay away from the right by a margin wide enough to generally ensure no blown highlights. Shadows are not too hard to lighten with today's software...highlights are still impossible if completely blown. You can't correct what is not there.
Best Regards
08-21-2010, 07:11 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by tibbitts Quote
Also were you using the ISO 200[100] extended dynamic range on the k200?

I have found it helpful to check the histogram after the exposure, and use exposure compensation until you don't have that spike on the extreme right side.

Paul
Yes, I was at the 200[100] ISO. I'll remember to check the histogram -- thanks!

QuoteOriginally posted by Rupert Quote
You read this everywhere and people swear by it, but in reality, I find that it will ruin more shots than it saves. Most of the time in bright light, you can't view the LCD well, and it can fool you anyhow...bet you have discovered that too! The histogram will also fool you, and while useful, it is far from a guarantee that you didn't get over the edge just enough to ruin the shot. I stay away from the right by a margin wide enough to generally ensure no blown highlights. Shadows are not too hard to lighten with today's software...highlights are still impossible if completely blown. You can't correct what is not there.
Best Regards
So I've discovered! This has been a lesson. Thanks again!

YES, I can't see a lot in the LCD, especially in bright light!
08-21-2010, 07:55 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Tamia Quote
YES, I can't see a lot in the LCD, especially in bright light!
You can turn on the blinkies so when you review the images exposure problems are obvious.
08-22-2010, 06:04 AM - 1 Like   #14
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Another solution--not always practical--is to shoot (or reshoot) in less contrasty light. The more I 'pick my shots" based on lighting conditions, the better a photographer I appear to be ;~)
08-22-2010, 06:36 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by rparmar Quote
You can turn on the blinkies so when you review the images exposure problems are obvious.
Good idea, Robin. Thanks.

QuoteOriginally posted by dadipentak Quote
Another solution--not always practical--is to shoot (or reshoot) in less contrasty light. The more I 'pick my shots" based on lighting conditions, the better a photographer I appear to be ;~)
I was thinking about that this morning, Dave. It's raining today and will tomorrow, and if I can get away I might go see what I can do at the falls. When I shot this the other day, I had to get back up the trail and couldn't wait for the sun to sink, but wish I could have. The sky was spectacular later on and would have made for a better picture.
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