I’m writing this post just a few days before I start teaching a landscape workshop to remind myself that HDR for HDR’s sake does not equal good photography. Like two litttle kids comparing who’s dad is tougher, some photographers compete with each other to produce more graphic, more over the top HDR images with a total loss of focus on the photography. Maybe I’m one of them some days.
There’s no substitute for the right quality of light, the strongest compositions and a clear of idea of what you want to say in your image. Now, if what you want to say is that you know how to sit at your computer and pull the sliders far to the right in Photomatix, then continue doing what you do. I love producing graphic HDR images of cliche subjects which usually arise out of opportunistic moments to shoot – as much as the next person – as evidenced by the following cliche truck shots created in the middle of the day, just because I happened to be there. Not because the light was great and not because I had anything new to say about nostalgic old trucks or a better day gone by.
But I don’t see many writing about or discussing use of HDR processes to create more photo-realistic images where the HDR work compliments, not dominates, the image. So these next two images I feel fit much closer to complimenting the image.
In both of these landscape images I used multiple HDR conversions, some more realistic than others, to manage the overall effect and flow of the final image. I do a number of other processes to help HDR compliment an image as well. Several different techniques (high pass filter) to improve contrast and use of Lab Color mode to finish the color work. In both cases I did one HDR conversion for the sky/treeline and another for water and rocks. In the first there is substantial dodging and burning to get the read of the image just right and if you really want to get this shot you’ll have to wade into the Baptism River, up to your chest with expensive camera gear and steady yourself against a giant piece of ancient granite at 9:45pm to get it, praying that the one cloud in the sky sits tight while you get the shots.
So, I wonder…what is your preference for work dominated by HDR process vs. work complimented by HDR processes? As a photog, do you think about this difference and if so, how and when do you choose one style over the other?