Sahsima in Green

Today’s post is about another experiment in how to express moving water with HDR techniques. Like my last post on this topic, this one uses some jpegs from my archive, all shot within minutes of each other during a storm on 11/11/11. For my original post about photographing that storm, go to Sahsima Storm.  At that time I took a lot of shots of Sahsima from the shelter of a large boulder, trying to anticipate and catch a good spray effect as wave after wave washed in. Since I was trying to figure out what shutter speed would work for different effects, I ended up taking a lot of photos at a variety of shutter speeds. For some reason I never culled out the ones that did not work – I had ideas I would process some more of them for posting, but never did.

The difference this time from my other experiments is that all the shots used here have the same exposure value. The exact exposure I no longer know since I was using an old manual Takumar lens with the most basic adapter so the camera recorded no lens data at all. I do know that all (but one) of the shots are at 1/40th and that the f-stop for these was unchanged. Although, I see from my 12/11/11 post, which I just read as I was putting the finishing touches on this post, that I was adjusting the aperture for some of the shots so it is possible that there are some exposure differences, but if so, I think they must be very minor as the exposures all look identical, or nearly so. One definite variation is that one of the images was 1/30th, which I only noticed after doing the merges, and it should not be a big enough difference to alter the outcome.

Anyway, it occurred to me that with this kind of wild water blending a lot of images together might also produce a very creamy effect without the need even for long exposures, which would be handy tool to be able to pull out sometimes, if it worked.

2 – Merged via plugin

But, it did not really work, except it has produced a much brighter and luminous effect than any single one of the frames that give, and that is interesting in its own right.

  • The top image was created by uploading 8 unedited frames to Photomatix and adjusting levels and exporting a file back to Lightroom.
  • The second image was taken by merging the same 8 frames to a 32bit file directly from Lightroom with the Photomatix plug-in designed for that purpose. This latter method has no control over the image during the Photomatix part of the process.
  • Both images were then treated in Lightroom to get them closer to what I wanted. These treatments were the same for both images, with some minor colour adjustments to reduce the turquoise and malachite colours in the top version.
  • The third image is a single frame, but not one of the 8 used for merging, also of the same exposure value. I chose it because the water was similar to where I ended up without much spray and so on. I did my best in Lightroom to give it a similar feel to what I was getting from the ‘HDR’ versions. This was to see just how much of a waste of time it is to try merging identical exposure values but with different water motion for these kinds purposes.
  • Finally the gallery below includes the 8 images that were used for merging so that you can see the wide range of difference in water conditions that have gone into the merged versions. These have been edited (each one in exactly the same way) after I used them for merging to straighten them and adjust the levels a bit and so on.

3 – Single image edited for similar effect

My conclusion? I think it added something of interest to these photos, but I am not sure it was enough extra to be doing this very often except maybe as a possible backup when stuck somewhere without an ND filter in strong light. If using this method, for me the better result is from the automatic merge via the plug-in (which might just expose my ability to use Photomatix properly). Likely it would work better with RAW files, but those I don’t have handy to experiment with.


To open the gallery view of images  below click on any thumbnail, use the arrows to navigate and escape to return tot his page.



Canon 5Dii, Takumar 100mm/f4 macro, ISO100, f-22?, 1/40th second, polarizing filter



18 thoughts on “Sahsima in Green

    • Hi Karen. I am glad you like them.
      I could not find any examples of people using the HDR software for this kind of application, so I had to just try it out. Probably would have tried anyway, unless it was clearly not going to work.


    • Thanks Andy. I think I put more time and effort into the HDR images than the single one. My natural inclinations are towards single image processing, but it’s been interesting to explore these other methods and learn when they might be useful.


      • I’m with Andy – I also prefer the third (single) image. Which is a bit of a relief, frankly – because I’ve been feeling lately like perhaps I need to learn HDR…and have been reluctant to undertake that as it feels like a huge undertaking and/or diversion from what I want to be doing. So it’s lovely to see the effects you’ve been able to create through single image processing, and to hear your assessment of the relative work that went into each method. I may yet try HDR, but I don’t feel so much like it’s a “should” and that perhaps it can wait until I really “want” to do it. Thanks!


      • Hi Laurie – HDR has its uses, but the situations where I have been mostly using it and exploring with it are not in the usual category that people seem to make use of it. In unevenly lit situations it is a wonderful tool. Also, I really like the tone mapping effects on single images in black and white – it can really get a lot out of some of those images. And it was fun to discover that I did not need to do many minute exposures to get creamy water effects. However, it would be more satisfying to me to get that same effect pretty much out of camera without a lot of post-processing which is something I plan on trying.


  1. Highly complex images delivered in stunning style, my friend! I really love how we all can use these posts to learn from. You’ve done a great job with the experimentation process, and this all comes out wonderfully in the images you post and the anecdotal information on how you created them.


    • Thank you Toad. I was a bit surprised at the way it works. I would have expected more blurring and airborne mists in the areas where splashing was common. Probably if I selected frames more carefully I could get some of those effects. In any case, I think I have turned a set of 1/40th exposures into something a lot more like a 5 or 10 second exposure. Which is kind of cool.


    • Hi, thanks for dropping by! The first three images have been processed quite a lot, including a mask on the sky to try to get more from the clouds, a mask on the big rock to bring out the shadow details and one on the foreground to darken it a bit. So, if there are contrast differences in those one, it could also be my processing in different parts of the image.


    • HI Dawn – it was an interesting trial, but I am not sure if it is very useful. Possibly for some future use. I wonder how it would handle a street scene for instance. Probably a lot of ghosts and partial ghosts. Could be interesting.


  2. Interestingly, merging alters the whole feel of the scene here. There is a blurring and loss of energy. This is the reverse of what one might have expected!


    • Hi Valerie – it is very interesting. I think the software must be set up to average rather than to emphasize the extremes. All those splashes just go away. But not so much that it makes a creamy foam on top of the water, in this case.


    • Hi Anne-Laure – thank you for dropping in and leaving a comment. I love your pictures too, beautiful black and white. And it is so nice that you and Mathias go out to shoot together and then post such different images.


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