HDR again….. the Grand Canyon, and the need for a tri-pod

High Dynamic Range…    In an earlier blog I’d made comments about the post processing technique of “hdr” and now I want to show how using it allowed me to make this more expressive panorama during our recent visit to Grand Canyon West (The Hualapai Nation).

We have such hard-to-overcome issues when we try to capture an image that has both dark shadows and bright highlights (sun, etc);  Typically I just refrain from taking the picture because I feel the outcome will not be complimentary to my skills — it is just not worth it because either the sun or the shadows will be “blown out” or solid black, not nice.

Well… twice now this year I’ve been privileged to visit the sunny Southwest where it seems everything is bathed in bright, bright sunlight (and therefore, dark shadows) except for times in the very early mornings and very late evenings when I had light… but, before (or after) the sun “hit” my photo subjects.

The first Southwest visit was in March to Big Bend National Park and I tried every day to shoot during that early morning and late evening, but…  I then I ran into the issue of not having a tri-pod with me (I used rocks and posts, etc to help me steady the camera for longer exposures) and… tried to overcome the need for more exposure by using higher ISO settings which then plagued my captures with excessive digital noise.  Its so sad to travel all that distance and then return home to find a number of your captures not clear and/or sharp.

A proper conclusion here, seems to me… “There is NO substitute for a tri-pod”.  I’ve been prone to leave mine at home or in the car if I’m out hiking and that’s got to change if I’m going to better my photo captures — A lesson learned.

But… now, after saying all that… I want to show you an example of HDR, the recent technique now gaining popularity whereby we take photos of the identical composition (tri-pod is helpful, almost essential here also) both over and underexposed and then with computer software blend them together to get definition both in the shadows and the highlights — the Grand Canyon is rich with both.  Here is my result of trying to get the “best of both”.  HDR can be amazing.

This panorama is comprised of 9 individual shots (3 sets of 3).  I got the individual “sets” by shooting the left, the middle, and then the right of the panorama, each with 3 exposure settings (one at normal exposure f-stop, one at 2 f-stops “under”,and the third at 2 f-stops “over”) which I then processed with the software PHOTOMATRIX PRO so to capture (and hold) both the dark and light detail.  Here are some examples of the “over” and the “under” and the “proper” exposures showing what it takes to make the final image.

“HDR” blend

Here is the blended image (of the three)…. This is the “middle” section of the panorama.






And then, here is the “stitched together” left, middle, and right parts of that GRAND Grand Canyon.  Stitched together, now much more definitive with both shadows and bright highlights.  I used Photoshop CS5 for this part.

9 images blended and stitched into 1 panoramo

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