A THOUSAND WORDS - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward's blog on pictures, plants, politics and whatever else is on his mind.




 

High Dynamic Range The Easy Way
Thursday, December 02, 2010


In May of 1995 the Georgia Straight dispatched me to photograph or brand new Vancouver Public Library for an article by Sean Rossiter. One of the pleasures of working for the Straight in those years is that in spite of my having a reputation for portrait photography they powers at be at the Straight, in this case editor Charles Campbell, thought I could also do architectural photography that did not look like the norm of the day.


For these photographs I used a technique that was then called extended range night photography. The process (it could only be done with b+w film) involved using Kodak Tri-X exposed at f-5.6 for 35 seconds, right after sundown. I then had to develop the film in a slow working developer called Kodak Technidol. This resulted in pictures in which the highlights (such as street lights) were not completely overexposed while still holding some detail in the shadows.

This process had been digitized and it is now called HDR which stands for High Dynamic Range. Digital camera photographers take a series of pictures (usually 3) of the same scene with the camera locked on a tripod. The three exposures are of the highlights, the midtones and the dark areas. Then special programs mate the three exposures into one.

When I took my extended range night photos of the library, this method was the only game in town.



I rarely take architectural shots since I really do prefer the architecture of the human face. You will rarely see me walking in town taking pictures of buildings. But last week when I went to the Vancouver Public Library I took a few snaps with my iPhone. I was amazed at the overall quality and I love the subtle purplish cast of the pictures. But no matter how nice these pictures might be I will always return to the human face.



The contact sheet in b+w represents images I took with my Mamiya RB-67 and the 50mm wide angle. For the 6x7 cm format the 50mm is equivalent to about a 26mm wide angle in the 35mm format or the digital single lens reflex camera with a full-size sensor. For the two red-tinged photographs ( I scanned the b+w negative as four colour and then added red and yellow) I used a Nikkor 16mm F-2.8 fisheye lens mounted on a Nikon F-3.








     

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