Monday, April 18, 2011

Old Dog, New Tricks

It's not really that often that I feel particularly proud of an image. Sure, I like the images I capture, but not all of them stand out in such a way that I feel necessary to brag. Usually those kinds of images are not the ones that impress everyone else, but that's okay. They're my personal victories.

This shot here on the left may be the first time I've ever successfully implemented HDR techniques successfully. For the past couple of months I've been trying to learn the art of HDR photography and consistently hit a brick wall with tone mapping. My post-process tends to be very mathematical but my number crunching brain worked heavily against me in the pursuit of good looking HDR. For this image, I broke those habits managed to create an attractive and convincing blends of stylistic sky and color dodged subject. It wasn't easy, however - to achieve the look in the sky that I wanted the trees on the edges and background of the image were morphed into distracting ghosts. This required me to create a second HDR image to match the exposure and gamma but reduce the glow effect enough to eliminate the ghosting. With both images available it was simply a matter of combining them with appropriate blending. Much more work than I'm used to pouring into a single image, but ultimately worth.

With the experiences and lessons learned from this image at hand I'm feeling much more hopeful about future HDR images I may produce. For a long time the HDR technique has been a thing of contention for me (as well as a large number in the photography community at large). There are so many awful examples of "clown vomit" images that those 3 letters induce shivers. At the same time, there are a few practitioners of HDR who create images of such believable but surreal quality that the technique seems like some golden ticket to imbue already strong photographs with even greater impact. As understood from producing the image above, however, good HDR requires a very laborious investment of time.

Having said that, I'm curious about revisiting some of my earlier attempts at HDR and re-processing the images with the new knowledge I've acquired. There may very well be a few diamonds in the rough, let down only by lackluster tone mapping.

Oh, also, on another note, this past Friday I had the chance to tour my new studio. I may consider a name change to "The Clock Tower Monster" given the nature of the space - 154 sq/ft in the Bromo Seltzer Art Tower in Baltimore City. Quite exciting! How many people who aren't super villains do you know who can say they work out of an old clock tower?