The Alphabet Challenge “P” Stories voting has stalled, so no flood of votes for us. There are only two more days for them readers who wish to partake in this process.

If you are one such reader, thank you in advance for eventually reading our stories and for eventually casting a vote for your favorite of the three. Links to the stories and the poll for voting for “Alphabet Challenge P-Stories” are HERE.<<<Link Votes will be accepted until noon on September 18th.

So, here’s a photo long-time readers of this blog might recognize . . .

THIS<<link post has it as well as identifying them log homes (interesting story). That post was written a few months after we had moved to Colorado (so, yes, the photo is from Colorado).

So, with the short story challenge deadline looming large, I should be hunched over my keyboard, pounding on said keys, and crafting a wondrous tale . . . but, instead, I got photos of my first hawk since moving back to the mainland.

Folks, I’m out of practice, I tell you what, and not happy about it. I mean, I had sufficient shutter speed, pretty good lighting, and I wasn’t that far away. I didn’t control my aperture but that’s not normally a problem.

The one thing I did wrong was shoot from a running (but parked) car, leaning over the passenger seat as I twisted my torso to level the camera at the bird. I mean, it was wrong only insofar as it’s not an ideal way to shoot. But, had I gotten out of the car, I’d have missed the hawk because it didn’t linger long once I stopped.

Here are my first two shots as they came out of the camera, unedited and uncropped.

Not overly happy with the exposure and the in-camera processing but since it’s a RAW file, I’m OK with it because . . .

I might have mentioned (once or twice) I like sitting out back, under the covered porch, camera in hand, coffee by my side.

A few days ago, I was joined by a seed. A Milkweed seed, as best as I can tell. Side note: Milkweed plants are essential for the Monarch Butterfly (HERE, HERE, HERE). Well, this gave me the perfect opportunity to try out a piece of wood I’ve been preparing for use in macro photography.

That’s a curved decorative piece of wood (about 8″ x 8″) I bought at a garage sale for about $1 (or maybe less)

It was in poor shape before I repaired a few scratches, removed a few stains, sanded it as smooth as I could, and sprayed with six coats of matte black paint. The idea was (is) to provide a curved surface for photography so as to minimize reflections, seams, and other background distractions when shooting macros.

Unfortunately, when it comes to paint, matte is not the same as flat so there’s still more sheen than what I want. Also, despite the visual inspection, photographically the surface is neither as smooth or unblemished as it looks, as we shall see.

Aurora HDr does great with bracketed shots and my last post showed it capably handles single photos . . . but, what about Luminar 3 by the same company?

OK, OK, I’m probably burning out my few readers with these comparisons. This will be the last one (for now), I promise.

Anyway, in THIS post I explored what Luminar 3 can do.  Well, “explored” is a bit strong; I processed a few photos with it. But, I got to thinking (a dangerous thing that, I’m told); it seems to me both programs do similar things.

If you had to choose just one, which would you pick? Luminar’s advantage over Aurora is the file handling and catalog function it offers; it’s both an editor and a photo organizer. If you don’t need that (and if you shot bracketed series) Aurora processes photos very capably.

Well, I took the photos from the last post and ran a batch job using Luminar 3; I processed them using their Essentials Module and their AI Enhancer setting. So, here’s a gallery showing the original, the Aurora output, and the Luminar 3 output, in that order.

Not many words in this post . . . just photos.

OK, if you don’t know about Aurora HDR 2019 by now, it means you’re not reading my posts. That means it’s no use for me to review what these posts are about.

If you have been reading, then I can tell you this post is all about single photos being run through the Aurora HDR engine with one of the canned presets in the program. What I show below is one original and its version output from Aurora presented in gallery form.

A few of the photos will have multiple versions and these will all be in their own galleries for easy comparisons. 

For instance:

Not many words in this post . . . just photos.

In case anyone forgot or didn’t read Part 1 or Part 2, this and the two previous posts are about software (Aurora HDR 2019) geared toward processing scenes shot with bracketed exposures. The software is by Skylum and some might remember they also offer Luminar, which I discussed in THIS post.

“Bracketed exposures . . . what’s that?” ask readers who haven’t read any of my linked posts.

