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The Valley of Light || A Good Old Fashioned HDR Rant

Here’s another early example of my experimentation with HDR and Landscape photography. I also feel inspired to rant today. As usual, I’ll try to ramble as much as possible. ;)

I’ve always loved pushing the envelope with color and detail. I’ve always found it fascinating and I’ve been happily doing it since Photoshop Version 5.0, way before any HDR software came out.

So why have so many people been misinterpreting the definition of HDR lately. For example, when someone calls an HDR photo overcooked, what are they really referring to? Too much Color, Contrast, Brightness, or Saturation? Since when are these attributes exclusively associated with HDR software? I can assure you that I’ve been over enhancing color since 1999. -- Just sayin’ ;)

For the most part, people are capable of destroying any piece of art using any technique. That's universal across all media regardless of what tools are used. Throughout history, there has always been just as much bad art as good art. The difference is, all the good art was published in history books and all the bad art is hanging in Bill Gate’s House. ;) (Oh, I’m kidding of course)

The bottom line for me is that people need to judge the photo based on its own qualities rather then its labeled technique. This idea that HDR is a magic button is absolutely ridiculous. A lot of the old school film guys said the same thing about Photoshop. Hell, they even said the same thing about computers back in the day. "That's not art, he just uses a dang computer.”

For some insight, check out the Before and After Comparison for this image: http://goo.gl/b6DdY. Here, HDR software was used to bring back all the detail in the highlights and shadows that were lost in the single exposure.

Where did all the extra color and contrast come from? Well, that was entirely my doing in Photoshop. So, even though the color has been slightly electrified and quite possibly discofied, the HDR software is not too blame. I can assure you that it’s 100% my fault.

*Disclaimer: This rant was brought to you by the worst cup of instant coffee that I’ve ever had...

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46 comments
 
words wisely and well said and I can't but agree 100%
Edvar S
 
Seconded. Well spoken.
 
Insightful post. And, just FYI, there's no such thing as a good cup of instant coffee, IMHO... :-)
 
+Shawn McClure lol, I know. It's not really a fair comparison when I said "worst cup of instant coffee." That may mislead people into thinking that there actually could be a good cup of it.
 
Nice rant and great photo!! Doesn't look over-cooked to me ;)

Jay
 
I'm glad I read that. I feel like some images deserve to be super saturated and look awesome that way. Just like some are great completely de-saturated.
 
amazing. congratulations. greetings from Argentina. TIGRA.
 
Nice rant - I agree & I don't get it either. No matter how you cut it, photographers have been using any tool they can find to compress the tonal range of a scene into a single frame for a long time. Graduated ND filters, strobes, HDR - whatever: they are all just tools and can be used/misused to the artists' delight. Just as "good" art is not a result of the tools but of the artist, so is true with "bad" art.
 
The before/after shows how HDR can get something great that would otherwise not be worth much without a long time in post.
 
I think some of the "old timers" for lack of a better word, no offense!! They don't want or desire to put in the time it takes to learn all the software mombo jombo etc... So, it's easier to say it's cheating or fake, then I just don't want to learn new techniques. Old school etc...

.02cents
 
You know, back in my day, we chiseled our photographs on stone slabs - which we cut ourselves! And then we processed it in a dark cave under water to make it last!

Darn kids, don't know what real photography is all about!
 
I think to say you've over-saturated this shot is doing it a dis-service. There are many people who use HDR badly, it does not look like you're one of them.
 
+Brian Lahue Exactly! We all use the tools we're most comfortable with in an attempt to produce the best image possible. The goal of this practice has remained fundamentally the same, regardless if it's done with chemicals or pixels.
 
Please rant and ramble as often as you like, Elia. More often, in fact...
 
Thanks Elia... you wrote up what I think on my works as well... 
 
+Elia Locardi Computers! Ha! We didn't have computers in our day. Heck, we didn't even have math.... Then they started counting on their fingers and toes and the world went to heck.... =)
 
+Summer Seale Oh yea!? Have you ever tried doing color correction with an Abacus? ;)

+Robert Walters Did you know that spellcheck doesn't include: discofied? I was shocked.
 
+Elia Locardi I think the problem is, many people understand hdr as the output of the hdr software. And most hdr software has some functions wich go beyond the dynamic increasing HDR step. There's so much stuff which can be done during tonemapping and in the beginning people were excessively using those various sliders, e.g. saturation, tonal contrast and so on, which often lead to overcooked photos. I think this stuff is now mixed up when people talk about overcooked hdr... Could mean anything today.

I agree with you when you're saying many people don't know what hdr is in the first place.. it's a tool to increase dynamic range.. no more.

People also often think I'm doing HDR... just because my personal style leads to colorful photos with much detail quite often. The dynamic range increase I don't do with HDR but with exposure blending through masks manually.. .Just another Tool.

It's always the selection of tools and how one uses them which leads to the final image. It's far from pressing a button + magic. That can be seen if they closely look at a photo...

good Rant!! :-)
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+Michael Breitung You make a good point. It's something that I like to call slider mentality. Sometimes the tools (plugins) that are supposed to make things easier, actually make things more complicated. It can become a game of sliding 15 different effects around until you find a palatable result. That's 15 different effects to manipulate 1 simple thing: Color. -- Now I'm not saying that this is always a bad thing. In other ways it can increase our toolset in new and interesting ways. Unfortunately, it more often confuses the process rather than streamlines it.
 
+Dan Moughamian What if the camera captured all the dynamic range already, much like some of the 16bit Medium format cameras do? Would that still be considered an HDR since there is no process applied?
 
I agree. I have some photos to share that I wonder if I should put that they are HDRs as they may be prejudged. I find it odd. I know when you apply some of the filters the photo may mot be as realistic as it could be but it is a form of art I believe. I can understand why people may not like some of the effects but to say they do not like HDR photography in general is being narrow minded in my opinion. I like the artistic effect that some photos have due to vaious filters applied. They are a "style" in my opinon of a particular photographer. Trey Ratcliff is very much associated with HDR but even his photos can have an artistic look to them and I don't find anything wrong with that. The artist chooses how they want to present their work. It's up to others if they like it. However to lump HDR into one definition is not correct in my opinion.

Forgot to add, this photo looks very beautiful.
 
Ultimately, If you like your work and it makes you happy, that's all that really matters. Regardless of whether it's carved out of stone, chemically developed in a darkroom, or painted in photoshop, the goal is to enjoy creating it. ;)
 
To me HDR is not about colors, it's just about light and details (but I speak as a beginner here). What I consider overcooked (though I don't recall using that term ever in a public post) is when people create surreal or unrealistic lighting conditions, bright foreground on a really cloudy day, the "radioactive" effect (halos around edges), etc... none of which are apparent in your art :) Lovely images! Colors, I don't mind at all. I look at the overall "harmony" of the colors - whatever that means. Can't explain it in more clear terms... whatever makes sense to me. I don't mind pink skies and wild orange and vibrant colors as long as the overall effect is pleasing to me.
 
I am new to photography and love the HDR photography and your photos are magnificant, what software if good for a beginner who wants to learn HDR photography..I have PS elements, however I do not understand how to use it.
 
Everyone is making really great points about HDR here!

+Edvar S Did you have some specifics in mind or just overall?
 
I love the image, and your comments.
 
Just started playing around a bit with HDR (inspired by you and others) and this was really an interesting read, both your post and the comments in here. thanks
 
yehhh dude... the people have spoken,...awesome......
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Beautiful, love the soft green on the rocks!
 
Great post but you used  instant and coffee in the same sentence! eek ;)
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beautiful,  I am not good at photoshop . obviously you are, but even without it, a great shot.
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