High Dynamic Range

HDR has been a controversial subject in the world of photography. Some of the best and most popular photos have been made with High Dynamic Range techniques. And also some of the worst.

The recent history of art has encouraged and even required its artists to push boundaries as far as they’ll go. Painting reached astonishing levels of photo-realism in the 17th century, but in more recent years there came the impressionists, the minimalist abstracts and the expressionists, and society’s expectations and perceptions of painting were blown explosively out of the water. Some contemporary journalists were clearly unimpressed:

Wallpaper in its embryonic state is more finished than that seascape.
Louis Leroy (on Monet)

HDR photography is still a very new technique. When it suddenly became popular a few years ago it was often used without subtlety, and the Harry Potter school of photographic wizardry was born. But the backlash was equally unsubtle. The result was that these expressionist techniques were refined and the volume turned way down, and then the real value of HDR became obvious.

We’re used to cameras only telling part of the story. The range of tones they can capture is much more limited that those we can see. So the photographer has to compromise and make a decision. Shadow or light? Often the result is all the better for this limitation, as a tale half told can leave interesting questions dangling around the frame. But sometimes it’s good to tell the whole story.

HDR reveals what’s hiding in the shadows or drowning in the highlights. It reaches in and pulls out textures and colors, and suddenly a new more intense reality emerges. In capable hands it’s very impressive stuff.

The godfather of HDR is Trey Ratcliff. He posts a new HDR photo on his blog Stuck in Customs every day, and some of these photos are stunning. If you’re a photographer and haven’t tried this yet, read his free introductory tutorial and give it a go.


In Other News

So many books but so little time!

When you pick up a book and start to read you’re making a big commitment – it may take many days or even weeks before you turn that final page. So if you’re going to read a book you’d better make sure it’s a good one.

Following hard on the heels of David Bowie’s list of his 100 favorite books, released a couple of weeks ago, here’s a recent interview with Woody Allen in which he describes just 5 books that most influenced him.

My advice? Read the classics. The clue’s in the title…


Leave a reply