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Archive for month: January, 2012

Using Photomatix and Lightroom together

31 Jan 2012 / 8 Comments / in blog

As you may know I am a big advocate and user of Adobe’s Lightroom and I use it to manage ALL of my images. I am also a dedicated user of Photomatix for HDR processing.

I am often amazed by how many people do not know that both programs work very well together and you can have a complete image processing workflow by having Lightroom pass on your images into Photomatix for HDR processing.

Using Lightroom as a front-end to Photomatix has a number of advantages over using it independently, most importantly to me is that I believe Lightroom does a superior job at converting my RAW files to TIF which is what Photomatix uses to create the HDR images. Yes Photomatix can process and convert your RAW files, but Lightrooms image processing engine is arguably the best in the industry so why not take advantage of it? There are certainly many more advantages and that may be a topic for a future article.

Here I want to detail for you the way in which both programs integrate and how to use them correctly.

When you first download Photomatix you will notice that your download included two files, the Photomatix application and a file called “Photomatix.lrplugin” this is the plugin needed to complete the Lightroom and Photomatix integration.

I am not going to detail here the instructions on installing the plugin but will direct you to the instructions that the Photomatix folks have put together for your convenience:

Once you have the plugin installed correctly, you have a few different options of invoking Photomatix, but they all start by selecting in Lightroom the images you want to use for your HDR processing. Once you select the 3 or more images in Lightroom, the easiest way to work with them in Photomatix is to go to “File” menu in Lightroom and select “Plug-In Extras -> Export to Photomatix Pro…”

As soon as you you select that menu you are immediately presented with a dialog box to select a bunch of options on how to pass the images into Photomatix. In my experience this dialog box is where people get confused most often. For the purpose of this article I am only going to touch upon the bottom section “Handling of processed image” because this is where you are going to tell Photomatix what to do with your Final HDR image.

First you want to make make sure you have the first checkbox selected “Automatically re-import into Lightroom library” it should be obvious but what this does is whenever you “save” or “process” your HDR result in Photomatix the image is automatically added to your Lightroom library, in the same folder where your source images were located.

The second option I like to select is “Stack with first selected photo” and again there are a few reasons for this. First is that I like to “stack” my HDR images with their source images, so this automatically does that for me, second as I will detail a little later in the article, this makes it super easy to then “find” your resulting HDR as it will be conveniently stacked with your first source image.

In regards to the “File Name” dialog box, Photomatix tries to come up with a filename that makes sense and one that is descriptive of the source images, but sometimes this file name is too long and confusing, so here you have an opportunity to tell Photomatix the exact filename to use when saving the resulting HDR file in your Lightroom library. We all have our own preferences, but I like to include the image range that was used to create the HDR. In the example above you can see that I used the files between 3847 and 3850.

Last, In the output format you WANT to use “TIFF 16-bit” because this will give you the best quality possible, so I always stick with that.

Once you press the “Export” button Lightroom exports your images as TIFFs and hands them to Photomatix to do it’s magic. And this is where you start your HDR fun. Go ahead and process the image whichever way you like, whether artistically or realistically it’s up to you.

Once you are satisfied with your adjustments in Photomatix, you want to click on the button titled “Save and Re-import” near the bottom of your adjustments panel. This will cause Photomatix to process your HDR file and drop it into your Lightroom Library. Once Photomatix is done processing you can simply quit it, and jump back into Lightroom for further adjustments and work on your HDR masterpiece.

Now if you selected the option “Stack with first selected photo” in the export panel, the image should appear right there next to your first source image, very convenient. If you did not select that option you may or may not immediately see your HDR image in your grid view in Lightroom, and most of the times the reason for this is because of the “sort order” you have set for your grid. If this is the case, simply scrolling down to the bottom of the grid, or maybe the top (depending on your sort setting), will oftentimes reveal the HDR image. If you still can’t find it change the sort option to “Filename” and it may then be easier to find based on the filename you gave the file.

If all else fails… there was a version of Lightroom that would not immediately show you the processed HDR image in your grid view in your library, the grid view had to be “refreshed” in order for Lightroom to then show you the processed HDR file, you can do this simply and quickly by selecting another folder in Lightroom and then re-selecting the original folder. Once you do this the image will magically appear.

I hope you found this quick tutorial helpful, if you have any questions feel free to contact me.

Winter in Yellowstone January 2012

18 Jan 2012 / 0 Comments / in blog

I can never get enough of Yellowstone, you may be sick of hearing me say this, but Yellowstone is definitely my favorite place in the world, and I will never pass up any opportunity to visit, specially in winter. Well this past January I was very fortunate to go in a much more relax and leisurely setting than when I am leading workshops with many clients.

Don’t get me wrong I love leading these workshops out there while helping participants make the best images that they can and meeting new enthusiastic photographers, however during those workshops my focus and priority is that the workshop participants make the best images that they can, my photography comes a distant second.

While this trip was no different than a regular workshops in many respects, in that my photography was still a secondary concern, having only one person to worry about allowed me much more time to make some great images for myself.

This year, as in most of the northern US there has been a significant shortage of snow. While the interior of the park has accumulations much higher than the surrounding areas I’ve never seen so little snow inside the park. This in contrast with last year where we saw record accumulations, to the point that it slowed down our snow coach trips significantly. What this meant is that we did not see as much wildlife as we would normally see since the higher elevations still offered sufficient foraging for the herbivores, and where there are herbivores the carnivores follow. Yet the scarcity of snow did not prevent us from making some spectacular images.

Here is a brief sampling of the best images I made during the 4 days we got to spend in the park.


New Years in Acadia National Park

01 Jan 2012 / 2 Comments / in blog

What better way to start a new year by seeing the first sunrise at not only one of the most spectacular National Parks in the country, but also at the easternmost point in the US. Why is that relevant you may ask. Well because being the easternmost point in the US means that being there for the sunrise of the 1st day of the year, you are one of the first in the US to welcome in the new year!

For the past few years I have made it a point to go on a cool and/or new hike on the first of the year, and this year was no exception, and now that I live just 80 minutes away from Acadia it was a natural for me to spend the day there making images and hiking around.

Maybe you can start your own tradition and make it a point to go out and make some great new images on January 1st 2013, I know I will.