The photos on the track also gave me a some clearly high dynamic range scenes to compare the two HDR merging applications I currently like. I began with a set of 5 bracketed photos (-1.3EV, -0.7EV, 0.0EV, +0.7EV,+ 1.3EV) and used the RAW versions on these (shown below is the unaltered jpegs straight out of the camera)
I then merged into both packages using the align image and de-ghosting options in both systems. The On1 version being faster to get to the basic higher dynamic range image (with a generic tone map) which you can pick that up and do further tone and colour refinement as desired. As noted previously the new version of aurora actually refines the individual input brackets using an AI guided system (called by Skylum their Quantum HDR engine) , which takes longer to get to the default tone mapped image. However that default tone map is somewhat optimized to the features of the underlying image. The results where just cropped, but in the case of the AuroaHDR image also vertically transformed to avoid the converging of the tree tops.
The results are both fine, but which is better? The photo on the left comes from On1 Photo RAW and it definitely has done a magnificent job with the shadow detail however it is a little flat compared with the Aurora HDR on the right, which has stronger contrast and slightly more vivid colour. I’m sure I could easily further adjust the On1 Photo RAW output to also show stronger contrast and colour but for now I’m happy with both but Aurora being the new toy has become my favourite. Of course Aurora HDR can not stitch panoramas.
It is worth mentioning that my version of Aurora has been recently updated to version AuroraHDR 2019, whereas my version of ON1 Photo RAW is still version 2018.5