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.
Since our trip to Paris it seems that I’ve never been able to catch up with “things”. Photography has certainly been a temporary casualty but I’ve managed to process most of the photos from the trip. Most pics got the quick exposure/contrast treatment but I managed a few HDRs as well.
We spent our six nights in Paris but included a day trip to London during the week. I booked us in “leisure select” (effectively what we’d call business class) on the earliest Eurostar between Gare du Nord (Paris) and London St. Pancras and then the latest train back to Paris. Frankly the train rides were quite enjoyable and relaxing. The image above was taken in the St. Pancras train station and shows a statue called The Meeting Place by Paul Day. The architecture (interior and exterior) of the train station alone would have made for a decent day’s photowalk. I read somewhere (probably wikipedia) that the station underwent a $1 billion+ renovation in the last decade. There are still some construction fences around portions of the exterior — I only noticed because they ruined some photo opportunities.
The pic below was taken on the bridge at the entrance to the Tower of London. A catapult sits in the long-ago drained moat surrounding the walls. While this image doesn’t really capture the essence of the Tower itself, it certainly helps me re-live that single day we spent in London. Sunny and warm, blue sky with awesome clouds — such a rarity in London. It seemed that everyone we met made some comment to the effect of “You sure got some of our best weather for your visit”.
The Tower was amazing. The history of the place is SO interesting. The Beefeaters tour was quite entertaining as well. We spent about three hours inside and that was skimming a lot of the text on plaques and such. We’d certainly go back and spend more time if we visit London again.
The HDR above was created using three handheld exposures. Tonemapped in Photomatix with some typical contrast, sharpening, etc…no blending with original exposures.