Tractor Experiment

Recommend clicking to see full size where the vignette looks right
Anyone else unhappy with Blogger's color treatment?

Up in Paso Robles wine country last week and shot this lone tractor. Light was very harsh with the sun almost directly overhead.
I thought it might make an interesting project starting from an HDR base. I shot the tractor with a Canon 5D Mk II and a 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L lens. Three shots at EVs of 0, -2, and +2 as the dynamic range was around 9 to 9.5 stops.

Per my normal workflow, I imported to Lightroom and then applied my HDR preset (sets the Tone Curve to Linear and disables any input sharpening on the Detail tab.) I exported the three shots to Photomatix Pro with the plug-in.

In Photomatix, I tone mapped the image first for a non-photo realistic look with the Details Enhancer. After hitting process, the resultant TIFF is "shot" back to LR and stacked with the first selected image. This is one area where the plug-in could use some help. Everything is fine if you still have your source images selected but if you have moved on in your LR work the processed HDR will stack with whatever image you have selected, definitely an other (Navy fighter pilot speak for "something bad.") After the processed HDR came back to LR I decided to make a photo realistic copy as well.

The plug-in also leaves a little something to be desired on this as well. If you export the same three images back to Photomatix the result will overwrite your first attempt. So in order to process the images in different interpretations you must first rename the initial Tone Mapped image. I did that and then reprocessed for a photo realistic look. After both were in LR, I stacked them into Photoshop CS4 as layers and went to work.

About 10 layers later, the shot above is where I currently stand. There was extensive use of Layer blend modes and plenty of content sharpening. I used low radius/high mount smart sharpen, high radius/low amount smart sharpen, and some high radius High Pass sharpening to get the look I wanted in the tractor. There is also an 80% desaturation of the background with a B&W adjustment layer. Some non-destructive burning and a little vignette.

Not sure if I will take this one further but always fun to play a little.