One of the most interesting developments that has aided my photography over the last couple of years has been the ability to deal with the dynamic range of light, and although cameras have been improving in respect of their handling of challenging lighting, it’s been HDR; high dynamic range photography that has helped to register detail both in the highlights and in the shadows.
This picture is the result of combining three different exposures using Photomatix Pro software. The middle of the three exposures is a normal one and the other two result from +1 and a -1 exposure value setting where there is a better chance of capturing highlight and shadow detail. The software allows you to control the degree of tonal compression so that you can achieve a range of results from the wild and grungy, through to the more natural. The process is available for single images as well and this is known as tone mapping and it helps to even out the distribution of tones so that more detail is registered over the whole tonal range.
It doesn’t work for every image but it’s another available tool for photographers. In this case the camera was set up to bracket the settings as described above and then with one press of the shutter release three exposures are fired off in rapid succession. It’s this last benefit, three or more shots in the blink of an eye that allows me to hand-hold the three exposures. With this technique I have the choice of firing off between two and five exposures, and this can give an increase of up to four stops in the dynamic range of the camera.
Without HDR, a single photo of this scene would not have been capable of showing both the brightness of the sky as well as the shadows in the foreground. The muted colours in this scene were a matter of choice and this, combined with the use of HDR allows full control over how the photo is presented. The final outcome is therefore a matter of judgement on my part and I find this approach to photography, where I can present an interpretation of the scene, is one of the more rewarding and creative aspects of the hobby.