With the color images, dynamic range becomes more important then ever before. The DRA (Dynamic Range Adjustment) options of the IAS viewer are a great boon when looking at these images.
DRA performs what image processing folks call a “stretch.” A stretch takes some range of pixel values from the file and maps it onto a new range for the screen. To take an example, consider an image that appears over-exposed: much of the information is in the upper range of pixel values and you will have trouble distinquishing any detail. If the over-exposed pixels are not completely saturated (i.e. they don’t all have the maximum value) then a stretch that reduces brightness can reveal this otherwise hidden detail.
HiRISE has a very high signal-to-noise ratio, and our targeting specialists do a very good job choosing camera settings (which they do individually for each and every image) so completely saturated pixels are very rare.
But this also means that a stretch that works well over the entire image (a global stretch) may not be the best, the optimal stretch, for any one sub-image area that you are viewing. This is where the Auto DRA function in IAS becomes critical.
The button (shown below) is located on the right-hand side of the toolbar. A single click will do a stretch based only on the pixels you are viewing. This can bring out detail in shadow–amazingly, there is enough ambient light scattering around in the thin atmosphere to illuminate those scenes (and HiRISE is sensitive enough to pick enough of it up). It can also bring out detail in bright areas of over-exposure. For the color images in particular this can make things look a whole lot better.
Another factor plays a part in this. By default, the IAS viewer performs a global DRA when the image is loaded. As seen in the screenshot below, there are areas in our image that can skew the stretch. The large red rectangle is an area where the red CCDs start imaging before the blue-green. The IRB images often will have a cyan region where one of the IR CCDs was too noisy. We have elected to keep these areas in our images.
When in a sub-area, hit the Auto DRA button and the image should be drastically improved, as you can see in this final screenshot.
DRA early and often!