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I’ve never quite understood the appeal of HDR (high dynamic range) photography (much like I don’t go goo-goo over waterfalls).  They tend to look overly fake, oversaturated, and cartoonish.  I generally prefer to represent scenes as close to how I actually saw them as possible (with the occasional artistic flair).

Why, then, am I presenting an HDR image?

Curiosity, mostly.  I’m also not the first struck by the frustration of being able to resolve the beautiful, vast range our eyes can consume and the utter inability to capture this through the lens of a camera.  Therefore, when I want to show both the sunset and water cascading off the rocks at a beach just outside of Kona Airport, I’m forced to process.

In the past, I’ve simply exposed a single image as neutrally as possible, bumping the shadows and taming the highlights.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2016
Single exposure; ISO 100, f/6.3, 0.8 sec

This can cause undesired noise in the shadows and unattractive discoloration in the highlights (depending on how much they need to be adjusted.

HDR images, on the other hand, are constructed from (usually three) bracketed images that are each responsible for proper exposure of the highlights, shadows, and mids (bracketing can be done automatically from most DSLRs).  When these are blended (Photoshop can do this automatically), you’re left with all areas well exposed, without the unsightly artifacts of too much processing.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2016
Blended 3-image HDR; ISO 100, f/6.3, 0.25/0.8/2.5 sec

It still looks a little fake to me, though the colors are richer, and the shadows are cleaner.  It’s better with the saturation kept to a minimum, and I’m not so fond of the clarity slider as some others.  The single exposure looks more genuine and natural, but I do appreciate the quality afforded by the HDR.

I suppose the jury’s still out…  I’ll need to experiment a bit more.

Do you ever shoot HDR?  Which image do you prefer?


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