Improving the reflections in the water

Dramartic sky above a canal in the capital of Chocolate, as Bruge in Belgium is called. The town has a most wonderful picturesque old middle age center with canals and really old buildings. Really worth a visit. Photo by Jacob Surland,

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Bruges (Brugge) in Belgium just is lovely. I was there for the night, but I would have loved to have more than just a night in that old middle age town. It’s a bit like Amsterdam or Venice because of all of the canals in the old center. I saw a funny movie with Colin Farrell called ‘In Bruges’ – I didn’t know that he was Irish, thought he was American. But he’s got a lovely Irish/British accent in this movie. Anyway, that movie inspired me to go to Bruges.

About the processing

This photo is one of these double tone mapped images. It adds an extra level of ethereal mood to the image. It makes it look a bit like a painting, which I like a lot. It works particular well in night shots. The processing of the is image is pretty much straight forward. The water generates some pretty bad halos in the tone mapping process, but I blend in the water from the 0 exposure. If you want to learn about how to create the effect, you can read about it my tutorial on double tone mapped images here.

In this photo, I used a special trick. I found that the water was a too big mass, with no structure. The water doesn’t reflect the clouds, but I made it so. I think a lot of people “cheat” with their reflections. Some reflections are just too perfect, in particular mountains reflecting in still water. As long as you get a good result, I have no problem with that. In this photo, I tried experimenting with the reflections. I wanted to add a little structure to the water to make it more interesting. I did that by duplicating the layer in Photoshop and then flipped it upside down. I now had clouds where the water should be.

Canal in Brugge - upside down

Then I blended some of the clouds gently into the reflected water. I only did it lightly at perhaps 20% or so and only in some of the water. That makes the illusion of the clouds reflecting in the water, and it adds some structure into the water.

Canal in Brugge - final result

As you can see the clouds are only just making themselves visible in the water.

The Perfect Backup Solution For Any Photographer

Fountain in Kings Summer Castle

As a photographer I produce a lot of data and if I lose that data I’m really in trouble. I have searched and searched for great backup solutions and have finally found the perfect one. It’s called Livedrive. Don’t confuse it with Skydrive or, it’s not a Microsoft company. Livedrive is one the cheapest cloud solutions out there, and they provide unlimited (yes, UNLIMITED) backup of data. I have a few terabytes and this really is sweet for me. And they also provide apps and work on both Mac and PC (Windows).

I have written an article about how to setup a good backup strategy. There are a number of things to consider. I don’t put everything to the cloud, that would be too much. Read about a good backup strategy here.

Livedrive comes as cheap as $6 a month – that’s really cheap, and that is for the unlimited data.

Livedrive Cloud Storage

HDR of Mont Saint Michel from a distance at night

Mont Saint Michel, one of frances most important tourist attractions, with a history that spands for more than a 1000 years. It's a monastery built like a fortress in on an island. Due to the tide, it's some times an island and sometimes you can walk all the way to it, however you should only do it with a guide because of the danger of quicksand. Photo by Jacob Surland,

Mont Saint Michel, one of frances most important tourist attractions, with a history that spands more than a millinium. It’s a monastery built like a fortress on an island. Due to the tide, it’s sometimes an island and sometimes you can walk all the way to it, however you should only do it with a guide because of the danger of quicksand. It’s oozing of middle age and it’s so beautiful, however also very popular with the tourist. We arrived just around midday and we got almost lifted up and carried away by the crowd. We quickly bought a sandwich and found the wall and walk for a little while there and found a spot with fewer people. If you are planning to travel to Mont Saint Michel, do make sure that you are there in the evening as well. A lot of the people leave the small middle age town late in the afternoon and after dinner, you can get around much easier. You can also take a break from the people by walking around Mont Saint Michel, given that it is not high tide. The monastery itself is a master piece in architecture. The monastery gardens is so beautiful and the terrace in front of the church is so magnificent and the view… Wow! The Monastery is very popular and you will get to stand in line for some time.

How to take HDR shots at night

When you take night shots with stars above and some foreground you almost have to take two shots. One for the sky with the stars and one for the ground. In this case I have shot 7 bracketed shots with 1 EV step between each photo ranging from -3 to +3. It’s hard to shoot at night if you have really bright light sources as well as really dark areas. The dynamic range becomes enourmous. In this case there’s a strongly lit monastery with huge spotlights located on an island and surrounded by darkness. The spotlights real easy burn out.

