Earlier this week I spent golden hour at The National Ranching Heritage Center to get a quick timelapse of the sunset. While setting up, I was feeling adventurous, and figured I would try something I knew nothing about, high dynamic range imaging (HDRI or just HDR). This is the result of the test.
The camera setting was in manual. You usually want to use Aperture Priority when shooting sunrises/sunsets, but I was not sure how that would effect the HDR, so I left it on manual. I took 3 exposures for each image using the bracketing feature on my Canon 60D. One picture OVER-exposed by 2 stops, one correctly-exposed, and one UNDER-exposed by 2 stops.
I tone-mapped in Photomatix Pro, which is a phenomenal application for merging photos into 1 tone-mapped image. You can also create an HDR image with just one single RAW file, but it does not produce as good results as the bracketing feature. I adjusted the parameters until it looked perfect, then I batched the rest of my photos. It’s super easy. Almost too easy. This application is definitely worth the money if you are looking into getting into HDR.
Again, this was just a test. I noticed that as the sun went down and my images got darker, the shadows in the HDR images were very grainy and unusable (see image below. Notice how crappy the shadows are on the steer.) That’s why it may be smart to use aperture priority instead of full manual, but then you get into other problems such as flickering.
This quick test showed me how awesome HDR is. I see tons of potential in shooting timelapses like this. But, like everything, it CAN be over done and lose it’s effect. It also showed me how easy it is to marge bracketed photos with Photomatix. Seriously, try it. I cranked the below images out in about 90 seconds. Bracketed with +/- 3 stops.