25 June 2009

Playing with echt HDR

No. 3 Line shedHDR (High Dynamic Range) seems fashionable, largely thanks to the availability of certain software, I suspect. However, a typical HDR effect (sometimes described as "cartoon-like") actually arises not from the HDR itself but from exaggerated tone-mapping (plenty of examples in this gallery). It seems to suit some subjects, but used inappropriately (as it too often is), the result can be appalling (and sometimes downright scary). This photo isn't an HDR image; it's a similar effect but produced from a single photo processed in Lightroom with minor tweaking in Photoshop. I did it mostly out of curiosity and to be honest, I don't know what to think of it. To me it does seem to capture some of the character of this old shed (subsequently destroyed in last year's storm) up No. 3 Line, but it leaves me feeling uneasy. I'll not be making a habit of it.
All content © 2009 Pete McGregor

7 comments:

Anne-Marie said...

I don't like it. Too flat, too two-dimensional. I do like the image, though - I'd like to see it processed "normally".

Ciara said...

I have to agree with Anne-Marie, there doesn't seem to be any depth here. I would like to see the original, un-tweaked image too.

D.V.A. said...

I find it crisp, actually, the contrast between shades and lighted areas is a bit abrupt, but it is so that it can steal your attention. the trees on the left are kind of nice, but the cliff and the bushes on the right are awesome! the shed seems reflective somehow, the roof is nice, but the walls are as green as the woods behind, and the grass in the front is looking really raspy. it's an interesting ensemble, not bad, not standard... it's a good experiment, tho I admit I wouldn't want to see it become a habit. but you should experiment some more :) great shot

butuki said...

I think one of the problems with traditional, "realistic" photography is that most people have come to expect it, therefore anything which diverges from that norm is considered strange. People seem to have accepted that regular photography is somehow truly how we see things, and yet it isn't. HDR can actually bring out more closely how our minds truly process the light that our eyes capture, for instance balancing the highlights and shadows so there is less contrast and simultaneously allowing us to see a dark interior of a room against the bright sky outside. Of course, as you say, often the effect can be overdone, and too strong a use of tone mapping can really produce some hideous images. However, I believe good photography also tries to capture a mood, like painting, and sometimes a different way of presenting it, like you've done above, can enhance that feeling and bring out something that would otherwise be a ho-hum picture. This photo I agree with you, somehow it makes me uneasy. Maybe because it feels as if the shed is about to disappear, or maybe it's the shimmering quality of the corrugated roof and the edges of the trees which seem to etch at the corner of my eyes. If you softened that edgy quality, might the image settle down a bit? I'm thinking you grossly upped the radius values of the unsharp masking to get this effect.

For some reason photography has always had people strongly refuse to accept new ways of processing the images, whereas painting seems naturally to fit this. I wonder why?

pohanginapete said...

Thanks for the thoughts, everyone. I guess this picture doesn't really make the cut for me, but I'll leave it here because it's got people thinking. It seems to have elements that work (for example, I, like D.V.A., also like the bushes on the right), but in combination those elements don't work well. As Anne-Marie and Ciara suggest, it does seem overly two-dimensional, so the shed, which I feel should be the focal point, doesn't stand out clearly. I think this arises from the complexity of the background: in short, it's messy.

The "raspiness" (D.V.A.)/edge sharpness (Miguel) tend to be characteristic of many HDR pictures; however, as I pointed out this isn't an actual HDR picture — it's a simulated effect, and it's the exaggerated tone mapping that interested me, not the High Dynamic Range per se.

This technique reminds me strongly of illustration.

I thought I had a copy of the original photo processed fairly conventionally, but I can't find it and don't feel inclined to work on it again. Sorry. Anyway, thanks to you all for the thoughts. Cheers!

india said...

it's got that kinda "too good to be true" feeling about it...

pohanginapete said...

India, yes — I sometimes wonder whether this trend towards ever more (melo)drama and hypersaturation, etc., is akin to what we'd consider in nature to be a superstimulus (for example, the tendency for birds to preferentially brood larger eggs, to the extent they've been encouraged to attempt brooding artificial eggs larger than themselves).

This evening's photo willbe an entirely different kettle of fish :^)