Taj Mahal in HDR

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by ksz, Sep 30, 2006.

  1. ksz macrumors 68000

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    #1
    On my second business trip to India I made it a point to visit the Taj Mahal in Agra, about 160km from the capital city of Delhi. These are my first attempts at HDR using Photomatix. I have just placed an order, but until I get the serial number, I cannot remove the watermarks. :(

    • Saturday, September 30
    • Nikon D200
    • 18-200 f/3.5-5.6 VR Lens
    • Exposure bracketing set to 5 shots covering -0.7 to +0.7 as well as -1.0 to +1.0. I found -1.0 to +1.0 to produce better results.
    • No tripod is allowed without previous government permission, so all shots were taken with the camera placed on something. :mad:
    • To minimize camera shake, high-speed shooting mode was enabled and shutter was pressed continuously for 5 rapid-fire shots.
    (I ran out of bandwidth for the month so all images will be shown in small size. Fortunately, bandwidth will automatically reset on October 1.)

    HDR:
    [​IMG]
    Conventional:
    [​IMG]
    HDR:
    [​IMG]
    Conventional:
    [​IMG]
    HDR:
    [​IMG]
    Conventional:
    [​IMG]
    HDR:
    [​IMG]
    Conventional:
    [​IMG]
     
  2. beavo451 macrumors 6502

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    Jun 22, 2006
    #2
    That seems to be a surefire way to induce camera shake.

    The pictures are very flat and almost painting-like. Try bumping the contrast up.
     
  3. ksz thread starter macrumors 68000

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    #3
    I don't think you understood.

    Different monitors will display differently. I'll try other monitors, but I could not tweak the Tone Map settings in Photomatix to further deepen the contrast without losing much of the visual effect. Perhaps you can offer some tips.

    Keep in mind that the marble structure itself has a low contrast with the background.
     
  4. beavo451 macrumors 6502

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    #4
    Personally, I would just drop the HDR entirely and merge two photos manually with photoshop and masking. Very rarely have I seen HDR done in a pleasing fashion. All my attempts have failed miserably except for when I only use two photos, and event then, manually masking and merging usually produces better results. The last photo is a prime example. The vegetation in the lower left hand corner seem to be radiating light and intrudes into the picture.

    If you shot in continuous shooting at 5 fps, I would imagine that the camera vibrations would not have time to dissipate before the next shot fired. Especially if you placed the camera on a hard surface where the vibrations may reflect back into the camera.
     
  5. wisredz macrumors regular

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    Aug 4, 2006
    #5
    Hi!

    I'm really interested in HDR photography as well, and I'd really like to know how to do it, so any explanation on this matter is highly welcome.

    HDR's greatest weakness is photos looking like paintings. No depth, nothing. The idea is really great but this is a great problem.

    Beside the painting-like effect I think the first image is looking a tad over-exposed.

    Btw, I have the same setup :D
     
  6. ksz thread starter macrumors 68000

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    #6
    If at first you don't succeed... I went back to the Taj today, but earlier in the morning around 8am...didn't wake up early enough for the crack of dawn. Nevertheless, the morning light is beautiful. Pictures yesterday were taken between 11 and 1pm. I used HDR on those pictures to compensate for the strong light, but the results were washed out. Still, it's very interesting to compare HDR with standard 0EV exposures of the same scene, so later tonight I'll post the comparison shots. HDR properly exposed the trees along the reflecting pool, whereas standard exposures placed them in shadow.

    Here's a Wikipedia image of the Taj. Look especially at the trees and compare them with the second HDR image.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Taj1.jpg
     
  7. Abstract macrumors Penryn

    Abstract

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    #7
    I don't understand. You have 2 that are labelled "standard" and two that say "original." All of these photos HDR, right? Can we see the original photos that you took? :confused:

    That last photo turned out horrid. Maybe it's my monitor, or maybe it's yours, but I'll just describe to you what I see so that you might have a sense of what I see. I see this greenish-yellow grass that almost looks radioactive. It's almost "neon" green. The closest bush on the left is sharp, but the grass and little plants to the bottom right are not. Maybe it was windy. I doubt it was your fault, but the colour of the grass definitely is. ;)

    I like your 2nd photo the most. It's just that the Taj Mahal should be exposed a bit more like in the 1st photo. I mean, if you're going to do HDR work and make something that looks exposed in an unnatural, albeit very cool way, you may as well go all out and make that Taj Mahal look less flat than in the 2nd photo.
     
