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HDR Dilemma

Published March 6th, 2013

I was searching a different photo website recently looking at HDR shots and thinking to myself "God, that one is awful. Ugh, way too saturated. Why would he use HDR for that?", but then I was struck by a thought. What if my HDR is that bad? How would I know? I remember a session with Moose Peterson where he claimed he was the master of realistic HDR, and this was always my goal as well. But, how do you know whats realistic or what is too far. We all have an attachment to our photos. We always love our own photos (atleast the better ones), so can you really be truthful with yourself about your shots if they are truly gaudy and overcooked? I remember the first time I searched HDR photography and I hated the way it looked. Every example I saw was over saturated or way too painterly with halos around the subject and a sky that looked like it was painted in (poorly). I swore I would never use that technique, that was until I stumbled across a few shots all done by the same photographer. I cant remember his name right now, however his shots were gorgeous! Beautiful, tasteful and realistic! That is what I wanted to do with my photos. I bought Photomatix and immediately went out looking for HDR scenarios. My first attempt was "Orchard Beach Sunset". My initial reaction to processing HDR was how easy it was to be drawn to the surreal and painterly presets. I understand how some can get so carried away now and how easy it is to get sucked into the world of bad HDR. I try every chance I get to prevent that. For example, I wont even attempt and HDR if the scene doesnt warrant it. Maybe I want the trees to be silhouetted or maybe the scene doesnt range in light to dark for me to bother doing it. I also will use a grad ND filter anywhere I can easily. For example, if the distant horizon is almost flat, and I have no objects in the frame protruding into the sky I will gladly take my camera off of exposure bracketing and shoot straight shots. But, I do find myself more and more willing to process HDR, going so far as to look for scenarios that I NEED to use it (see "Room with a View"). This brings me back to my original question, how do you know if you are going to far? Can you really tell? Is it all personal taste or are their set opinions on what makes a good or a bad HDR? My goal has always been to process realistic, but now looking at my photos I wonder if I have achieved this or if I could have processed them differently to get a more photo realistic result. I am currently sitting at my computer reprocessing some of my older shots in an attempt to see if they were done tastefully or if I had a momentary lapse in sanity and went too far. But, in the end does it really matter if they are perceived to be "good" or "bad" if you love how they look? I dont know. All I know is my goal is to stay off of those "bad HDR" websites at all costs! :)

Just a Bush

As I said in my previous two photos, it was difficult to find places to shoot keeping manmade object out of the frame. directly in front of this bush was a sprawling landscape and a river. The only problem was all of the river front homes, roads, street lamps, etc. I tried to get a little creative and shot this bush. Not the greatest subject, but its better than a photo fill with dead trees, street lamps and houses. I particularly like the dramatic look of the sky. Enjoy

  • March 3rd, 2013
  • Canon EOS REBEL T3i
  • 21mm / f/16 / 1/13 sec

Clouds over Iona Island

This is an overlook above Iona island on the Hudson River. We were there yesterday to spot bald eagles, however they were all too far away. As the clouds broke up slightly, I figured I'd set up for a landscape. The clouds were constantly changing and I took about 60 shots with the clouds being more, and more dramatic. Since the only thing missing from this shot was some color, I decided to go black and white (well, slightly sepia). I tried my best to get that Ansel Adams look.

  • January 14th, 2013
  • Canon EOS REBEL T3i
  • 18mm / f/22 / 1/6 sec

Orchard Beach Sunset

I was finishing up my hike through orchard beach but didnt get many shots. I had beautiful light that day however all of my photos up until this point had man made objects in them. As I hit the home stretch on the path leading back to the lot, i noticed how the sun was breaking through the clouds and visualized where it would set in about an hour. I climbed off the trail on to the beach and carefully composed to keep the apartment buildings out of my picture while maintaining some kind of decent composition. I snapped off a shot ever few minutes as the clouds were constantly changing. About 10 minutes before sunset, i got this one.

  • Canon EOS rebel T3i
  • 27mm / f/22 / 1/50 sec

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