Friday, 5 December 2014

HDR Photography (4)

I love what I might call photographic purists or possibly the description should be people who have an inbuilt aversion to change. These are people who are full of their own personal angst about what they see as photographic image manipulation. I'm not saying that this is either a good thing or a bad thing. Holding an opinion whether I agree with it or not is to be encouraged.  What I would discourage is the statement that something is categorically and unequivocally identified as being 'right' or 'wrong'. 

Most people would accept that anyone wielding a paintbrush on a canvas was producing art in some form or another. For me, the camera is just a tool, as is the artists paintbrush. The tripod is another tool, as is the artists easel. At the end of the day - all that has changed - is the speed of production between the two media media.

The image seen by the eye undergoes constant manipulation as the brain interprets what we are seeing. Some things look right and some just look wrong. It's the personal preference that we all have, such as the difference in style between Lowery, Picasso and Constable. Who would argue that one or more was not an artist.  I particularly dislike Picasso but the image of 'Gurnica' I find very moving - but then the knowledge of the historical context also comes into it.   

There are comments such as 'image manipulation creates a false impression' of reality. Yet Monet and the impressionists are my personal favourite group of artists. Yet, at the same time I can still recognise the artistry of others. HDR (High Dynamic Range) is just an artistic technique used in stills photography to reproduce a greater dynamic range of luminosity (tonal range). Greater than is possible using standard digital photographic techniques. I like to think that its the impressionist arm of photography.

In the good old days of black and white film, I often used several types of film for the effect they would create. I would modify development times to manipulate the image. Usually to reduce grain. The thing was I was actually manipulating 36 images in the developing tank at the same time. There was no back button and often there was no chance to retake the images.

Then I would choose different types of paper for the prints that I made albeit reduced to a choice of stippled, glossy or matt. Once again I was manipulating the image. Add into this mix spending time in the darkroom dodging the image to 'improve' the look. Once again I was manipulating the image.

Then it was the same with colour film and I even had a period where I preferred slides - I have 1000's of them in the garage. I keep saying that I will digitise them all. (Note to self get it done) Later I did a bit of colour printing. But instead of using the family bathroom as a dark room. I was now using the photographic facilities of where I worked. The reason for my next change was a simple economic one because when compared to the professional developer/printers on a price for price basis, it was a no brainer to do it at home. 

So I stopped doing any image production at home. It all went off to the chemists or the photographic labs. I often had the negatives contact printed on to a sheet and then selected the ones I wanted reproduced. I even had a small guillotine to crop the images - to improve the impression. Some were even mounted and framed, once again to improve the impression.

Then came the digital revolution, I messed around with various bits of expensive software - because I could get it free of charge as part of my job. (a perk of academia) I experimented with many different photographic image manipulation packages. But I found that there was a small subset of options that I would constantly use. So some of the software I use now is quite ancient, but it still does the job.

HDR can be used in two distinct ways - one to improve or enhance the image. The other is to widen the dynamic range of the camera. This is done by overlaying images done at different exposures. So once more I'm manipulating the image. But then I use a modern digital camera which has a whole host of options to configure the camera for day, night, portrait or landscape and sports. Or maybe just to colour balance the image. So in effect I am now manipulating the image before I have taken the photo.

Then when it comes to producing prints - we choose types of printers - laser and ink for instance. Then we also chose the type of paper for effect. We might even crop the image for best effect. We might even use the rule of thirds so we are manipulating the image even then. So no matter what, manipulating the image is not 'cheating' because we all do it whether we realise it or not.

It's what is between your ears and connected to your eyes that counts. Then if we read a magazine - we are manipulating the mind - if we ask for opinions or advice its doing the same. 

If we are to give up on manipulation, then we are going back to the bare essentials. A return to the pinhole camera and sunlight development of the negatives onto gas light paper.

Don't get me started on personal preference, because I would be writing for a week.

We should all just enjoy what we do.

1 comment:

  1. I must admit to being more of a purist with my pictures. I don't manipulate them in any way they are as they were shot on the camera.


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