Artsy Fartsy Friends, Practical High Dynamic Range Use

Friends are good. Not only to hang with, etc, but sometimes in other ways you may not expect. Like expanding your horizons.

And in these troubling times sometimes we need our horizons expanded, especially caught up in our ‘normal’ lives as they were.

I’ve been taking photos for a long time, but taking pictures and taking great pictures are two different things.

I have a couple of friends who are real artists.

One is a photographer who has a great eye for framing a photo, and she also has a knack for catching a shot perfectly in a way pleasing to the eye.

My other friend (coincidentally both of them are Canadians, though one lives close-by while the other one still lives in Canada) is also a true artist. He can paint and draw, and even sculpt, and he also has a good eye for photography. And the interesting thing is that he’s also a “computer person”.

Such a popular misconception that people who are technically-minded can’t be artistic.

I have another acquaintance who’s also an artist of sorts. He’s been a long-time customer of mine, and though his paintings and drawing and sometimes photography is of a, er, specialized nature – he too is a true artist.

I’ve never thought of myself as an artistic-sort of person, despite being a person who designs webpages and photography. My first priority is to get the information onto the page in an eye-pleasing way, easily organized and aesthetic – but I don’t think of it as particularly artistic. Sometimes anything real inspired comes secondarily. And I find myself always struggling with the artistic part.

Sometimes I have to come back to an idea four or five times to generate something different and interesting, or I may go do something else for a day until I come up with a good design. Sometimes even longer.

But lately I’ve found, because of the influence of my more artistic friends; I’ve actually been able to improve my own creative process and look at things with an imaginative and quite different eye.

Instead of taking a photo with the object framed perfectly, light directly on it; now I take a few shots from different angles and maybe with different lighting behind it. And not always the object itself as the sole focus of the photo. Or maybe I take a photo that catches my eye now, when it wouldn’t have before.

And I’ve found that the more I look at things with an artistic (yes, I have to use that word one more time) eye the more and easier I can see things in a new way that I wouldn’t have before.

My mother was something of an artistic soul. She’d always been interested in painting and drawing, though her primary interest was sewing.

She could probably have benefited from more painting and drawing lessons but she never had as much time to put into it, having worked all her life as a seamstress.

Her real artistry was in sewing. Anything and everything and in any way a person asked, and she could always suggest a better and maybe more visually appealing way to do something.

That’s what artistry is all about, right?

Another of my hobbies has paid off, at least in a small way.

If you’re interested in photography you probably know what a High Dynamic Range photo is.

If not, here’s my thumbnail explanation from my HDR website – “HDR photography consists of the same scene taken with differing exposures; commonly using the auto-bracketing exposure functions of most good digital cameras. These photos are combined with specialized software to get the best possible results and are then normally processed with exposure blending and tonal (tone) mapping functions.”

Some old-time (and new-time) photographers don’t like the photos created this way.

There’s many ways to go about it. You’ll see a number of examples on my small website. Some are very, very much processed; some not so much (like the two near the bottom, where it says “more conventional” and the one beside it). These just bring out the landscape under the trees which normally would be very much in shadow with a default or automatic exposure. The rest of the photos are much more and less realistically processed.

Basically you are bringing out the things that a photo taken with a film or digital camera aren’t going to show you, due to their inability to do more than one exposure. Say you’re standing outside a cave in the bright sunlight and taking a photo pointing toward the mouth of the cave. If you pick an exposure adjusted to the inside of the cave you can see into the interior of the cave in the photo, but everything else is washed out. If your exposure is set for the bright daylight, the mouth of the cave is dark as night.

With a few separate photos taken with various exposures you can use the HDR software to combine these into a photo that will show a pic which would allow you to see the entire scene.

It’s an interesting hobby, and has many creative uses as well as more practical ones.

But up until now I hadn’t had an opportunity to use one in my work. Recently a local judge running for re-election asked me to do a website for him, and I was able to incorporate one of the heavily processed photos into his website as the top of the banner on each page.

Nothing major, but it looks pretty good, maybe in a stylized way and better than the same photo (of Watertown from Thompson Park) in a more conventional form.

It’s something to keep in mind as I continue to create websites and consider various forms of HDR’s I can incorporate into them.

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