What’s old is new

Picture: Bidwell Mansion, Chico, California

I tended to include “No HDR” with many of my landscape images posted online. I heard too many people say, “great use of HDR” at a time when I never used any automated HDR process on my images. Not long ago, I finally experimented with a few HDR shots. The first was a test shot of a nearby mountain, and more recently I did a comparison between an HDR and Manual Blend at the entrance to a cave.

Now I’ve done it. I’ve made my first official HDR image, and frankly, I’m pretty happy with it. Reason one: it looks like a pretty realistic interpretation, without any crazy HDR halos. Second, the all-natural lighting when I shot this image was just… what’s the word… “sucky.” The front of the house was backlit, and the areas of sunlight and shadow were all over the place and intermixed. I knew when I took this shot, any manual blend would be a huge P.I.T.A.. It was pretty much destined to be an automated HDR from the get go.

Shot for my current book project, this promises to be my very first published HDR shot. My only question now is, do I need to do any disclosure? Part of me feels like I should finally say, “Yes, it *IS* HDR.”

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11 Comments on “What’s old is new”

  1. Bret Edge Says:

    Great use of HDR, Gary. 😉 Seriously, this is a lovely image. I’m not a big fan of the typical HDR look and this has none of the tell-tale signs. Very natural and well rendered image. Good work!

  2. James Williams Says:

    Well, I would have to say you should. If you don’t, they may think all your pics are HDR. Maybe you can just make a note somewhere in text but not at the picture. I have a question: if you use a single file processed in Photomatrix is it an HDR. That is how I quickly process stuff for facebook. Have a great day and keep shooting

  3. Mike Says:

    Definitely one of the better “true” HDRs I’ve seen recently! Nowadays I tend to stick with the manual blend HDRs as you call them, but after seeing this I may have to reconsider giving it another shot since I never could get the right effect to work well.

    Nice work!

  4. Jay Goodrich Says:

    This whole HDR thing is starting to get…in the words of Kramer from Seinfeld, “Out of Control!” Those three letters are going to have every professional photographer out there locked in a padded room bound by a straight jacket with drool hanging from there lower lip muttering, “HDR, HDR, HDR.”

    Hasn’t anyone ever used a graduated neutral density filter? Or a curves adjustment with a mask? Or that new grad tool in Lightroom? Aren’t those all “HDR” techniques? HDR does just stand for High Dynamic Range. Do we really need to disclaim what was seen by our naked eyes? They do see 21 stops of light…Sorry, my wife is handing me a pill right…now. Back to the paddedddddddddd room for a little whileeeeeeeeeeeee.

    Great image. There is a way to get passed the whole halo thing with both Photomatix and Photoshop. Hope you are well my friend.

  5. Richard Wong Says:

    Jay, the difference is that HDR is not a single exposure. It is a composite. That is why Gary is having this dilemma. For commercial work, no one would care but since this is editorial it is held to a different set of “ethical” standards.

    With that said, I think this is a fine rendition Gary. A very nice looking image.

  6. Jay Goodrich Says:

    Hi Richard,

    Joking aside, I completely understand what you are saying. I have in fact written about full disclosure in image creation many times. The NANPA website still holds a piece that I wrote almost a decade ago on the matter.

    My thought on an HDR image is that you are not adding or subtracting from what the scene is presenting to your eye, there are no additional flowers or trees, etc. added, you are taking a set of exposures and using the latest technology to create what is presented before you. Something that the camera can not see, well that most cameras can not see, the new Phase One differs there. Did we not use graduated neutral density filters in the film days to control the scene? Did we disclose that from the second an image hit the editors desk? No, there was no where to put it on a little slide mount. Did we tell the truth if asked, I always did. If the editor chose not to use it, no harm, no fowl. For the record, no editor ever declined.

    I am all for disclosure, especially when there is something to disclose. But is there truly something to disclose here other than a technique to achieve the artist’s vision. HDR is reality. It is giving the creator more latitude in an image than ever before, somewhere in between the 5 stops of most of today’s digital cameras and the human eye’s 21 stops.

    Unfortunately, mastering images in the computer has created a very gray area for photographers. There are not hard and fast rules. If you are adding to a journalistic news image, then I think there is a problem, but not to an image that is teetering on the edge of artistic expression.

    Remember, I am not saying that it is alright to lie here. I am saying that I do not feel it is necessary to disclose the creation of the image unless asked.

  7. Peter T. Says:

    Disclose to who? To your editor and publisher, of course. There’s nothing to hide. On your website? Only if your explaining how you took this shot.

    I find nothing inherently unethical about an HDR composite shot of a static composition like the shot of this mansion when one of the purposes of the shot is a realistic depiction how the mansion would look to someone seeing it with their naked eye.

  8. Greg Russell Says:

    First of all, this is a beautifully processed image, Gary. As Bret Edge noted above, there are many telltale signs that make poorly processed HDR images very “garish” to some people’s eyes (including my own). It seems you’ve got the processing down!

    I almost always disclose what images are HDR processed on photo critique forums, because of 2 reasons: (1) I want people who “hate” HDR to see that it can be done well (though I’m far from being an expert), and (2) because I want feedback on my workflow, and how to do it better. On my website, however, I have not identified which images are HDR processed.


  9. Ron Niebrugge Says:

    This one looks great Gary. I do find that HDR tends “work” better on images like this then on landscapes, although I’m sure there are plenty of photographers effectively using the process on landscapes. Interesting discussion on disclosure.

  10. Patrick Smith Says:

    I like the natural look, so congrats!

    I consider HDR to be just another form of post-processing. If you are disclosing how you used your RAW processor or Photoshop on each image, then disclose the use of HDR too. If not, don’t bother since it looks so natural.

    I also put ‘No HDR’ on all of my Flickr uploads because I get 5-10 queries each time asking ‘how I used HDR?’ Even with the disclosure, people may say ‘Nice HDR’ and ask me to put my photos in the the HDR groups! I only use HDR on cityscapes or other situations like the Bidwell mansion where there is no decent horizon on which I could use grad filters.



  11. Stephen Bay Says:

    Agree with the other posters that this is a great shot. What dislike about many HDR shots I see is that they look completely unrealistic, almost as if they were CGI instead of a photograph. This picture looks very natural.

    Regarding disclosure. I think this is a gray area. In terms of factors that would lead me not to disclose would be (1) there is no intent to manipulate the objects in the image, put things where they don’t belong and (2) you are using HDR in much the same way as adjusting curves (just to a greater extent) or dodging and burning. In terms of the factors that would lead me to disclose would include that the image is a composite (although this is minor since the only thing that might change between shots is leaf positions etc.)

    Another factor to consider might be what is your audience expecting? I think photographers might have very different expections about disclosure than most readers of a photo book.

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