Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Don't be afraid of the dark

Are you afraid to let parts of your pictures be black? I like a bit of black in my pictures, I think the eye needs some black to calibrate itself. Yes, there are some high key images that don't need black, but your average scene usually has some light and shadow. 

There is a section of the photographic world that strives against  such dark corners. They spend their time lifting the shadows and then complain when they find there is image noise under the bits they have lifted (pun intended).

But fear not, a new technique has come to their rescue. I have to admit that I don't do HDR  generally (though I will post one example later). What does trouble me is the Tone mapping that is required to render the extreme range of a HDR image on screen or paper. The results can be very odd indeed.
Fortunately you can ruin a perfectly good image using tone mapping without all that tedious tripods and multiple exposure stuff. So, here is one I mangled earlier by over-enthusiastic use of Photoshop CS3 and its Shadows and Highlights tool.

Highclere Castle

This is a wide angle shot of Highclere Castle, now much better known as Downton Abbey courtesy of the recent period drama on ITV. However it never looked like this on TV. Here we have some typical tone mapping sins. It feels like the building and the sky are involved in an argument. The sky is too dark to be natural, the building is too light to be natural, there are un-natural halos around things. Furthermore, where have all the dark corners gone. It just ain't natural, I tell 'ee!

Church at Dusk

Dusk is a great time of day... Now this is a HDR shot. It's the result of 3 bracketed images handheld using a wide zoom lens last winter. I arranged to keep the tone mapping to a minimum and I accepted a large amount of black in the image. The result looks a lot more as I remember it. In this case the whole HDR thing has contributed very little to the picture, maybe lifted the lit end wall slightly.

A recreation of a 17th century inn at Shibden Hall, Yorkshire. 

Now this really was that dark inside, small windows and not much lighting. If it was that dark then I am happy to give the impression of darkness...

Once again we have a dark interior. In this case it is contrasted with the winder daylight though  the door. The gloomy interior gives a nice sense of mystery.

So: Are you afraid of the dark??

1 comment:

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