High On Dynamic Range

It’s funny how things reverse. Someone as old as me remembers hours in a chemical smelling darkroom practicing gesticular magic over RC paper (Dodge this! Burn that!) in order to bend the shimmering beams projecting downwards to my bidding. Photography was not just a skill but a bit of a black art then and those like me who mostly did well out of luck could certainly spend hours in a fruitless effort to create a picture that didn’t look like a white light got switched on by accident during processing. Maybe that explains why folks like me embraced (and as technology improved continuously re-embraced) digital photography. The idea of what could be done and the speed it could be done when compared to the chemical-mechanical past boggled our minds which were still hazy from poorly ventilated fumes. Those were the days of wooden cameras and iron lungs.

Now I see more and more people a few generations newer than me going back to film and pupils dilated by amber safelights in a quest to capture the creative constrictions of those old ways. A rush to embrace vintage or low cost cameras, grainy films, and that long processing wait has snatched victory from the all-conquering march of electronica. The oversaturated, softly detailed photos being made today with lomography and other inexpensive, crude cameras is what we tried to avoid in the days of yore. Still it must be said that they are often compelling and beautiful.

I bring that example up as a barely related introduction to my being presently enamored with the bright and lively photos digitally created through a process known as HDR (High Dynamic Range) imaging. I’ve hyper-linked a thorough explanation but in layman’s (or my) terms it’s about capturing lost detail. When an image it taken usually the camera’s metering system picks the exposure that captures an image where the majority of the subject matter presented is easily visible and similar to how our eyes would see it. However the range of detail captured often is clipped in very bright areas and very dark areas. If you look at a building in daylight you don’t notice the subtleties of white clouds or the shades of gray in the dark shadows. HDR works by utilizing bracketed exposures (over and under normal) which capture the dynamic “edges” a proper exposure misses. You combine these all into a single image which can range from the surrealistically remarkable to just a pleasant enhancement. The subject matter and settings help determine what you wind up with.

Wow! Incredibly boring, eh? In description it is but in practice there is the chance your socks will be knocked off. I’ve loved experimenting with it and below are a few images I recently used this process for. Hope you enjoy.

  1. February 16, 2011, 2:31 am

    I used to enjoy the darkroom. I liked I could hide in there and work peacefully. πŸ˜€ The only thing I never liked was rolling the 35 mm film to process. What a pain. It’s true, it did seem a bit magical, you were not sure what you would get. I always liked alternative process photography in school. Gum printing, polaroid transfers, cyanotype and such. Too bad I haven’t done any in the while.

    I like the images. The one with the leaves and the shadow of the table and chairs on the wall especially.

    1. TAO
      February 16, 2011, 12:17 pm

      Rolling the film between the spiral guides was really a skill. I’d swear loud and long when I found that there was some touching along the roll after I processed. πŸ™ Ever try doing stuff in a light proof changing bag? Ack! Other types of light sensitive papers are cool and give a great vintage feel but I never worked with them much.

  2. Bea
    February 16, 2011, 8:09 am

    After losing a lot of weight on manual art processing (I suddenly fit into my elementary P.E. uniform again, LOL), I am now thinking it has merits. Like those young people going back to vintage-style photography.

    1. TAO
      February 16, 2011, 12:11 pm

      Well there isn’t too much exercise in being cooped up in a small dark room. You’ve always looked thin so I’m shocked you’ve shrunk more!

  3. Lady Tortoise
    February 16, 2011, 11:25 am

    Gorgeous colors and textures. Just gorgeous!

    1. TAO
      February 16, 2011, 12:09 pm

      Thanks much. πŸ˜€

  4. February 16, 2011, 12:45 pm

    Yeah that always sucks :/ I botched many rolls of film at the beginning but I got better at it thankfully. I was lucky to never have to do anything in the light changing bag, but I had friends who did. They are a lot more skilled than I am.

    Yeah, I’d love to do some alt. process stuff again but don’t really have the space to at the moment. So cutting and collage of images from my printer will have to do πŸ™‚ I don’t mind so much though.

  5. February 16, 2011, 5:23 pm

    Lovely textures and colours. And motifs. And: no, not boring at all. Just interesting. πŸ™‚

    1. TAO
      February 18, 2011, 9:30 am

      Thank you yet again. πŸ™‚

  6. March 14, 2011, 10:56 am

    It’s amazing how you come up with great pictures everytime:)

    1. TAO
      March 14, 2011, 3:35 pm

      Thank you for the nice words. You’d be surprised how many bad pictures I take before a good one. πŸ™‚

  7. Colin
    May 23, 2011, 2:27 am

    Thanks for sharing your great photos and memories of darkroom chemical fun. I don’t need too many excuses to waft into nostalgia but, you just gave me another one. Well done. You’ve even inspired me to get my camera out of the drawer … if I can remember which one and how to use it. Thanks again.