Learning More About How Little I Know

I set out today to take shots like this, thinking it was as simple as could be. I carried my wobbly tripod and remote shutter release. It’s not that easy!

HDR image of a field on Tuttle Avenue, Hamden, CT

Mill River Hamden, CT HDR

Like many photographers, I play around with HDR (high dynamic range) photography. It’s a method of extending the dynamic range of a digital camera. Your eye can see subtle detail in very dark darks and very bright brights. A digital camera cannot. There is a finite distance between the darkest and brightest it can resolve. That range can be moved, but it’s limited.

With HDR photography a series of pictures, each with the range shifted, are merged. The new resulting image has more range than any of its component shots. The shots at the top of this entry from an open field for horses on Tuttle Avenue and the Mill River near Sleeping Giant Mountain, are HDR pictures.

100% crop of Tuttle Avenue field HDRWhen you look really closely, there are problems. I’m not sure how to eliminate them and I can’t seem to find anything about them online. This photo on the left is a 100% crop (pixel-for-pixel on the screen) of the Tuttle Avenue horse field HDR image. Since the leaves are blowing around slightly, there are strange ghostly artifacts in the trees and places where the blue sky pokes through. The original is a huge image, 12 Megapixels. There are similar problems with the Mill River shot. I’m not totally sure this would be seen in most prints–though it might. It definitely would in an oversize enlargement.

I set out today to take shots like this, thinking it was as simple as could be. I carried my wobbly tripod and remote shutter release. It’s not that easy!

The more I do photographically the more I understand great photographers are expert technicians. That’s much more important than being a great artist. I suspect my opinion is anti-intuitive for casual photo viewers.

I want to be a good photographer. I’ve got a lot to learn.

3 thoughts on “Learning More About How Little I Know”

  1. For moving subjects in HDR, shoot in RAW. You only need one image. Create 3 images from the RAW image, one normal, one -3 exposure, one +3 exposure. Merge those, and there you go. Some call this “faking” HDR, but the data is in the RAW file already, so why not use it? Not as wide a range as shooting 5 or 7 images for a merge, but still provides dramatic results.

  2. oh, and one more thing – when taking the shot, the concept “expose for shadows, print for highlights” helps, again, because RAW is gathering more data than a jpg compressed file, so the +3 exposure will not be blown out.

  3. Wow, the more things change, the more they stay the same. The artifacts you found reminded me of the series of color photographs taken in Russia around 1910. Lacking color film, the photographer took three black-and-white photos through color filters. Since the camera no longer exists, one can’t be sure how much time elapsed between shots, but the photos make it apparent that significant time did pass. Any moving objects in the shots–water, some people–look strange and discolored. But anything that didn’t move looked, well, pretty darned breathtaking.

    You can find the photos here:


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