Wish: An HDR Camera

I’m a big fan of HDR. These days, it’s done by taking a bracketed set of photos and then using software like Photomatix to combine them.

I’d like to think that some day I’m going to tell people about this process, and it’s going to sound just as absurd as describing how, once upon a time, photographers took their pictures on light-sensitive plastic film, washed it through a blend of horrible chemicals, and then projected it onto light-sensitive paper to expose an image… Which then went through more horrible chemicals.

If you view that image as the very small image I’ve posted, it looks great. The HDR really just makes it look more like it did in person. The camera just can’t capture such a wide gamut of brightness and colors.

But if you click on the image and view it at any reasonable size, you’ll realize that the image is worthless. The leaves are cloned all over the place. This is my biggest problem with HDR (well, that and the fact that it typically produces unrealistic-looking photos): in stacking the images and picking the ‘best’ parts of each, they rarely line up right. The software can correct for shifts — I moved the camera slightly from one shot to the next, and it’s easy enough for it to align them. But what it can’t possibly do is realize that the leaves and waves are in different positions in each shot and correct for that.

Last time I tried my hand at HDR, all of the shots were utterly useless because of similar problems, though it had more to do with me not holding the camera. So this time I brought a tripod. But it turns out that, if there’s any wind at all, you just shouldn’t bother.

I eagerly await the day when camera sensors have a couple extra stops of dynamic range on either end, so that it only takes a single exposure for shots like these.

One thought on “Wish: An HDR Camera

  1. Did you shoot this in raw? There’s generally about a stop or two of latitude in the raw files which you can coax out with ACR (or similar tools). In particular, the recovery and fill light sliders.

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