the photoshooter's journey from taking to making


Sedona Bluffs, 2013.

Sedona Bluffs, 2013. HDR can be your best friend when rescuing detail and shadow on subjects like this. But it will make your Aunt Hilda look like the Portrait of Dorian Gray.


THERE IS AN OLD STORY ABOUT AN IRISHMAN WHO FINDS AND RUBS A MAGIC LAMP. Upon emerging from said lamp, the genie tells the boyo that he can have three wishes. For his first, he asks for an everlasting pint, a beer glass that will endlessly refill every time he drains it, forever. “Try it out”, says the genie, whereupon the lad gulps down several draughts, each one replenished in an instant. “This is grand!” he shouts. “All right, now”, reminds the genie, “what about your other wishes?” “Oh, that’s easy”, says the Irishman, “just give me two more of these.”

High Dynamic Range, or HDR processing is a little like those two unused wishes. You can fall in love with the effect of using it without pausing to see if it makes sense to use it, or see what else is out there on the horizon.

HDR can be the photographic equivalent of a crack habit, especially when you first test-drive it. Rescuing information from shadows, accenting detail to ever-crisper levels, tweaking colors to Peter Max-imums…’s all pretty stunning, and, like the 98-pound weakling in the Charles Atlas ads, the drama is best seen in “before and after” comparisons. And then there follows The Great Period Of Overcompensation, that heady phase in which you turn everything you shoot into a psychedelic fever dream. It’s garish, sometimes cartoonish, but eventually you get to a point where you want to throttle back and just use HDR as a tool instead of a magic paint box. It can’t be a style all by itself, but it can amplify your own style, extend your reach. Ground Control To Major Tom….

This blog has always been a discussion of why we do things rather than a tutorial on how to do them. It’s the decisions that we make with technology that matter, more than the technology itself, so we talk about judgements, motivations, intentions. In that vein, I’ve updated the HDR gallery tab of the blog with all new images, in an attempt to chronicle where I am with this process today. I originally intended the galleries to do this….to be a visual track on what I thought important to try in a given period. We are,literally, different photographers every day we wake up, so it’s absurd to think that any technique, approach, or magic wish will work for us equally well forever. The patient still has needs, but he requires a periodic change in prescription.

So settle back with an endless pint and give us a look.

The pictures may not work for you, but, hey, if the beer’s cold, it’s not a total loss.

Follow Michael Perkins on Twitter @Mpnormaleye. 

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