Before I answer that, a quick warning: this is not a short post and it’s repetitive. Meaning, I take three photos, merge them, and marvel about the output. If you’re interested in the performance of Aurora at the hands of an amateur, read on. If not — and you still want to see the Alaska photos — you’re better off clicking on the link two paragraphs below this one.
Very brief HDR explanation: you have a chess board; you take a photo and while the white pieces show up really nice, the black pieces are too dark (underexposed) to show any details. You take another photo, this time with the flash. Now, the black show up nicely, all the fine details visible . . . but the white pieces are washed out (overexposed), with no details visible. If only you could take the two photos and merge them, keeping all the portions that show details but getting rid of the stuff that’s either too dark or too light. Basically, that’s what HDR programs do.

You need to plan such shooting and you need a camera that can bracket exposures. In 2012, when we went on our Alaska Cruise, I encountered many instances where I thought it prudent taking three photos (EV -1.0, EV 0.0, EV 1.0). Mind you, I didn’t have much hope for the practice because a) I didn’t have a good HDR program to take advantage of the bracketed shots, and b) I was shooting hand-held so I knew aligning the photos would be difficult. Because of both a) and b), I skipped merging HDR shots for my posts.

Mind you, I didn’t do too bad just editing what I had.

But, take a look at this series of shots . . .

Quick Note: My typical reader either doesn’t care about this stuff or they already know it, so who are these posts for? Well, they are for a tiny portion of humanity; they are for people who just developed (developed; get it? . . . nevermind) an interest in photography and stuff relating to photography. Also, people who are photography enthusiasts and are looking for information on software that might interest them. Finally, they are for my benefit. Everyone else . . . sorry.

With that in mind, if you just landed here from a search and are so inclined, click HERE for Part 1.

Aurora HDR processing of three bracketed exposures taken with the Samsung Note II. More about phone camera HDR processing below.

I’ll step back for a moment . . . all the way back to THIS post. The post was prompted by my HDR failures in THIS post covering our passage through Tracy Arms during our 2012 Alaska Cruise.

Them be a lot of links and most people won’t click on them but, no worries. I’m here to cover the gist of all that.

You see, encountering difficult scenes during the 2012 Alaska Cruise, I made an effort to bracket exposure for scenes I deemed it might be useful doing so. The whole transit through Tracy Arms was plagued by contrasty scenes; bright reflective water, dark and steep shorelines, and bright cloudy skies behind the steep shorelines; all of the shots I took were bracketed as were many other shots during that cruise.

That’s why, on the last post, there are a couple of examples from that cruise; it’s because I have many, many bracketed shots from that cruise. I’m talking multiple hundreds. The plan was a good one . . . except for a few minor flaws.

HDR (High Dynamic Range) processing was all the rage some time ago. Impossibly lit and detailed photos with overly-saturated colors were showing up everywhere . . . for a while. Some people hated them, some loved them.

For me, it’s just another tool I’d like to master. Not to create over-the-top images — although sometimes that can be fun — but as another weapon in my arsenal of photo-processing tools.

Briefly for them who want to know something but not much; if you know it, skip it:
while your eyes have a wide dynamic range as far as resolving details, cameras (film or digital) are limited in what they can resolve. By resolve I mean distinguish details and structures. Too dark a scene, and everything blends into a shadowy blob. Too light a scene, and you get a bright blob. We compensate — by we, I mean photographers — deal with extremes by adjusting the ISO (the response of the film or sensor), shutter speed (controls how much light is allowed to hit the film or sensor), and aperture (controlling how much light the lens lets in by controlling the size of the opening). Some or all of those tools used in conjunction with each other will let us take a photo of a very dark scene or a very bright scene and still get something that shows details and structure and texture. All well and good if it’s either or. A problem arises when a scene contains very dark areas and very bright areas. You can either compensate for one or the other or accept limitations in what you can show . . . OR . . . you can snap multiple photos — some showing what’s in the shadows and some showing what’s brightly lit — and blend them. 

Hmm . . . lots of words. Let me show you.

That’s a photo I took on our 2012 Alaska Cruise and processed for the blog.

It looks nice and all, but here’s another version . . .