September 19, 2010

Boston Lockport


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The title is from the fine print on the center label.  I probably should have called it “Boston Lockport and Lessons in HDR.”

It’s an image from one of my favorite shoots from last year, the North Canal Gatehouse in Lawrence, MA. The gatehouse is a historic relic. Its a snapshot in time. It sits idle on the Merrimack River, where it once controlled the water level and flow into the City’s North Canal.

When I shot this building, I was just learning HDR, and like a cocky freshman, I thought “I own this.”  A year later, I’m cringing at what I produced. Out of pride, I must reprocess.

Like, most of HDR beginners, I thought HDR was to fill in the shadows, and “pop” the color. The more detail and color the better the HDR image, right?  Wrong.

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Shadow is your your friend. It help create mood in an image. Even in bright daylight scenes, the darkest darks help ground the eye to the image. In your HDR processing, make the brackets work for you, not the other way around.

Just because you capture the widest range possible in 3, 5, 7, or 9 RAW files, doesn’t mean you have to use them. Be cognizant of the original scene and the mood you want to convey.

My original (or maybe second) attempt at this image is on the right (click for larger version). In reprocessing, I probably could have tweaked one frame in Photoshop to get a similar mood. But I chose to run the 5 frames through Photomatix Pro to bring out the textures. I tried to convey the mood by revealing just a bit of detail in the shadow (your monitor mar vary). I also cropped the image to a square format to maintain focus on the subject.

You be the judge.

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  1. Great adjustment Bob. Allowing the light to cross the face of the lock without having the distractions of the illuminated shadows really brings out the lock itself. Excellent.

  2. Love it! The way you controlled your shadows in this is amazing. Buttery smooth transitions from light to dark, and that subject is perfectly lit. And leave it to me to spot the upside down pentagram on the hook. LOL!

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