If you’re like me, you’ve probably seen images like the one above before and chalked it up to a neat photoshop effect. However, a lot more than that separates Trey Ratcliff’s take on the Capitol Columns at the National Arboretum from my attempts. The image was produced through a process called High Dynamic Range Imaging. Originally created as a technique to create realistic objects in computer graphics, the technique essentially creates images containing more visual information than a standard, single-exposure photo. The result contains more detail in the dark and bright areas, more like how we actually see. Wikipedia explains how it works this way:
Information stored in high dynamic range images usually corresponds to the physical values of luminance or radiance that can be observed in the real world. This is different from traditional digital images, which represent colors that should appear on a monitor or a paper print. Therefore, HDR image formats are often called “scene-referred”, in contrast to traditional digital images, which are “device-referred” or “output-referred”.
This article explains some of the concepts in more detail. HDR photographs can be taken from real life by digitally combining several photos taken at different exposure settings, and the resulting photo will contain details from the lightest and darkest portions of the pictures as well as more color. The technique seems to becoming increasingly popular, and a recent tutorial published by Popular Science explains the software needed to create the eye-popping images is freely available. I also noticed a couple HDR photos have popped up as DCist photos of the day this spring.
I stumbled across the technique looking for photos of Ballston, of all places. A local resident and Flickr user sduffy had uploaded the photo to the right and several other particularly well done images.
District resident Jon Ross has created several images of D.C., including this view up 15th Street:
Another D.C. Flickr user experimenting with HDR is sunyata, who has created a set of some of his favorites. His style is a bit more subtle, as seen in this version of the fountain at Meridian Hill Park:
What’s your favorite HDR image?
> Popular Science: High-Dynamic-Range Photography: A Guide
> “The Future of Digital Imaging – High Dynamic Range Photography”
> Flickr HDR pool