A Little More HDR!

Seems that I can’t get enough HDR.  Personally, I like the look and it doesn’t matter if the image is subtle or extreme.  For me, I think it’s very creative.  Not everyone likes it, and that’s ok too.  To each his own.  There’s an argument that it’s not real, or that it’s not photography.  I think that’s just silly.  If you don’t like it, don’t look!  It’s kind of like the tired old argument of which is better, Chevy or Ford?  Does it really matter?  Art is a very subjective and personal thing.  Is photography art?  Depends on who you ask, I say yes!

Getting back to the subject or HDR, I had another opportunity to dabble in it yesterday.  I spent some time with the family at Downtown Disney.  I’ve never been here before, and wasn’t sure what to expect.  So, I took my trusty Sony NEX3 along because of it’s small size and big performance.  It was the perfect choice for snapshots of the family and more thoughtful shots of the place.  The other thing is that being so small it doesn’t really attract unwanted attention (like my Canon 60D with the big white L lens).  With the NEX3 I could easily move around and quickly grab shots without too much trouble.

For this post, I want to show you what I did with a hotel lobby (I wish I could remember the name).  It was very large, and the light was dim.  Not a great combination.  Yes, I have a flash on the NEX3, but it’s tiny, and there’s no way it was going to light up this large space.  I could have kicked the ISO up (say from 100 to 1200 or more), but in this case I left it at 200.  ISO is a setting the adjusts your camera’s sensitivity to light.  The higher the ISO, the more sensitive the sensor.  In the days of film cameras this was expressed as ASA.  With a higher ISO you can increase your ability to take photos in low light.  The downside of this can be a degraded image.  This is especially true with Point & Shoot cameras with smaller sensors.  The high ISO can lead to noise which lowers the quality of the image.  So, I kept my ISO low to try and get the best quality image I could.

Getting back to the hotel lobby, I decided to take a few shots with HDR in mind.  With the Sony NEX3 I set the camera to HDR mode.  This will cause the camera to take several shots at different exposures, and combine them in the camera.  In addition I took a shot in normal, Aperture Priority (AE) mode.  Here’s what I ended up with:

First, the normal AE mode shot:

As you can see, it was pretty dark.  I braced myself against a column to steady the camera since the shutter speed was pretty slow.
Here’s the auto HDR shot:
This one is a little better.  You can start to see more detail in the shadows and dark areas, and the color seems to pop just a bit more.  This one is ok, but I think it could be better!
To reach the final product, I combined the 2 images above in Photoshop using a 3rd party plug-in called HDR Efex Pro by Nik.  This process took the best of both images to create something that really started to give the image the sense of magic and drama that I experienced in that lobby.  The final step was to use another filter from Color Efex Pro called Tonal Contrast.  As you may have noticed, I really like this filter.  The image always seems to come out a little edgy and artsy.  Just my observation, but it works for me.  
The final image is very colorful, has some texture and some beautiful light.  Seems a little on the unreal side, or so it is Disney it could be looked at as Magical!  Either way, I like it and hope you do too!  
Since I got into some tech stuff here (ISO), I may need to go a little more into it in a future post.  Thanks for reading!