Friday, July 10, 2009

Thunderstorm Rolls Over Grand Tetons - My Vision

My very first HDR image (click on image for a larger view).

Here's the normal (or middle) exposure for comparision.

This image is my first attempt at HDR imaging. Two weeks ago I went to Grand Tetons National Park to captures some images of the Tetons that would make great HDR photos (High Dynamic Range imaging). From previous attempts, I knew the effects of some lighting conditions could not be fully captured without the extended range offered by HDR.

I had only heard about HDR photography two months ago, even though I have used its principles for many years: taking elements from both an underexposed image and an overexposed image and combining them the normally exposed image so that I retained more of the highlight and shadow detail that I saw in the original scene.

Now, software programs like Photomatix allow you to easily (relatively, compared to the masks and layers that I had formerly done in Photoshop) take three or more auto bracketed exposures and combine them into one image.

Photomatix has made the process so simple, and with so many controls, that HDR has developed a huge following in just the past two years. Many of these images don't need the benefits of good HDR techniques, it's just a new gimmick they have to try out. Unfortunately, some of the images we are seeing are so over-controlled that they are garish and very unnatural, which in some cases IS intentional. This whole popularity of HDR sort of reminds me of the Cokin colored filter craze of the 1980's. (Professional videographers still use the Cokin graduated neutral density filters to compress the exposure range of a scene, much like HDR does in a digital way.)

Yesterday I bought the Photomatix online, spent about three hours learning the software and developing techniques to make my final images as natural as possible. And, that is my goal: I don't want my HDR images to draw attention to themselves; I only want them to record a rendition that was closer to what my eye saw. (Your eye sees more than a 12-stop range. Film was lucky to record 5-7 stops. Digital can record 6-8 stops. With HDR, one can capture a 10-12 stop range.)

For the majority of my photography, I like trying to fit the scene into the limited dynamic range of regular digital and film-based photography. I like the unnatural way it renders most scenes; and over the years this rendering has become my reality. HDR will be just another tool to render "My Vision" -- but, only when I think it is needed.
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Here's a view from the same spot, about 20 minutes earlier (my 2nd HDR image):

You can also view my Flickr Photostream to see more of "My Vision."

1 comment:

  1. I'm a big fan of HDR for my own work, but I don't "overcook" it. Sometimes it's a nice effect but more times then not the images that it's done to...are just not compelling images, which makes for "Yuk!" Just my twopence. Slainte.