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.