Attempts at HDR night shots

I'm still experimenting with HDR, which is a technique for rendering in a digital photo more of what the human eye sees. I gave a brief description previously in a post here.

This week I am staying in high rise hotel rooms as I do a week in China (visiting Shanghai, Beijing and Shenyang). It's a good opportunity to play with some HDR night shots, so I took along my trust Canon Digital Rebel with auto exposure bracketing and fired away.

Two examples are this night shot of the Kerry Center in Beijing. The shot looks towards the new CCTV building being constructed across the 4th Ring Road from the Kerry Center office, where Intel has its China headquarters.
Kerry Center Night HDR2
The other example here is a photo of the Hong Qiao neighborhood where I stay when I am in Shanghai.

Shanghai_street_HDR2

Again, both of these are by the good graces of Adobe Photoshop CS3. The HDR automation couldn't be easier, and the run time on my Centrino Pro laptop is really reasonable. (There - commercial product placement finished!)

Unfortunately, these both show some limitaitons I am finding with the technique or how I am using it. These night shots do tend to open up shadow detail nicely while not blowing out the highlights. The problem is that I am not getting the dramatic kind of lighting that I expected. In fact, the result is not too different from the mid-point exposure photo, what the camera thought was a "proper" exposure.

It could have alot to do with how I am shooting - I am only providing three exposures to Photoshop, each of them 2 stops apart in exposure. This is because it's really easy for the camera to take these automatically. From what I have read, it's better to provide more like 5 shots at different exposures. Of course, this will take more fiddling around with the camera to do it manually.

So I'm still experimenting...
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