Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Playing With Pictures

I have been taking pictures for most of my life, starting at age 9 or 10 thanks to a Dad who loved new things. It never gets dull. In fact with the wonders of digital, it becomes more and more interesting.

Last week I tried seriously to do some HDR work with some of the pictures I have taken in Alabama. I have tried some of this before but this is the first serious work on it.

Here's how Wikipedia describes HDR photography:

high dynamic range imaging (HDRI or just HDR) is a set of techniques that allows a greater dynamic range between the lightest and darkest areas of an image than current standard digital imaging techniques or photographic methods. This wide dynamic range allows HDR images to represent more accurately the range of intensity levels found in real scenes, ranging from direct sunlight to faint starlight, and is often captured by way of a plurality of differently exposed pictures of the same subject matter.

In simpler terms, HDR is a range of techniques geared toward representing more contrast in pictures. Non-HDR cameras take pictures at a single exposure level with a limited contrast range. This results in the loss of detail in bright or dark areas of a picture, depending on whether the camera had a low or high exposure setting. HDR compensates for this loss of detail by taking multiple pictures at different exposure levels and intelligently stitching them together so that we get a picture that is representative in both dark and bright areas.
I have been using Paint Shop Pro for my image processing for well over ten years- back when it was shareware. In its latest incarnation PSP has some good HDR processing tools. So, here are a few of my attempts.

First are two sunset pictures. On  the left is just the empty beach with some color out there at the horizon. You can, of course, add color saturation (or vibrancy) but I liked the particular balance in this one.

Here to the right is sunset with all the added elements from several pictures allowing the wide range of colors and rays to show up. The rays are not "artificial" in that this was the way the camera recorded it in a picture that underexposed the shore and allowed color from the sun.

The Gulf Shores pier at Gulf State Park is quite photogenic. Here I combined several exposures that allowed for that sharpness and contrast of color HDR can give.

From the condo balcony in late afternoon I played a little more with this one to get a more artistic style. Tone mapping and clarity (whatever they are) were used in this one. It was a mostly cloudy day and I thought the HDR allowed for color, yet still giving the cloudy day feel.

Some might begin to argue that we are no longer dealing with real pictures. Having worked with prints back in the dark(room) ages, it has always been easy to change reality, making a photo more than a photo and becoming an artistic statement. Photshopping is no different.

Now I have some older pictures that I took to try to do this from Whitewater Park. With the new tools in Corel Paint Shop Pro X4, it's time to try them, too.

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