Country Sunset

1/60sec, f/8, ISO 100, 30mm (middle exposure)

On my way back from visiting family a while back my wife and I found ourselves in the Surrey hills just as the sun was putting on an amazing sunset. Fortunately we were able to get to a high vantage point before it cleared, giving me the change to get some shots.

Taking what I’d learnt from reading Dan Jurak’s Alberta Landscape Photo Blog, I quickly realised I would need to take multiple exposures, and find something in the foreground on which to ‘anchor’ the image.

In the car park we stopped in, it was difficult to find such a lynchpin. There was some greenery in the foreground but it wasn’t hugely interesting. Still, I gave it a go.

1/60sec, f/8, ISO 250, 18mm (middle exposure)

Once again, you’ll have to excuse the ‘Photomatix’ watermarks on these images; I’m still in ‘trial’ mode winging it for now. With that last image I was a bit concerned that the impact of the sunset had been a bit lost in the HDR conversion. So I tried a few other processing options to try to bring it out a little more.

1/100sec, f/8, ISO 250, 18mm (middle exposure)

This gave a bit more of a surreal end result, which although not entirely unpleasant gives a bit of a cold feel to the image. For this next shot, I balanced the image more on the sunset itself, bringing out the reds of the sunset but darkening the foreground, resulting in the image that opened this post.

After a little bit of wandering around, I finally found my foreground to balance the sunset in the background: a small bench. I dutifully took my three exposures shortly before the sunset dissipated and my wife got too cold and bored.

When I got home to process the images, however, I struggled a bit with the Photomatix plugin I’ve been using. Try as I might, I couldn’t get it to show any great detail in the bench without either generating a lot of noise in the shadows of the bench or beginning to overexpose the sky.

1/15sec, f/8, ISO 100, 18mm (middle exposure)

Fortunately, I’ve recently discovered an alternate plugin called HDR Efex Pro, which seems to work a hell of a lot better for this sort of image; it gave me a lot more control to do what I wanted to achieve with my image.

1/15sec, f/8, ISO 100, 18mm (middle exposure)

Now to me this is a far, far better image. There is far more detail in the bottom half of the image, the sunset itself is deeper and redder, and yet there is still a hint of green in the branches to the top left of the frame. Feel free to disagree in the comments.

Unfortunately, this new plugin is $20 more expensive than the other plugin I hadn’t gotten round to buying yet. Also, the only reason I heard of it at all is because the company that makes it was recently bought by Google, and although the companies have pledged to continue to support their professional plugins, there is an inevitable seed of doubt with such a purchase. Still, I’m more likely to purchase this plugin than the Photomatix one I’ve been using up until now (the upside is, HDR Efex Pro has a 14-day trial, rather than a watermarked trial, which might force me into buying it sooner).

I’m sure I’ll make my mind up eventually.

Anyway, as I often do when I take multiple photos of what is essentially the same thing, I’ve showcased the best in the post above me. The rest can be seen in the gallery below.

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9 Comments

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  1. Beautiful series of shots. I’m not sure I like all of the effects, but it’s a great way to showcase different exposures and framing. 🙂

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  2. I’ve never seen the Surrey Hills like thus I must say. Interesting photo fun too. Beautiful beautiful clouds.

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  3. Interesting comparison. I’ve just read this as well: http://amateurlandscapephotography.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/hdr-efex-pro-2-vs-photomatix-pro-42.html and now quiet interested in Efex… I shall give them both a go this weekend (I hope) before deciding on investment!

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    • Fortunately both of them offer some sort of free trial to give them a suitable try. I suspect that it is very much a personal preference as to which is better, depending also on what sort of image you’re trying to create. I’ve found that HDR Efex Pro is far more user friendly, and seems to offer more fine-grained control than Photomatix.

      I should add, I did go back and tweak the HDR Efex shot a little, and posted it here.

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      • Having tried both now, I do think the HDR Efex stands out a little better. It performs significantly better, for me, with dark shots and is also better at ‘natural’ HDR which is what I’m almost permanently after.

        Also, I see Nik software are behind Snapspeed, which is perhaps my favourite app-based photography editing programme, so that sort of sells it for me – even after the hefty discount for Photomatix. Although, post-payday, I am toying with the extravagant idea of buying both…

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        • I’m glad you’re in such a fortunate position! I have my mum’s and wife’s birthdays coming up this month…

          As the Photomatix plugin works all the time without being paid for, albeit with a watermark, I can live with that for now – but I have a big pile of HDR shots I need to process from my holiday, and HDR Efex will do a better job of them, so I’ll be putting my hand into my pocket for that this month.

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