I recently downloaded a trial version of Nik Software’s HDR Efex Pro. I’d been semi-disappointed in many HDRs I’d created in Photomatix and had heard many people say they’d made the switch to Nik. If you’re hoping for a complete review of Nik HDR Efex Pro I apologize in advance — I’m only going to give some impressions here.
First, a bit on Photomatix. It’s great software in many ways and I’ve used it to make many cool (IMO) images. However, in many of my HDRs of late I’ve ended up doing so much masking in Photoshop after tone mapping in Photomatix that I’m practically producing a composite of the original exposures. Photomatix often doesn’t handle motion to my liking — leaving way too much work to do afterwards. I’ll readily admit that it could be the user — I’m no wizard with Photomatix. It could also be that I’m getting pickier as time goes on. On the plus side, I find Photomatix to be much faster than Nik but I don’t process all that many HDRs so that’s not a huge factor.
I used Nik HDR Efex Pro to process all but one of the images in this post. For my own comparison purposes I processed another Hawaii coast photo — similar to the one at the top of this post — with Photomatix. It’s not completely apples-to-apples since I didn’t process the *same* photo but I ended up having to spend a ton of time in Photoshop fixing up the Photomatix image (basically ending up with a composite as I mentioned above).
As for the mechanics of using Nik HDR Efex Pro, it’s quite simple. In each of the images (5-ish?) that I’ve processed with it I’ve started out with a preset and tweaked from there. Of course I’m still learning all the sliders, etc. but I’m happy with it so far. I find the “control point” concept useful (it defines circles in which you can separately tweak portions of the image) but I would prefer that it worked more like the adjustment brush in Lightroom where you can choose exactly where the effects are applied. The final images here aren’t completely to my liking (some spots would get fixed if I were to spend more time on the images) but are illustrative enough for this post.
“I will live in Montana. And I will marry a round American woman and raise rabbits, and she will cook them for me. And I will have a pickup truck… maybe even a “recreational vehicle.” And drive from state to state. Do they let you do that?”, Captain Borodin, Hunt For Red October.
I always think of that quote when I think of Montana. It cracks me up. I thought I’d post a few more of my favorite pictures from our summer Montana trip. A very friendly horse and some very green fields with a background of snow-capped mountains at sunrise.
Both images were processed with a series of curves adjustment layers to balance out various areas of the image. Nothing fancy…
I loved Montana. There were scenes like this everywhere — wide open spaces, mountains, horses — beautiful. I passed this place several times and decided I needed to take a picture of it. I waited a little bit for the horses to move into an interesting position (ie not with ALL their backs turned) and took the shot. Simple, but I like it.
Processing consisted of cropping and playing around with things in Lightroom. The main effect is the semi-desaturated, “old picture” look.
Just down the road from this ranch, I captured this shot of an old, rusty tractor and gave it a similar “old picture” treatment.
[Update in response to questions]
What a surprise to featured in Freshly Pressed. Thanks, everyone for the kind comments! What I liked about this picture was its simplicity and its portrayal of the vast open spaces — glad you like it too.
The picture was taken near Nye, MT in the Stillwater Valley. For those familiar with the area it was approximately half way between the Nye post office and the Stillwater mine. While I’ve driven through other parts of Montana, the Stillwater Valley is the only area where I’ve spent significant time (three different trips). There is basically no tourism which makes it that much more attractive. I’d highly recommend a visit to the forests and wilderness in this area. I’d also recommend renting an ATV (http://www.benbowatvrentals.com/) and heading up into the mountains — AMAZING views to be had. Unfortunately severe rain was threatening (and eventually arrived) when we rented the ATVs so the camera gear stayed in our cabin — no pics. The camera used was a Canon 5D mkii with a Canon 24-70 f/2.8L (at 70mm). The image was cropped slightly for aesthetic reasons which slightly reduces the “vastness” effect but improved the overall image. Over time I’ll try to visit everyone’s blogs, but it may take a while!