To be sure to get everything I shoot 7 shots, which is only just enough.

How to photograph stars

Having solved how to capture all of the light, the next problem is to get a good shot of the stars. A thing that surprised me the first time I photographed stars, is that they actually move quite fast. As a consequence of that you have to have fairly fast shutter speeds to get round stars, otherwise this will become oblong or long trails. This can be an effect, but that was not what I wanted.

The longer focal length you are shooting your shot at, the more apparent the movement of the stars will be. If you use a really wide angle lens you can shoot exposures of shoot 15 seconds and get fairly round stars, I shot this at 70mm and at 13 seconds, and my stars are a bit too long for what I had hoped for. The 7th and lightest exposure is the shot aimed at getting my stars. In this shot Mont Saint Michel is burned out, but the sky well exposed. This is the EXIF data for the star shot:

Mont Saint Michel from a distance - Star shot

 Nikon D800, Nikkor 28-300mm, ISO 800, 70mm, f/5.0, 13 sec

As you can see the lights on the monastery is burned out, but the stars visible, but the stars are a bit long to what I had wished:

Mont Saint Michel from a distance - Oblong stars

100% crop

Unfortunately I didn’t realize the problem until later in my shootings and at that time I had changed the focal length to 28mm. The solution was to increase the ISO. Eventually I went to ISO 2000. I was working under pressure, because it was getting very late and my son was tired and the buses kept coming by with their headlights pointed straight into the lens, so I had to time my 7 shots. And on top of that, I wanted a few different compositions.

At my 28mm shots the stars are much more round, and this is even at 20 seconds, which is 7 seconds longer. This means that focal length is very strong factor when photographing stars. The light changed rapidly and it rapidly grew darker:

Mont Saint Michel from a distance - Star shot ISO 2000

100% crop

The comprise with a higher ISO is more noise and when you remove the noise, you also lose some stars, because the noise reduction software can’t tell the difference between noise and stars.

Shooting stars is difficult and there are some trade offs you have to make.

Processing stars and monastery

Photomatix (and any other HDR software) handles star lit skies badly for at least two reasons.

1) There is no dynamic light – the sky is almost completely black with a few dot’s on it. Photomatix will try to expand the dynamic range and the result is really noisy and not very good.

2) The stars move – more than you think. Not one of the 7 shots has got the stars in the same place and when merged you will get duplicated stars.

The solution to this is only to use one exposure for the sky, the lightest shot. and make an HDR for the rest of your image.

The stars I processed in Lightroom using these settings:

Mont Saint Michel from a distance - stars processing

Contrast and Clarity is what really makes the stars pop. Because of the huge spotlights, my processing also takes that into account. It’s a balance of great stars and spotlights.

The noise in the sky I handled in Noiseware, which I find Noiseware good at handling noise without deleting too many of the stars. I have bought the Noiseware plugin for Photoshop and handle the noise from Photoshop later in the process.

The only part of the HDR image I end up using is the monastery, it being the only real object in the scene apart from the stars. This is the output from Photomatix:

Mont Saint Michel from a distance - Tone mapped

This is a bit more colorful than my final result and a bit more flat and washed out. It looks too HDR for what I wanted. It needs to be a little more contrasty, some of the gray areas must become darker and even black. Dark areas are important to get a strong image.

What I did was blend some of the original -3 and -2 to exposures gently into this tone mapped version and finally arrive at this result:

Mont Saint Michel from a distance - finalNotice that some strong shadows have been introduced to replace washed out shadows and also the hyper green trees are more natural now.

Want to get started on HDR photography?

If you too want to get started on HDR photography and get make great HDR photos you can get a 15% discount on Photomatix by using the coupon code “caughtinpixels”. Get photomatix Pro.

And then read my thorough HDR tutorial and look at my images and learn a ton of different tips to improve your post-processing skills.



