Early Morning Bisti Badlands Hoodoo

Here's another image from our recent trip to the spectacular Bisti Badlands: The early morning sun casts a warm glow to one of the many hoodoos in the Bisti Badlands.

During out too short time at the Bisti Badlands we tried to cram as many photographs as possible onto our memory cards. We got there before sunrise, but not knowing exactly where "the good stuff" was we wandered around a little before we found a nice section of hoodoos to photograph. By that time the sun was quickly rising above the horizon and the prime time for capturing images was fading fast.

We found a little slot canyon and wandered up it until we came across a bunch of hoodoos that were still mostly in the shadows. The problem was that everything was above us meaning we had to get up off the floor of the canyon to get decent views. I found a little dirt pile and scrambled up it, being careful to not disturb the fragile mud formations on the canyon walls. As I got to the top of the rise the sun was just starting to light up a bunch of the hoodoos with a soft, warm glow. I looked around quickly and found what I thought would be the best one to shoot.

This particular formation was across the canyon (about 200 feet away) and I was just able to get a decent composition using the 85mm on my 15-85mm lens.

Trashed Truck

Here is another image that I captured at yesterday's outing at Star Iron & Metal on the West side of Atlanta. I'm happy with the image but I had to take a different path than I had planned in order to get there:  

This old Dodge truck has definitely seen better days. It was sitting in a shaded portion of the property, surrounded by lots of other junk, slowly crumbling away. When I saw the truck I knew I wanted to capture a bracketed image since there was a lot of shadows and highlights. I set up my now "Super T3i" (more on that here pretty soon) to fire off some brackets, and figured everything was A-OK to do a nice HDR shot.

When I started to post-process the images this morning though, I noticed that there was too much softness in the images that were shot at longer shutter speeds. I think that came about because, even though I had the camera on the tripod I think it was sitting on some slightly flexible piece of wood or metal that was hidden under the leaves. The result was that I had to throw out everything over +1 exposure value. So, instead of using HDR Efex Pro 2 to tone-map the images I dropped the remaining images into the Enfuse Lightroom plugin.

The "enfused" image looked pretty good with some detail being pulled out of the shadows. I decided to go a little "artsy" with this image so I opened up Color Efex and played around with a few filters to see if I could get the truck to look a little grungy without going over the top too much.

I guess the lesson I learned with this image is that there are always multiple ways to get to a final image and that you need to remain flexible and do the best you can with what you have.


A Taste Of The Bisti Badlands

I'm starting to work through all of the images that we took on our trip (man there are a lot) and I wanted to share a quick one from a very unique area that we visited, The Bisti Badlands. The Bisti is located about 40 miles South of Farmington, New Mexico so it's in the northwest corner of the state. I have wanted to visit the Bisti for a while. Pam, who grew up in Farmington, had never been there either so we made a point to set aside a morning to visit and hopefully get some good images. We got up at 4AM, staggered to the shower to wake up, had a strong cup of coffee and then started the 45 minute or so drive to the Bisti so we could get there for sunrise.  We got there just as the 1st rays of light were coming over the horizon. We got some good sunrise shots and then wandered into the badlands, not really knowing where to go (we'll get a map next time). Once the Sun came up a bit we were able to see some details of the landscape and began to head for all the neat looking rocks in the distance.

We found all kinds of things to photograph, many of which I plan on posting in the coming week or two but this image caught my eye as I was making my initial "run" through everything in Lightroom:

As you can see, this is one strange looking rock :-) They are officially called hoodoos but I think this one looked a little like an alien life-form frozen in stone. I had taken 3 bracketed shots of this so I combined them using the Enfuse for Lightroom plugin (which I reviewed a while back). I then took the image and ran it through Nik's Color Efex Pro to see what I could do to enhance the image a bit. I used the "detail extractor" to pull out the texture of the rock.

I've got a lot of images to go through and I'm looking forward to trying some of the filters in the Nik Software Lineup. I'd be interested in hearing from any of you who have used their products and have come up with some settings or "recipes" that seem to work well with landscape and nature photography.

Stay tuned for more images from the Bisti Badlands..........

HDR Software Review Update And Recommendations

It's been more than a few weeks since my last post on my HDR software review and I apologize for the delay.  But, as sometimes happens, life got in the way and I was caught up in a lot of other activities (some fun, some not so fun). Things seem to have calmed down  bit and I hope they will remain that way. Even with the extra demands on my time I have managed to continue my evaluation of the HDR software, particularly Oleano, Photomatix and SNS-HDR. I have run my test images through these three applications and compared the same factors that I did in my Enfuse Lightroom Plugin review as well as my HDR Efex Pro review. I wanted to give you a summary of my findings as well as let you know what I've decided to use for my HDR processing moving forward.

