Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Use Adobe Photoshop CS5 HDR Toning For Realism

You’ve undoubtedly seen the wild end of HDR.  Even some images here at the gallery.  Every once in a while I feel the need to go crazy and play with the fringe of HDR.  I think some come out interesting and other make it look like I’m on an acid trip (have never done that).  That “tip of the iceberg” of HDR is a fun place to play, but can’t be thought of as the serious side of HDR’s use.  Today’s image resides on the calmer side of the method.  It comes from one of the all time best places to get river/stream photography.  Kelley Stand Road in Vermont.  It’s in southern Vermont, only about 25 north of the Massachusetts border on Route 7 in Arlington.  I’d love to try getting some winter shots but the road is closed to vehicles during the cold months.  If you take a trip along the Kelley Stand when it’s open you’ll know why.  I may have to find a snowmobile and some hand warmers.  It’s something to think about.  Hmmm.  I started playing with today’s image with the thought of going to the dark side of HDR, but I’ve already gone nuts on another shot of KSR.  Plus it was coming out really bad.  The alternate was to try for a realistic image I couldn’t get with my “normal” processing techniques.  It was a bit of a fight, with green gremlins creeping in.  To find out how the gremlins were kept at bay, hit the “read more”.
By green gremlins I mean really green, almost neon green, areas that needed to “be there” but not the glaring, eye catching, area of the image. The easiest way to describe where the greenies lived is to reference the good old “Rule of Thirds”. Right at the top of the image, just where the left vertical line would exit the image was a bright mossy rock. Enhancing the image using a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer made it pop to neon. The easy fix was to use Dodging and Burning to bring down the brightness. Dodging and Burning in CS5 is not your father’s D&B. It’s been reworked in CS5 and is actually usable. It has a button to turn on “Protect Tones”. I can’t imagine why it’s optional. I haven’t found any case where turning it off resulted in a better fix. Green gremlins gone.

The HDR Toning, in this case, wound up very touchy. Moving the sliders by ten points often made wild differences in what was happening in the image. Changing Exposure wacked out the Detail, which altered the amount of Shadow or Highlight strength that was needed. It was a balancing act and back and forth with the sliders to tame the image. The result is a pretty fair representation of what we saw on one of the best photo op spot in the northeast.