Friday, August 03, 2007

Tonemapping isn't just for HDR

While researching the HDR and Tonemapping I stumbled across a rather interesting flickr group. Interesting if not belligerent, in my not so humble opinion, regarding tonemapping of single shot images and displaying the same in their group. It is their group, but sheesh.... Their deal is landscapes only, never HDR which is created by blending multiple exposures of the same frame.

Interesting concept, the tonemapping of single exposures that is to say. Their results in many ways move into the surreal as well. It certainly has its place with portraits and documenting the human condition as much as it does in doing landscapes. Maybe better than HDR as you don't have to worry about a person moving and losing your registration, not that I don't use that to my advantage at times. Just variations on the possibilities.

They have a brief discussion and the photos posted to this group are worked in Photomatix from a RAW file as part of the conversion process to tiff or jpeg for final working. This is different than using Adobe Photoshop CS2 highlight/shadow tool and the results are pretty amazing.

Today was one of those days where I had enough of the task stuff like filing, errand running, mounting and sleeving prints and I just wanted to experiment.

I had several images shot while taking one of the Thames River boats from Greenwich to London that were shot late in the day. I shot raw using the metered average exposure. Problem with that is late in the day you have very long shadows with extreme contrast. The large amounts of sky and reflections of the same off the water wounded up exposing them beautifully but left the shadows very dark. I couldn't shoot them with HDR as the between the forward motion of the boat and the rocking would have yielded frames too far apart to ever register successfully for an HDR image. I wasn't too happy with the results and as such never did much with them. Until now.

The before and after exposures below are the original frame converted to jpeg and sized for here. It had no corrections done and serves as the base image for comparison. The image below is the tonemapped version of the same RAW file. I used Photomatix Tonemapping to accomplish that task. Note there is detail across the board in the shadow areas, much cleaner color yet the sky has its own luminosity that helps the whole image work. Different perspective of Big Ben and certainly much nicer too look at. (Can you tell what time it was when I took the picture?)

Regardless, enjoy the picture and I highly recommend taking one of the commuter ferry's while in London to soak in more of the city and of course get you to Greenwich to see all that is there to explore. More leisurely than the train, but more colorful given your captains are not tour guides and give you a much better and crustier version of the history as you float along.

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