March 4, 2021

Lawrence Again, not in HDR


Lawrence, Massachusetts has been at the forefront of my photography for about a dozen years. The city’s old mills and smokestacks that line the Merrimack River and the bridges that traverse it make wonderful subjects. They help connect me to the region’s history.

I’ve been going through my earlier images of the city and I am amazed at how much has changed in 12 years.

No… I am not talking about the city — a lot has changed in the city, of course, but that is a story for another blog post — I’m talking about the processing of my images.

You see, about a dozen years ago High Dynamic Range (HDR) processing was all the rage. It was a cool concept — just bracket the hell out of your scene to capture the full dynamic range — 3-4 stops under to 3-4 over the metered exposure. Blend those images in PhotoMagical® software, add a couple of tweaks in post, and BOOM! Magical Unicorn Image! (let the $$BUCKS$$ flow in, baby!).

HDR had its own Messiah, Trey Radcliff (I was a devotee). There were books written about it (I had two), workshops to teach it (I sort of taught one), and online tutorial (for free and fee). It was awesome. And it was awful.

Awesome because, done right, with proper restraint and control, it could help an image. And awesome because it helped me (and many of my friends) get into or back into photography.

Awful because the results, too often, looked so unnatural and … well … awful. And awful because it could be a crutch, which it was for me for a while.

I captured the image above during my HDR phase. I reprocessed it tonight using one of the 27 frames I used to capture the full dynamic range of the scene. Below is the HDR image that I tossed into the dustbin.

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