My Thoughts on HDR
Some of my images (very few) sometimes get confused for HDR image, in the sense of having a Surreal Effect to them. Here are my thoughts on the technique. Essentially the concept of HDR is to capture more dynamic range of light. The Camera captures 5 to 6 stops less than what a human eye sees, hence, losing out details, specially in the shadow area. So what the HDR technique helps in acheiving is to merge 2 or more images of different exposures to highlight the shadows clearly. This is a very old concept. After taking a shot the photographer would rewind the film roll to the previous frame and take a shot again. In digital photography you can do that with computers.
The Image above has been confused for a HDR. It was shot in Princeton,NJ. The image below was shot in Bear Mt, NY (Appalachian trail). It is an actual HDR. I took two images, the underexposed one was for the shadow and to get that small Sun Burst. The other one was Overexposed for details. It is also an example of how I compensate for not having a good Grad Filter.
I generally shoot in natural light, and mostly at sunset or sunrise, and I love bad weather because then clouds add a lot of dramatic effect. I don’t have expensive glass filters, thats why sometimes end up using the HDR technique. The more popular form of HDR is what you see with the Surreal effect. it makes the Image extraordinary and poster like.
I don’t use the surreal effect on the outdoor and landscape images I take. However, it works perfect for indoor shots, giving that very awesome look and feel.
The Image above, shot in Island Beach SP, NJ, is an HDR of two images. The one below is the same image but not an HDR. The one above has that slight surreal effect to it. I personally prefer the non-HDR version.
I use Photomatix to merge my images and then process them in lightroom buy adding contrast, tweak the clarity and sharpness.
it eventually is a personal choice of how you want your art form to look like. If HDR interests you then may I suggest you have a look at the work of Trey Ratcliff. Also Jay Patel has a free tutorial on Manual HDR technique.