Creativity Bytes: A Brief Guide To HDR Photography

<p>Read this and sound like an expert. Well, sort of.</p>

Here’s a quick reference guide that will seek to explain the trends, terms, and movements of the brave new media world of art and technology. So you can skim, digest, and be a pseudo-expert next time you’re cornered at a Speed Show exhibition in your local cybercafe. Because, hey, life is short and art long. This week: HDR Photography.

So, what is HDR photography?
The trump card of digital photography, High Dynamic Range photography is a post-processing technique where you take an image, or a series of combined images, and change the contrast ratios to create surreal, evocative pictures. By varying the exposure you can manipulate the luminance of the light and dark areas of the image to create a more dynamic tone and depth, allowing for more precise representations of intensity levels found in natural surroundings.

Where did it come from?
Charles Wyckoff, a photochemist, developed the technique in the 1930s and 1940s because the US government wanted some nice pretty pictures to document the explosions resulting from the nuclear weapons they were developing and testing. It involved using tone remapping to combine variously exposed film layers into one single image giving it a greater dynamic range. One of his photos later appeared on the cover of Life magazine in the 1950s and others in the magazine in the 1960s.

This week you're really digging…
Trey Ratcliff’s heightened HDR images (above) taken from all over the world of cityscapes, landscapes, and temples, available to see over on his blog Stuck in Customs.

Charles Wyckoff’s image of the first hydrogen bomb, Ivy Mike.

Nano talk
Remark on how the feel of a HDR photo is tangible, it’s life in an emotional, meta-looking high resolution subjective state, so bright you have to wear dark glasses. It’s the aesthetic of the hyper-real, like a vivid memory from your childhood viewed through squinty eyes on a really bright day.

Describe yourself as…
Surreal reportage.

High, range, exposure, digital, image, manipulate, multiple, dynamic, post, processing.

Difficulty level

A rusting vehicle becomes an almost cartoon image in Trey Ratcliff’s HDR shot.

Age range
16-32 bits per color channel.

Wish you were here.

To recap: Merging art photography with computer rendering to create a glorious visual experience.

Next week: Kinetic typography

Images: Trey Ratcliff and Time & Life Pictures/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images