Saturday, April 9, 2011

HDR demo at sunset

After my futile stab at trying to capture the bright orange setting sun Wednesday, I resolved to try again at my next opportunity.  That came Friday evening, and this time I decided to see what high-dynamic range (HDR) would get me in a sunset. I decided to use the Manual High School campus in Indianapolis as my backdrop. I also took a couple more shots of the railroad, which I cross to reach Manual from the park.

I realize some people still don't fully appreciate the buzz -- or even "the why" -- about HDR, so I'm including both single-frame (normal-exposure) and HDR versions of the same shots in this post, including a few with variation of treatments of the single-frame shots.

So, back to the park I went, pausing first to capture the sun alongside "The Tree," of, well, "The Tree" notoriety (see link). The HDR-treated shot appears at the top of this post; the single-frame version appears below. And yes, that tiny orange sphere on the left side of the tree trunk is the sun. In this case, I definitely prefer the HDR version. While the sun is small in both images, the single-frame version delivers virtually no pop to it.

In review, HDR photography is the melding of two or more images, taken rapidly, of the same scene, with each of those images having a different exposure -- usually one is overexposed slightly, another underexposed slightly and a third taken at normally metered exposure. In the melding process, through HDR software, optimum detail is culled from the three images to form one, dynamic image. While I'm not sure these HDR images deliver ideal "keepers" after the melding process, they do a decent job of illustrating the objective of HDR application.

On to the Manual campus (below), where you see the variation of shots I captured. In all instances, I lead with the HDR version and follow it with either one or two treatments of the single-frame variation. In instances where there are two treatments of the single-frame versions, I'll use the original, mostly unaltered/unedited version, and follow it with versions of how my edit software's "auto correct" feature felt I should handle it. The "auto correct" seemed challenged by what to do with the orange/bronze tint in the sky, and because of the dramatic change it offered, I decided to present both the unedited and software-suggested options.

The railroad tracks didn't have the sky color to challenge the edit software, so I didn't need to experiment with different edits. Only the original, edited versions (which involved only adding some contrast) are provided in addition to the HDRs.

You might be wondering which versions -- HDR or single-frame -- I prefer of these images. I'm still kicking around my thoughts on that. I appreciate the detail the HDRs provide, but I think I'm conflicted because I'm concerned that the detail -- the stadium seats and bright green grass, mostly -- negate the impact of the setting sun, which is why I went after these to begin with. Then I get to thinking that the sun is so small in relation to the other elements in most of the frames -- a fact that was out of my control -- that perhaps it doesn't deserve top billing. Maybe I should look upon the images as a composition of juxtaposition -- the sun against the Manual High School campus. The sun doesn't have to be the subject; it can be a strong component of each image's total parts. On the other hand, perhaps I can address the sun's relative size in the pictures at a later date through judicious crops. We'll see. These images were not cropped at all.

I lean toward the HDR versions in the case of the railroad shots, especially because of the added color detail. In the second RR image (shot #6), however, I sense a slight easier time finding the woman and children walking along the right side in the far distance in the single-frame version. They were not the reason I took that shot, but ... I was happy to have them as a little "golden nugget" in the shot.

Shot 1, HDR

Shot 1, single-frame, unedited

Shot 1, single-frame, edited

Shot 2, HDR 

Shot 2, single-frame, unedited 

Shot 2, single-frame, edited

Shot 3, HDR

Shot 3, single-frame, edited  

Shot 4, HDR

Shot 4, single-frame, unedited

Shot 4, single-frame, edited

Shot 5, HDR

 Shot 5, single-frame, edited

Shot 6, HDR

Shot 6, single-frame, edited

1 comment:

  1. Great explanation. I found this incredibly helpful and also some amazing shots. I'm going to have to visit Garfield Park soon to see for myself it is as beautiful as you capture it. Gorgeous!