fun with hdri
top to bottom: ‘come doomsday’, ‘silo’, ‘untitled’.
a couple of days ago i went on a shooting walkabout with kyle and as usual, we ended up along the familiar urbanscape of singapore which we should deliberately avoid in future.
anyway, for this particular walkabout, i decided to shoot in order to experiment with a technique known as ‘hdri’, or high dynamic range imaging.
allow me to geek out for a moment. hdri is basically a technique that allows a shortfall of the camera to be overcome:
when a picture of a high contrast scene is taken, the ‘dynamic range’ in that scene is far greater than what cameras can currently record. examples of these is when the sun (light source) is in the frame, creating a very bright background (the sky) and very dark foreground (land, or buildings, or whatever surfaces the sunlight does not reach).
what happens is that if the photographer exposes the picture in order the preserve details in the sky, the foreground would go completely black (no shadow details). should the photographer choose to expose the darker foreground properly, the sky would then be ‘burned out’ (turned totally white with no details whatsoever).
with hdri, the photographer records at least 3 images of the same scene, exposing for the hightlights, midtones and shadows. a tripod is usually required so as to keep the camera steady. i did not have a tripod that particular day so i just engaged the auto-bracketing function on my camera (in 2 stops interval), handheld the camera as steady as possible and fired three-shot bursts. seemed to work fine in this case.
in post-processing, the images (at least 3 and up to 7 or even 9 with differing exposures) are blended together using photoshop (very tedious if you want to do it properly) or other softwares such as photomatix (which is the most popular choice).
since computer displays are unable to properly render hdr images due to their over-the-top bitrate, a process called ‘tone mapping’ is then carried out to rein in the blended image so as to make it viewable. creative effects, such as that you see above, can be carried out during this process. i then played around with the tones and added sharpening in photoshop, yielding the images above.
there are of course purists (already!) of hdri who scoff at attempts to generate the kind of pictures you see above. to them, the ‘natural’ look and feel of the original scenes cannot be subjugated to such processing. but hey, everyone has got things that rock their boat so let the hating and the creating continue, if i have anything to say about that.
regardless, i have to admit that some of them make sense in pointing out that the fundamentals of photography, such as composition and lighting should be elevated above techniques, which is what hdri is. techniques come and go, but mastery of the basics will always remain crucial to a photographer’s development.
having said that, i believe just as much that new technologies and techniques should be harnessed in allowing the expression of an artistic vision.
i am just getting started with this technique and i see myself using it a lot in future. just got to always remember that at the end of the day, hdri is only what it is – a tool.
to read wikipedia’s article on hdri, click here.
to see more posts on photography, click here.
to see the rest of my pictures, visit my flickr. click here.