Sunset at Juno Beach more than 69 years after D-day

Sunset at Juno Beach. It's a very strong set of feelings that go through you, when you stand on the beaches on which the allied forces landed on the 6. of june 1944, also known as D-Day. Almost 60 years later you still find left overs from the war and from the 150.000 troops that landed on the beach that early morning. Almost 60 years later I got this peaceful photo from Juno beach, which is the beach where the Canadians landed. Imagening the number of dead people and the horrible events that took place on that day, is indeed very moving. This photo is taken at low tide and several hundred meters from the the coast line and only half way to the water. Photo by Jacob Surland,

Nikon D600, Nikkor 14-24mm, ISO 1600, 14mm, f/3.2, 1/50 sec

It’s a very strong set of feelings that go through you, when you stand on the beaches on which the allied forces landed on the 6. of june 1944, also known as D-Day. Almost 70 years later you still find left overs from the war and from the 150.000 troops that landed on the beach that early morning. Almost 70 years later I got this peaceful photo from Juno beach, which is the beach where the Canadians landed. Imagening the number of dead people and the horrible events that took place on that day, is indeed very moving. This photo is taken at low tide and several hundred meters from the the coast line and only half way to the water.

About the shooting

I shot this photo as an bracketed shot. I shot it hand held at ISO 1600 on my Nikon D600. I wasn’t prepared for shooting any photos this evening and had not brought the tripod. However I managed to get some decent shots hand held and by working with the noise reduction, I get a decent result. Not the same quality, as if I had used a tripod.

I have found out, that when I shoot single exposures using both the Nikon D600 and Nikon D800 I need to set the exposure compensation to -2/3 EV step. This will in most cases give me an image that is slightly under exposed but with no burned out areas.

This was the setting my camera had when I went to the beach, and when I activated bracketed -2, 0 and +2, it will also get adjusted by the -2/3 of an exposure step. This gives odd exposures -2 2/3, -2/3 and +1 1/3

This photo I used for this one ended up being the +1 1/3 exposure. It is very bright, but has got almost no burned out high lights. If you look at the histogram you can see the information is spread all across, and all of the histogram to the right is used. For some reason you can keep more information in the right hand side of the histogram, than in the left hand (and dark side), so if you exposure to use the right hand side, you get more information in your photo and in this case less noise. This is called Expose To The Right (ETTR). In this case I can use the overexposed with a good result.

Juno beach - histogram


To get the look and feel I adjusted the White Balance to Daylight, even though it was not day light. That gives the warm bluish purple mood of the clouds. And then I changed the exposure compensation in Lightroom to -2 – which brought me to -2/3, which I normally shoot in.

I then exported to Photoshop to do straightening up and noise reduction. I used Noiseware for noise reduction.

I used a lot of time removing footsteps in the sand. Optimal there would have been no foot steps, but people were walking all around. There was no way to get the shot without any foot steps.


Bruges the Chocolate Capital

Canal in old Middle ages town.

The White hotel on the right is the one from the move “In Bruges”.

Bruges in Belgium is an amazing town with a center that dates back to the middle ages.Some call it ‘Venice of the North’, but I learned that cities and towns with many canals, like to call themselves Venice of this” and “Venice of that”.

I think both Bruges and Amsterdam both in all fairness can be called a “Venice of the North”. They are both absolutely fantastic. Bruges has a lot of canals, and they wind their way through the medieval center of the city. It is a very beautiful place that I can highly recommend coming visit it for an extended weekend.

I got inspired to go to Bruges from the movie “In Bruges” starring Colin Farrell. In the movie, a couple of hired killers go on vacation to Bruges, and the one character really hates it, while the other one loves it. Personally, I found the movie hilarious, but I know other’s hate it. Some movies divide the World, just like cats and dogs do.

Anyway, the great footage from the old center that made me want to see Bruges, and I made a point out of making a one night stop in Bruges on my way to France.

What I didn’t know about Bruges is that it’s called the Chocolate Capital. I just love chocolate, and we did buy some, which, unfortunately, had to eat at once, due to the extremely hot weather.

This photo is from a particular famous corner, next to “Cafe Little Venice”. I have seen many shots from this corner, and this is my version.

The making of this photo

I shot this photo using my Nikon D800 and Nikkor 14-24mm. I shot it as a 5 shot HDR from -2, -1, 0, +1 and +2. This is the 0-exposure (the normal exposure):

Canal in an old middle age town

 Nikon D800, Nikkor 14-24mm, ISO 200, 22mm, f/11, 2.5 sec.

