While leading a photo safari this past May along the Oregon Coast, we stopped at an interesting location called “Devil’s Punchbowl.” This is one of those interesting coastal rock formations that seems really cool until you actually try to photograph it. The punchbowl, for all its uniqueness, is a real pain to photograph.
- The interior isn’t illuminated until mid-day
- Even in mid-day light, there are significant shadows
- You have to photograph it from a viewpoint looking down
In other words, just about every conceivable “problem condition” is manifested in the Devil’s Punchbowl. So, our plan was to just grab some snapshots, which we did. I used my Nikon D3s and 16-35mm f/4 VR lens. I also fired off a 5-shot exposure bracketing sequence just to see if I could get something interesting later with a little HDR processing.
The default “snapshot” with just the Camera Standard settings applied looks pretty crummy– high contrast and blocked up shadows (click to enlarge).
If I used traditional shadow recovery techniques, I could recover the shadow details, but the shadow contrast was poor and the image loses saturation (click to enlarge).
Finally, I gave the 5-shot sequence a whirl in HDR Efex Pro. I enabled image alignment and didn’t go overboard with the HDR Method strength (I used the “Subtle” setting and a strength of 10). While the result isn’t the same as a single image (there is more local contrast), you can clearly see improved tone and contrast in the shadows, and the rocks gain a little more texture (click to enlarge).
You may or may not like the HDR shot, but pixels are cheap. It never hurts to experiment! I can always use one of the single exposures for a different look.
Support this site: Get your next lens at B&H Photo