Digital Darkroom – The Peacock

After spending the past two days taking hundreds of photos, I’m planning to spend my evenings this week in the digital darkroom (a.k.a. the Sony Vaio laptop).  I decided to pick a few of my favorite shots from our trip to the Wildlife World Zoo yesterday, and concentrate on one per evening.  I’ll try different effects on the photo and post them here to compare.  The first one I’ve chosen is this closeup of a peacock.  This one was shot with my Nikon D5000 using my VR 55-200mm F/4-5.6G zoom lens.  I had it set to Auto, and the exposure information was recorded as ISO 220, 165mm, 1/500s, F5.6.  Here’s the original version, unprocessed except for resizing:

This next version shows the same photo after a few adjustments in Paint Shop Pro.  I increased the contrast slightly, changed the color temperature a little toward the warmer side, and sharpened it up slightly.  I may have done a few other things, but those are the ones I remember.  Here are the results:

Since all my shots at the zoo were single, unbracketed exposures, I didn’t have any good candidates for the standard HDR process.  Therefore, I had to cheat a little bit and use Nikon’s ViewNX to manually create a series of over/under-exposures of the same photo.  I created four copies of the RAW file, at exposure increments of -2, -1, +1, and +2, respectively.  I then ran these through the HDR process in Photomatix.  For the first one, I used all five of the exposures (including the original one) and then tonemapped the result:

As you can see, there are some obvious differences between this shot and the two above.  To me, it looks more “fluorescent” (that’s the best word I can think of for it) than the original photo.  I kind of like it, but I thought it might be a little overdone, so I tried the HDR process again, but this time I only used three exposures, leaving out the -1 and +1 versions.  I left all the tonemapping settings the same for this one, and here’s the result:

I honestly can’t tell that much difference between the two HDR’s, at least at this size (400 X 600).  But there’s an obvious difference between the HDR and the non-HDR versions.

I honestly prefer the original, untouched version.  The feathers on the neck seem more defined, and the color is more true to what I remember.  The HDR versions are more colorful, but I don’t think they are as sharp as the original (although I do like the way the background is rendered in the HDR’s).

So what do you think?  Which one do you like best?  Feel free to leave a comment and let me know!



  1. The HDR versions brought out a lot more detai in the background which is nice but the blue is too saturated in the HDR version. I like the peacock in the original photos but the background in the HDR version. Mask those two together and you have a winner I think! 😉 Sometimes HDR just won’t work and I think with the colors of peacock this is one of those times. Nice job overall and great photo of the peacock.

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