Not One But Many

As I sit here today, my feeling is that I will probably end up using 2 to 3 tools to process my HDR images based on the situation. In my research on HDR imaging and processing it appears that there is no one perfect solution, but rather a combination of tools to address different situations. Here's my summary of the various applications:

HDR Specific Software:

  1. Enfuse Lightroom Plugin (Will Use): This is such an easy to use plugin, at such a low cost, that everyone should have this at their disposal. It won't give you the wild/edge-of-the-envelope HDR output but it does a great job of blending multiple images to give a realistic final product. If all you want is to do some simple bracketed shots and combine them to get some additional detail, this is something that you MUST have!
  2. HDR Efex Pro(Will Use): Nik Software has done a great job with this HDR software. It is easy to use and the output can cover a wide range of styles. The "control point" feature is really neat (and useful) and probably will eliminate the need(in many cases) for any additional processing in something like Photoshop.
  3. Photomatix(Will Use): This is the "800 pound Gorilla" of the HDR world, and for good reason. Photomatix offers a lot of options, is fast enough and arguably does the best job of removing "ghosts" from the image through the availability of a manual override.
  4. Oloneo: I enjoyed using this software but the version that includes the Lightroom plugin is $150 (on sale at $119 until July 15, 2012). It is fairly quick and offers a lot of options but in the end I personally didn't find anything so compelling that I just had to buy it. If you are looking for a HDR app and don't need/want the Lightroom functionality, their HDR Engine might be worthwhile and it's only $59!
  5. SNS-HDR: I was impressed with this application but I found it fairly slow in the processing of the images. Maybe it was just my computer because others have said that it was fast enough. The price is right, at around $49 for the Home version. I have put this on my "to be revisited" list and will try it again in about 6 months.

Image Enhancement Software:

Once the HDR Image is created there is sometimes additional processing required. For that I plan on using a few different tools. I went ahead and took advantage of Nik Software's July 4th sale and picked up their "Compete Collection" which includes HDR Efex Pro plus 5 other tools. The price was discounted $75 to $224 for the Lightroom compatible setup. Nik has received a lot of positive reviews and I have several friends who are big proponents of their tools. Here's what I see myself using at this point:

  1. Color Efex Pro: Quite a few photographer friends have raved about this piece of software from Nik Software. It is similar to Topaz Adjust in that it offers a set of filters that can be applied to images.
  2. Viveza: This is another Nik Software product that offers selective photo adjustment. Like Color Efex, it has received very good reviews from a number of photographers.
  3. Dfine: This is Nik's noise removal software and I plan on using it on many images.
  4. Sharpener Pro: This is Nik's sharpening software. Lightroom does a pretty good job but this might be a nice tool to have.
  5. Topaz Adjust: I have had this since last Fall and really enjoy the various adjustments/filters that can be applied to images.
  6. Paintshop Pro: I purchased this back in the Fall and have used it a fair amount. My thinking is that in the future, it might not get used as much, especially since I picked up Nik's suite of tools.

My Plans From This Point Forward

Now that I have the Nik Software set I will probably focus on them for the next month or so. I have quite a few images from our trip last Fall to Death Valley and Zion that I want to revisit and see how I can improve them. I also have a number of images from this year that I definitely need to spend some time on. Nik has a lot of resources for learning how to use their various tools.

After I have spent some time with the Nik products I plan on purchasing Photomatix as an alternative HDR option. I think it will offer some different functionality, especially if I run across "ghosting" in the images. I am really enjoying shooting HDR images and I think it is a valid technique when used properly.

I'm hoping to get a review of some of the Nik plugins posted in the next couple of months so stay tuned for that.

Help Your Fellow Photographers

If any of you have been using any of the Nik Software products and have some favorite settings, please share them with the rest of us. You can leave your tips/ suggestions in the Comments for this post.

Thanks, and Happy Shooting!

Deal Alert: Nik Software July 4th Sale

If you are interested in the various software tools from Nik Software you might want to take advantage of their  Fourth of July sale on the "Complete Collection" which includes all of Nik Software's plug-in software titles for Aperture™ or Lightroom® including:

  • Dfine® 2.0
  • Viveza® 2
  • HDR Efex Pro™ 2
  • Color Efex Pro™ 4 Complete Editon
  • Silver Efex Pro™ 2
  • Sharpener Pro™ 3.0
All of these plugins, in one package, are being offered at a very-tempting price. The package for Lightroom and Aperture is $75 off and the "Ultimate" version (for Photoshop as well as Lightroom and Aperture) is $150 off!
If you have been thinking about purchasing 2-3 (or more) of their plugins, the complete collection is the way to go as it gives you all six for less than the price of three! Just click on the banner below to be taken to Nik's main page where you can then go to their store to see the special pricing. Or, you can use the following coupon code when you purchase:
Either way don't delay, as the sale is for 5 days only, beginning on July 4th, 2012.

Nik Software

I am definitely going to take advantage of this deal as I've been considering getting a couple of their products myself.