Behold, Photomatix!

My jaw still hurts from hitting the floor.

Today, I decided to try the trial version of the Photomatix HDR plugin for Aperture after having toyed with and (thankfully) never purchased Hydra HDR.

While most people who read photo blogs know all about HDR (and why they’re controversial – more on that later), I’m guessing the average friend/family member that comes here has probably SEEN HDR images but probably doesn’t know what they are.  Setting the technicalities on WHY it works aside, it involves meshing three or more images of different exposures.  Today, I took a picture of a local church on a cloudy day:

You’re allowed to say “meh” if you’d like.  Go ahead – I’ll give you a sec…

It’s really not that impressive.  I took it on a cloudy day while trying to take shots as cars passed in front.  It was quite honestly a “Eh, I’ll take a picture of this church.  Churches are cool, I guess” shot as I was about to leave.  You’ll notice the bushes on the bottom have no light and colors really don’t “pop out” at you.

I decided to give this image potential by taking three exposures – honestly thinking that the whole thing would be trashed.  One of the more famous photographers who does this is Trey Ratcliff at Stuck in Customs.  This lucky guy travels around the world and takes breathtaking HDR shots and teaches people about them – he’s got a few books out.  Best part?  He’s pretty accessible and has answered some of my stupid questions.  Cool stuff.

So back to the church.  I took these two which were -2 EV and +2 EV in terms of the exposure value – or simply, how bright it is.  My camera can do this automatically with the press of a button.  Great stuff, especially for a not-so-cheap Nikon DSLR camera.  As far as shots go, they go from “meh” to “is it lunch time yet?”  And I understand why.

The magic comes when you get home.  Here are all three photos in Hydra HDR (left) and Photomatix (right):

You might/might not remember me trying HDR before.  It was with Hyrda, which I had downloaded and fooled around with at the awesome canal behind my apartment complex.  I cropped out the pesky watermark, but got lucky with the shot itself.

I was happy, but had to do a lot to the image.  Both images above are “vanilla” – they were not touched in any way after putting them through the processing.  The only thing I did was put a “cloudy” white balance on the originals as I notice it helped out a lot.

Obviously, the one to the right is far superior.  The one to the left brings details out, but is on the verge of not looking real – especially if I were to bring out the colors and brightness.  This is unfortunate.  I can say that when it comes to Aperture plugins, Photomatix is FAR superior for a few reasons:

  • Colors – Photomatix’s warm look might not look real, either – but it’s much more inviting.  It also brings out details where Hyra simply cannot.
  • Processing time – processing with Hydra on my regular Macbook is painfully slow.  I figured this had to do with my lack of processing speed – maybe I just needed a Macbook Pro to take part in this?  Oh well… I just shelved the whole project.  Not so with Photomatix – I was amazed at the varied steps I got.
  • Flexibility – Photomatix allows for MUCH more flexibility than Hydra.  Of course, you can use Aperture to keep editing… this is what you’re supposed to do anyway.

So, for a final project?  Here it is, below. Click on it for my Flickr page and a full-sized version.

You can expect more HDR from me – but I’m not going entirely with it 100% of the time for a few reasons:

  • I’m still new at photography – and have to learn more!
  • People are right when they complain about HDR not looking real.  For me, that’s sort of the point!
  • HDR takes a lot of work – and I won’t always have it… whether it’s setting up the shot or processing afterward.  Not a bad thing always, but still an issue.
  • Some photos are good for HDR and some aren’t.  This subject works well since the brown/red tones came through as it’s a vintage-looking church.

And yes, my jaw is still hurting.  Thank God for software discounts and trial versions!

5 Comments

Filed under HDR, photos

5 responses to “Behold, Photomatix!

  1. Leah

    I’m sure no expert…but, I know what I like and I love the last print…it is beautiful!

  2. Lulu

    The final project photo looks nice!
    I am counting the time until I can play with my new camera, soon I hope:-)
    hope the pain you feel on your jaw goes away sooner than later

    • Hah – my jaw doesn’t hurt… it’s an expression. I was surprised by how good the photo looked.

      I hope that while I’m learning Chinese I don’t run into this too much :)

  3. Pingback: Jhubei in HDR « joshintaiwan.com

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