Heavenly HDR

If you are feeling like Cadmus after sowing the dragon’s teeth, ask a group of photographers: “So, how do you like HDR?” Few techniques are more contentious than tone mapping, which is the correct name for what most people call “HDR,” as you throw away most of the dynamic range in the final product. Like many photographers, I was bitten by the tone-mapping bug once upon a time and used it when I did not need to, but on one occasion it helped me achieve my vision with ease.

Sacred Heart Immaculate Heart

These are windows in the choir loft at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Bongard, IL. My wife used to be the organist at Immaculate Conception, and for four years I had the pleasure of contemplating these windows every Sunday morning. The medallions in the center of each window are painted, and do not transmit as much light as the rest, so I decided to use tone mapping to even out the difference. In fact, I overdid it, using 20+ exposures at 1/3 stop intervals, but when I was done all I had to do was tweak saturation to get the images I wanted.

I dislike cartoonish, overdone tone mapping, but I will not despise the technique itself; for some jobs it’s the right tool.


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