2008.01.31

Icy Mountain

00.42.39 - Mark

I saw a comment online today (and I forget where) wondering if High Dynamic Range Photography was cheating or cheesy. I don't think either is a fair statement. Yes if you browse flickr for HDR photos then yes there's a lot of dreak - ugly over processed uninteresting photos, which, yes, probably fall into the cheesy category quite well. On the other hand, there's also plenty of well composed, planned out, carefully executed HDR stuff that is excellent. Yes, you can achieve some of the same results with simpler methods, but sometimes you can't. I've spent 20 or 30 minutes playing with HDR files trying to get great results, only to give up and turn to a single exposure that captured the shot just as well (and with out the signs of post processing)

The nice thing about HDR, and maybe one of the reasons that it's caught on, is that its a software problem and not a hardware one. What I can do in camera with my S3, and do well enough for printable results is limited compared to what a high end DSLR with premium optics and a full frame sensor can do in camera. HDR by merging and blending images lets you extend past what you can do with the camera hardware. Layer stacking is a similar example. Is it "cheating"? Only if you want to be a stuck up prick and call it that

A photographer who knows what they're doing can produce great images with any camera they arm themselves with - it doesn't matter if they made it out of a shoebox, electrical tape, and a pinprick, or if it's an example of precision European engineering. The tool is only as good as the user, and I suspect that there are a lot of people that skipped Photography 101 before buying a DSLR. These same people, who tend to argue that the cameras they buy are smarter then they are, are out there seeking out ways to take cool looking photos and the wide ranges allowed by HDR makes an easy target (as a guess these people also lean towards the overuse of photoshop to correct their photos)

It's kind of like "Grunge" graphic design. Some people did it well and created some amazing work, and then a slew of imitators popped up and were imitating without any foundation knowledge of what they were doing and drove the style into the ground. It's not the technique or style's fault that it's misused/overused/horribly distorted, it's the "artist's" fault.

Or we could just incite the long tail and agree that these things will find their own markets. Some people obviously like extreme HDR work with little scraps of reality clinging onto the image, while some people will use it to good effect, and others still will hold true to conventional photography or other random techniques.

Personally, I'll still shoot what I think is fun, and what I think will work, and when things turn out well I'll continue to post them here or on my flickr account and be satisfied. Speaking of HDRs:

Ice at Pilot Mountain HDR

Icy Mountain - View Large (2815 x 2106)



Pilot Mountain back in December. It's only been in the last few weeks that I've sat down and processed a large chunk of photographic back log, and part of that was getting a copy of photomatix to use instead of photoshop's HDR tools (which aren't that nice) or layer masking and blending (which is what I had been doing to decent effect) This one is a photo that wouldn't have worked nearly as well as a single exposure.

Link | 0 Comments |


2008.01.01

Pilot from the Parkway

22.20.45 - Mark

Somehow I've been in North Carolina for over 5 years and have only really be on the Blue Ridge Parkway once despite being mere miles away. I'll be correcting that in the future. Still sorting out my mess of photos, but for now here's a HDR photo of Pilot Mountain from an overlook on the Parkway in Virginia.

Pilot Mountain from the Parkway

Pilot Mountain from the Parkway - View Large (2806 x 1639)

Link | 0 Comments |


2007.12.03

Hunting for something

10.27.13 - Mark

Yesterday my family went Christmas tree hunting. It still feels too early to start celebrating Christmas, but my mom wanted to get the trees yesterday so we drove up to Santa's Delight Christmas Tree Forest in Virginia. The place lets you pick and cut (and drag) your own tree, and picking and cutting down our Christmas tree is an old family tradition going back farther than I can remember. The farm and Virginia is nested in between a few mountain peaks, and is really photogenic so I armed myself with my camera. I took a few good photos, mostly family, but towards the end of our hunting a colorful sunset started forming.

It's probably the mountains, but truly beautiful sunsets are rare in North Carolina, and I've yet to see one that really matches the sunsets we had in Iowa where dirt and debris provided deep rich sunsets. Last night in Virginia however, something was working right, so I turned on exposure bracketing and snapped a few series. I was hoping to get a short HDR panoramic series, but for some reason Canon doesn't allow exposure bracketing when shooting in manual so unless I can work some major photoshop magic I'm not getting a panoramic. I did however get a good single frame set, and after playing with it in photoshop for an hour, I've managed one rich HDR photo from the farm:

High Dynamic Range picture of a sunset over Santa's Delight Christmas Tree Farm in Carroll County, Virginia

Sunset over the Trees (View Large - 2793x2088)

Link | 0 Comments |


2007.10.24

Dynamic

18.49.20 - Mark

I've been wanting to play with High Dynamic Range photography for a few months now. Every once in a while I put my Canon S3 into exposure bracketing mode and shoot a few sets, and when I get motivated I try out some software that merges them. At that point I normally get frustrated when I don't get results like I've seen in the HDR flickr group, and then table the idea again.

At least now I'm getting to the point where I'm starting to understand how much more there is to HDR photography than simply taking a series, merging them, and admiring the results. I spend over a couple hours working though HDR tutorials and playing with images in Photoshop last night, but the results I got illustrate the point.

Comaping camera output (left) with a Photoshop generated HDR image (center) and a manually created HDR image (right)

Left: Average exposure from camera. [View Fullsize]
Center: HDR image created with Photoshop CS3's Merge to HDR feature. [View Fullsize]
Right: HDR image created manually in Photoshop CS3 (following this tutorial) [View Fullsize]



The pictures are from The Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist in Savannah, GA. I've got a couple more HDR sets from the church, but I may try out some more local scenes first. I think I want to try and match what I can actually see before I use HDR for surreal effects.

Link | 1 Comments |