Last Day in Cedar Key and HDR Primer

Today was a beautiful day except for the breeze which was up around 15-20 knots all day. Nonetheless; we did the  things we needed to do…Connie worked a bit, Neil went out and gassed up the car and went on a run, and we did as much of the pre-travel preps as we can. We did take time out this morning to run across the street and grab some bird shots but Neil didn’t have time to process them yet as he was working on the HDR primer shots. I’ll put them up as soon as he’s done…which might be tonight if we don’t get too tired with dinner and pre-travel preps. 

Here are a couple of shots of the front of the Low Key Hideaway, the Tiki Bar, and the lounge area with the Adirondack chairs we sat in yesterday. The breeze typically blows from offshore here and the bushes you can see in front of the chairs direct the breeze up and over the chair area so it’s actually not windy there at all…although you can see the leaves 10 feet off the ground moving so it’s a very localized phenomenon.




Quite nice a place to sit and have a beer (or two or three).

Now…on to HDR Photography

HDR stands for High Dynamic Range photography. The basic problem with modern cameras as that they capture a much lower dynamic range (light to dark) than your eye can see…this means that a photo that is properly exposed for the highlights will have black shadows and one that is properly exposed for the shadows will have blown out, all white highlights. So…what you do is take a series of shots using a camera on a tripod at various exposure levels…typically you shoot properly exposed, 2 f-stops overexposed, and 2 f-stops underexposed. Then you process the 3 photos in an HDR application which magically grabs the highlights from the shot where they are properly exposed, the shadows from where they are properly exposed, and the mid tone areas from where they are properly exposed. After  the application does it’s thing you add in an additional step called Tone Mapping (still within the HDR application) and then perhaps do a little adjustment in Photoshop or Photoshop Elements if you really want to. The chief HDR apps are Photomatix Pro which is about $100 or so and HDRTist which is about $25 or so…HDRtist has much fewer controls for adjusting your photos but it’s a good start. Neil has it but decided to upgrade to Photomatix for the better fine tuning controls.

Once you are done with the HDR manipulation you end up with photos that look much more similar to what you actually saw with your eyes than what the camera saw due to it’s limited dynamic range…the computer (or printer if you are doing hard copy) is capable of showing a higher dynamic range than the DSLR can capture in a single frame.

All of these HDR shots came from the sunset the past couple of days here in Cedar Key. here is a straight out of the camera shot, it’s actually the “properly exposed” of the 3 shots Neil took for the HDR, although the bright sun fooled the exposure meter so even this one is probably actually underexposed. 


and here is the same sunset with the HDR process applied


As you can see in the HDR shot; the sun is much closer to the sunset orange you see with your eye and there is a bit more detail in the foreground islands and objects compared to the silhouettes in the unmodified shot. This one is a pretty subtle difference though.

Here’s another one…processed slightly differently with Photomatix. Again, the unmodified shot first


followed by the processed HDR


This one shows the contrast between the two shots much better…probably because he did a better job of processing it. To the eye the foreground water, islands, and shore grass was much brighter than it looks in the unprocessed shot…HDR brought it out more realistically. HDR isn’t necessarily better…in fact the unprocessed shot has some nice orange colors and reflections on the water…it’s just that the HDR looks more like what the eye saw. Lots of people overdue their HDR effects and make the colors super saturated and neon bright…which ruins the effect.

One other example…with this one Neil wanted to do a little more modification to the final image, in particular the second HDR one where he deliberately played up the dreamy aspect of the shot so it’s more artsy than realistic. Again, it’s a matter of taste and I like all of them…but they are different. First, the unmodified shot


Then the HDR one processed to be most realistic to what he remembered although it is a  little darker than it should be…I didn’t notice that until I went to post it.


and finally the super processed, dreamy version.


I actually like this final version the best for this particular shot…even though it goes beyond realistic with the foreground brightness and colors. It’s actually closer to reality than the one above although it’s on the other side of reality than it is. Still pretty cool though.

After we got home from dinner Neil processed today’s bird photos; We spied a whole group of Ring Necked Ducks, several flocks of Black Skimmers (a member of the tern family), a Great Egret, and a Laughing Gull.






The Egret came up with a fish but it wasn’t visible in his bill when he did so I picked the best of the action shots. I passed on posting some flight/landing shots of the Egret as he flew over to the bank and landed near a Little Blue Heron…the focus wasn’t all that great on the Egret so I left them out.


About Gunther

The full time RV travels and experiences of Gunther the Bear and Kara the Dog…along with their human staff neil and Connie.
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1 Response to Last Day in Cedar Key and HDR Primer

  1. Mj Trainor says:

    Wonderful pics!

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