I took this image of the Provo River several days ago. The latitude of light and dark was just too much for the sensor to handle. I wanted detail in the rocks and the sky just as my eye witnessed it. Enter the term HDR or High Dynamic Range. This is a process of combining two (or more) different exposures of the same image into one final photograph with detail in both areas of the highlight and shadow. After all…this is what my eye saw so why shouldn’t I be able to record it exactly how I witnessed it. This has always been my goal in photography.
The image on the left is a combination of the two exposures using a HDR program called PhotoMatix. You can get a trial version of this online for free. It does a pretty good job and lets you select several different outcomes where you can adjust the look you want after processing the two images together. I’m not a big fan of this look. To me it looks kinda cheesy, and I’m not a big cheese fan in any form. It makes the rocks lighter than I saw them and seems to always make the lighter ares go magenta. Granted, You can adjust this in the program itself to a certain extent, or in photoshop, but who wants to spent hours on the computer? Not me! It also seems to introduce “Noise” in a lot of the areas. On scenes like this where there is an obvious “line” if you will, transition from light to dark, I prefer to use photoshop and just combined the two together using the layers function and either painting in the light areas or the dark areas. Personally I like the one on the right better. Its closer to how I saw the scene and the emotion I was feeling at the time. It seems the HDR programs want to take it too far and almost make the image appear flat lacking in contrast.
Now If I have a scene that has a transition of light and dark that is very difficult to distinguish, like the one on the right, a software program like Photomatix might be the only way to go, unless you don’t mind spending a lot more time in photoshop combining the two. It takes a lot more effort selecting, combining, painting, and merging the layers together, but it can be done. In fact, even though it was difficult, I choose to go the combining of layers for this shot instead of the HDR program because I didn’t care for the look it produced.
Lots of different tools out there to use to get our own unique version of how we interpret the world around us. This is just how one photographer chooses. The question is asked, “What made me have an emotional response to this”, enough to make me stop and take a second and third look, then finally pull out my camera and make a record to document the moment in time where I felt a connection and understanding of my surroundings. This is a question you have to ask yourself before and after you shot it.