Sunday, June 7, 2015
ST. JOSAPHAT'S IN HDR
Yes, I returned once again to St. Josaphat's, the stunning Roman Catholic basilica on Milwaukee's south side. This time I wanted to give Lightroom 6's new HDR capability a more serious try. And the above shot of the basilica's dome is an example.
As a reminder, HDR stands for high dynamic range, a technique that involves blending a number of separate shots of the same scene into a single file. The key is that the blended shots are to have different exposures, including both under- and overexposed shots. The blending software then attempts to emphasize the darker areas of the overexposed shot(s) and the lighter areas of the underexposed shot(s). The results can be interesting or garish, depending on the specific software employed and how it is manipulated. Here is an example.
I think these give a good idea of what the files might look like before blending. The first shot was underexposed by two f-stops and the last overexposed by two f-stops. Here is the blended file.
This was an interesting view across the nave. I wanted to center the shot on the stained glass windows on the opposite side and came pretty close. I also wanted to include the reflection of the windows on the floor between the pews.
But the question is whether the HDR shot has anything to offer that the middle (standard exposure) shot didn't. Frankly, it's hard to tell. Maybe there's a little less noise in the darker areas of the HDR shot. Still, I'm not sure it's worth it, considering the extra work involved with HDR. First, the camera needs to be set up properly to take multiple shots. To avoid changing the depth of field, the changes between shots need to involve shutter speed, not aperture. The shots need to be of virtually the same scene, so it is essentially mandatory to use a tripod. And it goes without saying also that the scene cannot change between shots--it can't be of a moving object. Generally, none of those limitations posed much of a problem in my case. Lightroom has made blending the files into a single shot very easy--just a few clicks on the computer. However, the process takes time and the resulting file is VERY large, and that fact alone slows things down some.
Here are a few additional HDR shots that I took during the session.
And here, finally, is a non-HDR shot that I liked.
I am going to keep trying HDR, if only to satisfy myself that it is not worth the effort, at least in most situations. St. Josaphat's interior is extremely busy, and it may be that HDR simply doesn't provide much of an advantage over normal post processing in such situations.
One final note: I was pleased that the basilica was fully illuminated. Even though I can work in lower light, higher illumination makes things a lot easier and adds a certain interest factor. About 15 minutes after I began shooting I discovered the reason why the church was illuminated--a tour group came through. It was interesting to see the reactions of those who had not visited the basilica previously. One visitor had come with camera and tripod, and all he could say was, "Wow. Where do I even begin?"