I should have used a lens not quite as wide, but there was a light drizzle and I did not want to change the lens, instead I cropped the image. That’s one of the wonderful things about having many megapixels. You can crop quite a bit away, and still end up with a 12-megapixel image, like this one.

I know that some people find that cropping images to be a sin and that you should get it right in the camera in the first place. I believe that if a photo get’s better from cropping it, then by all means crop it! And one more thing, I would rather come home with 10-20% too much of a scene, than 10-20% too little.

In this case, I didn’t like the white canal tour boats in the corner. I composed the photo, and included the boats and decided to crop the photo later if I didn’t like the boats.

HDR Processing workflow

My overall workflow, when I process HDR photos is, that I generate a pool of images, based on the original bracketed photos. And these I blend to together into a final image. I usually create a one or two images in some HDR software, usually Photomatix Pro. And these I add to the pool of the original RAW files, these files I load into Photoshop as layers and blend them together.

Photomatix supports presets and I have a few I use for inspiration. Often I use one, and tweak it a little bit until I am happy. I did that in this case.

I processed two versions of this photo in Photomatix Pro. First I made one, a single tone mapped. Saved that, and then I took the output, and put back into Photomatix, and did a double tone mapped image.

Bruges double tonemap

Use Double Tone Map to push the effects, but use it with care, because the effects easily get’s really out of control.

Canal in an old middle age town - single tonemapped

Single Tone mapped image.

The double tone mapped image usually goes completely wild, and you have to control it a bit, to make some of useful. The trick is to turn down saturation to around mid 40’s, and push Tone Compression to the left and Detail contrast to the right. They are highly potent, and you will have to find the right balance. Sometimes I find that the balance isn’t really there, and just skip making a double tone mapped image.

Bruges double tonemap number 2

How to get the best result when making double tone mapped images in Photomatix Pro.

When I start to blend my images in Photoshop (you might find my tutorial on layer blending useful) I order them, so that the one I like the most, is my primary image, and it’s usually my single tone mapped image, but not always.

Canal in an old middle age town - double tonemapped

Double Tone mapped image.

In general, my goal with my post-processing technique is to improve my primary image, and by improve I mean:

  • Remove ugly bits.
  • Add cool effects
  • Make it work as a complete and balanced image.

Now that I have my (primary) tone mapped image, I look at the issues I face:

#1 The lamps are way too bright. I dial them back a bit by blending in a darker version of the lamp, from one of the other images.

#2 The wall for some reason has gone almost white (blown highlights). This I also change by using a darker version and masked it in 25-50%.

#3 I really wanted the tower to be brighter, so I found a brighter version in one over the over-exposed image and blended that in.

#4 The water is bad – really bad. It has got a nasty halo. You can see that the water is almost black in the lower middle while it’s very bright along the edge of the reflections. This is called a halo and must be removed. I do that by mixing in the water from the 0 exposure.

A side effect from using the double tone mapped image is that light sources and other bright areas tend to get very bright or even blow out. A part of making the double tone mapped images is to find the balance between getting enough effect, without getting too much trouble repairing the blown out highlights and the halos.

To fix all of the above-mentioned problems, I use Photoshop. I load all my original five shots plus my two tone mapped images into layers (you might want to read this blog post for a full demonstration).

By using this technique I can remove and fix blown out highlights, by blending either the single tone mapped or one of the originals into the areas that are ruined or just look bad.

The result is, that the buildings and reflections come from the double tone mapped image, primarily, while the sky and the water comes from the original exposures.

Canal in an old middle age town - photo shop

Final touches

When done in Photoshop I then save the file as a flattened TIFF file and import that into Lightroom.

In Lightroom, I use the brush tool to increase contrast and the clarity in the sky. By doing this, I enhance some details in an otherwise flat sky. The texture is there, it’s just not very easy to see, but I can be enhance it this way. A side effect of doing this, is that the colors get too saturated, I have to turn down the saturation a bit.

Canal in an old middle age town - Lightroom

The pink areas are the areas that I painted using the brush. On the right you can see what settings that is applied to the pink areas.

