Saturday, March 13, 2010

Christmas in March

We celebrate Christmas with a good friend of ours far removed from the actual holiday.  There is just too much going on.  Its so much more fun to do this way.

When we got together today it reminded me that I had some frames I made with the intention of making a garish HDR image of our Christmas tree.  When I tried to do that in December I found the software I was using, Qtpfsgui, was clipping highlights and filling them with black.  This was far from desirable.

I decided to look for some other software.  I found Luminance HDR, which is a successor to Qtpfsgui.  I was disappointed to find the bug I encountered earlier was still there.

I dug around a bit more on the net to see what I could find.  I came across Picturenaut.  I found this program to be quite fast at creating the HDR image.  It also was not clipping highlights!  However, I was disappointed in the tone mapping options and output.  Qtpfsgui really spoiled me with a great toolbox of over the top tone mapping options.

I wondered a bit about what to do.  I had a program that tone mapped the way I wanted, but couldn't create the initial HDR image properly.  I also had a program that created the HDR image correctly and quickly, but couldn't tone map the way I wanted*.  Fortunately they both supported OpenHDR file format!  I created my HDR file with Picturenaut and then imported it in Luminance HDR for final tone mapping.

The final image was made by creating a few different tone mapped jpeg files and importing them into Gimp as layers.  I simply changed the blend mode to "screen" and played with the opacity of each layer until I got a final look I liked.  It's just what a wanted, a slightly crazed "record" shot of our Christmas tree.

Now that I got my image out I will revisit Picturenaut a bit more.  There are plug-ins available for it that may give me the tone mapping options I want.  I also was very impatient with it today.  I knew what the algorithms did that are supplied in Luminance HDR.  I was less sure about where I wanted to go in Picturenaut.  But, it works SO quickly on my machine I'd like to make it my primary tool if possible.

If you are interested in HDR imaging take a look at the programs I listed above.  The commercial program Photomatix is the gold standard piece of software to perform this process.  If you wish to do a lot of tone mapped images it is probably the route to go.

*Or, more likely, I am not familiar enough with it yet.

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