  8. GoCubsGo macrumors Nehalem

    GoCubsGo

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    Feb 19, 2005
    #8
    I'd love to see it under "normal" conditions. Was it that it was just a dark day or that you found that whatever available light did not provide much detail in every area of the scene? Just curious.


    Photo 1: (btw I am jealous you get to see this so :p )
    Very interesting lighting going on, HDR of course, but still very interesting and I do like it. The Taj Mahal pops ever so slightly with my only gripe being that I would have left just a tad more room on the tip of the Taj Mahal.

    Photo 2: This one seems to be under most scrutiny. I kind of just looked at it in photoshop and it seems to really want about 1 stop more of light. I do not blame you for anything, I kind of felt (and I am over-sensitive anyway) that people really didn't give you credit for your first attempt being a success for the first attempt if you get what I mean. Nonetheless, this photo wants another stop of light I think based on my monitor calibration. Either way, the photo as it is does not strike me as the worst shot ever, but it could use that stop of light. It is flat-ish, but it's not really just contrast. I would take +15 in photoshop on the contrast and 1/2 stop of light before I would bump the contrast and call it perfect. But that is just me. Let us not forget that despise the exposure, it is a nice photo composition wise.

    Photo 3:
    I hate you for having such an awesome shot.

    Photo 4: Some oddness about that tree, Abstract is correct. Neon-ish greens yeah. Could be a saturation issue or just the HDR. Forgetting that, I love this shot. Not one I see a lot really and I give you props for trying something new.

    Your first attempt at HDR is well worth your purchase of the software that helps you do this. I think you are going to be good at it and you will only get better.

    I really appreciate you sharing these, reminds me of why I want to go to India so much! Now if I could only get my work to outsource my job! ha hah
     
  9. ksz thread starter macrumors 68000

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    #9
    Comparison shots are included now in the original post. HDR makes quite a difference, but contrast needs to be adjusted.

    HDR version of photo 4 suffers from a lack of "light smoothing." This was an operator error. :eek:

    All: Thanks for the good critique.
    Abstract: All 4 photos are now 'orig'. This refers to size, not type.
    Jessica: Thanks for the pic-by-pic feedback! The moment I saw the Taj, I was amazed. It has to be seen in person.

    Here's one from today.

    HDR: Composite of 5 pictures from -1.0 EV to +1.0 EV. Contrast slightly enhanced in ACDSee Pro. No other modifications.
    [​IMG]
    Conventional: JPEG straight out of the camera. Vivid mode enabled. In camera sharpening +1.
    [​IMG]
     
  10. Abstract macrumors Penryn

    Abstract

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    #10
    Wow, the photos are much better organized now. ;)


    And sorry to call your 4th HDR photo horrid. It's not the photo. It's the colour of the grass that I really meant to call "horrid", not the photo. Sorry, but I read my last post again and realized it sounded unintentionally harsh. :eek:
     
  11. ksz thread starter macrumors 68000

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    #11
    I think the potential is certainly there in HDR. Here's a sunset shot from across the river on a boat. The front bow (red) is visible in the foreground.

    HDR: Composite of 5 shots from -1.0 EV to +1.0 EV.
    [​IMG]
    Conventional:
    [​IMG]
     
  12. wisredz macrumors regular

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    Aug 4, 2006
    #12
    the greatness of hdr is visible in your 4th post! I have to learn this technique, please recommend some tutorials on tone mapping and please recommend a program that will let me do this.

    But, I have noticed that some of your HDR photos look blurry... Some of them still look 2 dimensional to me but the 4th one... That one is awesome!
     
