Trains and Mountains: 2 Processing Approaches

Discussion in 'Scenic, Architecture, and Travel' started by Brian G, May 27, 2011.

  1. Brian G

    Brian G Mu-43 Veteran

    Nov 16, 2010
    Victoria, BC
    Having just come back from a couple of days in Jasper National Park in Alberta, I thought it might be interesting to process the same image a couple of different ways, and see what everyone thinks, likes, or dislikes.

    This a late-day grab shot of a grafitti-laden railway car with mountains in the background. Single RAW file from the GH2.

    Nothing here is even vaguely related to an out-of-camera Jpeg.

    Version 1: general processing for levels, local contrast enhancement, minor color balance adjustment, and a moderate application of high pass filter.


    Version 2: single-frame RAW opened in Photomatix Pro 4 for tonemapping, with the intent of coming away with an image that was still "photographically legitimate", by which I mean not too overtly over the top HDR. (Not that I don't like that sometimes!) But a lighter hand seemed to be better suited to the scene.

    Minor additional editing in CS5, but the core of it is what came out of Photomatix.

    I'm totally open to comments & criticism (well, hopefully of the constructive variety!). The intent here is not to suggest that this is a good image, only to compare editing approaches. Which do you prefer, and why?

    (By the way, I wrestled with whether to post this under Travel, or Processing. I picked Travel due to the image content, but if anyone objects, my apologies.)

    • Like Like x 3
  2. Luke

    Luke Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jul 30, 2010
    Milwaukee, WI
    Real Name:
    I was going to say it's a horse apiece.....but judging from the content, I should substitute unicorn for horse....LOL.

    I prefer the 1st.....they're awfully similar on my crappy work monitor, but I find the the grittiness of the yellow car in the second one distracts my eyes from continuing into the frame to get to the real subject.
  3. shrimp123

    shrimp123 Mu-43 Regular

    Oct 9, 2010
    the first one suits me better.
    the second is too crisp for the damp(?) atmosphere.

  4. Luckypenguin

    Luckypenguin .

    Oct 9, 2010
    Brisbane, Australia
    Real Name:
    As I see it on my monitor, I prefer the first to the second. The second one is just starting to get that tone-mapped look, partiularly towards the right for some reason. That might work in some circumstances but I feel that it not quite right for this scene.
  5. zettapixel

    zettapixel Mu-43 Veteran

    Aug 12, 2010
    Number 1 for me too, please.
    It didn't gain much details from the tone mapping to begin with and (IMHO) the colorless clouds tend to shift focus away from the details in the mountains without improving the background. What I mean is if there were blue sky the shot could benefit from bringing it up, but the white clouds don't add much by becoming grayer. My 2 cents...
    Beautiful picture! (and I'm gonna get away with it too :tongue:).
  6. Alanroseman

    Alanroseman Super Moderator Emeritus

    Dec 21, 2010
    New England
    Hi Brian,

    It's number 1 for me.
  7. starlabs

    starlabs Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Sep 30, 2010
    Los Angeles
    I'd say the first picture as well.

    In the second picture, the lower rail is so much more bright/saturated than the other elements that your eyes are drawn to it. Visually, it feels "imbalanced".
  8. photoSmart42

    photoSmart42 Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Feb 12, 2010
    San Diego, CA
    first one for me as well. second one has a pinkish hue that doesn't fit with the colors of the scenery. clouds look better in the second one. maybe a combination of the two in layers might work out well.
  9. SMaturin

    SMaturin Mu-43 Veteran

    Apr 30, 2011
    New York's Backyard
    Number two seems pushed too far into the red, making the tracks and yellow car look unnatural, and losing the background green of the forest in the hills.

    I love HDR work when it is not too overstated. This is the sort of scene where bracketed photos, instead of a single RAW, could preserve the detail of the dark hills and trees, bumping the colors in the cars, and really making the clouds and distant snowcaps pop. YOu have three distinct layers to the scene: tracks and cars, middle distance trees and hills that still have strong color, and background distant mountains and clouds. Merging three different exposures captures the gradation differences better than tonemapping a single RAW.

    Great shot, anyway!

    Photomatix is incredible in what it can achieve. But it forces you to think about exposure and shading and learn as you try different things. I often look at a result for awhile and then say that did not work, and go back and try another set of parameters. I end up with multiple iterations of the same image, done with the different filter techniques, and spend a few days deciding which I like better. And I when I start thinking about what I liked when I go out to shoot, it makes me consider the exposure process and image variables in a scene more carefully as I shoot it.

    Striving but never reaching...

  10. SMaturin

    SMaturin Mu-43 Veteran

    Apr 30, 2011
    New York's Backyard
    Two HDR's, one subtle, one dramatic

    Morning on the Delaware
    HDR merge of three bracketed exposures, Photomatix

    Andes Twilight
    Desaguadero, Peru
    HDR merge, three exposures, Photomatix
    • Like Like x 2
  11. Brian G

    Brian G Mu-43 Veteran

    Nov 16, 2010
    Victoria, BC
    Thanks everyone. Those are terrific comments, detailed and very informative.

    Re: the color comment on the 2nd image, being perhaps a bit too red on the foreground, I very much agree. What I might have done was to mask the foreground, and color correct, probably should have.

    The comment on the gritty appearance on the yellow car is very true. One thing I tend to like with the HDR version is that there's a "halo look" to the rail cars that I find appealing. I did some noise reduction on the yellow car to reduce the grit, but I left a bit. I notice now, when I look closely at subjects such as this in real life, that I do see the "trashiness" that HDR makes more apparent (too much so in most cases).

    Appreciate your remarks very much.

  12. SMaturin

    SMaturin Mu-43 Veteran

    Apr 30, 2011
    New York's Backyard
    It is a constant learning process when you have so many variables to tweak with the sliders in Photomatix.

    Sort of like playing whackamole on your image.
  13. unkabin

    unkabin Mu-43 Regular

    Feb 17, 2011
    I agree with this. I like the pop of the graffiti in #2, though.

    edit: oops, didn't yet see your second post regarding the red when I posted this.