The Thing About HDR Photography

Mention “HDR”… then Duck!

Mere mention of “HDR Photography” can be very polarizing amongst photographers. There are thems that love it – and thems that think HDR is the end of civilization as we know it. Or something along those apocalyptic lines. I like shooting HDR (High Dynamic Range). It’s fun. I like color – and I like the option the see allllll the variances of color and light in a photo. Where a typical photo can handle 6 or so f-stops (levels) of light, a human eye can take in 12 to 14 levels of light. HDR lets you create a photograph that’s more in line with what your eye sees. And I love doing that.


Ack! It’s Not Traditional!

But here’s where it gets wonky for some. It’s not traditional. That bugs alot of people, because they say “that’s not photography.” I know that’s how the ballet dance world felt when modern dance was born. Oooo, the haters! “It’s not traditional!!” they ranted. “It’s not dance!” they sniffed. No it wasn’t… and yes it was, as it turned out. Energy and creativity isn’t static. It moves, grows and recreates itself, often in surprising ways. That’s the nature of life, like it or not.  But that also feels unsafe to many, no matter what field they’re in. Because the “status quo” is somehow wired into our collective DNA as being the “safe place”.

A wonderful voice coach of mine, Marice Tobias used to tell a story of “Louie the Crab”. It goes something like this: You’ve got a bucket of crabs. In the bucket of crabs, there’s Louie. He dreams of being more just another crab in the bucket. He needs to get out. See the world. Find other like-minded Louies and be all the Louie he can be in his short lifetime. So he climbs… and climbs… and reaches the top of the bucket, seemingly unnoticed by the other crabs. Just as he’s about to cross over into the new world, a single claw reaches out, grabs Louie’s leg and pulls him back into the bucket. Why? Because the collective crab consciousness says;  “All members of the society must be present for its survival”. Nevermind that they’re about to all go into a big vat of boiling water anyway. They didn’t get that memo.

Marice would tell this story as a preparation for the mentality that happens around you as you become more successful in the voice business. People tend to tear you down because it threatens their structured existence, which does not include you making more money, having more opportunities – or whatever – than them. Unfortunately, that thinking completely misses understanding that there’s really enough to go around for EVERYONE.

So that’s how I think of it when someone goes after HDR so vehemently. It does threaten the status quo of “traditional”. I get it – I was born into traditional photography. Fact is, I still love it. People get confused sometimes when they see some of my more traditional work, because I’m known more for HDR these days. At this point in my life, I crave color, vibrancy, texture and the “yum factor” of this type of art. But here was a time I was ALLLLL about black and white and moodiness and the tortured soul of the artist. And those were the photos I created back then. Color was so… garish, so common, so literal. “Pweh!” (you had to make that sound with a French accent. hahaha!)

Living Your LIFE As Your Art

It’s such a personal journey. Personally, I love living my life as if  life itself were my art. Meaning, fill it with meaning and things that make my heart happy. No, I don’t love all HDR that I see, nor do I love all music, dance or any other art. What I DO love is seeing people’s vision, no matter whether  it’s to my personal taste or not. Watching how they try to bring this unnameable, unknowable force that vibrates undeniably within them to life through their art. Their heart, soul and spirit won’t let them sleep until they do. It’s kind of like that part of “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”. Remember that? Where this group of people find themselves all seeing the same image in their minds: a tabletop mountain. And they HAVE to recreate it through whatever means they have at hand, whether it’s drawing, painting… even mashed potatoes. They can’t stop till they do! A drive like that is something you can’t ignore. Nor rightfully judge. Although people do, unfortunately.

I saw HDR photography in my mind way before I saw Trey Ratciff’s work. I couldn’t stop seeing it! It got lodged in there and wouldn’t go away. But I had no idea what it was, nor how to do it until I discovered Trey’s work and his free HDR tutorial (thanks for showing it to me Eric Smith!!). I jumped in with both feet and never looked back. I still shoot “regular” photographs for my other loves of macro, long exposure and people shots. But for landscapes and architecture… I loves my HDR.

For the haters… well, I’m sorry. No, I’m not apologizing. I’m sorry that you live in bitterness. That can’t be fun for you. So here’s my wish:  In this lifetime, may you find whatever it is that exhilarates you, makes your soul speak and your heart soar. That makes you want to climb out of your crabby bucket come hell or high water.  Because the view from outside of bucketlandia is… breathtaking. It will not only become the “signature” of your work, whatever it is… it will turn your life into the art it was always intended to be. Peace out.