Sunset at Bolsa Chica

I capture the images that resulted in this image last Thursday at the Bolsa Chica Ecological Preserve. I spent about 2 hours walking around before the sun began to set. Eventually I settled down at the far end of the foot bridge and framed my shot. Shooting directly back at the sun, I knew I’d never be able to capture the fully dynamic range of the scene, so I bracked my exposure 4 shots either side of EV 0 with EV 0.7 between each shot (that’s a total of 9 frames).

I brought each of the 9 frames into RawTherapee, turned off all auto settings, adjusted the white balance, then batch processed them to 16-bit tif files.

At the command line, I used the command enfuse-mp -o output.tif *.tif to fuse the 9 frames into one.

Back to RawTherapee with the fused tif file where I reduced the black point in the Exposure slightly. Made some tweaks to the darker mid-tones using the Lightness channel curve of the Lab Adjustments tool. Then I used the Wavelet Contrast tool at 9 levels with the finest detail level at 72. Then bumped up the vibrance just a touch and added a vignette.

From there it was into GIMP for some Resnthisizer’s Heal Selection to remove some people across the body of water and the Healing Brush to remove the bird artifacts left in the sky from the exposure fusing.

Finished up with G’mic’s Richardson-Lucy sharpening with a sigma setting of 0.5.

I’ve been reading everything I can find (here and elsewhere) to give my skill set an much needed update. Have I done too much to this image? I desperately want to avoid the over processed “clown vomit” that one would find in bad HDR.

Let me know what you think!


Pretty good as it is… I would just try to make the orange blotch around the sun a bit less sharp.

As in, make a nice selection of the orange and some of the other colors around it, and apply a blur filter?

Although enfuse is one way to go, I would suggest you to try HDRMerge on your shots and let the rest happen in RT. It’s much easier and coherent.

Your image is absolutely an example for “HDR done right”. :thumbsup:

I actually have the HDRmerge page up now, but it doesn’t seem to be packaged for anything. I’ll have to try and build it at some point.

Edit: There is a copr repo for Fedora by our own @djotaku, thanks! Still need Debian packages though.

Yeah, it’s a pity HDRMerge isn’t actively maintained at the moment. Nevertheless it is super useful and not hard to build (on Linux at least). Take @heckflosse’s fork. I built it on Debian without hassle.

I would mostly blur the edge and not the inside…

I’m curious, have you tried the same process with only two photos? Enfuse does not work the same way as HDR. When shooting HDR one wants to cover the dynamic range of interest, so one shoots many brackets. With Enfuse you only really need one best-exposed image for every “thing” in the photo, for example one for the ground and one for the sky.

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I have not, but I will give it a try with fewer exposures in enfuse.