High Dynamic Range Artwork

The human eye is so fantastically evolved for its purpose in life that any hope of matching its capabilities using a ‘man-made’ object is still seemingly far off in the domestic market. Our eyes can see detail in both shadows and highlights at the same time, or at least within a few microseconds of each other, and they adapt and respond so very quickly that we’ve forgotten just how clever they are before we’re even old enough to string a sentence together. A seemingly simple act to follow has spurred the creation of a myriad of techniques and technologies to replicate this innate ability, however, none are perfect.

An experienced photographer approaches a scene (non-studio) and starts the process of working out how best to capture the moment. We check camera settings, angles, composition, light, and subject-matter and then time slows down and we wait patiently for that moment to converge. If we’re patient, and perhaps a little lucky, we capture that moment within an acceptable range of values. Very occasionally it’s even close to perfect. But the elements are generally unkind and whether natural or man-made the photographer battles with forces beyond their control on a daily basis. It’s this lack of control combined with an appetite for success that helps drive forward technological advancement, to enable our medieval machines to match our natural ability to see.

High Dynamic Range as a process is the merging of multiple images taken at the same moment (okay, a few micro seconds apart), usually at the same aperture but at different shutter speeds. The result is that single moment represented through a combined set of different exposures. Now we afford the viewer a glimpse of that moment rendered with a higher dynamic light range; the shadows now exhibit detail where before there was deep black, and the highlights are now less blinding, allowing us to see detail and texture where there was nothing but white. Your phone probably has an HDR mode, try it out. Now interweave this technical wizardry with the power of memory, imagination, and passion and the artist in us can begin to recreate that moment the way we saw it with our mind’s eye. HDR images can resemble traditional photographs if conservatively processed, allowing professionals in, say, architectural photography to produce images with superior lighting, but push that processing further and we begin to create distinctly artistic works where the visual boundaries between the traditional photograph and unique artwork become blurred. Unlike traditional photography, my HDaRt does not consider sharpness as a primary goal, it’s nice to have but not essential. Instead, I concentrate on colour, shape, and linework to visualise a piece, often limiting the field of view to a flat 2D plain, forcing the viewer to accept what is in front of them with little discourse.

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