These set of photos was taken last year of 2015 from March to December while living and travelling in Italy, specifically around the area of Ancona in the Marché region. In this image collection I tried to capture some of the most interesting monuments I had the chance to visit and as far my time allowed. Anyway, this time rather than telling the history behind how did I got to go to Italy (which can be understood by reading my former post ‘Mare Superum’), I want to go a little technical this time.
Last year I’ve been practicing mostly techniques of long-exposure and HDR (which stands for: High Dynamic Range) imaging. And therefore I talked about this techniques with lots of people and other photographers trying to understand how did they felt on the results of this type of photography which I believe is often misunderstood and considered (by some) fake or extravagant when compared to a ‘single shot exposure’. The latest assumption is probably legitimate if you have come across with some of the awkward and exaggerated ‘pieces of art’ that can be found on internet just by typing on google ‘HDR photography’. The opinions I’ve been hearing range from amusement to disgust with not much of a grey area in between; you can accept it or you don’t. I’ve been felling a mix of both as well whenever I search for them to learn and get inspired for new ideas, but, disregarding if I like or not the extravagant and fake styling of some photos, I do recognize the effort of these artists and I come to believe that this is always a matter of tastes… in the end I guess it is like mostly everything in life: “I like pancakes, do you?”.
Because when you are a photographer you want to show your work in a positive way to the widest public possible, I want to dedicate the following lines to describe and explain why I personally think HDR techniques are as valid (if not more valid) as ‘single exposure’ photos to capture the essence of landscape and architecture photography. In this way I would like not only to fight ignorance and misunderstanding but to introduce you to my critical thinking behind the technique. This is not to excuse me (or others) for ‘over editing’ or for doing a bad work, because everyone is allowed of missing the bulls-eye once in a while… or shall I say (upon my experience) ‘frequently all the while’ !?
The dynamic range (explained shortly) is the capacity of any digital camera sensor or film to capture the range of different light/shadow intensities existing in a scene. Unfortunately digital sensors are not as smart as our brains when processing changes in light. Very often our photos are ruined by some burned skies or pitch black shadows and therefore affected by the loss of precious information when you are trying to tell the whole story of a scenario; in other words, sensors often fail to reproduce the scene as your eyes can see it by adjusting the pupil (likewise the lenses diafragma) to the amount of light available. To avoid this loss of information in our classic ‘single exposure’ (one shot) way of photographing, the HDR photography is a technique which brings together the best of 3 worlds. Specifically speaking the idea behind complies the merging of the same photo exposed several times to capture the best detail for shadows, mid-tones and highlights. The result is a single photo which instead of lacking information in shadows (underexposed) or highlights (overexposed) will enhance the details in shape and color of this parts in an image. The effect achieved often gives a sense of hyper-realism and tridimensional depth to the photos simulating our ever adapting eye-pupil and stereoscopic sight.
Although HDR is quite a modern term to describe this technique of giving the wright exposure time to different parts of a scene (and objects) in a photo, this type of image edition is being done by the greatest photographers in darkrooms all over the world and since the early history of photography. As an example I can reference two masters of photography (just to acknowledge a couple) like Ansel Adams and Sebastião Salgado, which images achieved a timeless value and serve as inspiration for me and for most nature and landscape photographers worldwide.
For purposes related with this article, I will mark with HDR to each photo in the end of the caption to identify where I used this approach and leave you to decide either if you enjoyed it or not. I don’t pretend to oblige anyone to appreciate this photos, my photos or any other using this technique but I hope that after this short, rough and ‘non scientific’ explanation I can at least help you to understand what means the HDR settings on your recently bought iPhone 1000 (or other worldly smartphones) and to open a small window on perception for this recent photography trend, leaving available a whole new world to explore to photographers of all levels and creeds.
Respect to you, if you read each word above, and if you would, PLEASE feel free to leave your comment and critics bellow.