HDR Photo Tour of Montreal

HDR Photo of Marie Reine du Monde in Montreal

Candy : Babies :: Photographs : Cathedrals

Marie Reine du Monde: Queen of the World

Lori and I like to pack our weekend trips as full as possible. It takes some strategic planning, and often a decent amount of caffeine, but we’ve gotten pretty good at hitting the major attractions of a city in a 2-3 day span. Of course, when in Montreal, we couldn’t miss the famous Cathedrale Marie Reine du Monde (English: Mary, Queen of the World). Although not as colorful as Notre Dame, it was similarly grand and also much less crowded. While there, a small assortment of tourists and homeless came and went, but we basically had the place to ourselves.

Also of note, Marie Reine does NOT have a public restroom… but I did invent a new dance while I was packing up my gear.

It’s Cool to Be Smart

The Cathedral Marie Reine du Monde is the third largest church in Quebec. It was built in the late 18th century after a previous cathedral burned down. The bishop of Montreal at the time decided to have the new church built as a scale model of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The only difference in the exterior of Mary, Queen of the World is that Instead of the statues of the twelve apostles as on the façade of St. Peter’s, the top of the front of the church is lined with statues of the patron saints of thirteen parishes of Montreal who donated them.

Post Processing of Lead Image

  1. Converted 5 bracketed NEFs to DNG
  2. Corrected chromatic aberration in LR
  3. Tonemapped in Photomatix
  4. Ate dinner… chili, yummmm ^_^
  5. Blended layers in PS
  6. Edited blended image with layer adjustments and coffee
  7. High Pass set to Hard Light to sharpen

HDR Photo of Marie Reine du Monde Interior and Altar in Montreal HDR Photo of Marie Reine du Monde Statue in Montreal

Where’s the Butler?

As you may recall, to my chagrin, Marie Reine du Monde does not have a public restroom. After inventing several very post-modern dance moves, I briskly walked to the nearby Marriott hotel. This also provided Lori the chance to ask directions to beautiful Notre Dame while I visited the little boys room (tee hee). Upon my return, she was still wrapped up in conversation with the concierge and, I took the opportunity to photograph this handsome staircase. It reminds me of the staircase in my future mansion that I’ll likely never buy, except this one doesn’t have a monocle wearing butler coming down it with a hot cappuccino. Ah well, nothing can be perfect right?

Hotel Stairs After Photoshop Edit

Post Processing

This image was a pretty straight forward Photoshop edit. In Photomatix, I made sure to keep the luminosity slider as low as possible to avoid losing details to the classic HDR glowy look. Also, in the Photoshop Edit screenshot below, you’ll notice the “Yellow De-sat” which selects the white stone in the stairs in the ceiling. In this HSL adjustment layer I dropped the Yellow saturation about 10 points in order to create a stronger emphasis on these elements since they create the dramatic movement in the photo.

One of my goals was for the final image not to be overtly “HDR.” So how do you think I did? Any areas that stick out to you?

Photoshop Edit

Hotel Stairs Photoshop Edit

Before and After Photos

Hotel Stairs Before Photoshop Edit Hotel Stairs After Photoshop Edit

Habitat 67

photo of Habitat 67 - Expo 67

Q: If this building had a soundtrack would a hipster buy it? A: Is there a vinyl version?

My ideal morning starts by waking up around 10am and involves another hour of burrowing in warm blankets. Sadly, as a photographer, this fantasy is only a plague on my mind when trying to capture the early morning rays. Especially in winter. Especially in Montreal. And so, at the snot freezing, digit disabling, toe numbing temperature of -25°F (-32°C, and that’s without the windchill coming off the St.Lawrence), I found myself in Habitat 67 starring at some of the most marvelous modern architecture on Earth, and I was completely grumpy about it. With sunrise angles and times calculated, reference images found, and even a new wide angle lens purchased, all that remained was to have fun and take the photos. Thankfully, Habitat 67 is quite photographic and the light was still low enough to play well with the boxy architecture. Also, I was glad that no one was around to watch as I was forced to warm my completely deadened fingers in the warmed place I could find… (desperate times call for desperate measures, don’t judge me). Moving quickly, I raced against my own diminishing body temperature to photograph the campus. Although I didn’t get a good look inside, based on the exterior aesthetics, I would assume that the interiors of these units are equally as functional. This place would be (and perhaps already is) the perfect place for a thriving hipster community. Although, I’m sure hipsters would have their own take on that idea.

