© 2010 Gary Udstrand

Roots

To me this picture has several meanings.  Growing up in this area of MN it is quite literally the origin of my roots.  The Town Hall itself represent the real grass roots of our political system.  It is here that government starts and provides the seeds of democracy.  Pretty cool when you think about it.

But it is not only a place of politics but also a place for gathering.  Like all good rural gatherings there is conversation, sometimes about politics but often about people.  It is no different here; living in the country can sometimes feel isolated and places like this represent something more.

HDR

This image above actually started as three separate exposures.  While I have written about other HDR images in this blog, this one is just a bit different, at least in the terms of tools and techniques.  My attempts at HDR have included Photoshop, Photomatix and Lightroom/Enfuse.    I have achieved great results with all three but with the recent purchase of the Nik plugin Suite I have added a fourth,  Nik HDR Efex Pro.

Nik HDR Efex Pro

I am a big fan of Nik filters and could not wait to try out the latest plugin from Nik.  It is an ambitious and well thought out plugin and  I soon discovered two things, 

Tone Mapping

First, it does a fantastic job with tone mapping.    It is very flexible and offers a myriad of options and controls.  These can be somewhat intimidating so the provided presets are very welcome.  And very good.

Besides the provided presets there are also other preset options available for download on the web.   Getting great results can be as easy as clicking on the various presets until you find one you like.  If it is not quite what you want you can tweak away, knowing that you can save your own preset should you come up with “the look”.

Alignment and Ghosting

HDR by its very definition requires that you shoot multiple images of the same scene which are later blended and/or merged.  Anytime you are dealing with this you have to deal with image alignment and sometimes with ghosting issues.

Of the two, ghosting can be the more difficult.  In the case of the image above the wind was gusting and blowing 30-40 mph.  Hard enough that when I went to merge the images I found that the telephone pole in the foreground had moved several inches at the top and caused no end of problems   No matter what I did I could not get Nik HDR Efex Pro to adequately remove the ghosting.

Luckily for me, just as I was struggling with this image I ran across a posting on the Canon 5D Mark II mail list outlining a technique that would address the issue I was experiencing.  One of the list members, Henry Heerschap, had posted an outline of a technique he was using with great success.  He was using the superior alignment/ghosting capabilities of Photoshop CS5’s HDR Pro to create the 32 bit image, and once created he would load it into HDR Efex Pro to do the tone mapping and any other tweaking.

Henry also adds a few other pointers to the technique.

  • Make sure to check the anti-ghosting checkbox in HDR Pro!
  • Select 32 bit in CS5’s HDR Pro.  You want to save all the image information for HDR Efex Pro
  • Since most tweaking and tone mapping will take place in NEP the only tweak needed in CS5 HDR Pro is to move the slider mostly to the right to recover all the highlights.  

I have to say, this works very well.  I had all but given up on the image above but using this technique I was able to get the results I wanted.   Until Nik improves their ghosting/alignment techniques I plan to make great use of Henry’s technique.   For that, I have to send a big Thanks Henry’s way…. So, Thanks!