<<< o >>>out of the darkness 35 comments + add yours

One of the things I like most about HDR work, though this is also what makes it frustrating at times, is that there doesn't seem to be any reliable way of working out what the final image will look like. In this instance for example I had a more vibrant/brighter image in mind but the tone mapped image ended up looking a lot darker than I expected. This is partially a consequence of the fact that the lightest shot in the sequence wasn't quite light enough (i.e. it was underexposed by at least a stop), but I also think that the tone mapping algorithms in Photomatix Pro sometimes behave as though they had a mind of their own :)

Anyway, all that said I'm pretty pleased with how this one turned out and would be interested to hear your thoughts.

If you're interested, the (rather uninteresting) metered exposure of the sequence is here:


On a totally different matter ...

Those of you who subscribed to our online tutorials from the outset will know that the first one we posted was the Tonal Range and the Curves Tool tutorial. Well, there are now two more versions: one in catalan and the other in spanish, both of which were translated by Eduard J. (atzu). Over the coming months we're hoping to translate all the tutorials, but in the meanwhile, if you do know anyone who a) speaks catalan or spanish, and b) would like to know more about the Curves tool, you know where to send them :)

    Gamma tonal i l'eina Corbes (catalan translation)
    Gama tonal y la herramienta Curvas (spanish translation)

focal length
shutter speed
shooting mode
exposure bias
metering mode
image quality
RAW converter
11.33 on 10/1/09
Canon 1Ds Mark II
EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM
2s to 1/500 (seven shots)
aperture priority
Photomatix Pro
3x2 + HDR
comment by Midori at 07:37 PM (GMT) on 16 January, 2009

Great effects!!! Magical.

comment by Raymond at 07:59 PM (GMT) on 16 January, 2009


Vivement les traductions en fran├žais ;-)

comment by bch12 at 08:11 PM (GMT) on 16 January, 2009

Awesome use of HDR. Very cool shot.

comment by Graeme Lawton at 08:33 PM (GMT) on 16 January, 2009

Very nice HDR! Going to go re-read the tutorial now! Maybe not in Catalan though!

comment by csj @ id7 at 08:37 PM (GMT) on 16 January, 2009

Dave I do like this, and I could kind of foresee the final image when you took it. But I guess it takes a lot to see 9 stops or there abouts as I remember. I love the fact that whilst it was midday, this looks like midnight... And yes the uncertainty of whether an image will succeed or fail using the process is I guess part of the fun. But then its nice to be able to predict whether you have "canned" the image, if you get my drift. I have been playing with another image that I know you have already shot, and processed, and I to was surprised to see the result, bearing in mind the weather and light at that point.....Rodney would be proud I think....csj

comment by Jason Wall at 08:47 PM (GMT) on 16 January, 2009

David. This shot is amazing. I'm not sure why I like it so much, but it has a classic feel, as though you managed to embody something perfectly.

Lets start with the contrast, which there is a lot of. The darks are inky, the brights look a little like powder sugar. the compression of the gradients gives a hyper-realistic feel to the image, and I immediately thought of vampires when I saw the photo.

This image works also because of the dimensionality. The expansive feel of the environment beneath the bridge, the depth of the image as the tracks lead out into some unknown place. They both add to a kind of mysteriousness, which isn't overt but definitely present.

THe B&W nature, coupled with the brickwork and graffiti give it overtones of urban desolation and the other thing I immediately thought of were skateboarders, which for me seem to epitomize the idea of urban desolation culture.

The way the moon (i think its the moon) peaks just under the edge of the bridge is the piece that ties this photo together for me. Its like its looking in. All the lines in the photo lead the eyes in a progression from the outside in, and those lines coincide with the moons position, so that it looks like the moon is looking, her vision expanding toward us in a ever widening wave.

The moon adds extra dimension, in that it implies there is much more beyond our field of vision, that the moonlight shines on the tracks in other strange and exotic locations.

Your use of perspective here, the off cant angle is the final piece. It strengthens the urban desolation feel pointed out earlier, and gives you a feeling like you're a stranger in this place, watching but not a part of the scene.

a couple minor points of interest: the scaffolding holding up the girders doesn't stand out, but it definitely adds something essential to the scene. I can't imagine it not being there.

twilight and ghostly gloaming both seem fitting.

Well done.

comment by Polydactyle at 09:01 PM (GMT) on 16 January, 2009

Powerful atmosphere. Great work on light. Perfect!

comment by Ivo at 09:19 PM (GMT) on 16 January, 2009

I'm usually not much of a fan of HDR, but this one is very nice! I would have left slightly more areas a bit darker though, on the ceiling for example. But very well done over all!

comment by Sonny Parlin at 10:15 PM (GMT) on 16 January, 2009

This image is masterful, period.

comment by Westy | P H O T O N O M Y at 11:06 PM (GMT) on 16 January, 2009

great stuff.. the high contrast and the details on the the bricks of the wall is powerfull.. i like the notion of the tracks running of into the distance out of the tunner. and the sun just above..

comment by hixster at 11:18 PM (GMT) on 16 January, 2009

Evening, really like this shot, superb composition, absolutely immense. love the lead in through frame, the sun just creeping under the bridge and I think the use of HDR to this effect works wonderfully(I am a marmite fan tonight).

comment by Xavier Rey at 11:38 PM (GMT) on 16 January, 2009

nice effect !

comment by Tom at 12:09 AM (GMT) on 17 January, 2009

I think this is brilliant Dave! The final shot looks more like a night shot under a full moon. I do like how the light graffiti stands out from the wall.

comment by Pete at 12:20 AM (GMT) on 17 January, 2009

Oh yes! I love this one. Perfect lighting with the sun peeking through and the details are amazing.

comment by Rob at 12:31 AM (GMT) on 17 January, 2009

I'll be back with more details later. But I love it man.

comment by Buonaluce at 12:40 AM (GMT) on 17 January, 2009


comment by Mark at 01:03 AM (GMT) on 17 January, 2009

I tip my hat to you Dave; magnificent image. I think this must be the best before/after example of HDR I've seen, it's such an astonishing change to what, as you say, would be an otherwise unremarkable pic.

