Winter wonderland captured optimally with HDR

As with any HDR, it begins with proper bracketing. With this design you might think that an HDR would be unnecessary anyway and the whole picture could also be done with one exposure. Think again! The devil is in the details, especially here. Such a design contains enormous differences in brightness and many fine details that only become visible with the right HDR. Therefore, the bracketing is the foundation which must be carefully considered and chosen.

Example: Winter landscape at Katschberg in Carinthia

  • Place the camera on a sturdy tripod
  • Turn off all of the camera’s automatics
  • If not already done, set file format to RAW
  • Set white balance to daylight filters (can also be changed later in the HDR process)
  • Photograph bracketing with 1 f-stop difference, in this case, there were 7 individual exposures
  • Visual control on the camera screen – is everything on it?!
  • Quick stop at the next hut to warm up?

Arriving at home in the warmth, HDR projects 4 comes next!

  • Load bracketing in HDR projects
  • In the first dialogue, turn off everything except the alignment correction
  • Select HDR algorithm – my favorite: “logarithmic luminance” or “absolute distance”
  • With this design, I have no problems with ghosting either, so I can go directly to the post-processing again.
  • Turn off optimization wizards
  • Set intelligent color space to "based on brightness"
  • Click "expert" and select the post-processing effects
  • Remove chromatic aberration 50%
  • Tone mapping cradient: 500px – 40% – 45%
  • For more structure: local contrast compensation 70px – 180px
  • Denoise Sky 50%
  • Lighten the design a bit: Dynamic Brightness 50%
  • Customize contrasts: gradation curves
  • Slight S-shape for a crisper picture. But watch out in the bright white areas, so the details do not get lost!
  • Intensify colors: color palette
  • Boost the blue tones of the sky a little with 10%
  • Customize colors: move blue tones a bit into cyan -5 °
  • Fine-tune sharpening: with 60% and the masking to “extreme shooters”

Then one last detail control, by clicking on the calculation of the full resolution. If everything looks good here, save the finished HDR. Then the picture will be finalized in Photo projects or Lightroom. Then I usually apply another lens correction, which checks and, if necessary, adapts the color and contrast and perhaps darken the sky a little more at the top of the screen.

Snow has to look like snow
The most important thing in winter landscapes is the snow and the details in the snow. Here, during the HDR process, you have to pay very close attention to the snow, so that it stays white and the details come out nicely. With the right mix of “local contrast compensation”, “dynamic brightness” and “tone curve”, the snow can be defined wonderfully. Again, the same rule as for all other HDR motives also applies here: less is more! With the HDR technique, it’s all about reproducing, what I have seen and experienced on the spot. My eye is the best camera in the world. And with HDR photos I can get very close to its kind of quality.

Achim Meurer is a trained photographer and self-employed for over twenty years. He mainly advises customers from the tourist department in Austria and Germany.

He specializes in HDR photos, that pass on moods and materials particularly well through their enormous contrast range and exactly convey the emotions, that one had or will have on site, to the viewer.

Tags: hdr

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