Extreme Dynamic Contrast... Jan. 14, 2015 - Attanasio Imagery
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  • Extreme Dynamic Contrast... Jan. 14, 2015

Have you ever had so much contrast in a scene that the camera could not capture all the highlights and shadows? Even by today's standards cameras sensors are limited in terms of the range of light that they can effectively capture in a single exposure. You either end up with blown out highlights or detail deficient shadows. So whats a beginner to do? I have the perfect work-around and it's not a new concept just one that people who are new to photography don't know about.

I can't think of a location with more harshly lit scenes than at Zion National Park in Utah. Sun drenched, cloudless skies; deep, narrow canyons; and reflections off rocks that can even blind the human eye. It doesn't get much worse than the conditions in this beautiful national park.

Let me show you an example.....

Left photo: expose your camera for the highlights(sky) and the result is perfect sky but no details in the shadows.

Right photo: expose your camera for the shadows and get blown out highlights(washed out sky).


Zion Contrast

So how did I do this and how does it really help? I have 2 different shots and I don't like either one. Well, let me explain how I did this, why I did this and finally what do I do now.

Basically to get 2 different results from the same scene you have to change one or more settings of the exposure triangle( iso, shutter speed and/or aperture). I decided to change the shutter speed. The shutter speed for the shot of the left was 1/180th of a second. The speed of the shutter for the shot on the right was 1/10th of a second. Quite a bit different, a high dynamic range of light within the one scene. Each exposed different parts of the scene separately. So you might be asking, What do I do next?

Well, we have to merge the two exposures to make one perfectly exposed scene. Although there are a few different ways to do this, in this post I will utilize a software program that completes this for you. I relied on the unparalleled software from HDRsoft called Photomatix to do the merging for me.

More specifically I picked a fusion algorithm within Photomatix to give it the most natural look as possible. Simply export the two photos from your favorite photo organizer into Photomatix, bring up one of the fusion presets and adjust the sliders according to your taste and you will end up corralling the extreme range of light in the scene......

With Photomatix you will end up with perfectly exposed highlights, midtones and shadows with more detail than your eyes can handle. I look at this final shot and feel like I'm actually still there in the scene. I can only wish!

Merged Zion Narrows

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