HDR Photography

The human eye does a good job of balancing bright conditions with dark conditions in the same scene, but cameras have a much harder time with this. Take a picture of a building in the shade with the sun above it and you’ll either get an overexposed sky and decent shot of the building, or you get a dark, underexposed building with a blue sky. Humans are able to see both areas pretty well because our brains react quickly to the change of light, but a camera has a limit in it’s dynamic range so finding a good balance is difficult at times.

HDR photography is basically taking different shots at different exposures of the same subject and then combining them into one using software to get a wider dynamic range. There are various software programs available to help with this technique, but I use a program called Photomatix. Once you take the shots and load them into the program you need to adjust some settings to balance out the scene. The resulting image can range anywhere from cartoonish to life-like depending on how aggressive you are with the settings. I prefer to get the photos as realistic as possible, but add some saturation and contrast. It’s all a matter of taste, but the technique allows for some shots to be saved due to difficult lighting conditions. It doesn’t work well for every photo, but for some it works quite well.

I dug up some of my older photos from various trips that had scenes that contained bright skies and sometimes dark or shaded subjects. The photo at the top of this post is probably my favorite of the bunch. The colors along with an amazing location just seemed to all come together.

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June 2010
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