I just started playing with Nik Software’s HDR Efex Pro. As a plug-in for Aperture (also available for Photoshop and Lightroom), it’s as easy as “select your photo(s), and open in HDR Efex Pro”. There’s a ton of presets to choose from, and then of course you can get deep into the settings if you want to.

I’ve never done HDR before, and as you might expect, the initial look was very… well… HDR. However one idea that’s always interested me is HDR for black & white photography. If you know your photo history, you’ll recall the “zone system” devised by Ansel Adams, where a perfect print was conjured from the negative in the darkroom, allowing detail to show through from the darkest darks to the lightest lights—through each “zone” of the image.

This concept is somewhat achievable through various digital tools like curves and dodge & burn, but I always thought HDR would be a great way to go about it.

That’s a first-shot at it. This is an image built of a seven photo, 1-stop per image sequence (so –3, –2, –1, 0, +1, +2, +3 stops), shot RAW on the Panasonic GF1 out my hotel window in Bangkok. It’s the “Monochrome, Contrasty” preset, with one control point added to the hottest spot of the sky to pull some detail back in there (and probably too much, frankly). There’s a little bit of noticeable haloing around the buildings, which should be eliminated.

But for a preset and one control-point… it ain’t bad.