Pushing An Image Just A Bit Further
Every Sunday, I add at least four new images to the top of the Luminous-Landscape homepage. This week, I selected four images from one of several trips I have made to Pyramiden, while visiting Svalbard, Norway.
I am working on an article that will encompass many of my images from the last few years of visits to this astounding location. It is essentially a largely abandoned Russian coal-mining settlement. It’s not an easy place to reach as it is only accessible by ship. Nevertheless, a visit there is most worthwhile. In 2020, I am planning to make an extended visit for a few days and will stay in the small Russian hotel that remains open. This will enable me to visit a few parts of the location that aren’t normally accessible.
On one of my visits, there was a lot of cleanup going on at Pyramiden. The place has tons of rusty piles of pipes, tanks, valves etc.. You can see the boost that was given this image by using Aurora 2019. The before images is as it was processed out of Capture One and the after shows the image after using Aurora 2019.
Anyway, I selected the four images and sized them up for publication, as I normally do. Afterward, I was wondering what would happen if I ran the images through Skylum’s Aurora 2019 HDR software. Recently, I have been playing a bit with this software product and with many others too.
I hadn’t been a big fan of HDR since its inception. HDR does have its place though, especially with images that are challenging. An example that comes to mind is shooting a room interior and trying to balance the bright scene of the outdoors through the windows.
Both Lightroom and Capture One have some great highlight and shadow recovery tools. For the most part, given the extended dynamic range that many cameras provide and with the use of these recovery tools, I find myself seldom going to third-party HDR programs.
Using Aurora as shown in the after image above I was able to show more detail in the sky and bring out the color of the buildings
Aurora 2019 is an exception and the more I use it, the more I like it. This is the case even with single images like the ones shown in this article. Aurora 2019 has an extensive toolset and has become a mature program. Not only does it make HDR imaging easy, it also provides a toolset for the photographer to make a deep dive into creative and selectable adjustments.
I think it is important for almost all HDR imaging to give a realistic look. The days of ghosting and garish HDR are behind us. I opened my images in Photoshop and then under ‘filters’ selected the Aurora HDR plugin. The images then opened in a new window.
You are first given a window to confirm the images you are using. In this case, I was only using one image. If you are using an exposure range of multiple images, you’ll see all of the images in the initial confirmation box.
The image will load and you will be presented with an HDR version. There are many presents that come with Aurora 2019 and they are a good starting point. I selected a set from the ‘landscape’ group of presets and then chose a version that I liked.
From that point, you can use the slider in the preview to set the desired intensity or jump over to the long list of tools and use them to adjust the image to your liking. You may even use layers and make selective adjustments.
In the image above I think Aurora did a good job pulling out more detail and color than the image as it was originally processed.
Aurora 2019 is a fun program to use and can be kind of addictive as you see the number of different possibilities that can be achieved. In the end, as the artist, you’ll have to decide what version of different HDR settings you want to use. You may also save the settings you have made as your own presets. I find this is quite useful as I end up using repeatedly a number of the settings I have made.
For the final image, you can see the building has more saturation, the sky is not blown out and the mountainside has more dimension and color.
You can order Aurora 2019 from Skylum for USD 99. Skylum runs many special discounts so you may want to search for and take advantage of these. Skylum has come a long way in the last few years and they now offer some different products. Another favorite of mine is Luminar, which I’ll cover in a future article.
I like Aurora and enjoy running my images through the program on occasion. It’s a great tool, especially when you have a real HDR challenge. The toolset is extensive and after you master the program you will be using it to take some of your images to a new level. In the end, as the artist, you make the decision about what works for you or not. As for the images I used here, I feel Aurora did a great job and helped to enhance the images I selected.