I have recently noticed that many photographers are using an HDR designation for photographs that have been created with only one exposure. And, it’s interesting that I have been able to duplicate the High Dynamic Range effects using Adobe Camera Raw with single, raw exposures.
Many HDR purists will surely balk at that last statement just as many traditional photographers stick to the idea that the only truly realistic expression is the image as it is produced straight out of the camera with no post processing adjustments.
Well, both of the above opinions are inaccurate. The opinion that stresses the need for multiple exposures has been overridden by the advances in the sensor capabilities of some of the more current digital cameras. For example, the image above was created from a single -1 ev exposure with a Nikon D700 DSLR, That’s a pretty old camera. And, with a bit more post processing, I can even produce High Dynamic Range images from single photos taken with my old Nikon D100 DX camera.
I’ve included the original exposure for comparison. As you can see, the total dynamic range of the image is suppressed with the shot looking like a typical straight out of the camera image. What the purists call natural. So, compare this one with the single shot HDR photo above and you can see all of the realistic tonality and detail that this straight version lacks.
Notice that the total blacks of the original image destroy the details in the main, shaded tree on the left and most of the other trees in the scene. . .nothing like what we see when we are actually viewing the scene in person. And, those totally black shadow areas cause way too much contrast, making the lighter sides of the trees seem almost washed out. Just a bit too much contrast for real life.
If you honestly look at a scene in nature, you don’t see any blacks unless the tree barks are very damp or covered with some kind of black fungus. And those pure whites are only produced naturally when leaves have a very shiny, reflective surface and clouds are edged by bright white tones.
Of course, many people like the unrealistic look of the so called natural, straight out of the camera version just as many HDR enthusiasts like to go to extremes with exaggerated colors and contrasts, abundant haloing and over the edge detailing. In these cases, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Right?
This side by side grouping shows just how varied our photographic expressions can be with the current technology that we have available. The image on the left is the raw, straight out of the camera shot. It’s followed by my single shot HDR image at the top of this post (with just a little saturational punch). And finally, a typical and probably most popular example of HDR post processing using a three exposure bracket.
Here’s a full size version of the traditional multiple exposure HDR image. As I’ve already mentioned, this over processed rendition seems to be the most popular expression of High Dynamic Range Imaging.
If you’ve read this far, you probably wonder what my point is with all this. Well, after working with High Dynamic Range imaging software and methods for a few years now, I have come to the conclusion that HDR imaging is not purely the technical use of multiple exposures to get a complete tonal range. Since the end result is what is most important, I now have decided, at least for me, that any method used to extract a visually complete tonal range in an image is HDR imaging whether single or multiple exposures are used.
Photo is from my visit to:
Wheaton Regional Park
2002 Shorefield Road
Wheaton, MD 20902