Flood – Project 365: Day 106

by matt on June 5, 2010

Willamette River FloodingAfter days of sometimes heavy rain the Willamette River just couldn’t take any more and came up over it’s banks.  This photo was taken at Alton Baker Park in Eugene and shows just how far up the river has risen.  Usually the water is out beyond those trees.  It’s interesting to see the water surrounding the park bench and knowing that somewhere just beyond it is the walking path.

This image is a pseudo (fake) HDR (High Dynamic Range) photo.  What this means is that I processed a single RAW image multiple times in order to bring out the full dynamic range.  This helps keep the highlights from being blown out and the shadows from being too flat.   Here is how it works.

I took a single RAW exposure and opened it up in ACR (Adobe Camera RAW).  I then adjusted the exposure setting to a -2.0 EV and saved this off as a TIFF file.  I made no other adjustments than to the exposure slider.  I repeated this process for a -1.0 EV, 0.0 and +1.0 EV.  This gave me 4 separate files that now contain a good representation of the full dynamic range of the image.  I could have also included a +2.0 EV as well but I didn’t in this case.  Look at the image below to see the difference in exposure levels.

Pseudo HDR Example with EV Values

Now that I have 4 separate TIFF files I open all of them in Photomatix Pro.  Photomatix Pro is an HDR processing plug-in that allows the tone mapping of HDR images.  Once all the images are combined in Photomatix it will look really bad, typically dark with high contrast.  I just click the tone mapping button and then I can see the result.  Typically I will then use the sliders in the tone mapping interface to adjust and perfect the image.  More on that in a future post.

Once I am happy with the tone mapping I save it off as a 16-bit TIFF file and open that file up again in ACR.  I’ll do some basic adjustments to contrast, clarity and brightness until I like what I see and then open it up in Photoshop CS5.  At this point there is not much else I need to do with the image.  I’ll generally reduce the size for the web and save it off as a JPEG.

As you can see from looking at the original image (0.0 EV) the pseudo HDR image brings the sky out more without darkening the shadow areas too much.  I’d love to hear your thoughts on the end result and any tips you might have for creating HDR images from a single RAW file.

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