For Alan


Alan dropped lots of hints for me to try something for him, and I finally got around to it tonight.

Cameras can’t capture light like our eyes can; film or pixels have a narrower range for light and dark. So, when you look at a sunset, you see the beautiful colors in the sky AND you see the features in the foreground just fine. But a camera gets one or the other. If you get the colors right, the foreground is usually too dark; and if you get the foreground right, the sky usually washes out. HDR (high dynamic range) photos try to combine exposures from different pictures in a nice blend. Hydra is a program that’s supposed to help you do it easily, even if you didn’t use a tripod and get the pictures perfectly lined up. It only runs on the latest Mac OS, Leopard, so Alan wanted me to try it.

I should have read the instructions before I ran outside to capture the sunset. They suggest a regular exposure, and then two stops underexposed, and two stops overexposed. I only did one stop brackets, so I probably didn’t get the best results. It was really easy to import my three photos; it automatically aligned them very well.

Here’s the underexposed picture, that gets the sky but not the foreground:

1 stop under

Here’s the “correct” exposure, according to the camera:

Normal exposure

And here’s the overexposure, which gets the foreground:

1 stop over

Hydra offers an automatic blend, which I didn’t particularly like. There are two sliders you can move, giving more “weight” of the exposure to different pictures. I couldn’t see that they made a lot of difference, but that’s probably because I didn’t do the two stop difference. Anyway, I played with it for less than five minutes, hit one button to export it back to iPhoto, cropped it to get rid of the funky edges, and I was done. I was impressed with the program; not sure I was impressed enough to pay $60, but it worked well. Maybe I’ll try it with bigger exposure differences, and post an update later.

Here’s the finished product:


Sorry it took so long, Alan! πŸ™‚

5 thoughts on “For Alan

  1. Wow, Gregg, that’s cool! However, now that you can “doctor” everything, it reminds me of your considerations in your high school essay, “What is Real?” Now we’ll never know…


  2. Well, now this is so cool. Not only does Hydra do a decent job of creating an HDR from multiple exposures, but an entry on Gregg’s blog has my name in the title! πŸ˜€

    Seriously, though: thanks for taking me up on my hints. If I get the chance to upgrade to Leopard in the future, I’ll seriously consider Hydra, too. I’ve taken so many pictures in the mountains, sunsets, sunrises, beach shots, etc., that I could make them (in the future) look more like I remember them.

    Thanks Gregg!


  3. Oh man, this might be the first time I regret having a PC. This is awesome! Considering I was struggling to shoot in the snow yesterday, it’s more than awesome. Will you do it for hire? πŸ™‚


  4. Well, dad, one thing that will help in the picture department is to look at the bigger version. There are big ol’ watermarks in it because I’ve just got the trial, not paid for the real deal.

    Alan, I think it’s a good program…and maybe I’ll just have to throw you in the title now and then just to keep you on your toes. πŸ™‚

    Kathy, I’d do anything to make you regret buying a PC. πŸ™‚ But I’m guessing they’ve got to have something like this out there for you. If not, my first fee for hire would be $60, so I could actually buy the program and get rid of the watermark!


  5. I like the watermark look myself. Kind of like when the hospital gives you a sample of your child’s first picture, hoping you will buy more. I just took the sample home as their first picture. Now when my kids ask me why the word proof is on their first official baby picture I just tell them that’s how we knew they were real.

    Seriously though … cool pictures. I’ll have to get some lessons some time.


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