Urban Photography – High Dynamic Range

UPDATE: I reprocessed and re-cropped this image and fixed the issue with the clouds “ghosting” in Photomatix Pro. I think this looks much better. I also think it will make a nice gallery print at 16″ x 20″.

fountain print

Fountain Gallery Print
Copyright © 2009 Jeff Lynch Photography

Urban settings are a great place to practice HDR capture techniques. I love the variety of textures to capture from steel and glass to bricks and granite. This fountain made a wonderful subject with the waster cascading down in the background and the texture of the arches in the foreground.

Fountain HDR

Fountain HDR
Copyright © 2009 Jeff Lynch Photography
Shots taken with a Canon EOS 50D tripod mounted, EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM at 47mm at ISO 100 on SanDisk digital film. Post capture processing was done in Photomatix Pro, Lightroom, Photoshop Elements and finished in Noise Ninja. Click on the image above for a larger version.

Camera Setup
I’ve found the two most important aspects of setting up my camera for HDR captures are using aperture priority (Av) mode and manual focus. The idea is to make sure the focus and depth of field don’t change during the series of exposures. Since my eyes are not what they used to be, auto focus was initially used but then turned to “MF” to prevent the camera from refocusing between exposures. This was an eight exposure series with exposure compensation set from -4 EV to +3 EV in 1 EV increments (-4, -3, -2, -1, 0, +1, +2, +3) to provide the fullest possible histogram. My 50D was tripod mounted and all exposures were taken using a cable release to prevent camera shake as much as possible. Image stabilization was turned off since the camera was tripod mounted.

Post Capture Processing
I processed these eight raw exposures in Photomatix to create an 8-bit TIFF that was then processed in Photoshop Elements using the techniques explained in Jeff Revell’s Grunge Tutorial. I was surprised how much detail this double processing brought out in the bricks, concrete columns and water. The image turned out great with the exception of the clouds. It was fairly windy when I took these exposures and as you can see, Photomatix had some trouble dealing with this in the HDR image.

11 thoughts on “Urban Photography – High Dynamic Range

  1. hi Jeff,
    First of all, your work is fantastic! I also have a 50D and have been trying to take HDRs too. However, can you share some tips about how to do 8 different exposures on my camera? 50D can only do 3 auto bracketing at once, so how do you avoid the possibility of camera shake while changing the range of bracketing? I mean it has no point to have the shutter cable if I still have to change the bracketing setting on the camera right? I hope you can really help me on that!

    Thanks a lot!


  2. Ok first of all I want to let you know that this photo is awesome and it is awesome not because of some 8 exposure hdr stuff but because of a kick ass composition. And first you had began this heavy duty post processing why didn’t you just select the best sky from one of these 8 exposures (I’m sure you have one very good back there in world of storage) and manually mask it in the photo in photoshop. It will take you about 5 minutes. In the large version this sky looks just awful and completely ruins the photo should you decide to print it. And one other thing… 8 exposures 😮 isn’t that, to say the least, an overkill?

    • Happy New Year Arnar,

      I haven’t forgotten about you but its been a busy few weeks.

      This image is still a work in progress and I’m still trying to determine why the cloudy sky turned out so poorly. I did think of masking in a new sky but what I really wanted was the subtle shades of gray in the clouds and I don’t have many shots which include an overcast sky in my library. I used eight exposures to completely fill the histogram with the first being almost completely dark and the last being almost completely white. I’ve found this to be critical in reducing noise when Photomatix merges these images and creates the HDR file. Later this week I’ll post a more thorough explanation of the entire post capture workflow I use, once I decide how to handle the sky.


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