Further reading

If you find this kind of processing interesting and want to try it out for yourself, you might want to get a hand on a copy of Photomatix Pro. There is a free trial, but if you use the discount code “caughtinpixels” you will get a 15% discount.

Get Photomatix Pro.

You might also want to read my basic understanding of making HDR photos. There’s a lot of things to understand, and a lot of pitfalls. I get around all of these things here.

I also have these tutorials:

Detailed tutorial on using Photomatix Pro.

Learn how to make double tone mapped images in Photomatix Pro.

Learn how to blend layers using layer masks in Photoshop.

Learn how to blend layers using layers masks using GIMP, the free alternative to Photoshop.

Taiery Gorge Railway

The Taieri Gorge Railway from Dunedin in New Zealand. A vintage train runs through a beautiful gorge. Read more about the processing and see other photos by Jacob Surland at

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I spend half a day in New Zealand on the Taiery Gorge Railway running through the beautiful scenic gorge, crossing the largest metal construction on the southern hemisphere – a bridge across the gorge.

This is the original photo:

2012-11-23-New Zealand-DSC_5531

Nikon D600, Nikon 28-300mm, ISO 100, 92mm, f/5.6, 1/200 Sec

As you can see it is quite tilted. I shot it leaning out of a porch and couldn’t control the camera a lot, because the train was rumbling along and I had to take care, not to fall off. To fix it I first straighten the horizon in Lightroom. That is standard procedure. The second step I took was to get a more symetric look of the train running into the horizon.

This I accomplished by using the Edit->Transform->Warp tool in Photoshop CS. This tool is quite good for changing the exact placement of objects in the image. You can select any rectangle, in this case I want to select all of my image and activate the Warp tool (menu Edit -> Transform -> Warp):

2012-11-23-New Zealand-DSC_5531 - Select Warp

The warp tool allows you to push things around ind the image. In this case I pushed the train downwards, until I got the symmetry that I wanted.

2012-11-23-New Zealand-DSC_5531 - Use Warp

Armageddon Sunset – Yet Another Way to Make HDR

Roskilde fiord revisited for an amageddon sunset to try out my brand new Sigma 12-24mm full frame lens. My first impression is very good. Photo by Jacob Surland - see more photos and tutorials at

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There are many ways of making HDR photos and this is yet another way. I have used Merge to 32-bit HDR, a plugin for Lightroom, made by HDR Soft who also makes the state of the art HDR software Photomatix Pro. Merge to 32-bit HDR just does the first step of what Photomatix does. It merges your photos into one 32-bit TIFF photo and reimports it back into Lightroom. It does not do any tone mapping of the photo and the result is quite neutral when it get’s into Lightroom. But the photo is loaded with  information from all of your bracketed photos and you can start playing around with the development module in Lightroom and get the most impressive things out of your photo.

One of the huge advantages doing an HDR in this way, is that you don’t get the noise that tone mapping sometimes gives. And it really is very easy in many ways, especially if you start to build or gather a collection of Lightroom presets. Over the last few months I have been creating presets in Lightroom, which really makes sense, because I save a lot of time when I post process my photos. Not only do presets work as … well presets … a lot of preset post-processing configurations, but it has another advantage, they inspire me. Presets give me ideas and inspiration as I try out some of the presets. I might not use a preset as the single click post-processing, but it does give me a good (and fast) start.

I quite fond of my presets and I’m working on making my Lightroom presets available from this website in the near future. I will make them available along with a guide to explain the concepts and ideas to what I do and how the presets work and can be used, with some examples.

I already showed, that you make HDR photos, even though you are using Lightroom post-processing. I showed how to use Lightroom and GIMP to make an HDR (you can find the tutorial here). And now I will show how to do it with Merge to 32-bit HDR and Lightroom to make an HDR photo.

