HDR…Really?

I have to admit, I am late adopter of HDR ( high dynamic range) images. Most of what I saw in the beginning did not appeal to me. My first thought when seeing these grungy, over the top processed photos was ‘why did they do that?’

Just a quick explanation if you don’t know what HDR is. You sensor in your digital camera is limited in the range of tonalities it can ‘see’ and translate in your image from light to dark. And, when you have a situation where you have very light areas and very dark areas in the image you are trying to capture it can be really difficult to get what you see in your mind’s eye in one shot. So, what you do is take 3 or more shots at different exposures. One shot at what the camera reads, one full exposure stop below that and one full one above. Then you use special software to put those three or more exposures together. {\(Obviously, a longer discussion is needed if you are new to HDR).

Okay, a while back I was on my way to a small town near where I live and spotted several acres of old trucks and cars. I stopped and asked if I could take some photographs. It seemed the perfect venue to see what I could do in HDR. What is really great is that I have tried Photmatix, Photoshop CS6 and Nik HDR Software. By far Nik is the the easest and produces better results with less effort. And, now it is very affordable.

Here are a few of the images I took that day. When I reviewed them, I got excited because HDR would be a good choice for post processing. These ‘wrecks’ were really grungy with rust and peeling paint. But, with the range of colors and interesting composition I knew I could elevate them into an ‘artistic’ realm.

pair-orange-truck
The image on the left (the same on all paired photos below is the exposure the camera suggested.The image
on the right is the composite of 3 exposures.) I wanted to highlight the truck in the center while keeping all the surrounding clutter so the viewer could see the truck in context. But, I didn’t want the clutter to get in the way. So, after processing the HDR, I was able to darken the edges so your eye goes straight to where I want you to look.
pair-license-plate-seb
Using HDR here, allowed the texture of this bumper to be revealed and highlighting the numbers and letters
on the license plate brings your eye there first.
pair-front-end-seb
I really like the composition of this image. The unusual angle keeps you with the image longer. And, I also like the comparative ‘newness’ of the truck on the left compared to the one behind.
These two vertical images are also enhanced by the HDR. I like to push it just far enough to be appropriate to the subject. Obviously, if this were a natural landscape, this level of processing would not work.
 I hope this has inspired you to try your hand at HDR photography. To get you started you can check out a free tutorial from Trey Radcliff.
This entry was posted in The Creative Process.

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