For anyone who has any interest in playing around with HDR (high dynamic range) pics, and who find Photoshop a bit uncooperative, here’s a great piece of software that you can download and trial free of charge for as long as you like, as long as you don’t mind their watermark stamped all over you pic. The software is called Photomatix Pro 3 and can be downloaded from http://www.hdrsoft.com
Here is the original pic, before I had applied Photoshop’s gradient mapping and other techniques (apart from burning in the clouds):
The idea with HDR is to take a number of photographs at different exposures and then merge them. The camera should be set on aperture priority and then bracketed. Of course, as far as I’m concerned, that’s just silly. Why take seven pics if you can take one RAW image and adjust the exposure in Photoshop?
The nice people at Adobe disagree. They’re happy for me to adjust the exposure, of course, and to save seven different versions of the pic – from super dark to extremely bright – and they’re happy to apply the HDR recipe to the pics. And then they get to the end and tell you that there’s not enough range to create a decent HDR pic. Ah well.
If you open your images in Photomatix, though, the software will allow you to create what they call a ‘fake’ HDR. It does the whole job pretty quickly too, and has a very simple tutorial to follow if you’re feeling a bit intimidated. Obviously my pic still needs some more work. And the fellows at Adobe were probably right: I need to shoot something with a whole lot more contrast to create a really good HDR image. But it’s a fun technique nonetheless – kind of in the class of shooting with infrared film, or cross-processing your slide or print film.