Great Falls HDR

Great Falls HDR 1

Those who follow my Flickr Photostream (a far more chronological display of my work than this blog) know that I’ve been playing a bit with HDR lately. Whereas earlier images were really just experiments so I could learn what worked and didn’t and how to use the technique, I think this is the kind of image that HDR was really intended for.

To look at it, you probably wouldn’t immediately recognize it as an HDR photo. Most photographers (at least in the HDR group on Flickr) who utilize the technique seem to do so for the look – which I’d describe as tossing a bucket of paint onto a photo, making it look more like an illustration than a photograph.

But the idea behind HDR is really to make a scene more realistic, not less, by capturing more of the dynamic range between shadows and highlights. The problem is that while we can take multiple, bracketed exposures and combine them to get a fuller dynamic range, computer monitors can’t display that range. So we tone map them, resulting in the high detail, low contrast image that’s more reminiscent of drawings than the photographs we’re used to seeing.

Properly utilized though, the technique can be used to get that detail from the highlights and shadows that would normally be impossible to get from a high contrast scene like this originally was – the left side was completely in shadow, the right not, the falls reflected a lot of light, and the sky is of course a lot lighter than anything below. The non-HDR version developed from a single RAW image isn’t bad, but I think it doesn’t compare to the HDR version. This is a lot closer to what the human eye sees when it looks at this scene, and I think that’s the point.

The image is taken from three exposures at 1 EV apart, and mapped using Photomatix.

Exposure: Varies
Aperture: f/32
Focal Length: 52mm

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