Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Toward a Longer Tonal Range

One of the technical objectives of many photographers is to get a tonal range where both the shadows of the photograph and the highlights are the way one's eye sees it rather than being a compressed range where either the shadows or the highlights aren't quite right. Ansel Adams solution to this was the Zone System, a carefully worked out system where by modifying the exposure time or aperture and modifying the development time too would help resolve this compressed tonal system problem. His photographs are proof that this was a pretty good solution. Better Light developed a scanning digital back that gets a very long tonal range, but this requires a very large camera and a tripod as part of the process. Neither the Zone System or the Better Light camera back offer much of a solution to the user of a $150 digital camera.

One solution is to shoot close to sunrise and sunset on sunny days and only disregard this rule on overcast days. This soft light helps record a fuller tonal range.

Now the Photoshop solution.

The Adobe CS2 option of HDR and the less professional software options PhotomatixPro and FDRTools seem like a great way to get a longer dynamic range. I have not used any of the above and am not sure if I ever will. The one problem, and I see it as a big problem is that every shot requires a tripod. As someone who frequently works with a tripod I am looking for more sitiuations where I do not need a tripod not more instances where I need a tripod. I'm glad HDR software is available, but would greatly prefer a sensor with a better dynamic range and lots more megapixels than the software.

all rights reserved © 2006 Paul Light


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