Come Downstairs and Say Hello: A Collaboration


What?  Is it my turn again to host the HDR Collaborations?  Sweet, ’cause I’ve been waiting to share some really cool brackets with the likes of an amazing cabal of photographers many of you may know, like Jim Denham, Mark Garbowski, Mike Criswell (aka Theaterwiz), Rob Hanson, Bob Lussier, and… oh yeah, me!  Anyway, as I was saying, I wanted to share some brackets from a recent Urban Exploration trip to an old East German paper mill shut down years ago with these guys, ’cause I was just itching to see what they could do with them.  I figured my HDR Collaboration pals wouldn’t mind too terribly much taking a crack at working on a photograph at a location that not too many folks on their side of the pond may have the opportunity to visit, much less photograph.  And, friends, I’m telling you these cats rocked these brackets hard!!  Wow!! So, without much more blather from me, here is my version of the shot, followed by the amazing versions dished out by my HDR homeys!  And do yourselves a favor and check out their other stunning work over on their websites, which you can reach by clicking on any mention of their names in this blog posting.

Jim Denham:

How lucky are we to push pixels on a set of brackets from the Freq himself? And what a set of brackets to play with! Awesome work here Jacques, thanks for allowing us to play along!

The wall directly above the first set of stairs drew my eye immediately, the way the light from the floor above was showing off the paint peelage and greenish colors. I knew I had to focus on that spot! Cropped the image in a bit to bring that area more into the foreground and gain emphasis. Selectively applied the Clarity preset from Topaz Adjust to bring out the paint on the wall, then applied a heavy s-curve in Aperture. Also burned the shadows so that there was only the main light from the upper floor and the window light in the back of the frame. Even though darkened, I left that window a bit bright to add some depth to the image. Final adjustments were definition and sharpening to main stairs and wall, then a heavy vignette to darken the edges even more!

REALLY enjoyed these brackets and love the result! Thanks Jacques!

Mark Garbowski:

I look forward to these collaborations more and more because doing them juices my interest in working on my own images. Thanks for supplying this cool image, Jacques.  For this image, I started by making the Photomatix tone mapped version brighter than I knew the final result would be, knowing that I could always make it darker.  Leaving it moderately bright allowed me to selectively darken later using brushes.  Once I had the tone mapped version, the first thing I did was brush in the window from the darkest bracket because it was blown out. In fact, I even darkened the window beyond how it was captured in the bracket with the lowest exposure, and ended up deciding to make the window the central element of the image. I used the Nik Color Efex Midnight filter to brush in the selective darkening. Another Nik Cross Processing filter added an eerie blue tone, and by chance it left the area around the window mostly unchanged, but seemed to reveal that the blue light was coming from somewhere outside. Next I decided to go all in on and further emphasize the window using selective focus from OnOne’s Focal Point. I don’t know if it comes through, but I ended up telling a story with this image that I’m pretty sure is different from what Jacques intended. But then, that’s the whole point of this endeavor, isn’t it?

Mike Criswell (aka Theaterwiz):

What sweet lighting Jacques! What I liked about this set of brackest, and really enjoyed, is the many directions the light poured over the scene, and how much I enjoyed working with it while processing the brackets. Such a Sweet Set.

I approached this as any other set, but I knew the darkness and the light would play into my processing, knowing that Jacques shot the brackets, I already knew the brackets were good!. While procesing this and finishing it up, I look and wonder and I beg to ask, should I come down the steps from the creepy upstairs, or head up them to the unknown? Very cool Jacques, loved these brackets. These were processed in Photomatix, with my normal formula, some Topaz, OnOne, NIK, and Lucis…Thanks again Jacques!

Fun Processing times! Cheers from T-Wiz

Rob Hanson:


That should be all I have to say, but… Wow…

I had a feeling this was going to be a good set, and I certainly wasn’t disappointed. The thing I love about working with Jacques’ images is that they are already stunningly well done, even before post-processing. So much clarity and detail, and always a fantastic composition.

