An interesting new direction…?

Fenceposts HDR crop (4 of 8)

Today’s post is about high dynamic ranging (HDR) photography. No, don’t leave, it’s interesting honestly! So what is HDR? In a nutshell, it’s a composition of three (or more if you are an expert) images taken at different exposure levels. What does this mean? Well, I must admit that I am not altogether sure. It’s not that I’m making this up as I go along, it’s just that somebody else could probably explain it better. To quote Digital Photo magazine:

“HDR allows you to seamlessly merge together a series of images taken from exactly the same location, but using different exposure setings”

I always looked at the HDR images in photography magazines and thought it was probably a step too far, an advanced technique that was beyond my limited capability but that was before I realised that my SLR camera had an automatic exposure bracketing (AEB) function. In other words, instead of taking one photo when you press the shutter release it takes three: one underexposed, one exposed correctly and one over exposed. Still with me? Now I might get this wrong (and I am sure someone will tell me) but as far as I understand the underexposed image captures a lot of more of the shadows and the overexposed image captures a lot more of the highlights.

Hopefully, it’s obvious that this technique is pretty impossible without a tripod and cannot be used on moving subjects. The subject has to be perfectly still – any slight movement between the three exposures and you will get the dreaded camera blur. This is why HDR is primarily used in landscape photography. Images need to be shot in RAW format too in order to capture as much of the image data as possible. Whilst, I suppose you could do it with jpeg, I’m not sure the result would be as good.

Once the image(s) has been taken you then need to merge the three images together using a software called Photomatix or Photoshop (sorry purists but no software, no HDR). What you get is a composite of the three exposures in which you can manipulate the elements (shadows, highlights, colours, etc) until you get an image that you like. The resulting image is almost hyperreal i.e. it has a depth and contrast that distinguishes it from a normal image.

Yesterday lunchtime, I decided to bite the bullet and give it a try. I walked up to White Nancy, a 15-foot high stone landmark that stands at the top of Kerridge Hill, overlooking the village of Bollington which is where I work. I didn’t have much time and only managed to shoot 8 images (or 24 if you think about it). I composed the images into HDR format using Photomatix and I am pretty pleased with the result. What do you think?

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About Mark

I am a 43-year-old amateur photographer from Chester, Cheshire UK. I took up digital photograpy a couple of years ago after hitting 40. See it as my mid-life crisis. Unfortunately, unlike, say, forming a band, having a tattoo or buying a motorcycle I have come to realise that the particular hobby I have chosen as a means to escape the drudgery of the day job is probably one of the most expensive. On May 12th 2009 I spent a marvellous informative day with professional photographer Stewart Randall. This has prompted me to take my photography more seriously and, although I don't expect it to lead to a career change, maybe sell or license some of my images so that I can fund my hobby. I hope you like the images I post and please feel free to comment. All constructive criticism is welcomed. This blog will document my attempts to get to grips with the digital medium and see if I can get some wider recognition for my images. View all posts by Mark

4 responses to “An interesting new direction…?

  • Lisa

    It looks great – i really love this technique. Never find the time to faff with photoshop beyond cropping but it is on my ist of things to do one day!

  • Andrew Fox

    I can see this having its moments, but I prefer your normal nature work. Having said that, you now have another path to follow, and I look forward to seeing what you come up with.

  • All Adither

    Gorgeous. I absolutely love it. Your composition is what really makes it though, if you want my not so humble opinion.

    • Mark

      Thanks so much for your comment. It’s lovely to know that people are discovering this blog via old posts (no pun intended given the content of the picture). All positive feedback is very gratefully received, especially with regards to composition. I am still not really sure if I have an ‘eye’ for photography or whether it’s just practice makes perfect; not that I’m by any means perfect but hopefully you know what I mean. Hope you come back. The thought that someone in Seattle has read my blog fills me with wonder. The world is getting smaller and hopefully as it does what we have in common will overpower any differences. Please pop back. I am getting better and your ‘humble’ opinion is much valued

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