Lessons from the Scene: HDR Part 4, Radical Thinkers by Jim Austin

by Jim Austin MA, ACE, www.jimagesdigital.weebly.com 
 ChevyAnnapolis - Dahlgren Hall
Mr. Jim Goldstein, of Seattle, an award-winning commercial professional noted for his outstanding nature and landscape work and the host of the EXIF and Beyond Podcast, is a photographer I admire. In 2007, Mr. Goldstein posted a thought-provoking critique of HDR. Goldstein argues that those who do HDR often approach it as a novelty rather than a solution. This is an excellent point.
The intent of the human behind the HDR software controls is what makes the image interesting. When HDR tools are used as a style, without criteria, we get the sense the image-maker is just shooting and not thinking. However, there is nothing wrong with trying novel imaging. It harms no one.
Goldstein goes on to say that HDR on the Flickr.com social photography website is overused and extreme. Rarely is HDR used to produce prints close to what the human eye can see.

How the Brain Sees

It’s a mistake to compare how the brain sees with how the camera sees for two reasons. First, neuro-scientists are just beginning to learn complexities of our central nervous system’s visual processing. Second, before the 1880’s, camera and eye were parallel tools. This changed when Edward Muybridge photographed all four hoofs of a horse in the air, something the eye could never see. After Muybridge’s “instantaneous photography,” natural and photographic vision diverged.
Mr. Goldstein calls Flickr members “would-be photographers and artists,” but it’s a tired, old critique. Over a hundred years ago, Charles Baudelaire, an exalted character and opium smoker, condemned photography as the refuge of “would-be artists.” There is no shame in being a would-be or amateur photographer. The fact is amateur photographers had advanced the field brilliantly.


In the Beginning, All Photographers are Amateurs

Perhaps all photographers were amateurs, along the path to evolving their vision. However, Goldstein does not lump all those who use HDR into one category, and adds that “there are some photographers producing very naturally-looking HDR images, but regrettably they are the exception.”