Archive for the ‘HDR Expose’ Tag

And The Winners Are…   4 comments


For the past three weeks, I’ve been holding a contest to win a free copy of HDR Expose or 32 Float from Unified Color.

The entries are in, a number of eyes have seen them, and it’s time to announce the winners:

The first winner, grabbing his choice of Unified Color’s HDR Expose or 32 Float, is arkitekt878 :

In our view, the composition contributed a lot to this image, leading the eye from the chains and walkway, to the lights on the building, and then off in the distance to the city lights and sunset. Both the deep shadows of the foreground pebbles and the bright lights were well controlled. There are no artifacts or haloing to be seen.

Arkitekt878 used 4 Exposures (-2, -1, 0, +1) merged to HDR in Photoshop and processed with 32 Float.  He says, “Just a quick note for interest. The place where I’m standing to take this gets covered twice a day by the tide.”


The next winner is George Palov with his image from Devetaki Cave, Bulgaria:

George says,

“It was shot in 7 Exposures through 1-1/3 EV steps (1/50 – 5sec) + I took an extra one “1/250″ for the bright “eye” window. On tripod + Promote Remote Control. Merged and adjusted in HDR Expose only. Very hard shooting conditions – pitch dark holes + overly bright spots. What I liked about this photo is the unintended heart shape of the light spot on the ground from the sun beam.”


Honorable Mention‘ goes to Anthony Woodhouse’s fourth entry, “Boat Park, Llyn Brenig”, which can be seen in Anthony’s Flickr photostream.

Thanks to all for participating in the contest. I hope you had as much fun with it as I did.

The Bowl at Acadia National Park, Maine   2 comments

The Bowl, a small pond near the Gorham Trail in Acadia National Park, Maine


It was just another beautiful autumn day at Acadia National Park on the Maine coast.

This is The Bowl, a small tarn near the Beehives on the eastern side of Mt. Desert Island. It was such a nice day, we just had to pull up for a while. Couldn’t just sit there — right? — so I started clicking off some hand-held brackets. Because of the inevitable camera motion when shooting hand-held and the usual softness brought about by HDR processing, this image needed some help. It was shot at 11mm f/2.8 with a CPL filter, which didn’t help matters.

While I don’t often recite highly detailed recipes, I thought this was a good example of “rescuing” an image that would otherwise sit as nothing more than a pleasant memory in the library. Thanks to one of my new favorite toys, Topaz InFocus, it became a viable HDR image.

I started off with a three-bracket (+/-2EV) merge in HDR Expose, with basic brightness and highlight adjustments in Unified Color’s Photoshop plug-in, 32 Float. Returning the result as a layer, a lens correction was used to relieve some barrel distortion. I invoked the new Topaz InFocus filter, dialing in just the right radius settings for this subject (1.76 radius, 2.7 suppress) in order to provide sharp detail in the wood grain of the logs. There were artifacts left in the tree line and water surface, but these could be addressed later. Having recently received an upgrade to Nik Color Efex Pro 3.0 Complete, I had access to the Pro Contrast filter, which can really help to pop an image and remove color cast. Topaz DeNoise was then used to remove the artifacts created by the InFocus pass (I’m trying to wean myself off of Imagenomic Noiseware Pro since they’re not currently 64-bit.) I had originally used one of my favorite tricks, Nik’s Darken/Lighten Center, to bring the eye toward the logs, but it created a hyper-polarized effect by darkening the sky, which just seemed unnaturally blue.

One thing that has become clear to me (pun not intended) is that Topaz InFocus tends to work best when you have discrete, straight edges in an image. The cityscape that Topaz provides on their website is a good example of this. For this landscape image of The Bowl, you wouldn’t want to preview the area of trees, as that area is soft and irregularly shaped. Bringing the InFocus preview window to the logs and foreground detail, however, provided the harder edges needed for the filter’s algorithms to work properly. Knowing this seems to be one key to having the filter work best for you.

You can see this image larger by clicking on it. A new window will open on the Waterscapes gallery.

Hobnobbin’   Leave a comment

A pool outside an estate on a bright sunny day, New Bern, North Carolina

Sorry about the dearth of posts, lately. I’ve been fairly well wrapped up with various shoots and a sometimes pesky little thing called ‘life.’

This image was a test from a real estate shoot, but I liked it well enough to keep it. Typically, I’d like to shoot in more benign conditions than the middle of a bright, sunny day, but we can’t always pick and choose. In this case, I think the bright light makes for an inviting pool scene.

Click on the image to see a larger version.

