High Dynamic Range Photography

In the summer of 2008 I was fascinated by some obscure images that I found online, deep in some never-to-be-found-again link inside a link inside another link. In other words the technique used on these images was HDR which was relatively unknown, although not new, at that time. I loved the fact that the image showed all of the detail in the dark areas as well as the light areas of the photo at the same time. I found out that this type of photography describes much more closely what the human eye sees rather than what a traditional camera will record. Here is a table describing this point:

Device Stops Contrast
Computer LCD 9.5           700:1
DSLR camera (Canon EOS-1D Mark II) 11          2048:1
Print film 7           128:1
Human eye 10–14   1024:1 – 16384:1

This information was very exciting to  me because I was always manipulating my images in Photoshop to approximate this result. It took me hours, using the dodge and burn tools and still did not portray the scene I had seen when I took the photo.
I bought a book by Michael Freeman and read it cover to cover immediately. That began my HDR education and experience.

Many people balk at the HDR photograph, especially if it is overdone and cartoonish, saying it is an abomination to the true spirit of accurate recording. But, as in the table above showing the true dynamic range comparisons, we just don’t know what we are missing!  Just because we are conditioned to the low dynamic range of general photographic images, doesn’t mean that we cannot push the envelope to consider that there may be an alternate “sweet spot” where LDR meets HDR and produces breath-taking results!

Here are two images. One is the original “middle” shot in a bracket of three, one being darker and one being lighter. I have not retouched this in any way. The second one is a combination of all three of the bracketed shots, showing the details throughout the image. I am much more drawn to the HDR image. How about you?

I use HDR in all my architectural/building photography, increasing the effects as I see fit with my artistic license and within the requests of my clients.

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