"As for HDR… some will think me an ignoramus for this, but I never heard of it until I signed up for G+ just a few weeks ago when it went public. For the first few days, it knocked my eyes out. But now.., well, I don't care if I never seen another sunset on steroids. I'm not anti-HDR as some are, and I understand it's commercial value, but… I find it odd and somewhat sad that photographers today are at times reduced to insisting that a magnificent sky color is "real." – +Bette Kauffman
The thing about HDR is that like any other style, it can all begin to melt together after a while. How many blasted out rivers, skies and whatever's can you look at before you begin to feel that a formula is being used.
I've been using HDR for a long time now, but not in an obvious way. Many of the images you've seen of mine have been "tonemapped" with Photomatix, with the intention of keeping them natural looking.
Now and then I do go for the HDR look which means, highly textured surfaces, lots of saturation, and as the name implies, a wide tonal range that you just can't get with one exposure.
The idea of HDR is a great one. It really goes back to the Zone System ideas of contraction and expansion of tones (as invented by the one and only Ansel Adams). Read about the Zone System and see if the concepts don't remind you of HDR.
However, the HDR programs tend to have presets, and even when you see them just as a starting point – they can take a boring shot and breathe super-duper life into it and there is a danger – a mighty danger when style completely obliterates subject. The danger is that you may become a great artist.
What? A great artist because of a style? Uhm – that would be the way that schools of painting became well known. How many blurry softly hued paintings of Paris streets in the rain can one person create?
For me, what has always been most interesting about photography is that line where technique meets subject to create style (maybe?)
As an example. When I first worked with large format cameras during my Ansel Adams lookalike days (no beard though back then) the first thing that interested me was using this cumbersome camera to do photographs in the subway.
And that was what I did.
The subway has been shot to death. And the large format camera goes back to the caveman days. But what would happen (besides being arrested) if I could get that great detail and the shifts and tilts etc. and apply it to the gritty NYC subway.
Results: a few good images.
HDR, for me is the same thing. It is most interesting when you can use it to photograph something that's been done a lot – and bring something new to it. It's no different than my extensive love affair with infrared.
My own example is the back of the Fuel Truck: https://plus.google.com/116247667398036716276/posts/THjVV8SBLkB
I could put up an un-HDR'd version, but it would be flat and boring. It's the ability of HDR to pull details that would otherwise not be seen that make it very useful.
Of course – that's just my take on it.
I also used the tonemapping part of Photomatix a lot when I was processing images from black and white negatives. A lot of people are surprised to learn that yes, you can actually use HDR with black and white and get excellent results.
And then there is the final HDR misunderstanding – and that is that you need more than one image to use a program like Photomatix or NIK HDR.
Definitely, definitely – not. You will generally get a wider more impressive result if you have three shots (one over, one under and one properly exposed) to work with. But that isn't always possible. Especially when things are moving around – or when you are working with images that were shot before HDR came around.
The delivery guy gave me an odd…
Back of Oil Delivery Truck
The delivery guy gave me an odd look when I asked if I could take a picture of the back of the truck while he plugged the hose…
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