Sunday, February 28, 2010

HDR Experiment: Take One

Alright I must admit this much, this place is getting boring. I only have myself to blame, for not challenging myself to move out of the comfort zone, and try out new techniques, or venture into different genres of photography. Considering the extra little bit of free time I possess over this long weekend, I have intended to take on something rather new to me. Well, it is not exactly that new to anyone else, except me, and you might as well shake your head in disbelief as I mention this session as my first experimentations with HDR photography.

HDR stands for High Dynamic Range.

Yes, I know I should have ventured into HDR long time ago, considering the fact that I am using a DSLR. Every single magazine has raved about HDR and the awesomeness it brings, especially to landscape and architectural works. So many of my peers have done it, some successful, some not so successful. To be honest, originally I was not too enthusiastic about HDR for several reasons: 1) Looking unnatural 2)I do not like the over baked look, especially the over saturation of colours 3) Overdone, for some shots would have looked nicer being as it was without HDR. I also believe that HDR has been overrated, and its benefits can only be displayed in certain situations, provided that the photographer knows what he is doing. I particularly dislike the HDR processing that turns a photo into something like a painting, because I think that defeats the purpose of photography. I agree, it is art, or a form of it that some people may like, but if you really want a painting then why don't you just take up a brush and start painting on a real canvas, instead of boasting emptily on digital manipulation.

Typically, HDR requires at least three photos taken at three separate exposures, one being underexposed, one on the right exposure and one overexposed photographs to be combined into a single file, capturing the wide dynamic range and details of all three original files. Doing so will fundamentally require identical framings of all the photos taken, and a tripod is essential to mitigate any hand movements that would otherwise result in unusable HDR stitchings. Knowing me, you should probably come to a conclusion on how lazy I am to bring a heavy tripod anywhere I go to. Besides, I really treasure convenience, hence this correct, or more popularly used method was definitely not designed for me.

At least not yet, and I shall venture to it when I am ready.

What I have done in this entry was merely "pseudo-HDR". I shot all the photos in RAW, and from a single RAW file, I converted it into a pseudo-HDR file via the magic of PhotoMatix. It was as simple as a few clicks, and I was well opened to the new world of HDR that I was quite alien to. Special thanks to Darryl who has shown me some tricks and tips on getting the settings right, and making the best out of the software. Although it was only sourced from just a single RAW file, the dynamic range the output was able to churn out was quite astonishing. Olympus does not exactly produce any note-worthy dynamic range headrooms in their RAW files in direct comparison to the competing manufacturers, but even so, having that extra dynamic range squeezed into the photo, revealing that extra bit of detail and preventing from severe highlight/shadow clipping, all those are always a welcome.

Yes, you heard that right, I shot in RAW. This was also the first time after more than a year of handling the DSLR that I started shooting in RAW. I know, I know, you can lecture me on and on about the importance and necessity of RAW, and how much flexibility and control I will have over the powerless JPEG files.

So here I present to you beautiful people my virgin attempt on HDR. Do cut me some slack will you, I still have a lot to work on, and learn, obviously. I do love my photos come out contrasty, and very vividly strong in colours. However, at the same time, I still want my photographs to look like photographs. Call me a retard in art, or whatever. My purpose of engaging this HDR technique was not to completely make a changeover from the original photo into something I could not even recognize. What I wanted from teh HDR technique was just to boost the dynamic range, and add that extra depth and space into the photograph. You have to say, with dynamic range being opened up, some of the photos have that extra "ooommph", no?

Too bad, my choice of subjects were the same old place near the city center. Well, it was only a try-out session, and you can expect more experimentations coming this way. If the situation permits, perhaps I should even venture into the REAL thing, taking photos of at least three exposures apart. If you have any experience, or any cool photos to share on HDR, anything related to it, please kindly share. Your input is greatly appreciated.


  1. hehe.. had fun playing? i'm not quite a fan of HDR myself.. probably a few would be nice.. but not overly done.

  2. hey allen,
    yeap, thats why my HDR were gently done ahahha

  3. wah not bad not bad... don't be afraid to limit the colour.. go all out!! hehehe

  4. Is this your first HDR try, nice man for first time..coz mine first time worst than yours...still need improvement...but..not a big deal..

  5. Hey Chun Chow,
    LOL.. nooooo... I am a naturalist !!

    Hey HDR,
    Wow, you are actually KL based, an a dedicated HDR photographer !! I am impressed.
    Nah, my shots are still very noob to begin with, and they are not real HDR anyway, as I have mentioned, just pseudo-HDR only. Will be experimenting further soon !!

  6. I realise that the buildings are darker (exposure/brightness) above (roof area) compare to the bottom (base area) in some of the photos. Hhmm...

  7. i'm not a big fan of hdr.. but i'm amaze by your picture composition here.. its amazing! too bad i couldn't meet up with u to learn more.

  8. hey chong,
    I was using the tone mapping feature in Photomatix, and applied heavier smoothening. If I did not do so, ugly halos will appear surrounding the buildings, and that can be overcome with REAL HDR, not my fake attempts ahahaha...

    hey Evan,
    You are being too generous la !! Those are really nooob shots. But yeah, would really love to meet up if theres another chance in future.

  9. nice post. thanks.

  10. hey robin im a beginner on hdr, i wonder what is the weakness on pseudo HDR.