HDR Photos

On Thursday I was browsing the NY Times website while working ridiculously late, and I read this article online about “high dynamic range” photography. The problem: cameras saturate with too much light, failing to capture the full range in a scene. IE, with a short exposure the sky might be visible, but the foreground is so dark that it becomes a silhouette. On the other hand, with a longer exposure, you can see the foreground but the sky becomes a saturated white. By combining a series of photos taken at different exposures, and then remapping the values, you can create pictures which capture the land and sky. It’s beautiful stuff, you can see more in this Flickr HDR Photography group.

After reading this tutorial, I learned how to do a quick-and-dirty blending in GIMP to create reasonable “HDR” photos with a couple of layers and a mask. You define the saturated areas in the “overexposed” photo as the mask that instead exposes parts of the “underexposed” photo, thereby combining the two. I went outside (we live next to a picturesque pond) with my tripod and took a couple photos — unfortunately, my camera (a Canon PowerShot A95) doesn’t have automatic-exposure bracketing (“AE-bracketing”), so I had to adjust the exposures by hand. This means things moved around a bit in the photo, as a breeze was blowing.

The end result was still stunning.

Here is a medium exposure photo I took. The sky is saturated with white, and some of the foliage is lost in shadows.
Here the photo is very overexposed. You can see the foliage better, but the sky is completely white.
And in this one it’s very underexposed. The sky is vivid blue, but the rest is black.

Finally, here’s what I got using the quick and dirty manual masking method, combining the over-exposed and under-exposed photographs:

I love this, it’s beautiful. The next camera I buy will have to have AE-bracketing.

3 thoughts on “HDR Photos

  1. Slapo

    A quick note: you can only use it well for still subjects or landscapes, if you’d like to have e.g. a sport photo with a high dynamic range, you’d have to figure out a different technique.

    Reply

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