A quick update with the Third Avenue Bridge in Minneapolis. This is actually two HDR’s layered in Photoshop. I combined one HDR of the bridge for maximum detail and then another HDR for the softness of the foggy city.
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Here’s the view looking into Target Field. I was fortunate to arrive as the sun was peaking through the lower and upper levels. It’s a beautiful ballpark both inside and out. The views from inside provide a great view of the Minneapolis skyline.
I used Nik Software HDR Efex Pro 2 to create the HDR images.
I’m a big fan of going into the city and shooting skyscrapers. Besides the cool perspective you can catch all sorts of light effects. In the top photo the red stop lights and brake lights give a red glow under the skyway which matches well with the red scaffolding.
In the bottom photo a gentleman’s club lit in purple reminds me of the Prince song Erotic City. I caught some funky light trails as the cars went by. Even on a cloudy night the city gives off a unique glow to the cloudy sky.
You can see the rest of the gallery here Minneapolis Spring 2013.
Here’s one of my favorite churches in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. It is Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church. That’s a long name for a church with a lot of character. Here’s the outisde with the spire lit up like a beacon.
Inside the church is just as good. My tip for church or almost any interior photography is don’t let them turn the lights on. Usually the church staff can be very friendly and want to turn on every light. You want the great light coming from the stained glass windows and maybe a few accent lights instead.
The ceiling looking towards the spire. English Gothic style often has spires and arches.
In this post I wanted to show how you can enhance your HDR images using graduated filters in Lightroom. The first image is the completed image. For this image I used 9 exposures and combined them in Photomatix.
Below is the flat image processed in Photomatix before any other enhancements were made. I could have chosen a more aggressive preset like painterly or grunge in Photomatix but that can lead to unnatural light/dark transitions especially in clouds or around the sky and trees.
Because I didn’t go too far with the tone mapping (grunge is too far in my book) I now do some basic adjustments in Lightroom. See my post Single Photo HDR to find out what I normally do to all my photos.
Now here’s where you can make things really stand out by using graduated filters. We usually think of either physical grad filters or software to adjust the exposure of the sky vs. the foreground. In Lightroom I often use it for other things like Color Temperature, Clarity, Noise Reduction and sometimes Highlight/Shadow adjustments. Usually I’ll use two filters, one to adjust the top portion (sky) and another from the bottom to the top to adjust the foreground.
In the photo above I used two grad filters in a vertical orientation. I used one from left-to-right to make the left half more blue by adjusting the color temperature. Then I applied another grad filter right-to-left to add a warmer color temperature to bring out the gold rays of the sun.
Of course you can also use the local adjustment brush but the grad filter can apply a smoother transition a lot of times. I wish I’d started using them sooner than I did.
I should also mention I used a few Color Efex Pro filters to the image. This gave the clouds some more punch and some glamour glow for the sun but the main punch came from the grad filter in Lightroom.
I took this on my way to photograph eagles in the Wabasha area of Minnesota along the Mississippi River. This is Lake Pepin which is a part of the river. There was heavy fog that morning which sort of blended in with the ice ripples on the lake.
What I like about this image is the mix of detail and soft elements. The sunset, fog and ice ripples in the distance are quite soft which is a nice contrast versus the detail in the rocks and snow. This image had a natural balance between the two but you can also add or subtract these detailed or soft areas by using the adjustment brush in Lightroom 4. The clarity slider works wonders in this regard and I prefer that over the sharpness control.
One last thing to consider is making the snow pop. I adjust the color temperature in the foreground to make the snow pure white. I did this by using the graduated filter in Lightroom 4 then adjusting the color temperature. It depends on the color temperature of the snow to begin with so just move the slider left or right till it appears pure white.
I went to this chapel last Saturday and took some photos after confessionals were done and the patrons had left. It’s from the Church of Saint Louis King of France in St. Paul, Minnesota. The lighting was wonderful but after HDR processing the magenta was extremely strong and oversaturated. I often see the color red way too strong in photos too. With HDR details are normally brought out and having an oversaturated color can cover up the detail we are trying to show.
Above you see the magenta is very strong.
Instead of reducing the saturation or vibrance I target the magenta saturation in the HSL (Hue, Saturation and Luminance) sliders in the develop panel in Lightroom 4. You can also play with the luminance that can make the color darker or brighter and affect the perceived saturation. This tones down the magenta and leaves the other colors alone.
Here’s the finished photo and you can see the shadow detail is better. At first the oversaturated photo may look like it pops more but it can become fatiguing and obscure some of the finer details.
Just be careful it doesn’t affect other areas of the photo too much like the stained glass would be a concern in this photo. If it does the adjustment brush could be used to reduce saturation locally instead. I just find that can a bit more tedious at times.
Note: I also reduced the orange saturation. I often do this with interior shots to remove the ugly orange cast from artificial lighting.
Here’s a HDR shot from the balcony of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Minneapolis. I processed this in Photomatix and then added some glamour glow for the light through the door in Nik Color Efex Pro. Finally I used layers to get the original HDR image of the stained glass but keep the glamour glow and re-imported to Lightroom.
See the rest of the Westminster Presbyterian gallery.
Note: I used the U Point to remove the glow effect from the stained glass in Color Efex but the image still softened more than I liked. Opacity was set at 0% as well.
We’ve all seen incredibly gaudy colors in HDR photos. It’s not enough to have unrealistic lighting and overly sharpened images. People often bump up the saturation slider when it is not needed. Sometimes it’s better to back off on the saturation to avoid information overload.
The photo below I decreased both the saturation and the vibrance. The colors and amount of detail is overwhelming to see in person. You can try to capture this but I think photography is often about focusing and creating some organization from the chaos.
I could have made the photo above black and white, but while that allows you to focus on the details, there are so many that can be overwhelming as well. So we have overwhelming color and details. By backing off on the saturation and vibrance in Lightroom it allows parts of the wall paintings, Buddha statues to pop out giving the eye something to focus on.
We’re familiar with selective coloring where basically a black and white photo has an object that has color. It’s often overused and a bit gimmicky at times. A better option is to selectively remove colors that give unwanted color casts or detract from the image. Above I’ve also toned down the reds, blues and some greens. I think it makes for a more pleasing image.
Here’s the original Photomatix processed image without any color adjustments. I did not increase the saturation at all in Photomatix or Lightroom. To me it is very busy and fatiguing. Notice the statues are almost overcome by the color with less perceived detail. Some may prefer this image but I wanted to suggest an alternative.