And the thing I like most about working these collaborations is that it’s like standing there with the photographer, looking through their eyes. Since we’re not in the same part of the world, I know of no better way of getting to know these people more closely, to directly experience their vision, and for that, I’m grateful.

For processing this image, I veered away from Photomatix Pro entirely, as I found the output to be too soft and flat for my liking. Instead, I used HDR Express from Unified Color to create the base file, and Unified’s 32 Float plug-in for Photoshop CS to tweak that result.

There were a few spots that I needed to address. I used another 32 Float layer to knock down the window glare and slightly reduce the luminosity coming from the upstairs area. Once I had achieved a good balance on the lighting, I warmed up the lighted areas with a Brilliance/Warmth filter from Nik Color Efex Pro. I wanted that warm light to be pouring down the staircase and in from the window.

In order to add more depth to the details and shadows, I then created a separate layer with Nik’s Silver Efex Pro and pushed both contrast and structure to high levels, then lowered the opacity of the layer to about 30% with blending in Hard Light. (Sort of like my Shadowmapping process.) From there, Nik’s Tonal Contrast, Glamour Glow, and Midnight filters were applied in succession, brushed in or out depending on my whim at the time. I also performed some Low Amount/High Radius sharpening, and finished up with Nik’s Output Sharpener, but dialed down the result so that the details didn’t get too edgy.

Wow. Thanks, Jacques.

Bob Lussier:

Jacques has a great eye for photography and is a master technician, so I knew this set of brackets would be near perfect, both aesthetically and technically. No shock. Its a great image. I also thought it could  be something I would take (the stair freak that I am) so I was eager to jump on it.

I love the distribution of light here. Especially the shadows creeping from the lower corners of the image, pointing to the base of the steps. I wanted to maintain the darkness there. I wanted to create a mood. I hope I was successful.

The only unspoken rule of this little game is, “thou shalt not cast eyes upon thy brothers finished product before finishing thine own.” I believe its also the 11th commandment, but Moses dropped the third tablet as he stumbled down the mountain.

Anyway, I always abide by that rule. I try to process the host’s image as if it were my own. I always finish it thinking, “I’ve nailed it!” I did that here. Then I look at the others and I’m blown away.  I’m really thrilled to be keeping the company I keep here.


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What a great set of brackets to process Jacques, all the versions are great, it was a pleasure to bend your pixels! Thanks again!

I do believe Rob said it best…WOW! The shot is fantastic and all the different takes on it are wicked awesome. Great job to all the photographers! Such a great post.

Really cool processings!

What a treat to wake up and see this has gone live so I can see everybody’s versions on one page. Awesome brackets, Jacques, and my fellow collaborators knocked this one out.

These are all great! I love these collaborations and how each photographer sees the same scene!

Great job everyone. I especially like Rob Hanson’s rendition!

Love ’em, love ’em all! Each and every one presents a different story here, but there is a small thread of commonality. Those shadows that are dancing from the staircase there totally captured my eye right away; what an amazing image well processed by the whole team here!

What a great set! They all look really good in their own unique ways. Its a treat to see how not just two photogs but a large number of photogs see an image in their own way. This is a great idea.

Great job you guys did here! I like Jim Denham’s version the best, but only because I’m biased to darker tones. Congratulations to you all!

It is just so cool how individual personalities and styles peek through each image. Each one is compelling; each started with a masterful beginning.

Jacques, this is just a fantastic image. The composition is amazing and the light is unreal. Very nicely captured.

Gents: Awesome work from all of you!

Great work guys, and thanks for the kickin brackets and hosting Jacques! Awesome!

Really wish I didn’t have to sit this round out! 🙁 Great set of brackets and everyone did a killer job of representing their own style and execution!

Have a great weekend!

That is one fantastic composition, and I can´t tell which one of the versions I like better or best, I´m blown away by the creative force of all the participants.
Kudos to all, and to Jacques, for venturing into that dark place and bringing home these exquisite brackets!

[…] … and speaking of Sleepy Jacques Gudé, pop on over to his blog to see the latest HDR Collaborative effort. Its a fun exchange of techniques, just short of a serious competition. We are anything but […]