I read an article on the New York Times site this month about High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography.
The essence is simple, the eye is very good at picking up details on, say, a sunny. It can see into shadows and the highlights of the view. Cameras are challenged in this. Cameras, and it seems digital cameras in particular, struggle to get the depth of a scene. A shot of a tree might, for example, expose for the shadow of the tree's trunk, which will overexpose the bright bits of the scene. Exposing for the bring sun on the grass will underexpose the shadow and leave darkness.
HDR works by taking multiple exposures of the same subject, but having some shots over exposed and some under exposed to capture the dynamics of the subject. You then use certain techniques to bring the image together.
My old camera is a Nikon Coolpix 995. As you can see from the picture it looks very clunky when compared with the current range of sleek digital cameras.
One of its main strength when it came out in 2001 was that it was an auto/manual camera with most of the features of an SLR. In particular it does auto bracketing and multi-shots.
As I researched HDR, I found a site Photomatrix that has a beta of some Windows HDR software. I downloaded it a week or so ago and had a look at it. There are some sample images you can use to explore the software. I was impressed
So today I took my old Nikon with me out on a bike ride up to Morialta national park. It was early morning and I thought that the contrast of the morning sun and the deep shadows of the gully would test the HDR software.
The results are quite interesting. Here are the three photos that were exposed.
The auto-bracketing of the Nikon meant that I just had to brace myself against a tree and keep the stutter release button down until the shots were done.
You can see that the camera has over exposed the first image, but this does bring out the detail under the log and the tree to the right of the image.
Back at home, I fired up the HDR software and loaded up my images. Following the instructions from the help file I tested some of the settings of the program. The result was impressive.
The program constructed a hybrid photo where the detail of each image came together to make an image that looks much more like the human experience of the scene. Notice the tree on the right, the bark detail from the three photos has been brought together so you can see the texture from the first image but the texture from the last image.
I found this a great opportunity, not only to dust down my old camera, but to look for other opportunities to try out this technique.
I'll keep you posted!