In a previous post, I mentioned creating a high-dynamic-range image using multiple exposures. In this post I want to show an example of one of my favorite digital photography techniques: Creating an HDR image from just one RAW capture. You lose the dynamic range of combining many bracketed exposures, but using one capture like this eliminates problems of movement, such as clouds or grass blowing in the wind.
The key to this technique is shooting in RAW so that you have the most exposure latitude with which to work. I usually set the camera’s mode to Matrix Metering (Evaluative Metering on a Canon). One of the things I love about my Nikon D700 is its wide dynamic range, so this camera works really well for this technique.
Once you have a well-exposed RAW file, you can create 3 or 5 instances of the image using your RAW application’s exposure control to effectively over and underexpose your photo.
Below is the original image followed by a one-exposure HDR rendering using Photomatix Pro:
This was shot with the Nikkor 16-35mm VR @ 18mm, ISO 400, 1/30 sec @ f/16. Post processing done with Adobe Camera Raw.
I made this image at Wind Canyon in Theodore Roosevelt National Park. It started raining a few seconds after this shot, and as you can see by the top/original image, the light was not great. I think the HDR conversion process made a much more dramatic and interesting photo.