Notes on Finland as promised…Going on holiday and taking my favourite camera along can quickly turn into a photographic journey where you’re always in the right place at the right time. As a photographer, I love looking at great imagery. We all do. It’s what inspired most of us to pick up our own cameras and it’s one of the main things that continues to inspire us as we evolve as artists and image technicians throughout our lives.
I’ve taken my work and style further by incorporating a very tasteful element of HDR into my imagery. I’m not talking the kind of HDR that gets a bad rap, so much of which is overdone and just looks, well, you know…kind of “off”. There is also a time and place when doing HDR photography has its benefits. This is where ‘street’ style photography is perfect and I hope to work at it more as I found it can be liberating.
HDR photography can be a bit polarizing in terms of personal tastes. It's like opera and sushi – you either love it or hate it. All I can say is that personally, for me, I prefer the look HDR gives. Maybe because it’s my first experience with HDR, or maybe because I just feel comfortable with it.
For the first time, the subject can be shot in a way that captures most of its inherent magic. With HDR, the seven-stop difference between the continually shadowy alcove where the arch resides and the azure-blue western skies above it can be portrayed together. Also, by using the HDR controls conservatively, I can produce an image that looks natural and more closely resembles the way my eye sees the scene. Some photographers have a built-in bias against HDR that I don’t understand. I think the argument can be made that HDR is a new frontier that isn’t inherently evil.
The contrast control of HDR is here to stay. I love the freedom that comes with easily controlling the dynamic range with this tool. Previously, even with digital capture, I had to consider and solve contrast problems before anything else. Some images and compositions just weren’t doable before. Now I can lay fears of blown-out skies and black shadows aside and concentrate on what really matters: composition, light, color and my subject.
The technique works really well in night shots. With night photography, I already expect something different, so the HDR element gives these shots a unique and visually appealing look. I love this night shot of the Helsinki Cathedral.
HDR images may even more accurately reflect reality than a normal image, at least the reality we see with our eyes. Over decades, everyone has seen thousands, perhaps even millions, of images in still and motion-picture photography. We expect a dynamic range that doesn’t match our eyes to be normal in a photo. Now, when we see a more dynamic light range in an image, it may seem alien or strange. This “strangeness” is enough to make them take notice of images they might have passed by. They know there’s something different about the picture, but they can’t always put their finger on it.
When doing this new technique of photography in Finland, I realised that it's very important to have a good time and enjoy the process. You’re not gonna live for ever and you’re not taking your camera to heaven. You’ll never see it all let alone capture it all. Forget about getting great shots every time. I reminded myself that some of the greatest photographers in the world return to the exact same locations again and again in the hope of getting the ‘right light’ whilst other photographers happen to be in the right place at the right time and have the skills to capture it perfectly in a split second. ‘Great’ photographers may have only a few iconic images that are spread over decades of years, tens of thousands of shots and lifetimes dedicated to photography.
So, we might as well enjoy the process and celebrate the ‘keepers’ as and when they come along.
Every time you see an awesome image it’s likely that 100’s of shots have passed before and after that shot so be patient and keep shooting – well that’s what I’m telling myself and it helps a little so I’m sticking with it. :)