HDR is a subject that polarises people pretty clearly into one of two camps – “Love it” or “Hate it”. It is possible to use HDR tastefully, but amongst the challenges faced by landscape photographers wanting to extend the dynamic range of their photographs is how to deal with movement.
The traditional approach to HDR has the photographer take a series of, usually three or five, bracketed shots, combining them in post processing to gain a larger dynamic range than would be possible with one shot. The way this usually works is one shot is taken at 0, one each at + and -1 compensation and optionally, one each at + and – 2 compensation. In this way, in a typical landscape consisting of a bright sky and a darker land mass, the detail of the sky can be retrieved from one of the – frames and the detail of the land from one of the + frames. Combined you get something equivalent to what the eye sees. Of course a moving object such as spray in the photograph above, causes problems because of the time lag between the three or five shots.
There are a couple of ways of dealing with this. With something like spray, because it is so fine, I used Nik HDR Pro. I took one photograph and made two virtual copies in Lightroom. I adjusted the exposure on the two copies to bring out the dynamic range I wanted – this was taken during the golden hour, on Brighton beach, and then combined them using the HDR software.
This picture of the Peace Angel was done differently. Because the elements I wanted, Sky and Statue were graphically easy to define, I opted to use a technique called double processing in Photoshop. I processed one layer with an eye on the sky, ignoring the fact the statue was in silhouette by the time I’d got the sky looking the way I wanted it. I then created another layer, from the original, and worked on the statue. To complete, I combined the two shots, adjusting the opacity until I got the right blend.
I like to think both of these images are pretty close to how I saw them when I took the original shots. Both have that little bit of extra drama that we associate with HDR, but hopefully neither could be classified as HDR Horrors!