Cabo San Lucas – Revisited in High Dynamic Range

The arch at land’s end where the Pacific Ocean meets the Sea of Cortez.

The arch at land’s end where the Pacific Ocean meets the Sea of Cortez.

Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

In July, 2013, I posted an article about our visit to Cabo. You can read that post for details about the trip here. At that time, a Nikon D5100 took up much of my attention because I just acquired it, and I had much to learn. In getting back into photography after many years, I’d read about High Dynamic Range (HDR). I didn’t know much about it then, but example HDR photographs attracted my attention and I knew at some point I would like to experiment with the techniques. At two sites I visited, Cabo and Yelapa, Mexico, I put my new camera into bracket exposure mode. Virtually all photos taken at those two locations were triple exposed. The exposure bracket range I chose was -1.3, 0 and +1.3. When I got home, I loaded the images, most of which were taken without benefit of tripod on a boat of some sort. It was then I discovered that the version of Photoshop Elements, (11, if I recall,) couldn’t handle matching the three images if the camera moved even slightly.

 

One of the Pearl’s tenders docked in front of a huge vacation condo under construction by the marina.

One of the Pearl’s tenders docked in front of a huge vacation condo under construction by the marina.

I used the best exposure version of the three shots for my posts submitted to this blog at that time and called it good. However, I kept the extra exposures in my catalog for a future improved HDR application. Other than experimenting with Snapseed’s HDR mode on my iPad, I haven’t done much with HDR. I did a couple of tripod-supported sunset shots processed through Elements’ HDR function, but that’s about it. Even though I keep a tripod in the car, I seldom take it where I plan to shoot. Yes, I know…

A view of the marina and resorts on the hillside from our tour boat.

A view of the marina and resorts on the hillside from our tour boat.

The other day, I discovered that Lightroom 6 now has integrated both panorama and HDR functions. I do use panorama mode in Elements on occasion, but the cumbersome switch to tiff files from Lightroom for editing in Elements is extra work that I don’t bother with unless I really need to do something special that Lightroom cannot manage. When I read that both HDR and panorama modes in Lightroom create separately editable RAW images, I immediately purchased the upgrade. I considered Lightroom CC where for $10 a month, I could also get the full version of Photoshop. I decided against it, partly as a hobbyist, I have trouble justifying the monthly fee, and the three features, including face recognition, that I would use in Photoshop are now included in Lightroom 6. By the way, the photo of the marina above is my favorite of all the conversions.

Lover’s Beach from the Sea of Cortez. Once you land on the beach, it’s a short walk to the Pacific Ocean side of the beach.

Lover’s Beach from the Sea of Cortez. Once you land on the beach, it’s a short walk to the Pacific Ocean side of the beach.

I quickly discovered that Lightroom’s HDR mode has several advantages over the Elements version that I originally tried. Whether Elements 12 or 13 have improved the HDR functionality, I don’t know. I now have 12, but I never tried again to merge the photos that were taken from the moving boat. Lightroom’s HDR tool handles the slight changes in each image beautifully. It also has three levels of deghosting to ensure things like changes in wave action or other slight movements within the frame don’t get duplicated if they are in slightly different positions. I noticed that the length of time to process appears to increase in proportion to the degree of deghosting applied. That’s not surprising. Most of the time I left deghosting off, but found one photograph among this batch that ended up with a weird mottled appearance in the water. I reprocessed the image with full deghosting, and the resulting image came out just fine. I believe that image was the photo above this paragraph, but I didn’t save it, so I’m not sure anymore.

El Arco, the arch, protects a small beach at land’s end.

El Arco, the arch, protects a small beach at land’s end.

I am looking forward to taking my camera to more places where I can experiment with exposure bracketing. I now have a D7000, and I need to become more familiar with setting up bracketing. A friend of mine works with HDR and his choice of exposure range is -2, 0, and +2. I will have to experiment with those settings as well. Looks like I need to find a nice place to shoot a sunset and this time bring my camera. Who knows… maybe I’ll try a panoramic HDR image. For now, I submit a gallery of images in HDR that appeared in the earlier post, along with four bonus images that are being published for the first time. I welcome any comments and criticism on any part of the image, but especially if you have advice for someone just starting out in HDR. Click on an image to enlarge it and to scroll through the gallery.

 

John Steiner

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5 thoughts on “Cabo San Lucas – Revisited in High Dynamic Range

  1. Great shots. I used to carry a tripod, now never do. I also don’t know how to use PS or LR! But would like to know, just not learn it. I was in Cabo in 1987…doesn’t look like it’s changed much.

    • I am barely competent in PSE. I can recommend LR for cataloging images. It took me awhile to get comfortable with the editor to do basic stuff. I keep threatening to take an online class. Maybe someday I will actually do it. Thanks for the comment.

  2. Pingback: Yelapa – Revisited in High Dynamic Range | Journeys with Johnbo

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