|Joshua tree in Hidden Valley, Joshua Tree National Park|
Fortunately the image was captured in a 3-exposure sequence, so as I revisit the images from that day now, over 5 years later, I can try post-processing it using a current version of Photomatix HDR software which offers a "natural" mode which produces fewer artifacts than prior versions did.. One thing that is clear is that there is a significant amount of shadow and highlight detail present in the scene which is brought back into the HDR result.
|3 exposures post-processed in Photomatix HDR software|
Six days before I had captured this photo, I had written a blog post including the following:
"Many people vilify HDR; I don't get it. Most people play guitar poorly, but that won't keep me from enjoying the work of many talented guitarists. Of course everyone's entitled to their opinion and their own tastes. If classical music fans want to say, 'Ugh, I think I hear a guitar in that piece!', or photography fans want to say 'Ugh, Galen Rowell used graduated neutral density filters!', that's their privilege. Surely HDR software will get better and better at expanding dynamic range while producing unobtrusive results, and as that value is delivered for more and more shots, I'll have terabytes of exposure-bracketed images to draw upon."
Why Would Anyone Use HDR? It's Unreal!http://activesole.blogspot.com/2009/01/why-would-anyone-use-hdr-it-unreal.htmlWhile the degree to which the HDR processing itself is still noticeable is open for discussion, I didn't care for the original which was overly light and dark at the same time, so this strikes me as an improvement. It is also a good example of that concept I proposed which proposes that future advances in software may help us overcome current limitations in hardware, provided that you record more data than your camera can capture in a single exposure. The way to do that is to capture an exposure-bracketed sequence, where you capture both darker and lighter exposures than your best attempt at a single exposure.
At that point in 2009 I was using HDR software roughly 80% of the time, in spite of its crude state and sometimes objectionable artifacts. Shortly after upgrading to a Canon 5D Mark II, with a full frame sensor and much better dynamic range, I was able to quickly drive my HDR usage down to 10% and then 2-3%. HDR could still rescue images which could not be salvaged in single exposure form, so it remained one of many tools at my disposal, but it became more of a tool of last resort than a key piece of my workflow.
Unfortunately by that point the use of HDR had developed negative connotations with many photographers, so in 2011 I felt the need to explain my rationale for using it at all:
"Some photographers have fallen in love with High Dynamic Range (HDR) post-processing, producing dramatic but strange results. Other photographers dismiss the often wacky-looking HDR results as 'technicolor vomit' and note that any monkey can move a slider in software to make a scene look strange, the talent lies in making a single, flat camera exposure look more like what we experienced onsite. Unfortunately, the range of light present, the dynamic range of the scene, is often far beyond what a single camera exposure can capture. So like so many polarized debates these days, the prudent path may lie somewhere in between. "
HDR Isn't Just a Crutch, or a Crime
|HDR 2014, Canon Digital Rebel XTi photo captured November 2006|