Tuesday, April 07, 2009

High Dynamic Range (HDR)

When I first read about HDR imaging in George DeWolfe’s “Digital Photography Fine Print Workshop” I was very impressed at what it could become. Now that we have Photomatix, I am less impressed. HDR began as a tool in Photoshop. It was designed for situations where the contrast range of an exposure was too long to capture both the shadows and the highlights. The solution was to take a photograph for the shadows and a second for the highlights and combine the two images in Photoshop using Photoshop HDR. At the time DeWolfe's book was published, there was a Photoshop HDR plug-in called Optipix which was easier to use than Photoshop HDR.

Much of the HDR work I see just doesn’t look real. Enhanced would be the wrong word. It’s too clean and too dynamic to be appealing. I look at Ansel Adams Moonrise Over Hernandez or Winter Sunrise from Lone Pine , I am deeply impressed by the tonal range. When I first read about HDR, my first thought was Adams would have loved this. Now I’m not sure. But there are people who are using this well. I think that Clearing Clouds: Mount Robson, British Columbia by Mark Houtzager is a really good use of HDR and hope to see more photographs like this in the future.

The following video offers a clear and concise explanation of High Dynamic Range image editing

A good article about HDR basics in the New York Times


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