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The Elan Valley - HDR Experiment

The Elan Valley - HDR Experiment
Photo Information
Copyright: Paul Haynes (PaulH) Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1137 W: 26 N: 3879] (13882)
Genre: Landscapes
Medium: Color
Date Taken: 2008-06-08
Categories: River
Camera: Canon EOS400D, Sigma 10-20mm / F 4-5,6 DC EX HSM, UV + Circ. Polar + Cokin Grad.
Details: Tripod: Yes
Photo Version: Original Version
Date Submitted: 2008-08-28 5:24
Viewed: 3349
Points: 48
[Note Guidelines] Photographer's Note
Hi Everyone,

something a bit different today, and probably a little controversial too. This is the results of my first experimentation with HDR, using Photomatix.
From an aesthetic point of view, i have to say i quite like it - to me it seems to be almost bordering on an illustration. Clearly, it is not a faithful representation of the scene as i saw it, and i'm only too aware that some of your don't like anything that isn't completely natural and non artistic in nature.
But, i thought i'd share it anyway, because some of you might like it too, or at least have an opinion! I don't intend to use it very much to be honest, and not very often for Trek Nature, rest assurred

What i did:

I got the original RAW file, underexposed it, then saved it as a different named tiff. Then i did the same, only this time over exposing it and once more saving it as a differently named tiff. Then i got all three (the OE verson, the UE version and the original), and put it through the Photomax system.
This kind of blends them all together, and with alot of tweaks in levels and all sorts of other attributes, came to this result. I'm still not exactly sure how it works, but i recommend anyone having a play around with it, it's good fun!

Alas i have lost the exif data, but i think the original was around f/18 and .25 of second.

This is a small river in the Elan Valley, Mid Wales..

Thanks for looking and any thoughts you might have...

cicindela, blue_river, gondox, aes_thor, horia, Seabird, mohaiminawang, nglen, NinaM, gracious, eqshannon, Heaven, anel, haraprasan, vanderschelden has marked this note useful
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ThreadThread Starter Messages Updated
To SunToucher: ThanksPaulH 5 08-29 04:28
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Critiques [Translate]

Hello Paul!
Well, what to say... You are right, most probably this is not very natural, but natural photography does not need to present nature in 100% :) As this is also a kind of art. I have to say that I like a lot this picture, and in my opinion effect of your experiment is very good! :)
Thank you also for detailed explanation what was done and how, I believe we all can learn from your note something :)
And moreover, I think I would like to see your next HDR pictures as this one brings many positive feelings! :)
Best regards from Lodz my Friend!

I have also experimented with HDR shots using Photomatix, but I have not yet had the time to go out and capture a series of suitable shots for it, the one's that I have experimented with did not turn out too well, but yours is very interesting, I like how the foreground turned out, it is definately a little surreal looking, I found that when I was playing with it, the original bracketed shots worked out much better than the one's that I changed the exposures on and re-saved. But you have done a great job of it here, nicely done.


Hi Paul!
I like the shot, although it's not as natural looking as others from you, but it seems to have a lot of details and very well defined shadows. The situation is chosen very well to this experiment - when the subject is low on contrast HDR has not much to improve. When you use HDR on a single frame pulled down and up a bit (like here) HDR is able to bring out details that were there already but weren't so visible for the eyes. But when you shoot 2-3 frames with different exposures (on a still subject shutter speed is the best to change) it can make such a detailed image that your sensor would never be able to catch on a single frame.
Sorry for being so long, all I wanted to end up at is don't forget HDR for ever, I liked if you kept on trying because your frames are very much able to show the strength of this technique! I personally think this image is a very good one to demonstrate HDR. If I'll have a good tripod (now all I have is a broken one) I'll be trying too, and we'll see if it's worth at all :)
Many TFS!

Best regards,

Well, I'd say the experiment was a great success Paul.
The overall effect is an amazing depth of field,fantastic detail and such a rich palette of colours and textures.
It reminds me a little of some of Stephen Emerson and Miles Herberts shots.
Great work!

hi Paul.

I think the result is very nice, maybe sky is little burned out but the rest looks really great. Beautiful rock surface, interesting light, very good composition. I will try this technique with another oportunity, I saw few HDR's before and the results are very interesting. Good informative note.
Thanks for sharing and wish You more good shots.


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  • nagraj Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1618 W: 106 N: 3208] (15166)
  • [2008-08-28 7:48]

hi paul,
very good experiment and let it be like that. the effect you got shows how one can manipulate the image to ones own taste and satisfaction. to some extent we do that in our images but something like this once in a while. tfs.

Surreal? No. I I'm in the nature. I look into the sky and see the details. I look to the ground and see the details. If I do a simple single shot, the sky is burnt and the ground is underexposed. The pic doesn't show what I really witnessed in the field. With your technique (and the few others that exist), the result is more real than usual pic. Like in the field I see the details everywhere. I think your pic was named unreal because we get use that the pic can't cope with such a extended field of light like the eye does.
On the other hand, the water on the foreground looked strange to me, because it doesn't seems to be horizontal. Very strange.


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  • horia Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2158 W: 224 N: 4749] (16656)
  • [2008-08-28 8:24]

Hi Paul

Hmmm...HDR...don't know what to say really :)
Yes, the result is interesting and certainly attractive, but i don't know if it's that rewarding :) I mean i think almost anybody can take a shot, convert it in 3 exposures and then merge them. Where as a thought-of shot includes all sorts of filters and tweaks while the result makes the photographer (and not only) charmed :)

On the other hand, this shot here shows a beautiful place is a "new light". There is surely a lot of attention to texture and depth and maybe the HDR accentuates that.

