Friday, November 11, 2011

Week 6: HDR

This week's theme was supposed to be sleep, but after a week of tired, I wasn't much in the mood. So I took this chance to do something that's always intrigued me, HDR. HDR stands for high dynamic range imaging and basically allows you to capture both the lights and the darks in a scene that has a lot of contrast. It does this by taking multiple exposures of an image and combining them into one, to capture the full dynamic range. HDR photography is fairly controversial, some people think it brings photos to life while others think it looks cheap and overdone. I feel like if you do it well it can look amazing, but there's a fine line between amazing, and gaudy. These were my attempts to try not to be gaudy.

Amy and I went for a run out on the prairie last weekend and when we passed this tractor I knew I wanted to take a picture of it. Something that always seems to work well for HDR is old farm machinery. The dirtier the better. Usually it's best to have a tripod for HDR, but I didn't have one, so I just set the camera to fire off 3 photos in a row. I think this could have been better if I had a tripod to get some more exposures, but I was happy with it.
To give you an idea of what HDR can do, here's a normal exposure of the same tractor. Quite a big difference. Kind of makes me not want to shoot non-HDR again.
This one had some nice color and reflections in the water as well as a somewhat interesting subject in the three tunnels. Amy and I went walking and I took a ton of photos that I hoped would make good HDR. After we got back I found out that if your photo is boring, HDR does not make it interesting, and even if you have an interesting photo, HDR may do nothing for it. Walking around for an hour and taking 100 pictures, I think I used 3 of them for this week's post.
I kind of liked this one and tried to move around to find the best angle that I wanted. Again, farm equipment makes for decent HDR.
HDR works well with light/dark contrast as well as color contrast. I wanted to get down low for this shot and shoot really wide to give the sense that the bus is looming over me.
Finally, I got an HDR that I really like. This is under the steps of the old stadium on campus. This is what HDR is designed for. An area that's fairly old, dark, and dirty. I was so happy when I processed this one and saw the results. I tried to hold back on the settings, so that the photo didn't cross the line into unbelievable. HDR just makes everything pop so much more.
Again as a comparison, here's the normally exposed single image.
Another one under the stairs, this one looks out onto the football field. This sort of picture would be impossible without HDR, or a flash setup. The area under the stairs is so dark, and the area outside is extremely bright. If you took one image you would either have a completely black interior, or a completely blown out exterior.
This one is outside of the stadium. This one starts to get a little more unrealistic, but I like the mood that it conveys.
Overall a good theme, since it forced me to develop a technique that I didn't previously have. It was frustrating at first, especially since it rained the first 2 days I was supposed to take pictures, but I made it work.

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