Photography First®. That's Nik Software's tag line. These guys live and breath photography, in addition to offering awesome plug-ins. That includes the new Nik HDR Efex Pro 2. (You can save a few bucks on the HDR Efex Pro 2 and all Nik Plug-ins by using this code upon checkout: RSAMMON.)
Josh Haftel is one of the talented photographers at Nik. When I saw his HDR shot on the Nik site I wanted to know how he did it. Well, here's how . . .
To capture this shot, a few colleagues from Nik and I went on a photo trip to capture a few images to support HDR Efex Pro 2. Our goal was to capture at least an image for the back of the box, as well as some images for use in marketing materials.
Because some of the best HDR images are generally taken at sunrise and sunset, we planned out a series of different locales to be at throughout the day and captured a huge number of image series. This shot was actually the first series we shot and did it at sunrise over Lake Casitas, a lake close to Ojai California (which is inland and close to Ventura and Santa Barbara).
This shot actually consists of seven vertical HDR images that were stitched together to form a panorama, the ending image is well over 100MP. The images captured were all shot at f/16 with a range from -4 E.V. to +2 E.V., as I wanted to capture the cloud and highlight details.
I had to shoot each series pretty quickly to make sure that the clouds didn't move too much and the light stayed the same. After capturing the 49 images (7 exposure values X 7 images), I processed the images in Lightroom to remove any chromatic aberrations, vignette, and distortion, as well as to apply a profile I made with my X-Rite Passport Color Checker.
I then sent the 16-bit TIFF files to PTGui Pro to create 7 panoramas. I've found that stitching each series into one panorama and creating the HDR off of those files yields the best results. PTGui makes it pretty easy to batch create the panoramas with different exposures, especially if you use a quality pano head.
Finally, I took the seven panorama images into HDR Efex Pro 2, applied some pretty basic tone mapping (brought the highlights down, increased the contrast and structure, and adjusted the saturation), and then used some control points to adjust the tonality of the plants in the foreground and output a 16-bit TIFF file.
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For more of Josh's creative work, check out: www.joshhaftel.com.
To learn more about HDR photography, check out my iHDR app - which is available for the iPad and Mac computers. I also teach HDR on my photo workshops and tours.