I discussed exposure blending on March 16. Photomatix offers HDR images (32-bit high dynamic range), and along with that a feature called “tone mapping”. I am a complete newbie at “tone mapping”, and the image below is my very first attempt which took all of 2 minutes.
The image at top was processed with Nikon Capture NX “D-Lighting”, and the image below it with Photomatix “tone mapping” of an HDR image (I processed the same RAW file into TIF in Capture NX as -1, +0 and +2 exposures into an HDR image). Click for larger versions. Both images are vastly better than the original, which had blocked-up shadows and no sparkle in the horse’s eye.
Processed with Nikon Capture NX “D-Lighting”
Processed with Photomatix “Tone Mapping”
I call this an “enhanced image”: it’s better than reality, though not really much different than the way I perceived the scene (and why I made the image). It has the qualities I envisioned which the camera didn’t deliver as a generic conversion. But these days, all RAW-file conversions are someone’s set of choices, not a hard-and-fast science of what’s accurate (if it were accurate, it would have to mimic the human eye/brain precisely, and no camera or film can do that, and every human perceives things a little differently as well).
The bottom line: many new software technologies are emerging today which will forever change photography—along a continuum of “that’s what was on film” (even if film itself alters reality) to photographic interpreted art. I think that’s fine, but images that contain content that wasn’t there need to be declared as such (or so obvious as to need no explanation). Not far off is the day when photographs are inadmissible as evidence unless digitally signed by an authenticated camera...