Processed from 9 exposures at 1EV steps using Promote Control. Merged using Unified Color’s HDR Expose and adjusted in Photoshop CS with 32 Float, also from Unified Color. I liked what Photomatix Pro 4 did with the stonework, so I touched in a little detail from that program using layer masking. Actually had to knock the blues back a bit, too! The first ‘final’ version’s sky looked a bit too contrived. Finally, the windows were reflecting a lot of blue, which was distracting, so I applied an Exposure adjustment layer in that area to tone down the glare. A noise-reduction run on the sky with Noiseware Pro was the only other adjustment.

Discount coupons for the above software are located here.

Win a Free Copy of HDR Expose or 32 Float   27 comments

Scenic waterway near Bernard, Maine, on Mount Desert Island, on a beautifully clear day.

Win a Free Copy of HDR Expose or 32 Float

(The image above was processed from three exposures -2EV, 0EV, +2EV merged with HDR Expose and processed using 32 Float. Click on the image to see a larger version in a new window.)

Note: This contest is now closed to new entries. Thank you to all the entrants for participating. Winner(s) will be announced shortly, so please stay tuned.

Thanks to my affiliation with the folks at Unified Color, I’m able to offer a free copy of both HDR Expose and 32 Float to two lucky people. All you have to do is download trial versions of the programs, process your original brackets, and show me the final result. In two weeks, two winners will be chosen from all entries.

The guidelines are simple:

1) Download a free trial copy of HDR Expose ($149.99 value) and/or 32 Float ($99 value)  from Unified Color.  The fully-featured trial versions are good for 30 days, with no watermarks, and no restrictions.

2) Pick a set of your own exposure brackets and create your best work using HDR Expose and/or 32 Float. No single-exposure entries, please, as this is all about High Dynamic Range (HDR).

3) Post a link to the comment section of this blog entry, pointing to your final image, which can be saved as a 8- or 16-bit TIF or 8-bit JPG file. The image can be on Flickr, on another photo sharing site, on your own website, or it can be hosted on your server where I can download it for a look. As long as I can get to it, we’ll be fine. (Important Note: Facebook Album entries will not be eligible for consideration.) When you post the link, please indicate which product(s) you used, and how many exposures went into the final version. Your email address will not be visible to others, but the link will be. This will have the added benefit of driving traffic to your site.

4) Please keep a copy of your final BEF file (Unified Color’s format.)  If you’re the winner, I may ask you for that file for possible further use. You’ll retain all copyrights, of course.

5) To keep the playing field level, do not apply any other filters, effects, adjustment layers, or other tweaks on the image. Work with it it entirely in BEF 32-bit format, using only HDR Expose or 32 Float.

IMPORTANT AMMENDMENT: Since one of the key features of 32 Float is that you can use multiple Photoshop layers derived from the original BEF file, I am updating Rule 5 to allow the use of Masking Layers. In other words, when working with 32 Float in Photoshop, you can work on your original 32-bit BEF file, making a Photoshop layer that exploits, say, the highlights of a photo. You can then go back to the BEF file (first layer) and create another new layer to exploit the shadow areas. Using Photoshop Layer Masks, you can selectively mask in/out certain parts of the image. (There is a tutorial for this on the UCT website, called “32 Float Dual Process Feature” located here. Or, you can view it on YouTube )  But please, no Curves, Exposure, Saturation, Brightness, or other Photoshop adjustment layers, and no 3rd-party filters (NIK, Topaz, Lucis, etc.)

6) The deadline for submission of entries is midnight (Eastern U.S.) on Saturday, November 27th, 2010. (Three weeks from the beginning of the contest.) Entries submitted after that will not be considered.

7) You may submit up to seven (7) images for consideration. To keep things organized, please submit each image link as a new comment.

8) Above all, Have Fun!

If you have a moment, please tell your friends about this contest, Tweet about it, etc.  The more the merrier.

Eligibility to Enter

Entrants must NOT be an employee of Unified Color or Matter Communications (or any of its or their affiliates, parent companies, or subsidiary companies), or one of the contest judges, or an immediate family member of such an employee or such a contest judge, or a person living in the same household of such an employee or such a contest judge;

By submitting an entry in this contest, each Entrant represents and warrants:

  • The image is original, and the contest participant owns the copyright or any other associated intellectual-property rights in the image.
  • The image does not infringe the copyright, rights of publicity or privacy, or any other intellectual-property or proprietary rights of any other person or entity.
  • Any persons depicted in the image who are recognizable or identifiable from their image are 18 years of age or over and have given their signed, written consent to have their image used in this contest (and released any rights of publicity or privacy).
  • Any building or architecture depicted in the image is located in or ordinarily visible from a public place, or, for any such building or architecture that is not located in or ordinarily visible from a public place, if the building or architecture is protected by copyright, Entrant must have the appropriate rights to submit the image and grant the rights provided in these contest rules and terms and conditions; and Entrants must be prepared to provide a signed release from the person or entity owning the copyright.
  • For any sculptures, statues, paintings, or other works of art that are depicted in the image, Entrant must have the appropriate rights to submit the image and grant the rights provided in these contest rules and terms and conditions; and Entrants must be prepared to provide a signed release from the person or entity owning the copyright in any such sculptures, statues, paintings, or other works of art.
  • The image has not previously won an award in any photography contest or other type of media or public recognition.
  • The image does not contain obscene, profane, offensive, lewd, pornographic, or otherwise inappropriate content.

Still. Reflecting.   5 comments

A view across a tidal pool from Ship Harbor Nature Trail, to Wonderland, at Acadia National Park, Maine

Time for more reflection, I suppose.

This image seems to serve as an adjunct to my previous post Reflections: Creativity and Certainty.

Here in the U.S., we’ve recently seen a swing of the pendulum away from the side of unfolding Creativity, with many of the people unwilling to let go of the dock of Certainty.  I think this perfectly reflects a basic part of human nature.  We’re uplifted by the drive for newness and innovation, and yet we tend to keep a tight grip on what we know to be certain, stable, predictable. Because of this, we have landed perfectly in the middle, at least for the time being.  According to the ‘pundits’ (again, the term being used with no small degree of sarcasm) the people do not want what has been termed a ‘progressive’ politic, yet neither do they want to accept the old model.

Never before has middle-of-the-roadism been so exciting! Where do we go from here? As with all things evolution, time will tell. For now, at the very least, the process of democracy seems to be alive and well, with people exercising their right to choose, and that is a beautiful thing.

Consider this my homage to that center. It is balanced and centered. It is ‘progressive’ in that it is an HDR image, and yet ‘conservative’ in its realism. It represents the great span of nature, yet it’s a simple scene. The water is shallow, and the water is deep. Soft trees / hard rock. Bright light / deep shadow. Warm air / cold water.

If nothing else, it’s something to reflect upon.

Thanks for stopping by,



This image was created from a bracketed set of three RAW files. They were first converted to TIF, and then merged using HDR Expose from Unified Color (20% discount is available here.)  Since I tend to do most editing in Photoshop CS, I used 32 Float to do all necessary adjustments, added just a touch of NIK Color Efex Pro to even out the sky a bit, and then touched in NIK’s Darken/Lighten Center on just the foreground.

I had tried other programs and techniques on this image, but they seemed a little too “forward.” This was perfectly where I wanted it, and completely as it was the day I saw it. (Yes, it was a brilliantly clear, autumn day.)

One Bad Beach Buggy   1 comment

A rusted hulk of an old truck on the beach at Cape Lookout, North Carolina

And sometimes, “bad” is bad.

That must have been one serious downer for the owner of the truck. Being that it’s on a remote peninsula, I have to wonder how they got home.

This poor, unfortunate ride is now a permanent fixture at Cape Lookout, North Carolina. Fully covered at high tide (and hence the barnacles on the engine block), at low tide it bakes in the sun. We appreciate it being there, as it serves as a distant landmark for beaching our kayaks at this particular spot where there is a cut-through to the ocean side of the hook.

You can see this extra large in a new window on my Transportation Gallery


This is an HDR image from three handheld exposures, processed in HDR Expose and 32 Float from Unified Color.  (Discount Available Here.) I had a circular polarizer installed that day, but it was a brilliantly clear day, i.e., no blue saturation was added. I used a little bit of Darken/Lighten Center, and Sharpener Pro, both from NIK Software.

She Walks On Water   2 comments

Susan, walking with her kayak along a sandbar near Cape Lookout and Shackleford Banks, North Carolina

One of the great things about living in this part of North Carolina is that we’re surrounded by water. Not that it’s all deep water, mind you, but the area around Cape Lookout and the Pamlico Sound is ripe with opportunities for world-class kayaking trips.

Yesterday was a brilliantly clear and warm day for late October, so we took advantage of the opportunity to paddle out to Cape Lookout and Shackleford Banks. We paddled amongst large pods of dolphins; Loggerhead turtles visited the boats; a small island was chock full of pelicans; a family of wild ponies gave us a great photo op (and we’re still working on the model releases.) It just doesn’t get any better than this kind of day.

