Exposed

I am on a quest to get the exposure I want.  The scene is one I enjoy daily, but this particular day there was a stunning cloud display in the background.

The problem is a classic one.  A camera cannot correctly handle the same range of light that our eyes can.  Especially not when I’m looking at the world through polarized sunglasses. 🙂  It’s an issue that photographers have struggled with since the beginnings of photography.  You see a stunning sky and a lovely foreground view.  The camera can only properly expose one or the other.

I took shots of the scene with multiple exposures, hoping I could combine them successfully into one image.  High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography has been both rejected and embraced by the “serious” photographers of our time.  I believe it’s not the combination of exposures that troubles more traditional photographers but the special effects that can make an image hover on a line between a drawing and a photo.  I get this impression because many traditionalists extol the value of having a camera that will combine multiple exposures into a single image but have no interest in “HDR” post processing software like Photomatix.

Not that anyone is looking to me for guidance on the subject, but I continue to be on the fence.  I don’t care for photos that make you wonder if it’s a photo or a drawing. but I don’t mind an image that looks clearly like one or the other.

I also don’t like spending hours editing a photo I could have captured in the camera in by making better decisions.  However, when it comes to the age old problem of limited range of proper exposure when I really want to see the sky and still see the details in the foreground, I feel a little more fond of HDR processing.

For today’s exercise, I made an attempt to get a photo that combined the dramatic sky with enough detail in the foreground to keep it interesting.  Unfortunately, I forgot I’d changed my camera setting to JPEG, so I’m afraid I have limited resolution to work with and each edit step diminishes the resolution further.  But, I’ve given up on ending up with something I want to print and hang on the wall at this point.

Attempt 1:  Underexposed image with the shadows lifted a lot, the highlights pulled down a little, and a few other minor adjustments.

Attempt 2:  Overexposed image with the highlights pulled down a lot, the shadows lifted a little, and a few other minor adjustments.

Attempt 3:  3 images 2 stops of light apart combined in Photomatix with no other post processing.

Attempt 4:  2 images 2 stops of light apart combined manually in Photoshop Elements (and looking very weird).

Attempt 5:  3 images 2 stops of light apart combined in Photomatix (with different settings than attempt 3) and then adjusted further in Aperture.

In the end, let’s just say I wish I had a camera that could combine two exposures.  🙂

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