In spite of my reservations about its overuse, I have been playing around with HDR (High Dynamic Range imaging) a bit lately. I used the technique on a shot a few days ago that I am really pleased with (you can see it here). While I was wandering around my parents yard yesterday with just the Holga HL-C lens on my camera, I decided to give it another shot.
The Holga HL-C does not produce crisp images; they are rather blurry and dream-like so it could certainly be argued that some of the benefits of HDR are lost when using this lens. But, the technique is more about expanding the total dynamic range of a photo than fine detail, so what the heck. Just to be clear, dynamic range is basically the total amount of light and detail represented in a photograph, from the darkest black to the brightest, sunny spot. Generally, modern DSLRs can capture about 9-stops of light but if you stack an image that is over exposed by 1-stop along with and accurately exposed image and one that is under exposed by another stop then you increase the dynamic range to 11-stops and thus more of the bright and dim areas of the photo are properly exposed and contain legible detail… if everything goes to plan.
The web is full of HDR guides and I am no expert so I won’t pretend to give people a guide to the technique (Google should fill you in nicely). This is more of an example of what the Holga HL-C can do when used with HDR and compares it to single shot exposures so you can see the difference.
As my subject I chose a slide in my family’s yard that has seen the butts of many a generation of McMains children gleefully sliding down it. The dreamy benefits of the Holga HL-C seemed to fit this childhood plaything well. I set my tripod up low to the ground with a cable release (and you will absolutely need a tripod for HDR and probably a cable release if you are shooting with a lens like the Holga that has a fixed aperture of f/8), then used Aperture to convert the photos from RAW format and put them straight into Nik’s HDR Efex. Later, I also tweaked them with Nik’s Silver Efex Pro and Color Efex Pro. Below are the three images that I combined to create the lead photo for this entry.
The single exposures were adjusted for exposure and highlight/black point recovery in Aperture then processed through either Color Efex Pro or Silver Efex Pro and finally cleaned up in Nik’s digital noise reduction software, Dfine 2.
The lens is fixed at f/8 and I wanted to minimize noise so I kept the ISO at 100 so the exposures ranged from about 1/60th of a second down to more than a second.
I think the take away from this is that the Holga HL-C (or its Nikon equivalent) can be usefully used for HDR work. You will notice in the final Black and White versions that there is a grittiness to the HDR shots and that the color HDR exposures show a nice balance across a scene that had wide lighting conditions. On the other hand, the single exposures, probably because they were so long, also handed the lighting conditions well and by no means indicate that HDR is necessary to get a nice, balanced shot when shooting the Holga HL-C at low ISOs. They just require a very still subject, like a rugged metal slide and a tripod to shoot it from.