It's less popular with my long-suffering girlfriend, who's just been dragged out of bed to see this fine justification for the new mac I think I'll be getting next week. You've given me an itch here, photographically speaking, that needs scratching.

comment by Sylvain at 01:10 AM (GMT) on 17 January, 2009

Congratulation, very beautiful picture !

comment by Chris at 01:39 AM (GMT) on 17 January, 2009

I have no idea where to even begin to type a complement that this picture deserves. I was astonished when I first saw this image and more so after the fact that it was taken during the day. Brilliant and fantastic HDR work!

comment by Small Format at 01:40 AM (GMT) on 17 January, 2009

HDR images have a bittersweet appeal. They're fantastically pleasing to view online - as my eye wanders I find more and more interesting detail. But when in think about them in print, the appeal fades. I simply wouldn't want many of them hanging on my walls. Visually they often remind me of still frames taken from exquisitely lit Hollywood sets. Even though I can appreciate scenes that have been lit or HDR'ed just-so, they lack the authenticity, the connection to reality - the soul - that makes photographs achieved through more traditional darkroom techniques the preferred wall art choice. That being said, HDR imaging seems to be in its infancy. I didn't even know what HDR stood for six months ago. Perhaps the aesthetic is still evolving.

This image in particular, like all HDR's I've seen you post, is just stunning. It's an amazing improvement over the singly-exposed image you posted. The contrast among the bricks and grime and gravel is like visual chocolate - goodness all over. Despite the continuum of the tracks, however, the flat grey of the trees and sky in the distance keeps the interior and exterior from feeling like they belong in the same frame together. Perhaps it would benefit from a darkening of the outside space? Or a gradient on the interior darkening toward the exit that makes the beautiful detail feel as though it was illuminated by flashbulb (thus creating more contrast between the two spaces)?

Apologies for the long comment. HDR's certainly inspire thought about what makes a good image. I'll be taking my first crack at one tonight, courtesy of your tutorials.

All the best from New York

comment by 613photo at 04:43 AM (GMT) on 17 January, 2009

Very nice job of toning this one. I'm not usually a fan of that but it suits this image very well. The partially obscured moon is also very cool.

comment by Claus at 07:29 AM (GMT) on 17 January, 2009

Beautiful processed capture that really creates a dark and sinister mood! This is just my style!

comment by Jennifer at 09:22 AM (GMT) on 17 January, 2009

Love the shot. Would love to see a more subtle version - something closer to the original - is that possible? Never looked into HDR not being a fan!

comment by Ilan at 12:04 PM (GMT) on 17 January, 2009

That's a breath catching scenery. The black and white conversion is stunning, I love how it sets the mood here.
Very well done, I enjoyed this photo very much. Great work :)

comment by Craig at 12:53 PM (GMT) on 17 January, 2009

Midday to Midnight (would be a good title eh? lol).

This, IMO, is just what HDR is for, this shot is just not possible in a single frame (as seen above). So I really like it, I like the fact that day has turned into night, it looks dank, damp and moody, I can almost smell it. I love all the detail brought out in the brickwork. I could go on but........great stuff! :O)

comment by Ali at 06:40 AM (GMT) on 18 January, 2009

This almost looks like a painting! very nice!

comment by Alex at 01:27 PM (GMT) on 18 January, 2009

Buen encuadre y buen procesado, saludos.

comment by E y e V i s i o n at 04:26 PM (GMT) on 18 January, 2009

This is very nice. I processed a lot of HDRs but I realized that I like the darker, muted colored ones better than the shiny light ones. This image of yours is a typical example for it. Well done.

comment by Eric at 06:45 PM (GMT) on 18 January, 2009

Wow, this is a really nice one Dave, love the effect... Beside the HDR stuff, it's a very beautiful picture with a well thought out composition. Congrats! :-)

comment by Linda Hendricks at 11:45 PM (GMT) on 18 January, 2009

Very nice... I love the effects

comment by djn1 at 08:24 AM (GMT) on 19 January, 2009

Thanks everyone.

Small Format: the HDRs I've printed, and admittedly it's the more subtle ones, do look good as prints - but I can see what you mean, and do expect that you're right about the evolving nature of the format.

comment by veiledexposure at 03:08 PM (GMT) on 19 January, 2009

Looks like a scene from a dark David Lynch movie. Excellent shot!

comment by mohamed alfaris at 11:10 AM (GMT) on 20 January, 2009


comment by Tom at 10:09 PM (GMT) on 21 January, 2009

Really moody shot. Like it a lot.

comment by cy at 03:59 AM (GMT) on 24 January, 2009

what nice contrast you have here. i love all the use of lines as well not to mention the detail. i hope you framed this one!