Cathedrals and HDR

By Mark

Have I mentioned how much I love my 14-24mm wide angle lens Sarah got me for Christmas?  One of the things I knew I would find on our Ireland was lots of beautiful old churches and cathedrals.

Killarney Cathedral

Killarney Cathedral

These massive structures pose some distinctive photographic challenges.  There is a huge range of light as these were mostly built before the introduction of electricity.  The huge stained glass windows provide color but their reach can be limited.  Next, you have the sheer scale of the buildings.  Cathedrals were intended to be imposing and impressive reminders of the power of the church.  Soaring roofs and columns with intricate carvings add lots of dark shadows to try and capture. Finally, there are side rooms and art pieces everywhere which are intended to catch the eye and inspire the viewer.  Taken all together these are exactly the kinds of circumstances for which HDR was designed. 

I very purposely shot a lot of 7 shot bracketed grouping planning to convert them when I processed them.

One of the more useful, but underused features in LR are the Stacking commands.  Instead of cluttering up your screen space you can just make a pile and only see the top shot.  

Once I have created my final results, I just put that on top and the originals are hidden, however they remain accessible if I change my mind.  

7 Shot stacks in LR

7 Shot stacks in LR

Since you can create HDR directly from LR these days, I played around with the number of different processing tools I had and was interested to observe that the results varied widely.  You can use LR, Photoshop, Nik’s HDR Efx, or OnOne Perfect Effects HDR Panel.  I found that there really isn’t a common vocabulary among the tools.  Which version I liked seemed to have more to do with the subject than in the software I used.  I processed Ashford Castle’s grand hallway in Photoshop. 

I used OnOne for Killarney’s St Mary’s Cathedral, but liked the baptistery much better directly from LR.   

Finally, I used Nik for this single image HDR toning to bring out the details of the peat pile, while not overdoing the rest of the cottage.  

As with most things in the Photoshop world, there are multiple ways of doing anything and you as the “artist” need to use the tools that bring the image to life as you want the viewer to see it.