An Inspiration: My first High Dynamic Range Image

Sometimes, they look cool, at other times, a bit over-saturated and fake. But when a High Dynamic Range image is done “properly,” I think they look really cool.

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad PhotographyAn Inspiration: My first High Dynamic Range Image

Old Railroad tracks in Whatcom Falls Park. Three separate exposures (-1, 0, +1) were used.

But none-the-less, after reading a Twitter friend @tracilaw‘s blog about her first HDR image attempt, I decided to give it a whirl.

To make things a touch more challenging, I went on a hike and shoot in difficult lighting conditions. I headed over to Whatcom Falls Park in Bellingham, Wash., to see what I could find.

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography

The three original images

As we’ve had some really good rain the last few days, and warm temperatures in the high country, the rivers and streams have been really roaring.

Whatcom Falls was really tumultuous. It reminded me of the Roaring Fork River in the Colorado high country, though I wouldn’t want to kayak in this turmoil.

Walking through the park, I happened upon some railroad tracks. They crossed over the river, but they were ancient and falling apart. Remnants of the disappearing age of rail.

Using my D300s and 80-200 f/2.8, I threw on my ND64 and Polarizing filters. This gave me exposure ranges in the seconds. And from what I’ve read, using a tripos was paramount as it made merging the bracketed exposures easiest.

After taking various exposures and differing compositions, I moved on towards some of the falls.

One part of the water was in sunlight and the rest was in shadow. Difficult light to capture a well exposed image.

The churning waters of the falls was light by the sun. So white lit by direct sunlight is pretty much at the top of the exposure scale. What was in shadow were the darker rocks and mosses. Extreme indeed.

With camera on tripod, I experimented with 15 sec to 1 sec exposures. I hoped the moving water would add to the effect.

If not, It would make an interesting image. So I climbed on some boulders to get a better angle. Nothing like being a few feet from rapidly gushing water.

The thunderous vibrations of the rushing waters traveled through the boulder I stood on. It was amazing.

I had a few weird looks as I stood there taking photos. Especially since you had to climb on top, and over a lot of mud.

After downloading them, I simply used Photoshop’s HDR imaging plug-in. The automate > HDR Pro.

I used the raw NEF files in 16 bit mode to merge. After some adjusting in the HDR Pro plug in, the images opened in Photoshop. From there I did some final toning, mainly curves, and a touch of sharpening.

The end results of the two attempts are what you see here.

Thanks for reading

Paul Conrad

Pablo Conrad Photography


  1. Great job on your first attempt Paul! How did it feel to setup for an HDR in mind? Give Photomatix a whirl, people swear by it and swear at Photoshop’s HDR toolset. If you like Photomatix, I have a license for it that I’m not using anymore (I’m using HDR Efex from Nik).


    1. Thanks Colby.

      I had to give it a shot. I’ll take you up on that offer at some point. HDR is just a toy for me and I like to play.

      Have a great weekend.


  2. i really like the last shot with the water. very inspiring. I haven’t tried this yet as I don’t have the tools and I’m not a fan of the look either. But looks like fun!


    1. Thanks Erin. I appreciate the comments.

      I’m not a big fan of the supersaturated images either, but there is a time and place for them. Don’t know where, but there is.

      Thanks again


    1. Thanks Trudy.

      When I was walking around this park, I cam across a tiny path and decided to see where it goes.

      And, voilá, this old railroad bridge popped into view.

      Thanks again.


Please Feel free to Leave a Comment. Links to Your Work are Encouraged

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s