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Another in the urban grunge series. As I look at this photograph and ponder what to write I am thinking the building is a good size for a portrait photo studio, and there is parking for 4 cars, but that is just a flight of imagination.
After my last urban grunge HDR photo my pal George of Moorlands and Peak asked how I used the HDR technique. I will do what I can to give an insight into the principles and processes that I adopt.
It seems to me that it is impossible to tell the truth with a photograph, if indeed the truth is what the eye sees. The eye works differently to the camera; the eye scans the scene and adjusts focal length and aperture depending on which part of the scene is being looked at. The camera is made to adopt one focal length and one aperture for the whole scene.
Without the use of any post processing the photographer and the camera settings already distort reality. A viewpoint is taken that can distort reality, a focal length is selected, most of which distort the truth with background compression or the reverse, an aperture is selected that will affect the depth of field, a colour palette for digital cameras or the film type for analogue cameras all play a part in distorting the truth, not to mention white balance.
With post processing the situation gets more complicated.
I shoot RAW images exclusively, this reduces the effect of in-camera settings and puts the onus on me to correct the image for a wide range of variables. Taking this approach means we generally don't have the scene in front of us when adjustments are made, and we need to rely on memory to adjust the picture to best match reality. You have no doubt heard photographers defending their post processing by saying 'this is the way I remember it'.
The memory plays tricks, is it the way they remember it, or is it the way they want to remember it?
To me none of this matters, I am not attempting to tell the truth, I am attempting to lie eloquently. I am trying to make as good a picture I can from the photos that come out of the camera.
I am reluctant to go into too much detail about exactly how a particular picture was post processed because at heart I am an experimenter, a dabbler with various techniques. I don't have to think like a professional photographer who has deadlines and a well established workflow.
Currently I am experimenting with HDR as a post processing technique. At the simplest level HDR is intended as a method of overcoming the shortcomings of the camera. When the scene to be photographed has a wide range of brightness (a high dynamic range) the camera cannot record the fine detail in both the brightest areas and the darkest areas with one exposure. The solution is to take several different exposures of the scene and blend them together.
I generally shoot 3 exposures, one exposed normally for the scene as a whole, 1 two stops under exposed and 1 two stops over exposed. This is the limit of the exposure bracketing function offered by my camera. I am sure we will soon see more cameras on the market with a wider range of bracketing options.
When I load the pictures into my raw conversion software (Aperture) I create two more exposures, one two stops lighter than the lightest of the three original shots, and you have guessed it, one 2 stops darker than the darkest. I might alternatively create two additional exposures one 2 stops darker than the darkest original and one 4 stops darker than the darkest original. Plenty of room here for experimentation.
These 5 exposures are going to be input into a HDR program that will blend them together. I am currently using Photomatix Pro 4.02 .
At this point I intend to stop discussing the precise HDR method I use and refer you to the HDR Cookbook by farbspiel photography
. Farbspiel has been a big influence on the way I process HDR images, the generous advice and step by step tutorials are a real asset to anyone wanting to further their knowledge of HDR.
He has a list of articles on the right hand side of the main page starting with Introduction, then General HDR Workflow, then Creating 32-bit HDRs the Right Way, and many more.
After HDR processing, and after the image has been globally edited in Photoshop to return a more natural look to the photograph it is time for local edits.
This is the stage of image editing that can take no time at all, if you don't make any changes, to hours if you want to be meticulous. The theory is that you should look at the image, determine the areas of interest and work them to perfection.
If you want to know what I mean by meticulous have a look at the video Making of Natural History Museum - London, United Kingdom (HDR) by Farbspiel.
In the photograph above I slightly changed the colour of the blue paint around the windows, added a small amount of darkening gradient to the sky, and a stronger darkening gradient to the concrete foreground. The green of the weeds in the foreground was brightened and given a tiny colour shift. The building was treated to enhanced micro contrast, sometimes referred to as structure.
HDR processing can introduce two effects that I do not like, noise, and a halo effect where dark meets light. Before editing this photo in Photomatix I preprocessed each of the 5 initial images to take out inherent noise and in this case had no further problem with it.
With hindsight I could have made a better job of reducing the halo in the sky just above the roof line, it is not obvious but it irks me that it is there at all.
I hope that this is the sort of information you wanted George when you asked your question 'What HDR technique did you use here Graham?' Maybe I should have said tone mapping in Photomatix, that would have saved some time.
Urban grunge photographer Graham Jeffery, Hinckley UK.