After about 40 minutes I had hit my limit and headed back to Lori who was waiting patiently nearby in the car. One of the last photos of Habitat 67 I took was the lead image of this post and was a photo I had envisioned while planning the shoot. We concluded the morning by heading to the nearby Casino du Montreal to just “look around.” One thing lead to another and after a very short time we found ourselves enjoying their mouth watering lunch buffet.

About Habitat 67 – It’s cool to be smart

This inspiring architectural feat was designed and built for the World’s Fair in 1967, called Expo 67, by internationally acclaimed Moshe Safdie, an Israeli-Canadian architect. Interestingly, this was the first building ever constructed by Safdie as he was still in the infancy of his career when approached to adapt his master’s thesis into the pavilion for the World’s Fair. The complex of Habitat 67 is composed of 354 prefabricated concrete forms combined to make 148 apartments. Habitat 67 is a still a functioning residential campus. One site quoted monthly rent of a 4 unit apartment (3000 sq ft) at $4000. For more on Habitat 67, visit the official page here or the Wikipedia page here.

photo of Habitat 67 - Expo 67

photo of Habitat 67 - Expo 67

Post processing of lead image

  • 7 Bracketed photos taken one shutter stop apart
  • Chromatic aberration sensor dust and lens distortion corrected in Lightroom
  • Tone mapped in Photomatix
  • Tone map and sources blended and masked together in Photoshop
  • Edited in Photoshop with with multiple Curves and HSL adjustment layers. Then re-edited the following morning because my first attempt was way too gloomy and dark.
  • Sharpened using high pass filter

1) Source DNGs

Source DNGs - Habitat 67

2) Tone Mapped

Tone Map - Habitat 67

3) After layer blending, before photo editing

Before Photoshop  Edit - Habitat 67

4) Photoshop Edits

Photoshop Edits - Habitat 67

Before Photoshop Edits

After Photoshop Edits

photo of Habitat 67 - Expo 67

Notre Dame

Notre Dame Montreal HDR Photo

Any photo hit-list for Montreal is incomplete without the lavishly decorated Notre Dame Basilica. Still a fully functioning Catholic cathedral, I have one important piece of advice for successfully photographing the gorgeous interior of this place: DON”T GO DURING SUNDAY MORNING MASS! Lori, our friend Natalie, and I thought it was our lucky day when there was no attendant at the entrance counter. As I tromped in, I recall exclaiming something enthusiastic like, “Boardwalk and Park Place guys! This usually costs like 5 buc- Wow, wait. I think they’re praying.” As silently as possible, the two ladies helped me collect my shattered dignity from the beautifully tiled floor, and we regrouped at a nearby cafe.

Since I obviously did not take pictures during the service, we returned once mass had ended, paid our $5 and shot until early afternoon. Aside from the multifaceted main sanctuary, there’s also a little known private chapel with some stellar spiral staircases in the back right corner which was equally delightful to photograph (see below).

If you’re unfamiliar with HDR photography, it’s quite interesting stuff. Check out this (creatively titled) article “What is HDR Photography?


  • 9 bracketed NEF files imported to Adobe Lightroom 3 and converted to DNG
  • Lens corrections and manual chromatic abberation correction in LR3
  • Tone Mapped in Photomatix 4
  • Tone mapped image blended with original source images
  • Edited and polished in Photoshop CS5
  • Final HDR photo re-imported to LR3 for sharpening and adding a slight vignette (once I move to PS, I usually stay there… I’m not sure what my logic was for re-importing to Lightroom… but that’s how it went down)

Back Chapel of Notre Dame

HDR Photo Private Chapel of Notre Dame Cathedral in Montreal - After Photoshop Edit

Inside the stunning sanctuary of Notre Dame Cathedral in Montreal, there’s a lesser known private chapel in the back right corner that I knew about from a previous visit. At the front there’s an amazing floor to ceiling sculpture. They say that even seeing just a photo of this moving work has been known to calm crying babes, warm Scroogey hearts and lower LDL cholesterol. (Scroogey: Scrooge-like. Now you know.) Unfortunately, you’ll have to wait for that revelatory moment since this post features a photo of the back of the chapel.

Below I’ve outlined my workflow for creating this HDR photo for the more curious HDR photography enthusiasts out there. One thing I’ve been working hard at with my HDR photography is to control the glow-y effect that tone mapping in Photomatix creates. I’ve learned that this happens for a number of reasons as Photomatix spreads out the luminescence of the composite 32-bit TIFF it creates. With this in mind, I’ve tried to ease up on the luminescence slider and tend to keep it between -2 and 6. When things start to look to ambient, I pull back and start adjusting the white point slider.

STEP 1) Bracketed Photos Tone Mapped in Photomatix

(For a good time, click images to enlarge then use your ↞/→ keys.)

