From time to time (and with increasing frequency) I get emails asking ‘how many, if any, of my photographs are HDR or High Dynamic Range?’
The answer is: None.
For any reader who may be unaware: HDR photography is the art of capturing several (usually two or three) different exposures of the same scene. Each exposure will be optimised at the time of capture for either the highlights, shadows or mid tones of the scene. The multiple frames are then composited in Photoshop or alternative program and tone mapped. The final output is a single photograph that captures a dynamic range wider than what the cameras sensor was capable of recording in a single exposure. Usually, but not always, the results are unnatural and somewhat ‘odd’ (at least to my eyes).
All of the photographs on my Portfolio website and on my blog are single exposures that were captured that way in the field. I may well have taken multiple exposures (bracketing) at the time of capture; but this was simply to give me choice of picking the best overall exposure to work with back in my studio – Never for the act of combining for a HDR image. Not that there is anything wrong with HDR photography; but it just isn’t something that interests me, or frankly that I even particularly like.
I am also often asked “if the colours in my photographs are real?”
The answer is: Yes.
I actually do very little post processing work to my photographs in the vast majority of cases. Probably 99% of my photographs never even make it to Photoshop – receiving only basic post processing corrections in Adobe Lightroom. These corrections include adjustments such as white balance, setting white and black points, burning and dodging etc. I am a strong advocate for ‘getting it right in the field’. I use graduated neutral density filters extensively to tame the high dynamic range found in nature and these allow me to capture scenes with a single exposure without resorting to post processing techniques such as HDR tone mapping. I spend many many hours in the field waiting for the right light for my photography and frequently revisit locations for better light.
My shooting style is pretty simple – I like to arrive at my location with plenty of time before the light is at its best. Usually, this means at least an hour before sunrise or sunset (I generally prefer sunrise – the best light being just before the sun crests the horizon). Almost always, if possible I will have scouted the location earlier in the day to ascertain what I wanted to photograph. However, I am always ready to go with the flow, and if I see something happening nearby (maybe the light is reflecting off a pool of water, or whatever) will change my plans accordingly. I shoot with a tripod, mirror lock-up and a cable release. I like to take my time to compose my photographs thoughtfully; I use ‘live-view’ to assist with composition and focusing.
Once I am ready to take the photograph I may make several different exposures so that I can later on choose which is best for my purposes. I will also usually do a number of different compositions and again later in my studio choose which I prefer. During post processing I will endevour to draw out any subtle tones and colours that were captured by the cameras sensor at time of exposure. These adjustments or enhancements if you prefer are usually no more than corrections for the inherent flatness of a RAW file compared to a jpeg; which has already and automatically had post production performed in camera.