Re: R.I.P. HDR
Oh darn, I was just tearing myself loose to go do some yardwork, but
it's been a long time since we've had a philosophical discussion
here, and this issue is fresh on my mind because I was just posting
about it elsewhere, so I have to at least chime in right after
Paul to say hurrah for subtlety!
Several years ago, I kept two magazines open side by side on my desk,
one open to an image of a forest, digitally adjusted to, supposedly,
make it more perfect by using digital manipulation than could be done
in the darkroom (that was the meme that was being advanced at the
time) the other to a color photograph of a forest by Christopher
Burkett. The digital picture, though intended to show the
advantages of digital photography over traditional photography, was
garish and ugly; the color photograph was subtle and beautiful, with
(yes) pastel colors and very subtle tonality, which is what nature
looks like, at least here in the northwest (Burkett lives in the
norhwest). I was trying to understand what made the digital picture
so ugly and unnatural, and I finally decided that besides the surreal
unnatural colors, it was also that the tonality had been stretched
all the way from white to black, maybe out of slavish adherence to
some mistaken rule that photographs should always contain a little
pure white and a little pure black, or maybe from following some pre-
press rule or something. At any rate, the darkest shadows in this
picture were pure, dead, sterile black, and that's what made the
picture look so sterile and unnatural, I decided. Shadows in a
forest are never black, they are brown and/or green with subtle
reflections of other colors; they are never darker than about .9
density, at least not in the daytime when daylight pictures are
taken, they are alive and, well, subtle. The Burkett Cibachrome was
evocative, beautiful, subtle, natural; it spoke of the real quiet
beauty of nature and I could have looked at it all day.
Okay, the weeds are calling, but just wanted to get that in,
On Sep 18, 2009, at 10:11 AM, Paul Viapiano wrote:
Well, Eric, I think you hit it on the head with the subtlety issue.
This has been my "soapbox" theme for a long time, but I always feel
a bit guilty among my digital friends because who's to say what
artistry is. However, I really dislike the over-processed hyper-
reality and hyper-contrast look that is so popular these days, even
if it's not HDR-related...makes my teeth hurt. It's all in the
subtlety...hell, some analog/darkroom photographers have taken
things to extremes as well in the past, but I respect the hand work
that's required to get there as opposed to just applying a software
filter. Does that make me a Luddite? I don't think so. The hand
made image is our connection not only to art but also a deeper
calling within us.
The first few ultra-dodge-burn-hyper local contrast photos you see
are very impressive, but now that it's commonplace (and a "look")
everyone's photographs are starting to look the same and it's
numbing, which I think is bad for photography in general.
Have you read the Richard Benson interview in the new Lenswork? He
makes sense in so many ways but then takes a detour and contradicts
himself. Most folks on this list will not like it. Although this is
another subject, he makes the case for inkjet prints over all other
forms of image-making in terms of quality, but I have a big problem
with that. If photography has always been "art's" ugly stepchild
and devalued for the repeatability of the negative, what kind of de-
valuing can be ultimately realized when a file is loaded and a
button pushed, no matter how much work has gone into the creation
of that file? It takes the artist's hand one or more steps away
from the final work, and I can't see how that can be a good thing.
I realize that the above is an oversimplification but these
thoughts have been with me for some time.
----- Original Message -----
From: eric nelson
Sent: Friday, September 18, 2009 9:20 AM
Subject: Re: R.I.P. HDR
True enough. In a melding of the 2, I can scan a piece of film
and pull more from it than I can in the darkroom. Maybe I'm a
poopy printer, but there's no easy way I know of that would allow
me to duplicate those results.
So I don't have much issue w/digital, my issue w/the majority of
HDR images that I have seen is that that they look so bloody fake
and affected. It's a look, and if it's someone's look who is
reading this, don't take offense. This was the first article I'd
seen that finally addressed this out-of-control-sophmoric-use of
the effect. One could counter with 'all photographs lie' so then
we'd be differentiating between a small fib and a whopper.
Skill in HDR, heck PS in general, comes from using it with subtlety
and my issue (which was addressed nicely in the article) is that
it's use has been anything but.
On Fri, Sep 18, 2009 at 7:20 AM, BOB KISS <email@example.com>
I read it and agree. I was “dissed” in the past for
posting a statement that all HDR really did was compensate for the
limited dynamic range of the digital image capture process. It was
a corrective solution to a problem that doesn’t exist for the b&w
photographer who has made a few tests and has a basic knowledge of
the zone system Further, color neg has a dynamic range nearly as
good as some b&w films and, though it is difficult to push/pull
process without risking crossed curves, scanning the color neg can
1) Capture the large density range created in a color neg shot
of a high scene brightness scene or…
2) Fix the crossed curves in a color neg that has been pushed or
Sooooooooooooo, as I said, HDR image processing is a crutch for
digital capture’s limited dynamic
range. Of course, as western art is all about “impact”, the
article makes a good point that everyone jumped on the “saturation”
band wagon and created scenes either reminiscent of Agfa Velvia or
perceptions resulting from the 70s use of psychedelic drugs.
What ever happened to subtlety? I tremble to even
mention shibui. ;-))
From: eric nelson [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Friday, September 18, 2009 2:49 AM
To: Alt Photo
Subject: R.I.P. HDR
Finally someone has put onto a page what I've been thinking all along!
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