Photomatix Tone Mapping Bracketed Photos Private-Chapel-Photomatix-Tone-Map-Settings Photomatix Tone Map - Private Chapel in Notre Dame Cathedral, Montreal

STEP 2) Blend Tone Mapped Image with Originals in Photoshop

Trey Ratcliff likes to merge layers as he masks and blends, but this linear irreversible workflow freaks me out. For this reason I like to combine my layers into nested groups with masks as I go. Although it’s very possible to accomplish the same results without groups, as I’m editing, they help me stay mentally organized and clear up confusion about which layers I’m masking.

Photomatix Tone Map - Private Chapel in Notre Dame Cathedral, Montreal Photoshop Edit Layer Masks HDR Photo - Before Photoshop Edit

STEP 3) HDR Photo Edited in Photoshop Until Coffee Pot is Empty

HDR Photo - Before Photoshop Edit HDR Photo - Private Chapel of Notre Dame Cathedral in Montreal - Photoshop Edit HDR Photo Private Chapel of Notre Dame Cathedral in Montreal - After Photoshop Edit

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17 Responses to HDR Photo Tour of Montreal

  1. VU November 24, 2014 at 9:15 am #

    My name Vu. I’m in Vietnam
    I’m a photoshop expert. I’ve been working with photoshop 8 years and I’ve done a lot of work in photoshop as:

    – HDR Blending and HDR Correction adjust image color interior.
    -Editing the face and body parts
    -Retouching the profile pictures
    -Correcting business pictures
    -Fixing vehicles and real estate images
    -Editing photos of children and babies
    -Correcting animal and nature pictures
    -Changing or modifying the background
    -Correcting the light and colors
    -Adjusting the shape of the face
    -Hair retouching
    -Blemishes removing
    -Clipping Path
    Thank you for reading my email, i’m looking forward to seeing your reply.

    I am looking for more work to establish my team, the labor cost in Vietnam is lower than you. If you have an idea to open a branch to work for you. Please contact me. my skype (vu.trong85)

  2. atallworld September 16, 2013 at 9:35 pm #

    Awesome photos man!

  3. Kris Koeller March 20, 2012 at 10:36 pm #

    Terrific shots. So many great things to see in Montreal!

  4. Julie March 20, 2012 at 5:38 pm #

    Really awesome! They look just like a professional 3D render!

  5. A.Barlow March 20, 2012 at 5:10 pm #

    This one is way cool. Very nice work sir!

  6. Mark Summerfield March 20, 2012 at 2:13 pm #

    Great shot, Andrew and excellently processed. I am in agreement with the prior comments – this is definitely one of the best of your recent posts. This to me is how HDR should really be used.

    • Andrew March 20, 2012 at 3:28 pm #

      This blog and the feedback I get from you all (especially when people see room for improvement) has been one of the biggest catalysts in my development. Thanks for the encouragement and feedback. Keep it coming.

  7. The One True Stickman March 20, 2012 at 11:31 am #

    I think the lead image is my favorite of your HDRs so far – I saw it and thought “Wow, that is an awesome ceiling in that building”, not “Cool, it looks all glowy and full of chewy Kinkadeian HDR goodness.” Really nice light balance.

    • Andrew March 20, 2012 at 3:24 pm #

      Thanks dude. You know what’s wild is that until now I didn’t ever put together who The One True Stickman is -_-. I checked your blog and was like “wait… those are picks from down the road… wait… that guy has some crazy cool projects going on… hmmm… that picture on the About page looks really familiar” 🙂 Nice to put 2 + 2 together.

      • The One True Stickman March 20, 2012 at 5:57 pm #

        Heh, no problem – I have purposely tried to stay more or less anonymous online, so I’m not surprised you didn’t get it. 😀 Keep up the good work!

  8. Len Saltiel March 20, 2012 at 7:26 am #

    Beautiful images Andrew. Really like the composition in the first one getting the ceiling, pews and vestibule in the shot

    • nick March 20, 2012 at 8:57 am #

      I concur. This pic is my favorite of your recent work. Only this is that the middle chandelier is very, very bright. Almost a little distracting from the rest of the pic, but the composition is literally spot on. Great job Andy!

      • Andrew March 20, 2012 at 9:53 am #

        That’s the Holy Spirit at f22 😉
        Hope grad school isn’t bustin’ you up too bad.
        Nick Davis 2032 has my vote.

    • Andrew March 20, 2012 at 10:00 am #

      Vestibule! I was searching the cavities of my mind for that word when writing… and obviously didn’t find it. I guess that’s what I get for living in a non-English speaking country for a number of years -_-.


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