  13. ksz thread starter macrumors 68000

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    #13
    Thanks...I'm pretty happy with the way that one turned out! I do think HDR requires discretion in that it works well in certain situations and not so well in others. In particular, morning and evening light work well probably due to the stronger contrast during those times. In the harsh top light of the noontime sun, colors are washed out anyway. HDR still helps here, but cannot compensate for the natural flatness of light. I did not go back and adjust contrast on the first set of pictures, but I suspect that will help.

    I am actually pleased with the way the sunset picture turned out. The left column is blurry as are additional parts of the left side, but not objectionably so. The series of 5 shots that went into this were taken from a moving boat with the camera resting on the shoulder of my guide. And both of us were standing up. Given those circumstances, VR-II helped stabilize each shot and the slight blurriness is due to the fact that the 5 images did not all line up perfectly.

    While HDR can be done within Photoshop, it's a more cumbersome process and I've heard that the results are not as striking as those that can be produced by Photomatix. As you can see by the watermark in each HDR image, this software was used. It's available from HDRSoft at www.hdrsoft.com. A fully-functional trial is available for both Mac and Windows (but it imprints watermarks on each image). The website also contains explanations of the process.

    A better introduction is available here on Wikipedia. Tone Mapping is also discussed here, and many external links are provided.
     
  14. sjl macrumors 6502

    sjl

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    Melbourne, Australia
    #14
    This shot seems to me to be a bit cartoony - especially the path. Yes, the tones on the Taj itself are nice, but the reds seem to me to be excessively saturated.
     
  15. ZoomZoomZoom macrumors 6502a

    ZoomZoomZoom

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    #15
    Really nice to see that the pictures improve as I read down the post :) The first few didn't look good to be honest, but by the time I saw the one with the sunset, I'm liking what I see. The one before the sunset does look too cartoony, but no complaints from me on the boat shot. Pretty clouds.
     
  16. zync macrumors 68000

    zync

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    #16
    There's definitely potential in HDR. The only thing you gain in it is greater color depth so you can still throw some curves or levels on the photographs to alter the way they look. If it looks flat, it's simply because of the way it was processed.

    Anyway, ksz, I love how you were able to get the tones in the Taj Mahal that we never get to see unless we go there in real life. I never realized that it was that beautiful before. The next time I go to Europe I'm going to shoot way more HDR images (especially since I didn't even shoot RAW last time :().

    BTW, I'm assuming you don't have Photoshop as it has a Merge to HDR function that works pretty well once you figure out how to use it. I'm sure there are some tutorials out there now. I first learned how after reading an article in Photoshop User about a year ago. Edit: I didn't see the post where you mentioned this before. Also, you might want to simply try setting your camera to bracket the images. It might make it easier since your camera will automatically set your exposures after your first one (and you won't have to move to adjust the camera which should reduce the difference between pictures). Three images should make a fine HDR image. Set it from -2EV to +2EV if you're really worried about getting the shadows and highlights completely.
     
  17. SpookTheHamster macrumors 65816

    SpookTheHamster

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    #17
    The sunset picture has given me an incentive to give HDR a real go. I'll give it a go when I next go into London.
     
  18. ksz thread starter macrumors 68000

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    #18
    Taking the various comments into account I reworked a couple of shots. First, I desaturated some of the reds and greens from the image in Post #9. Before and After are shown here:

    HDR: Original
    [​IMG]
    HDR: Reds and Greens slightly desaturated in Photoshop
    [​IMG]

    Next, I increased contrast in the 2nd image from Post #1.

    HDR: 2nd photo from original post with contrast adjusted (uncropped).
    [​IMG]

    Not everyone will like the vivid colors, but to me a photograph should try to add some spice to an otherwise average or dull image as long as it is not overdone. The reds were overly saturated, so I hope the reworked image is more pleasing.

    zync: On my Nikon D200, I set auto exposure bracketing to 5 shots at +/- 1.0 EV, enabled high-speed continuous shooting, and simply held the shutter release continuously for 5 frames. The camera automatically adjusted exposure between the frames.

