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Covered bridges are always a popular photographic subject. Fortunately for me, Oregon has many of these architectural treasures.

Recently, I spent a few days photographing the covered bridges in the Scio area. This is one of the towns particularly known for the bridges as there is a fairly dense cluster of them in the area. It’s interesting when you photograph covered bridges that many of them have great places for you to photograph them and with some there are very few vantage points. You can tell looking at this gallery the difference by the relative number of photos of the various bridges.

When we were out photographing the covered bridges we also ran into a few other things to photograph, that you can see in this gallery, including a “stray” cat that was quite pretty and very friendly. I had some photos that had to be thrown away due to motion blur because the cat was rubbing against my legs and the tripod legs.

This was also a project that I did a lot of HDR with. I would say that nearly every image here was either tone-mapped using HDR Efex Pro2 or Lightroom was used in such a way to expand dynamic range. I can tell you that with Lightroom 4’s new abilities in this regard it can be difficult to make the choice of which to do.  Obviously, there are times when the dynamic range is sometimes wide enough that the tone-mapping option is necessary. Then there is a gray area where Lightroom can do it on its own, but it’s a push in the shadow areas. I usually make the choice in this scenario based on two issues; how much detail I need in the shadow areas, and how much noise can be tolerated. HDR Efex Pro2 does a better job of separating tones in the shadow areas and will keep the shadows cleaner.

HDR Efex Pro2 is the best I’ve seen at creating HDR images that look like normal photographs. Recently, a webinar was posted on the Nik Software site that helped me perfect my technique in this regard.

The first thing I do is go into the tonality panel and set the overall brightness to a point close to my desired end point. Then I go into the Tone Compression panel. Starting at the defaults, I play with the drama slider and determine if I like the Natural or Deep setting more on the specific photo. Next I reduce the Tone Compression slider as far as I can and still have detail wherever I need it.

Next step, I do Tonality adjustments. I increase the contrast slider to about +20. Then I adjust the shadow, black, highlight, and white sliders to get the full dynamic range. Then I consider increasing structure a little. Then I go into color and boost Saturation at least +10 and no higher than +25.

This finishes the overall photo, but I add the finishing touch of a vignette. There’s something about a subtle vignette that makes the photo look more real to me.

USA, Oregon, Scio, Hoffman Bridge across Crabtree Creek in early Autumn. Digital Composite, HDR (Rick A. Brown)

Take a closer look at my covered bridge photos.