I’ve seen alot of HDR (High Dynamic Range) images lately and wanted to try my hand at one.
One of the problems inherent in photography is the camera’s incapacity to accurately reproduce scenes with high contrast. In these instances, the photographer must choose between exposing to preserve the shadows (resulting in areas of blown-out highlights), or exposing to preserve the highlights (resulting in completely dark shadows and therefore, no shadow detail). This can get frustrating since our eye discerns much more tonalities in the real world and ideally, we’d like our images to show the same.
For those unfamiliar, HDR images represent a scene containing a wide range of light intensity levels, from the very darkest shadows to the lightest highlights. They are generally achieved by capturing multiple standard photographs, often using exposure bracketing, and then merging them via software into an HDR image. The results can vary greatly based upon how far you want to push the limits – from natural-looking to the more, let’s say, fantastical.
While walking over to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, the sunset sky behind the Tower of Terror was simply breathtaking. Seemed like a perfect subject for HDR so down went the tripod and the adventure began. The camera was set for exposure bracketing (taking a series of images at different exposure values) as well as interval timer shooting (allows one click of the shutter to initiate the series since you want as little camera movement as possible). I also turned on “exposure delay mode” which delays the shutter release about 1 sec after the mirror is raised (since raising the mirror can also cause slight camera shake).
Back home, the real work began.
At first, I played with the HDR processing included in Photoshop, but sadly, that was not producing the results I desired (a dark, moody scene, that is, afterall, the essence of the Tower of Terror). So, I moved on over to the trial version of Photomatix Pro, and after a short learning curve, was able to generate a pleasing HDR image from six separate exposures! Most HDR processes require some tweaking/finishing and that was easily performed back in Photoshop.
I must say I was so impressed with the power of Photomatix Pro, that I purchased the software and, using an online code, got 20% off to boot!
HDR is definitely a technique I look forward to using in the future!