Merge to 32-bit HDR from HDR Soft

You need both Lightroom and Merge 32 from HDR Soft. If you use the Discount code “caughtinpixels” on HDR soft you will get a 15% discount when you buy anything from HDR Soft. You can also buy it bundled with Photomatix Pro

‘Merge to 32-bit HDR’ plugs it self into Lightroom. First you select your bracketed photos, like I just selected my 5 bracketed photos below. Then you start the export into Merge to 32-bit HDR this way:

Armageddon Sunset - Merge 32 export

You then get some options. Normally I really do recommend a different process to remove ghosting in your photos, but on the other hand, if the automatic deghosting does a good job, you are done quickly and if it doesn’t give a good result, you can always turn to my recommend procedure. My recommended process is to mask one of the photos into the HDR photo, where the photo is ghosted. You can do that using either GIMP or Photoshop. With this particular photo, I think deghosting did a good job.

Armageddon Sunset - Merge 32 export step 2

When the photo is reimported into Lightroom it’s a neutral flat and a bit dark photo, which is completely unprocessed:

Armageddon Sunset - Original

I then applied one of my presets called Armageddon Sunset Revisited. It adds an orange hue to a sunset photo giving it this very sunset feeling. I did do one more thing. I want the boat in front to pop a little more. By using the brush feature in Lightroom, I painted on the boats and the small path, and increased the exposure and contrast a bit.

Armageddon sunset - Local adjustments

When I merge my 5 exposure bracketed photos into one 32-bit tiff file I have got a lot more information, than I just had in 1 RAW file. TIFF files comes in 8-bit, 16-bit (the normal) and 32-bit – the more bits, the more information. When you do HDR’s and tone mapped images, the 32-bit image is an intermediate product, that you normally don’t use or see, but this tool just exports it. The more information there is in one image, the more details I can extract from the shadows and the highlights, and a 32-bit file can contain A LOT more information than any RAW file can contain. But it also takes up a lot of hard drive. My Nikon D800 produces 400+ Mb 32-bit TIFF files, when made from 5 HDR shots. So the 32-bit TIFF files, are not keepers in my world- they are intermediate products I delete, when I have made my final image. I then export my final image as a 16-bit TIFF file and reimport and delete the 32-bit TIFF file to save disk space.

If you have Lightroom and want to try out this way of making HDR photos, you can buy Merge to 32-bit HDR from HDR Soft with a 15% discount by using my discount code “caughtinpixels”.

And soon you will be able to get my Lightroom presets from this website.


Nyhavn in the Morning – Improving the sky

Nyhavn in the Morning In the heart of Copenhagen in Denmark lies Nyhavn (New Port). It used to be a port for trading goods, but now it's a place, that the people of Copenhagen gather for a cold beer or a homemade Ice cream during the summer. The canal tours also have their starting point here.

Buy a print this photo

It’s tough being a photographer when midsummer is close. You really have to get up early in the morning to capture the sunrise, but you are rewarded with a wonderful experience. This particular morning I drove to the center of Copenhagen: I had a few photo projects I wanted to complete, one of which was to get a good shot of Nyhavn (New Port), located in the heart of Copenhagen in Denmark. The tourists and the locals mingle on sunny days, get a beer or a home made Ice cream. Nyhavn is just great!

About the post-process

The photo is a 5 shot HDR photo. I made three candidates that I used to mix into the final image: two different ones in Photomatix and a third one in Lightroom. At some point, I tried changing the hue of the image, into something more golden, bringing it further away from the original shot, but bringing it into the peaceful atmosphere there was on this very early morning. This is the 0-exposure:

Nyhavn in the morning - before

A side effect from the tone mapping in Photomatix is that the sky is full of noise and there is some ghosting in the clouds which I didn’t like too much. In this case the clouds are shaped like long threads, so I decided to use a radial blur to emphasize their softness. This also removes the noise in the sky: a side effect of using radial blur. However, before doing that I cleaned the sky for masts, in order to get good looking radial blurry clouds. If I didn’t do this the masts would get blurred into the clouds as well. I used the Healing brush in Photoshop to remove the masts: it doesn’t have to be a perfect job, because the radial blur will smooth everything out.

Step 1 select radial blur

And then I selected Zoom in Radial blur and moved the center. It is important that the center gives lines that match the lines in the clouds. And after that I merged the blurred clouds into the final image.

Step 2 use radial blur

Giving the result below. By mixing this sky into the master image I get a great looking sky, with no noise and no ghosting in the clouds.

