I stumbled onto HDR photography when I was shooting UrBex. The challenging light conditions mad the use of a tripod essential but this led to high tonal ranges, so I shot brackets to compensate. I saw the work of other photographers who managed to overcome the limitations of high contrast environments using HDR and I knew I had to know more and work out how I could add this to my tool set.
I spent much of the next year shooting brackets when possible and probably missed many shots as a result; I wanted to master this technique but did not want my images to look like I had just added a few filters like so many images you see on the web, It probably took a couple of years to my HDR to the stage where I was happy with it (just). Then, one grey day I started looking back through old sets of brackets for a shot I remembered taking but was not happy with the processing and found the image below:
this was originally shot as part of a bracketed set with HDR in mind but the processing was too h ...
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I don't normally spend a lot of time in post production, preferring to get it as good as possible in camera. Lately though I have been looking for a little extra to really make my images stand out more and have started using a combination of techniques.
For this image I wanted to accentuate the texture of the monoliths but as I was shooting into the sun I also needed to control the tonal range of the image.
I had taken 7 bracketed exposures in RAW and selected 5 to tone map in Photomatix, using the painterly preset with a few tweaks, the resulting TIFF was exported to Photoshop where I made layer masks of the various elements that I wanted to fine tune (I also included masks from un-tonemapped RAW files.
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One of the first things that struck me about Urbex was the power of nature. As you approach an abandoned building the signs are there to see; grass and saplings breaking through tarmac, cracks appearing in concrete paths. Then you approach the building to find moss growing in cracks in the walls and plants sprouting from guttering. When the guttering is blocked rainwater overflows, roots start to eat into gaps between bricks and water starts to enter the building.
Once inside the effects are often more striking; wooden flooring bows and breaks, plants grow on floors and through windows, walls now wet, sprout petals of peeling paint and once the paint has gone the bricks start to crack and break.
Now all of this is great fodder for the lens of the Urban Explorer, and something we have all experienced countless times, but next time, stop and think. Consider for a moment the time, effort and cost it took to make build and maintain the building you are in and then wonder at how quickly n ...
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