More than Meets the Photo

Like many other people I have been drawn to photography ever since the computer joined the camera as a picture tool.  I will venture to say that a lot less people would have cameras these days if everyone still used the film variety.  And those of us who might have had a film camera anyway would probably use them a lot less since the cost for taking a picture with film is substantially more than recording one digitally.

Today’s cameras do a really good job of getting us a nice picture even though there are times when the scene we are capturing presents some difficulties.  Lately I have been intrigued by photographic technique that attempts to solve a major photographic obstacle using…a computer.  It is called High Dynamic Range Photography (HDR for short).  If you’ve ever seen an image processed in this way I’m sure it caught your eye.  Just this last week I made my first attempts at using this technique.

You may not have realized it but when you snap a picture with your camera, a few things take place.  First, your camera measures the amount of light in the scene and then makes it’s best estimation of just how much light to let in so the picture will look the best; that the things that matter in the picture are recorded clearly.  Sometimes scenes can present some challenging decisions for the camera.  For example, there may be some very bright places in your picture as well as some very dark places.  If your camera lets in enough light to the sensor to do a good job “seeing” the dark places, the bright places turn all the way white and without detail.  Conversely, if the camera chooses to expose for the bright places in the picture, the dark areas will turn black and have no detail.  Luckily, not all scenes are fraught with these problems, but some are.

So in comes HDR photography.  Basically here is what happens: 3 pictures are taken; one normally exposed, one underexposed, and one overexposed.  These 3 images of the same thing are mixed by a computer program and the result can cover both the bright and dark areas that normally cause problems.  The pictures processed this way tend to be especially appealing because our own eyes do a better job handling the bright and dark areas than cameras.  So HDR pictures may remind us of what the scene really looked like to us rather than just a picture of it.  Below is an example of 3 exposures I took recently.  Please note how the bright areas look nice in the underexposed picture and how the dark areas look good in the overexposed picture. (click on image for larger version)

Then the 3 pictures combined with the software I got for Christmas yield the picture here.

Point Vicente Lighthouse, Palos Verdes, CA

So far I’m having a good time trying out the HDR technique and I think I have made a few appealing images.  Here are few more that I have taken below.  Remember to see one bigger, just click on it.

Los Angeles Temple with Christmas Lights

Here is another:

La Mirada LDS Chapel

One last one:

Los Angeles Temple with Christmas Lights

If you’re interested in seeing some more pictures made using HDR a good website to check out is Trey Ratcliff’s Stuck in Customs site.  He has some amazing pictures.


7 thoughts on “More than Meets the Photo

    • Did you notice I put up Jordan and Freesia’s temperature too? I once heard Vista has the most mild climate on Planet Earth–rarely cold, rarely hot. And it’s only a few miles from the Greens.

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