Step 3 only use the sky

How to make double tone mapped HDR photos

Bean at Night The Bean in Chicago is an awesome pieace of art. Though I only had very little time in Chicago I managed to get by it three times, the last time was at night time. The bean is a huge mirror built in steel, and then shaped like a bean. Everything reflects in the bean but in strange ways, because of the curves. It's very fascinating.

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The Bean in Chicago is an awesome pieace of art. Though I only had very little time in Chicago I managed to get by it three times, the last time was at night time. The bean is a huge mirror built in steel, and then shaped like a bean. Everything reflects in the bean but in strange ways, because of the curves. It’s very fascinating.

The photo is a 5 shot HDR shot with my Nikon D800 and the Nikon 14-24mm lens, which I love to death. When I processed this photo I made both a tone mapped version and a double tone mapped  image in Photomatix Pro and then I have blended them in Photoshop. The double tone mapped image I have primarily used for the ground, because it emphasize the texture and details.

Double tone mapped HDR images are often very easy to recognize. They push the image beyond a natural looking image, into a much more painterly world. They start to look like paintings rather than photos. Some like this, others don’t. I do like it. But exactly what effect you get when you double tone map an image, depend very much on how the light was when you shot your photo. A city night shot like this of the been, is excellent for double tone mapping. Here are some other examples of double tone mapped images:

The Royal Stables

The spider at the gates of the old Citadel

University of Copenhagen

As you can see they have a look and feel in common. That is the because of the double tone mapped image made in Photomatix Pro.

What a double tone mapped image does, is to exaggerate the texture and details enormously, which can look very cool if applied to all of an image, but you can also use it much more subtle, like in the two images below. In both I have applied a double tone mapped image to both on the rocks in the foreground and to the house in back ground, but the rest of the images are mostly other normal tone mapped or maybe just even one of the original shots.

Church of the Good Shephard

The old hammer mill

As you can see, they are very rich in detail on the rocks as well as on the houses. This is because of the double tone mapped.

How to make a double tone mapped image

The idea of the double tone mapping is that, you first do one HDR photo and tone map it in Photomatix using the option “Tone map” and “details enhancer”:

Step 1 Single tone mapping

and the image that you get from that process, you tone map too.

Step 2 Double tone mapping

This is simply done by pressing the “Tone mapping” button once more. A side effect of the double tone mapping is, that you get a lot more noise (grain) into the image and a wildly saturated image. The noise you have to clean up with a tool, but not necessarily all of it. The noise adds some of the grittyness to the image, which is part of the effect.

Step 3 double tone mapping

As you can see this is wildly saturated, so I slide the saturation slider to the left. I also do that to the luminosity slider. The Luminosity slider is very potent now, and I select something that I like, which is usually on the far left. And this is the result I get:

Step 4 double tone mapping

When you try to do this, try some of the other sliders too, and see how they affect your photo. When you are done, you have your double tone mapped image.

The way I process my photos, I will only use a portion of the photo. I never use what I get from Photomatix 100%, I always mix a bunch of images into the final image. I have a pool of candidates, the double tone mapped image is just one candidate.

If the double tone mapped effect is too strong, I will only mix it in with perhaps 50 or 75% opacity (see my tutorial on blending and mixing layers in GIMP or Photoshop).

This is the basics of double tone mapped image. You do need to have Photomatix Pro to do that. If you use this coupon code “caughtinpixels” you get 15% discount, and you can Photomatix Pro here.

On a tight budget? Use GIMP instead of Photoshop!

Sunset From the Old Mound Not far from my home town Roskilde in Denmark, lies this mound from the Bronze Age. From this place you can see for many miles around. This photo I have created using Lightroom and Gimp.

You don’t have to spend a fortune on software to make great photos. There is only one piece of software, that you really need to buy and that is Adobe Lightroom. And it just got released today in version 5. Lightroom not only organizes your photos, it also gives an incredible power to post process your photos and combining it with GIMP, which is totally free, you get an amazing powerful set of tools.

Learn how to make the photo below look as great as this HDR photo by using Lightroom and GIMP. You find the GIMP tutorial here.

Denmark - Sunset from the old mound

This photo I shot from the top of an old mound from the Bronze Age. It’s located just out-side Roskilde. I shot seven bracketed shots using my Promote Control and a Nikon D600, but I ended up using only three.