Digital Outback Photo
- Photography using Digital SLRs


Workflow Techniques #108

Using HDRI in landscape photography

Where a ”simple” well exposed picture is just not enough

essay by Imre Tömöri


I was traveling just to see one of my favorite places called Tokaj which may be known to you (although it’s small place in Hungary) because of it’s world famous wine. But as always I took my photography equipment with, and not only digital but my new Sinar 4x5” view camera as well and hoped there will be a picture worth to take with it. After waiting half a day for the weather becoming suitable for shooting and taking a few pictures using the lf camera and sheet film, which is really rare nowadays in our country I took my “everyday equipment” to see how it can handle those circumstances.

I wanted to preserve the beauty of the landscape and the drama of the clouded sky in one picture. Because of the contrast of the scene and the foggy weather I knew that a plain well exposed picture taken with my EOS 10D is not enough to maintain all the details in the highlights of the sky and shadows of the leaves.

Just a few days before I saw a picture using Tone mapping an HDR image merged from multiple exposures. I gave a chance to that technique and took a series of bracketed photos. Images were made using ISO 100 to keep noise level low and get high dynamic range. Lens was stopped down to f/8, not too much to get the best overall sharpness/depth of field ratio. I didn’t used mirror lock up because the clouds were moving pretty fast and the delay would cause some visible artifacts on the merged pictures.


Bracketed images taken with 2 EV distance

I did use Photomatix Pro 2.2.4 (read our review) to generate the HDR image from the bracketed images.

As I tried fine tuning Tone mapping parameters I was impressed how well the resulting image is reflecting what I felt as I took those images. I saved the settings and started batch processing with the settings seen in the following screen shot.

Examining the images found that not only shadow details and highlights were preserved, but the effect of the fog - covering the landscape - is also reduced. So bringing details back to the distant parts of the scene even not visible to my eyes on the site.


In the next step I merged the final image from the above visible tone-mapped HDR images.

With appropriate layer masking I could reduce the visible shift between image slices caused by the fast movement of the clouds mentioned before.

The result was even better than I hoped as I took the images. Many people who saw this picture told me: Very nice, sure you have got a very good camera. I bet most of them wouldn’t wait half a day there to take this picture. And there is no way you can explain them that the camera is the least significant factor in the process of making a picture looking like this.


Comment by Uwe Steinmueller

"Some people call images like this featured here "overcooked" with HDR (the so called "Flickr look"). We think that the goal of the photographer is to create a less boring rendering of the scene. It may not meet the taste of some photographers while other photographers just like it.

The effect is not related to HDR per se but rather to the use and settings of certain Tone Mapping algorithms."

Reply by Imre Tömöri

"It's totally ok for me. Maybe it was my initial enthusiasm what caused me to use such an "aggressive" tone mapping setting. Maybe I was charmed by the possibilities of tone mapping. I made some pictures using bracketing HDRI and tone mapped them with more softer setting. I don't mind if someone asks if it is a forgery.

This picture was not made for photojournalistic purposes.

If there was such a critical adjudication to all the' experimental photo artistic techniques' of the former decades our visual culture would be much poorer."



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