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HDR Photography: Good, Bad or Indifferent?

How do you feel about HDR? Like it? Love it? Hate it? Maybe you’re asking what HDR is? Generally HDR refers to High Dynamic Range photography.

HDR has practical applications. It is great for some situations where lighting is a challenge. Whenever I sense a great imbalance of light and dark in a scene I tend to set up for bracketing and shoot 5 exposures at 1ev apart, as a default. However, as you learn to judge the dynamic range of a scene by using your light meter, you can further tune your bracketing to capture more detail.

My top applications of HDR include:

  • Early and late day landscape photographs
  • Scenes of high contrast
  • Generally challenging lighting conditions
  • Weather buildings
  • Urban decay
  • Items displaying a strong patina
  • Low color contrast scenes
  • Otherwise uninteresting subject matter

There are a handful of commercial photographers including Dave Hill who produce dramatic images that are often labeled as HDR, though he attests that his images are not at all HDR. Check out his work at www.davehillphoto.com. His work is absolutely amazing, but he attributes the surreal look to his proprietary lighting techniques and post processing.

I think HDR can be great, but in many cases it produces images more vivid than you remember. Some people say that HDR replicates what we see, but that’s only partly true. We can see a wider dynamic range than our cameras, but we still don’t see in HDR.

 

Here are some of my own early HDR photos:

 

This was one of those days where the sunlight was simply odd. A combination of the setting sun on the Gulf of Mexico, refracted by the water and thick scattered clouds provided an ideal opportunity to capture this wonderful image of pay binoculars atop Fort Desoto.

This was one of those days where the sunlight was simply odd. A combination of the setting sun on the Gulf of Mexico, refracted by the water and thick scattered clouds provided an ideal opportunity to capture this wonderful image of pay binoculars atop Fort Desoto.

St. Petersburg is shaking off it''s stodgy image as Central Ave. has become one of the nation's premiere collections of artists and free-thinkers. This hot shop produces some of the world's finest glass sculptures and is located directly behind the Morean Arts Center.

St. Petersburg is shaking off it”s stodgy image as Central Ave. has become one of the nation’s premiere collections of artists and free-thinkers. This hot shop produces some of the world’s finest glass sculptures and is located directly behind the Morean Arts Center.

Hidden in garages and buried in fields across America are fine examples of automotive technology of yesteryear. No better place to see it than at an event like the Zephyrhills classic and collector car auction held twice each year in Zephyrhills Florida.

Hidden in garages and buried in fields across America are fine examples of automotive technology of yesteryear. No better place to see it than at an event like the Zephyrhills classic and collector car auction held twice each year in Zephyrhills Florida.

This photograph was taken during an exploratory phase of my photography where I sought vibrant colors, odd natural light and a contrast of texture to create surreal images.

This photograph was taken during an exploratory phase of my photography where I sought vibrant colors, odd natural light and a contrast of texture to create surreal images.

For this shot I sought balance and smoothness to achieve a calm, overall mellow effect.

For this shot I sought balance and smoothness to achieve a calm, overall mellow effect.

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