Del Mar Mesa: Main Tunnel Trail (2 photos)

In between, two more recent photos, from a morning walk with Toni at the Del Mar Mesa Preserve, in the lovely chaparral tunnels. I try to be out early with her in summer – she’s 13 years old now and doesn’t like heat at all.

What little marine layer we might get inland burns off pretty soon in the heat of July – normally I wouldn’t be too thrilled about that, but on this occasion I welcomed the harsh direct sunlight because I wanted to experiment with exposure fusion a little bit. More about that after the photos below, for those who are interested.

Exposure fusion is a technique that works incredibly well in real estate photography, to capture the enormous contrast range between dimly lit interiors and bright exterior (through windows). Done right it creates beautiful and evenly lit “flat” photographs, with a lot less haloing and other artifacts that the HDR process may introduce. I don’t know why it never occurred to me to try it with landscape photos! So this was a good opportunity to do just that.

And what can I say – it doesn’t really convince me. I carefully (manually) bracketed my exposures to cover highlight detail, midtones and shadow detail equally, but after fusing the exposures (I’m using LR/Enfuse by Timothy Armes, but I replaced the actual executable files that the plugin uses with their respective 64 bit versions) the images didn’t really impress me. Even after processing them more, in Lightroom, I was unable to work out a substantial difference, compared to photos developed from a single exposure. I guess landscape photography and real estate photography are not the same thing. Surprise! :-)

The two photos above are, you probably guessed it, developed from a single exposure in Lightroom. The first one is -2 1/3 EV darker than metered, the second one -3 EV darker (in essence, both are exposed for the highlights only, letting the shadows go wherever they want to be).

In other words, even these scenes, with such a big contrast range, can be captured with a single exposure. The shadows are a bit noisier than normal, but since color noise can be controlled so well in Lightroom, all that’s left is a bit of luminance noise – which looks a lot like some fine film grain, anyway. No problem, and so much more efficient and easier to work with than an exposure stack of 6-8 frames!

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7 Responses

  1. Danke für die Infos zu exposure fusion. Fühle mich nicht mehr so alleine mit meinen Beobachtungen … wenngleich ich Welten entfernt von deinem Wissen bin ;-)

    1. I actually left the chaparral tunnel on that morning and made my way a bit higher up (on a trail that was in pretty bad condition, most likely because of mountain bikers going downhill on it) but it was quickly getting too hot for Toni.

  2. Your woodland photos always look superb, even the ones taken in harsh light. I can understand why you wouldn’t feel the need to change anything :-) Frankly, I’m always amazed at how well you manage to control the contrast. I wonder if you find this kind of situation workable only with the more recent sensors? (I realise, of course, that gear generally doesn’t matter much, but it some specific situations it can make a difference.)

    1. Thank you, Johann. The sensor may have a little bit do with it, but I think it’s really just taking the right approach and combination of exposure and post processing – and the willingness to spend some time with the local adjustment brush in Lightroom. :) I expose for the highlights, then develop for the midtones, and use the brush to bring down the spot highlights of the dappled light falling through the trees.

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