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Kokoen in Himeji 姫路好古園

The above picture was taken in the Koukoen next to Himeji Castle. You can see part of the castle walls in the photograph.

The reason you are seeing this photo today is a rather random one. I’ve been disappointed in my ability to take pictures so that the pictures look like what my eyes see. Frequently if I focus on my subject the sky turns a cloudless white even if it is blue or filled with lovely clouds. Alternatively, if I focus on the sky my subject turns black.

Today I saw this post and decided to give Photomatix a try. The above picture was my random test subject. Photomatix didn’t work on it though. For Photomatix to work you really have to take three pictures of the exact same scene using three different exposure settings. Since my camera (Canon PowerShot S3 IS) does have an Auto Exposure Bracketing (AEB Mode) option I will give it a try in the future. However, all of my past pictures will have to remain in their whited-out sky state.

2 Responses to “Kokoen in Himeji 姫路好古園”

  1. 1
    Benjamin Madison:

    Hi Al,
    Yes, photomatix doesn’t always produce the effect one wants and I find controlling its effects is difficult. Yet sometimes it does just exactly what one wants and rescues a picture that was just flat before treatment. However, I abuse Photomatix most of the time. I find that taking three shots, even with a tripod, often results in a kind of fuzziness from just minor movements of leaves, grass, etc so it becomes a bit of trade-off – one gains the hdr improvements in lighting but loses some sharpness. So I must confess that about 90% of my “hdr” is really faux hdr in that I only use 1 photo and not several as is ideal. This way you lose some of the exposure latitude that three shots can give you but there’s no loss in sharpness since the photos you use to produce the hdr are identical. So, your archival shots are not beyond redemption! A couple of days ago I posted some HDR treated photos under the title “Old Buildings” that were taken in the spring with my Nikon point and shoot Coolpix. Photomatix popped the sky and the wall textures beautifully on both and yet all I had to work with was the original small JPGs. Here’s how: make two copies of the photo you want to treat. Select them and the original and drag all three onto the photomatix icon (or open all three up in photomatix). Photomatix will inform you that all three have the same exposure and offer you a range of choices to vary the exposure. I usually select a difference of 2 ev. Using that info, photomatix then generates an hdr image that is often a real improvement on the original. Sometimes, of course, the information is just not there and there is nothing you can do. There is a second way to get away with using only a single photo and that is to shoot in RAW, but your camera doesn’t have that capacity.

    The Photomatix “tutorial” is laughable but there is a little more info available online here:

    I think HDR is an interesting and useful tool and we’re likely to see real improvements in the software over the next few years. I notice an increasing number of photographers are using it in post-processing – generally over-using it in my opinion. Because it can produce such dramatic, surreal effects there is a temptation to push it over the top. However, the more I use it the more I like it and I begin to realize that what I think of as “normal” or “natural” in a photo is in fact just a habitual way of seeing images generated by a camera. Our eyes work don’t work the same as a camera. When we look at a scene we focus here and there and as we move from light to dark areas our “apertures” expand and contract automatically so the “exposure” varies according to the brightness or darkness of the particular part of the scene we are looking at. The scene we “see” is a compilation that our brains make out of all the differently exposed micro-shots we take as we look around. By bringing out the details in the shadows and turning down the brightness in the highlights HDR processing thus produces an image more like what we see. Many people don’t like it much because it sometimes produces photos that don’t look like the photos we are used to. However, once one begins to get used to the hdr effect normal photos often look flat….

    I like very much the Mt. Ashland photo (very nice restrained use of HDR) and it makes a nice comparison to the “Another foggy morning” where the detail and color in the foreground was lost.

  2. 2

    Thanks for the continued tips, Benjamin. I will try your suggestion on my single shot photos and see what happens.

    I agree that the overuse is not pretty. I’ve seen some blogs that overuse it on every image, making the photos look like science fiction. I just like to get the photos to “actual view” from distorted “camera view.” Sometimes I don’t even go that far if it begins to make things look “photoshopped.”

    The first few 3-shot photos that I photomatixed got really blurry results that I wasn’t happy with (as I wasn’t using a tripod). I changed the setting in Photomatix from something like “correcting shifts” to “matching features” and things came out much better.

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