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What I did on my (bank) holiday

I’ve experimented with merging multiple photo exposures together a few times now. Four years or so ago I managed to cobble two photos from a Pentax *ist DL together with the help of a lot of layer masking, and the result was okayish. In 2007, and armed with a copy of Photoshop CS3, I managed to bodge two handheld shots of the Eiffel Tower together into this:

.. which I still quite like, despite it being rather rough around the edges. This weekend, though, I’ve been testing Photoshop CS5, which includes an improved “Merge to HDR Pro” tool that can attempt to automatically remove some of the blurring caused by objects that move between exposures. And so armed with that, a tripod and a camera body that can auto-bracket exposures, I gave it another shot.

First I tried the docklands. Between getting harassed by a Barclays security guard and rained on a bit I did manage to get one shot of the dome:

Dome (CS5 HDR test)

.. and this shot of one of the docks, which came out fairly well:

Docklands (CS5 HDR test)

But with next to no wind nothing served to test the ghost removal. And so to the south bank of the Thames near London Bridge, where it was blowing a gale and raining on and off. First I tried this postcardy shot:

Tower Bridge (CS5 HDR test)

.. and, as it turns out, the ghost removal worked a charm: without it this image contains three planes (top left) and a blur under the bridge where the boat was moving, but with the ghost removal option ticked both are sharp. For something a bit harder I tried some trees – these were blowing in a wind that was strong enough to smack me around the face with the camera strap:

City Hall (CS5 HDR test)

Again, the tool did a fantastic job here – the trees are a tiny bit messy, but so much better than the green-blur-covered original. All in all, I was thoroughly impressed – getting a sharp HDR merge has gone from a task that takes a few hours to a matter of minutes on a fast computer. And although some HDRs can look really, really naff, I did get a shots that I quite like, including this:

Reflection (City Hall)

And an elephant:

Elephant (CS5 HDR test)

And a ruined church:

St Dunstan in the East

.. so the results don’t have to be too lurid. All things considered I can’t see myself using this technique that often, but for the occasional shot of buildings when there’s a suitable wall or tripod available it could be a nice way to get a more complete image.

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