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The HDR Book: Project: The Austin Capitol

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Rafael Concepcion walks you through his creation of an image of the Austin Capitol, which includes bracketing, tone mapping, and post-processing in Photoshop.
This chapter is from the book

I was sitting in my hotel room the day before giving a seminar in Austin, Texas, staring out at the rain. I’d had high hopes for going out and making some great night images, yet the persistent drizzle put a damper on what I wanted to do.

I was wondering what kind of interior photography I could do to pass the time when I got a call from Christina McLaughlin and Dan Zientek. As it turned out, Christina and Dan (NAPP members, and all-around great people) were in the area the day before the seminar and wanted to venture out in the rain to shoot puddles. Rather than mope in the hotel room, off I went on an adventure.

When we got to the Austin Capitol building, I set my tripod down and started making five-bracket exposures, wiping down the front of the lens as best I could in between. After about six attempts at this, we moved on to another vantage point. I didn’t think much of the images until I processed them for HDR. It was only then that I was rewarded with something quite interesting.

Bracketing has been around since way before HDR. When you’re out in a field, you don’t really know when you’ll get a chance to shoot it again. Bracketing allows you to hedge your bet for a correct exposure. When you get back to the computer, you can sift through the bracketed shots and throw out the exposures that are off. Now, with HDR, you have an opportunity to add those exposures together to see if the image speaks to you. In that, HDR is just another option in my photographic bag of tricks.

Tone Map: Photoshop CS5 HDR Pro

Notes on Tone Mapping

Because of the rainy weather, I figured that a stronger tone mapping would be more appropriate here. Increasing the Radius and Strength allowed me to produce more of a surrealistic night scene. Since it was a darker scene, I adjusted the Gamma setting so there was more of a preponderance of darker tones, and even underexposed the tone map settings. A slight bump in the Curve gave me just the amount of highlight I needed for the building. The processing of the image was a tad bit blue, so that’s something I would need to correct later on in Photoshop.

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