As I play more with HDR it’s starting to become less of a gimmick to me and more of a useful tool to process images into interesting pictures. I’m still just dragging sliders around to see what I get but for me that’s the path to learning, the way for me to find how to visualize in the field with the knowledge I can use the tools to get the expected photograph on the computer.
Although HDR images usually start with multiple versions of the same composition, altering the exposure for each one, the software tools I mentioned in a previous post all have the ability to turn a single image into a HDR-like picture. Somehow the software takes the information in a single image and processes it to create a greater depth of information that can then be adjusted as if it had started as multiple images. The picture above is such an example – it started out looking like this:
To get the final version I ran the single image through HDR processing, then used typical Photoshop tools (layers, masks, adjustments) to modify parts of the image for more drama. What continues to fascinate me is how much information there is in a digital image, much of which we don’t use to the benefit of the final image. The detail in the ice surface and in the trees on the far shore is in the original image. By enhancing it via HDR processing and Photoshop adjustments the final photograph reveals a more stark, forbidding nature.
Another of HDR’s characteristics is the amount of detail revealed in an image, especially where multiple images are processed together. Our eye can see all these tiny elements of a scene but we’ve become accustomed to ignoring them as we scan an area. I imagine it’s one of the ways our brains differ from raptors, whose eyesight is claimed to be so much more acute than ours. Other than some physiological differences (more rods/cones in their retina than ours) I’m wondering if evolution hasn’t simply resulted in our brain paying attention to the nearby big picture (is that a lion? is it going to eat me?) as opposed to raptors’ brain keying on the details (I’m hungry, is that a fish about to surface in that stream a half-mile away?). As a result, for me one of the obvious features of a HDR image is the almost overwhelming detail in the picture. But I’m getting used to it as my brain exercises to take in all the “new” information. For example, this small bird blind on a local lake – I’m simply astounded at the details of woodgrain, structure, and even some of the carved graffiti.