Picture(s): Lava Tube Cave Entrance, Lava Beds National Monument, Modoc County, California.
Those people that know me and have seen my image postings around the internet may have seen many of my postings contain the phrase, “No HDR”. The only reason I posted that, and have mentioned before, is that I’d get so many comments from people saying something like , “Wow, great use of HDR.” I finally just started posting the No HDR comment to head those other comments off at the pass, so to speak, especially since I didn’t ‘do’ HDR. In fact, it was only a couple months ago when I made my first HDR image.
It’s not that I’m against HDR, by which I mean the automated computer process of blending multiple exposures. I’ve seen some very good HDR, and some extremely horrid HDR. On the good ones, you can barely tell HDR was used, while the bad ones have more halos than a pack of angry angels. For myself, I never used HDR because having grown up in the film era, I was just really good at pointing my camera at places where I know I could control the contrast range within an image. If there were dark shadows, I was OK with them being dark.
However, on my last trip, I encountered several instances where there was just no possible way any single exposure could handle the range of contrast. For example, the above image was taken inside the entrance to a cave at a point were bright light met extreme shadow. In fact, twenty feet further down the tube you could open a roll of film without fear of exposing it – dark. I shot this image with HDR in mind, shooting 8 frames in 2/3rd stop increments.
After I processed it, I decided to test out an alternate process of extending dynamic range on the same image, namely by doing a manual blend. Rather than having the computer do everything automated, I chose three of the eight frames, and using layer masks worked my way out from lightest to darkest.
When all was said and done, I much preferred the look and feel of my manually blended shot over the HDR image. Both shots have Extended Dynamic Range (EDR), but for me the HDR just didn’t turn out as well as the manual blend; it felt to0 flat and ‘processed’. You may feel differently – and that’s OK. Just so you know, the Manual Blend is on the Left & the HDR on the Right.
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