Monday, January 21, 2008

Looking back No. 2

click photo to enlarge
High Dynamic Range (HDR) is one of the current buzz phrases in digital photography. Concisely put, it's a method of combining a number of shots of the same subject into a composite image with an extended range of values between light and dark areas. Usually three images are combined: one "underexposed" (to benefit from the highlight detail), one "overexposed" to use the shadow detail, and one "correctly" exposed (to supply the mid-tones). The resulting image is said to more closely approximate what the eye and the brain "sees".

In the hands of a skilled and thoughtful photographer this is broadly what happens. However, others use it, wittingly and unwittingly, to produce "hyper-realistic" images that have the unreal glow that characterises a certain type of naive painting. These can be interesting, but have become gimmicky, and any interest soon wanes when you've seen a lot of them. And over the last couple of years I've seen many! But a thought occurred to me a while ago, when I did my own HDR shot (above) - the Victorian painters of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (PRB) would have loved this technique! As I sat back and looked at my completed photograph I was reminded of the finish (not the subject necessarily) of their radiant images that lovingly depict the minutiae of the English countryside; paintings such as "A Study in March" by John William Inchbold (1830-1888), or "Our English Coasts (Strayed Sheep)", by William Holman Hunt (1827 - 1910). In the years since they flourished the PRB have ridden the roller coaster of critical acclaim, with the dips being every bit as extreme as the heights. The interest in HDR shows some signs of having reached its own summit of popularity, and I hope that instead of being dispensed with it will settle down to become a useful, and occasional (!), technique in the photographer's armoury.

My photograph shows the church of St Thomas A Becket, in the village of Aunsby, Lincolnshire, taken last autumn during my break from posting. This building, erected mainly between the 1100s and the 1500s, is one of the many medieval masterpieces that await the visitor to this eastern county. I came upon it part way through a walk that took me to a succession of such village churches. My shot was taken with the camera programmed to record three images simultaneously, each with different levels of exposure.

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 14mm (28mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/400
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: -1.0, 0, +1.0EV
Image Stabilisation: Off