All-in-all: the shot itself is very interesting and well composed but a bit too unnatural for me for a natural landscape :) But if meant only as an experiment, i'm sure it's fun and worth trying.

Cheers and TFS

Funny but I KNEW this was done with Photomatix before I even opened it up. It seems always to do something to the skies that looks a bit odd. What I would prefer for this image is to crop out all of the sky and green. What is left is really super... except that the very wide angle skewed the foreground puddles.

There are some wonderful shapes in those rocks... worth going back and playing with some more.

Evelynn : )

Hi, Paul,

wow, this is stunning and beautiful!! very nice colours and details - a piece of great painting in my eyes. thanks for sharing.

Man Yee

Hi Paul,

As an experiment, yes the effect is amazing and wonderful athmosphere to visulise.Great POV and DOF,your foreground is always captivate my eye.Should also post the original and may have idea how you did it and just a learning purposes.just an opinion.TFS.


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  • nglen Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2883 W: 30 N: 9683] (36145)
  • [2008-08-28 13:20]

Hi Paul. I am not to sure about this one its different all right. the more i keep going back to look again is keep seeing bits i like . In fact i looked at it so much i now like it. I would not want to see all your picture like this. Thanks for telling us how it was done. TFS.

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  • joey Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1739 W: 224 N: 6872] (24909)
  • [2008-08-28 13:27]

Aaawww this is cool!
The HDR effect is awesome!
A very good shot.
Excellent diagonal composition.
Superb DOF.

Well done Paul!


Wow interesting notes. I havent heard anything about Photomax what is it? I like what you've done. I think its beautiful. The only comment I'd make is I get the slightes feeling, that the green at the top is a slight distraction, to the dramatic rocks. I think i might crop it off. Its just a suggestion tho lol. A lovely shot tfs.

Happy Snapping

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  • PeterZ Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 5137 W: 166 N: 13121] (49139)
  • [2008-08-28 14:00]

Hello Paul,
I don't know anything about HDR photography, but I like the result. To me it's more surreal than real. Like the paintings in Salvador Dali's work. Specially the underpart of the photo. It gives a new dimension in the photo. A result to be proud of.
Kind regards,

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  • NinaM Gold Star Critiquer [C: 773 W: 3 N: 1157] (4077)
  • [2008-08-28 17:02]

Hello dear Paul, wow, I am amazed and fascinated too by the results of the HDR, and thank you so much for all the information! I haven't seen your pictures in a while and they remain faithful to your talent. I really like the effect of HDR, and I would love to learn more about Photoshop to explore all the possibilities. Ansel Adams used many tricks in his pictures and why not create with technology, now? Wonderful work, once again, Paul, thanks so much!


Hello Paul,
I liked it too!
great job on the HDR with compliment here!
I particularly loved the great low pov with the effect on the waterflow!
the lighting too is amazing

I love now to compare our images...I shall call this a tacit challenge but once I said tacit does it still have same meaning? Hmmmmm..I plan on continuing my water shots...well into eh week of next...I think I feel destined to do it...they have seen no light for years and in scrapbooks whats the use...to TN..it means all the world..and to think that you have given me this new dedication!

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  • Heaven Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 996 W: 123 N: 2341] (7912)
  • [2008-08-28 23:44]

Hi Paul!

Every experience is precious, because we learn, we discover and we have our fun! From that point of view, I appreciate your posting very much. Now you have clearly announced what you have made with the picture and what your intention was. That means that I'm looking at this picture under these circumstances, and not as if I would look at a "natural" picture. I'm pleased to say that the effect is at least interesting and surprising. For the moment, I never have seen a convincing HDR posting. Yours is the best up to now, although I can't totally identify myself with that technique. Especially the parts with the rocks and the river are pleasant. I don't like that much the trees because the dark tones are too dark. I appreciate your very interesting notes!

Kind regards


Hi Paul,
Much has already been written and some advise has been given. I think that the critique from Tiina and Andor are most useful. All I can add to this is that you have to be really careful with the tone mapping. The settings will either create a real or unnatural look. I think you went a bit too far in the tone mapping with this shot. This is especially visible in the trees and sky. Do you still know the settings you used? As for creating a HDR from one photo; How much under and over exposure did you use? Did you consider taking more than 3 conversions for a even better dynamic range?
About the photo. The rocks in the FG are very beautiful and the HDR did create a nice dynamic range. I do think that the bright twig in the left FG is a bit disturbing since it is a large area of contrast.
Its good to see you experiment with this technique and I do hope to see more of them.

P.S. Which version of Photomatix do you have. I recently updated mine for free.

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  • anel Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 3053 W: 3 N: 8715] (40574)
  • [2008-08-29 1:02]

Hello Paul,
I had to look several times at your picture, and every time saw something else. The result of your experimentation is quite good from an artistical and technical point of view. The light is very special, may be a bit unnatural. What I like the most is the almost 3dimensional appearance of the stones in the foreground. What I less appreciate is the milky aspect of the water.
But it is always good to try something else
Have a nice day

hi Paul,
A nice HDR experiment. And it works well here. Very well composed and nice colors. Thanks a lot for sharing.

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  • gannu Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 988 W: 4 N: 3277] (14761)
  • [2008-08-29 3:23]

Hello Paul, Beautiful and sometimes I really envy you to the kind of shot that you take. Excellent shot. Ganesh

Told you...
You are the expert in these wonderful landscape wide angle photos.
I like this one very much. An awesome amount of depth. And the long shutter speed was apparently very effective if you take the water into account. I appreciate that mysterious foreground as well. The sky is very well photographed. Probably due to the HDR experiment with Photomatix. Never heard of the latter. Thought this could be done in PS?
Fantastic result!

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