THE NEW ZONE SYSTEM
Most of what is written about HDR photography, and most of the resulting photographs, center upon the ‘Wow’ factor made possible by the technology: wildly surrealistic color, super-saturated subject matter, out-of-this-world, ‘cartoony’ results. I don’t have a problem with those who love making these fantasy photographs; it’s just not what drives me or my shooting. But I do love what the technology has made possible: truly extending the dynamic range of information that can be captured in an image.
This sunrise image is a good example of what I’m thinking about. I saw this composition last week while making pictures on a wet, foggy morning. The light coming through the live oak trees was fantastic, but what I could see with my eyes—the sun’s orb just visible through the mist set against the dark subtle tones of the tree trunk—did not translate at all in a single image, even on RAW setting.
So I did what HDR makes possible: I shot a bracket of exposures. At ISO 50 and f7.1 with my Canon 70-200mm lens, I shot 1/500th, 1/250th, 1/125th, 1/60th, 1/30th, and 1/15th second exposures of this scene, all in quick succession. I determined the high end-the 1/500th sec exposure—based upon what was needed to record the sun. The low end—1/15th sec exposure—was needed to pick up detail in the darkest parts of the tree. Then it was simply a matter of filling in the exposures in between.
I used the File>Automate>Merge to HDR Pro feature in Photoshop CS5, although you could do this with other software products. The resulting image gives me something very akin to what I could see with my naked eye.
Hi, I’m Andrew Boyd, a.k.a. The Discerning Photographer, and I hope this post has been interesting and informative. Please leave me a comment about it, let me know what you’d like to see more of on the site! You can also sign up for email delivery of all future articles or my RSS feed. Thanks!–DiscerningPhotog