December 12, 2008

High Dynamic Range Travel Photography
Plovdiv, Bulgaria

Just a few days into my third year of travel I stumbled across a style of photography altogether new to me. Known as high dynamic range (HDR), the technique involves taking multiple exposures (nominal, over and under) and blending the images together to deliver an image that might be more representative of what the human eye actually sees (which adjusts rapidly to absorb the details of both shadows and highlights).

I've fast fallen in love with this style of photography, and with my simple point-and-shoot camera have made it a regular part of my daily approach to travel photography.

Although the technique returns the best results with a dSLR shooting RAW files, on a tripod, and with plenty of time to digitally combine and retouch the composites, I'm certainly not doing as much. I shoot with a compact camera that takes JPEGs, free-holding 99% of the time, and with terribly limited time to spend processing and retouching photos.

So, even though images could look even better, the results are still pretty amazing to look at. It's an entirely new level of travel photography that makes images you're looking out just pop—I love it.

These are some of my favorite examples from the snapshots gallery (presented chronologically):

Related Year-3 Anniversary Writings

Comments:

The United States

Chris

February 13th, 2009

hey Craig. I love your HDR photos, but I'm curious how you take such clear photos without using a tripod. all of my HDR photos tend to have a lot of ghosting because of my ridiculous shaking, plus, changing the exposure levels means the camera will move. Any pointers would be appreciated. I have a Canon SD 870 and also use Photomatrix.

Keep on traveling…

Chris

Turkey

Craig | travelvice.com

February 13th, 2009

Thanks for the nice words Chris.

First, tuck you elbows to your chest, compose your shot, then exhale and keep you breath out for the duration of the shots. This is pretty much only possible if you're using autoexposure bracketing (AEB), like the little Nikon I'm currently using has.

In searching to see if you SD870 has AEB—which it looks like it does not—I came across this seemingly impressive(!) piece of software for Canon cameras:

http://chdk.wikia.com/wiki/CHDK

It gives the camera many dSLR features, such as histograms, RAW shooting, auto bracketing, etc. Some other cool features: motion detect shutter release, remote shooting via USB, time lapse photos (to make time lapse movies), longer and shorter shutter speeds, etc.

The beauty of it is that it's not firmware… it's a memory-resident program that resides on your SD card until loaded into the camera's memory. You load the program after booting the camera (either manually or via an autoload procedure). If something goes wrong or you don't like it, no problem… just turn off the camera and turn it back on and you've completely uninstalled the software. (A firmware upgrade also voids Canon's warranty).

Sounds pretty amazing.

Second, if it's worth me taking the time to take one trio of photos to make the HDRIs, then it's worth me taking another trio, just in case. So, typically I'm always shooting a backup set, just in case the first has too much frame movement.

Aside from that, it's some quick retouching with Photoshop to correct marginal ghosting problems (where time permits, which it often doesn't) by blending one of the non-HDR images with the composite.

Happy snapping!

The United States

Roosh

February 13th, 2009

Surreal, incredible, spectacular

Europe

Andy

February 17th, 2009

Amazing shots, Craig! I think that given your choice of subjects they would have been good photos anyway, but the HDR really makes them outstanding!

Turkey

Craig | travelvice.com

February 17th, 2009

Thanks Andy!

And thanks always and forever for the technical programming brainpower on Travelvice during those first years of site development/growth! (Andy is a PHP stallion)

The United States

Katherine

February 18th, 2009

The richness of color and detail in these is amazing. They make me feel as if I am seeing all of these places myself, in the late afternoon, after a summer rain shower has cleared away (the best of times in Florida). Thanks for posting!

Australia

Mark @ TravelWonders

March 16th, 2009

I've played a little with HDS but not a lot. The best results seem to be when the light varies dramatically across the photo. Otherwise to me, the effort (tripods, minimal movement in photo, extra work at the end to clean the photo up) isn't worth the marginal improvement in result.

The Ukraine

Ulf

September 14th, 2009

great work for a small camera … wow
I suggest the Canon G9 or G10, both are compact but have manual regime, auto bracketing and RAW
As a tripod, check out the gorillapod from Joby, it is lightweight and extremely flexible … for the G9/10, I suggest the version for SLRs.
If you shoot in RAW, one picture can be sufficient to create a "pseudo-HDR", which has acceptable results (see here: http://www.ballofdirt.com/entries/21683/289985.html)

The United States

a

March 18th, 2010

Very nice, try to incorporate some of the local folks in your photos for even better artistic effect.

The United States

Dusty

March 19th, 2010

Wow man, I was a photo major in college and for the equipment you are using these are really amazing shots. I am planning on moving on from my current career as an accountant, and starting around September I will be leaving for some budgeted travel in South America before I make a full time move to Hawaii. Thanks for the inspiration, and godspeed good sir.

The United States

VashonAmy

September 28th, 2010

Your photographs are beautiful and really impress upon me the urgency of seeing this beautiful region. I love the picture of the white, rounded buildings and the red roofs.

Peru

Jhon Arrospide

January 3rd, 2011

Hey!! Is this your website Mr Craig? ITS SOOOOOOOO COOL!

Ist me, the guy you met in Lima (Magdalena market) The Carnival Cruise Line Photographer.
Great pictures around the world. I should do the same with my wife :)
Well, keep in touch! :)

Thanks!

Note: Comments are open to everyone. To reduce spam and reward regular contributors, only submissions from first-time commenters and/or those containing hyperlinks are moderated, and will appear after approval. Hateful or off-topic remarks are subject to pruning. Your e-mail address will never be publicly disclosed or abused.