Saturday, 12 February 2011

HDR - stimulant of the senses


The purpose of this piece:

For quite some time, I have experimented with HDR photography.  It's been a difficult learning-curve, however it's been worth the effort!  Many have asked, criticised this style of art/form of photography (whatever you prefer to call it), hence I decided to write and submit the following piece as a university essay based on my thoughts of HDR photography, in the hope that others will begin and continue to be inspired by its wonderful enigmas.  I hope you enjoy reading the short extract from my essay:

.....Photography is another aesthetic source that continues to intrigue me.  It is inherently political as it communicates emotions, desires and expressions that written historical accounts of world events and ideologies could never portray.  Sontag (2008) dwells on this idea when she argues that photographs are important as they ‘furnish evidence’ and ‘prove our doubts of things we hear’.  Hence, photography challenges the canonical teachings of IR, offering a refreshing contribution to the discipline.  A particular form of photography that has captured my attention is High Dynamic Range photography (HDR).  HDR photographs take us on aesthetic adventures as they are ‘sentimental and implicitly magical: they are attempts to contact or lay claim to another reality’ (Sontag 2008).  HDR is a relatively recent technique used by many photographic artists that relies on taking three consecutive images, each of a different exposure.  By blending these images together, the photographer is capable of achieving a final image that consists of a higher dynamic range of shadows, highlights, tones, contrasts and colours.  As HDR relies on heavy post-production of the photograph, many old school photographers have criticised it, labelling it as an unprofessional technique, shunning both the artwork and artist.  Unfortunately, these critics fail to understand how significant this technique remains to certain photographers.  Just as a painter, the photographer begins by observing his environment.  By taking in the events, icons, people and scenarios, he is able to construct an image in his mind prior to taking the photograph.  Once satisfied with the desired outcome, he processes images by blending them together via software on the computer.  It is important to note that the post-processing stage should only be seen as the tool by which the photographer is able to paint his imagined reality – just as the various brushes, and different types of canvas a painter uses.  Sontag (2008) urges us to appreciate the dilemma certain photographers often face: ‘even when photographers are most concerned with mirroring reality, they are still haunted by tacit imperatives of taste and conscience’.   Furthermore, Sontag claims that ‘in preferring one exposure to another, photographers are always imposing standards on their subjects’ – just as a painter, the photographer has great expectations of his final product, regardless of how it initially appeared, and ‘although there is a sense in which the camera does indeed capture reality, not just interpret it, photographs are as much an interpretation of the world as paintings and drawings are’ (Sontag 2008).  Berger comments on the notion of reality in an interesting manner.  He argues that ‘reality is not a given...it has to be continually sought out’ and we are incorrectly taught to ‘oppose the real to the imaginary’ (Berger 2001).  Just with photography, each individual is entitled to their own interpretation of reality and how it is represented in the final image.  This is linked with the qualia theory – the subjective quality of conscious experience: we cannot guarantee that we all experience the same images and emotions.  Thus, the least we can do is acknowledge that others may see the world differently as their reality is distinct.  This is why aesthetic sources are a vital means by which we can view the International.  Each individual experiences a unique but coherent reality that eventually blends in with the distinct realities of other individuals.  Therefore, by allowing diverse and subtle differences to permeate, shape and broaden our knowledge of the international, we will be ‘riding’ a discipline that is not longer ‘disabling’ (Darby 2008)..... 


The future of HDR?

HDR is still a form of photography that has not been exploited enough by photographers.  However, I sense that this will not be the case for much longer.  Once HDR photography becomes mainstream, many will begin to appreciate the satisfaction that stems from this form of art.  Very soon, computers screens and TV screens will all be HDR.  This technology has already been in the pipeline for several years, and will surely be exciting once it is launched. 

Final word?

There is nothing really much more to say other than:  explore these wonderful options available to us at present.  Experimentation is vital in our day-and-age so give it a go and let me know how you go!
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