Here, late in the day, we encountered a sand flat that grounded the boats, so we walked part of the way home. It was okay… we were in no hurry to return.


Processing notes:

This was taken from a single RAW image. After making some minor adjustments in Adobe Camera Raw, I brought it into Photoshop and immediately turned it over to 32 Float, from Unified Color. A few adjustments there brought it to most of what you see here. Several filters from NIK Color Efex Pro were used to jazz things up, including Polarization, Brilliance/Warmth, Gradient, and Darken/Lighten Center. A pass with Imagenomics Noiseware Pro and two sharpening passes using the LAHR/HALR technique (Tutorial), and done.  No cropping was applied; I thought the framing was just about perfect right out of the camera.

To see this image much larger, click on the image to see it in a new window on the Waterscapes Gallery.

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Big Back Yard   2 comments

Sunrise over Whiting Bay from Cobscook Bay State Park, northern Maine

Big Back Yard

With sunrises like this, it’s hard to leave the place. This was taken one morning at Cobscook Bay State Park in northern Maine, not far from Lubec.

Our tent is just a few feet behind this point of view, making morning shooting very convenient. We often joke about our new campsites having a much bigger back yard than we have at home, and we find no greater pleasure than to just sit and watch nature do its thing, or to capture it in the process.

On a side note, I often think twice about posting in portrait orientation due to the limits of today’s monitors, but in this case, I think it suits the subject well, although I may next try a vertical panorama.

Click on the image to see it larger in a new window in the Waterscapes Gallery.

Once again, this image was composited in Photoshop by layering outputs from seven brackets in Photomatix Pro 4, HDR Expose/32-Float, and HDR Efex Pro. Each had something interesting and unique to offer to the final image, and none really created what I wanted in and of itself. Beyond that layering and masking, there was very little done in the way of color or saturation. In fact, I knocked back the saturation a bit using Topaz Adjust ‘Neutralizer’. In the end, this image represents what I saw that morning, but sometimes you have to coax it out of the brackets.

Assembly   1 comment

Adult Great Egrets watch over their young, Prime Hook Wildlife Refuge, Delaware

Click on the image above to see it larger, in a new window, on my Animals gallery

Great Egrets gather with other waterfowl at the Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge, Delaware.

This was a delightful find as we decided to take a back road out of Rehoboth Beach. The road passed over a causeway that bifurcated a pond, and the area to the right of the road was just loaded with wildlife. We had to stop for a while.

On a side note, I always found it curious that in a National Wildlife Refuge, hunting is allowed. Doesn’t that seem like a contradiction of terms?


Processing-wise, this was one of those happy accidents.

I fed a single RAW file into Unified Color’s HDR Expose, and while adjusting a few things, I pushed the Shadow Power slider to a very strong setting. This caused the distant background to go dark, with the background birds floating in a rather ethereal way.  The effect was completely unexpected, but I decided to run with it.

Because Unified Color’s 32 Float plug-in for Photoshop allows you to save off layers, I stopped processing in HDR Expose and moved the 32-bit file over to Photoshop for further editing.  After only a few small changes, I did a crop and then applied some light NIK Color Efex Pro filters here and there to draw out areas of interest.

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Thanks for your time!


The Hidden Gem of Cobscook Bay   2 comments

Sunrise over Whiting Bay, Cobscook Bay State Park, in Maine

Click on the image for a larger view in a new window.

Somewhat north of Lubec, Maine, there’s a little-known state park on Cobscook Bay.

We’ve never seen crowds at the park. There are sections where no RVs are allowed, which is heaven for tent campers.  At night, it’s utterly quiet.  In the morning, the sun rises over the bay and can be photographed right from the campsite. With a tidal range of some seventeen feet in the bay, it’s fascinating to watch this area fill and drain every few hours. When the tide is out, loons, seagulls, ducks, herons and other waterfowl feed on the flats. (The tide was about mid-way during this bracket.)


This image was generated from nine exposures at 1EV intervals, shot using the Promote Control. In post-, I found that one of the more prevalent HDR programs made chaos with the colors, with the best result looking wayyyy to far-fetched for anyone’s liking.  Images like that should be binned immediately, which is exactly what I did. As they say, no two images are the same with these programs.

I merged the nine exposures in Unified Color’s HDR Expose, choosing to save the resulting 32-bit BEF file without further modification. Turning to Photoshop CS4, I brought the BEF file in and used a couple of different layers generated from Unified Color’s 32-Float plug-in, tweaking the brightness and contrast levels in places.  A few saturation and de-saturation adjustment layers were added, and a slight boost of exposure toward the end, and this was the result.

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