Charles River Sunset, Cambridge

It’s easy to overprocess photos, to mangle them with excessive  saturation, vibrance, and contrast, all with the best of intentions. The  challenge of postprocessing photos is to reproduce the perceived scene  from the imperfect record in the camera. Of course different people may  perceive the same scene in different ways, and for some artistically  exaggerating the true scene is the goal. But I find images so much more  powerful when I can believe the scene is real, so I strive to make only  minimal adjustments to the raw images. The main “adjustments” consist of  choosing a locations, framing a subject, composing a scene, and  configuring the camera to best capture the moment.

On one very  clear night last week I walked over the Anderson Bridge towards Boston  and saw this vibrant sunset towards northwest over the Charles. In a  moment of experimentation, I chose to use three exposures and combine  them with the HDR software Photomatrix. It’s even easier to go overboard  with HDR, to completely drown out the original scene with excessive  tonal mapping, than it is to do so with RAW adjustments, so it’s  important to keep the actual scene in mind. With some tweaking of the  “Natural” HDR preset, I was able to make an image that remained true to  what I observed. It’s heavily weighted towards the dimmer exposure,  though the others brighten the water and the foliage somewhat. Still, I  prefer the foliage in near-silhouette as opposed to unrealistically  visible, keeping the HDR effects subdued and letting the scene shine on  its own.

Below is the google street view image of this scene.

Show Comments