    ZoomZoomZoom: I'll post a few more. All the feedback I am getting here has been valuable. Post-processing is definitely needed.

    SpookTheHamster: I know what you mean! I have been going HDR-crazy. The potential of HDR is so evident to me that it will be a technique I will use very often. I'll post a non-Taj photo to give you an idea.
     
  19. ksz thread starter macrumors 68000

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    #19
    Lotus Temple

    Here's another case study for HDR. This time the structure is "Lotus Temple" in the capital city of Delhi.

    Notice especially:

    1. Detail in the roof.
    2. View through the lobby glass windows.

    Compare the 3 individual shots against the HDR image.

    1. Normal Exposure. No EV bias.
    [​IMG]
    2. Underexposure. Detail in the roof is now captured, but the lobby is very dark.
    [​IMG]
    3. Overexposure. Roof highlights are completely overblown, but the lobby is more clearly visible.
    [​IMG]

    Now the HDR image...

    [​IMG]

    Notice the (a) detail in the roof and the (b) clear view through the glass windows. This image could be further improved by desaturating the reds, yellows and greens, and improving the tonal balance of the blue sky. Nevertheless, HDR has done a great job.
     
  20. zync macrumors 68000

    zync

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    #20
    Yeah that's pretty much what I was talking about :) I wouldn't take five shots though, that's overkill unless it's nighttime—which is another time when HDR can really shine!
     
  21. macgfxdesigner macrumors regular

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    #21
    Hdr ?

    Isn't HDR's purpose to make the photos more realistic instead of making them look surreal?

    Like this one?
    [​IMG]

    Instead of like this one?
    [​IMG]
     
  22. ksz thread starter macrumors 68000

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    #22
    This is a philosophical question. We stylize photos all the time, whether it is with mosaic and hundreds of other filters, desaturation tools, dodge & burn tools, or black-and-white converters. Film photographers have been doing the same thing as well, often with warming filters, red and orange enhancers, polarizers, etc. All of these items alter or enhance or simply change the actual physical reality.

    While the seminal reason for HDR is to increase dynamic range and hence capture a wider gamut of light, that does not have to be its sole purpose. Photographers should attempt to depict even familiar subjects in new light. Realism and repetition, after all, are not always that interesting. What's in the mind's eye and what's out there in real life might be very different.

    I think zync said it well in his reply above:

    "...I love how you were able to get the tones in the Taj Mahal that we never get to see unless we go there in real life. I never realized that it was that beautiful before."

    The golden glow of the morning sun reflecting off a white marble structure was completely lost in conventional images. It's very difficult to capture that light without a barrage of filters and post-processing techniques, but HDR does it quite easily.

    As with all techniques, HDR has to be experimented with to determine what works and what doesn't. But I disagree with the idea that photographers should exclusively produce non-stylized renderings of reality.
     
  23. ksz thread starter macrumors 68000

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  24. wisredz macrumors regular

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    #24
    Ah! I've got to ask ou that question! I have been trying to find a way to let the d200 take all the photos with only one click of the shutter release. I know that as long as I press down the shutter release in CL or CH mode it takes pictures atomatically but I'd like to take all these photos without having to press the button down.

    I try bracketing wit 5 shots with 0.7 or 1 EV increments but I'd rather do all the bracketing with one shutter release press...

    What settings do you use?
     
  25. Spectrum macrumors 6502a

    Spectrum

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    #25
    Hi Ksz, your photos are stunning. They have a look to them that is very striking. I particularly like the Taj Mahal sunset, and the Lotus temple. The second shot in the last set of three is also great.

    Now my comments/questions...

    1. Others have noted that some look slightly artificial. It seems to me that just adding two more stops of dynamic range alone shouldn't give this result. Suggesting that it is more the way that the pic has been processed than the HDR technique itself.

    2. If you have the time, I'd be interested to see your best attempt to get the out of camera JPEG to match the HDR in terms of saturation, detail, and contrast of the equivalent HDR image. e.g. how much of this look can be gained by judicious use of PP?

    Apart from this: Well done! And thanks for sharing. The images gave me lots to think about.
     

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