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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Down The HDR Rabbit Hole

The popular and powerful technology finds a new convert

So, even the bastions of photojournalism are being stormed by the postprocessing hordes. It may be time to expand our definition of photography. The Japanese photographer Takashi Homma has taken a credible swing at it and likes to divide photography into the contemporary photography and classic photography camps:

"I would say that contemporary photography is about editing. Classic photography isn't... Classic photography is just straight photography. Contemporary photography is not just about taking a photo; it's about presentation.

"Classic photography is about taking shots, while contemporary photography is about showing them... In Japanese "Shashin" means "truth" [literally, "true reflection"]. People believe in photos, like they do in religion, but photos don't always show the truth. I want people to think about what is true or not."

I've pretty much been in the classic category most of my career although I know a lot of even older-timers than I who would point out that Fujichrome Velvia, the supersaturated slide film of choice for the last 15 years or so that I shot film, was anything but realistic, so the "what is real" debate is older than HDR. But I may be sticking my toe in the contemporary camp here and there.

My first stage is to get over the "drunk with power slider" syndrome and back off on my newfound power to transform the mundane into some kind of hyper-detailed alternate reality. I did a little iPhoto book of my vacation snapshots that must have busted the printer's ink budget due to all the enhanced saturation and detail. It was fun. Now I have to get over it! It may take another vacation or two until the novelty of HDR power wears off, but that's okay, because nobody but my family and friends are going to see it.

Most of my clients are professional picture buyers and editors, and not the general public. But I do have one project I do every year for the charitable foundation my family set up in memory of our youngest son. Every year, we sell a box of notecards to raise funds for the Jonathan D. Krist Foundation (www.jonathankrist.org). Called a "Box of New Hope," these cards feature my scenic photos of our town New Hope and the surroundings, and they're a popular item.

I've been shooting the same area for so long that giving it the HDR treatment is going to be a welcome change and something I'm looking forward to working on. And since the market for these cards is the general public, and they just love the look, hopefully our card sales will stay robust and maybe even go up.

At the other end of the HDR spectrum, I have an upcoming assignment to photograph a bunch of hotel interiors. Like most clients these days, the hotels want a ton of photos done in a short amount of time. This kind of job used to entail hauling in big strobes to balance the outdoor and indoor illumination. But a mix of HDR and maybe a pop of flash here and there will solve the problem, allowing me to work faster and more efficiently. I'm practicing getting a very subtle look to HDR so the classic exterior/interior conundrum can be solved without lots of heavy lighting gear. It seems HDR may even have plenty of applications for this old "classic" photographer.

For a schedule of Bob Krist's workshops and seminars, check his website, www.bobkrist.com, under the "Teach and Talk" heading.


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