The same three files used before, this time tonemapped in Photomatix, and not touched in Lightroom.
The workflow is like this:
1. Lightroom, preset for exporting to flat tif. Contrast set to linear. Calibration set to: faithful. White Balance: As Shot. Everything else zeroed out. In other words, a flat file with as much data as possible preserved. The color tiff files generated are just extremely low contrast.
2. Photomatix: Image Fusion (I use the Average Setting. No tinkering at this point).
3. Process the Fusion and then into Tone Mapping. Also fairly straight forward using the Tone Compressor engine. Luminosity ends up very low (left side) and compression high, almost 10.0 Saturation is zero. And here you can tweak color temp. and white and black clip points.
Import the new file into Lightroom. Only thing applied here (at least in this image) is a bit of sharpening. That’s it.
Detail and tonality – very nice – and something I haven’t been able to really show well, though maybe you can get a feeling for it through the larger web images I’m using now.
ONE NOTE: During the IMAGE FUSION process, there are many ways to blend the images. As I say, in this case I simply chose average (the three shots are one as metered, and then one under by a stop and one over by a stop). But if this is not giving you a wide enough tonal range, you can do the fusion and tweak how the images are blended, i.e. leaning towards the highlights or the shadow areas.
I have 3GB of memory on the computer, and often run into trouble if I try and run Photomatix straight from Lightroom (which is definitely supported). Hence the export, and then using Photomatix as a standalone program rather than through Lightroom.
Even if I am using Photomatix as a standalone program, it may run out of memory if I try to fuse more than three images. This is what the “batch” option is for. You can set it to do three frames at a time, and then you can combine the resulting files produced by the batch process. The program really does think of everything.