HDR Made REALLY Easy with EX-ZR100

When taking photographs, I constantly face a problem I term as the “blank and dull sky syndrome” (BADSS). This photographic “illness” infects photos taken when the sky lacks contrast or when the camera metered a darker area in a scene and compensate by making the whole photograph appear brighter.

As the entire photo becomes brighter, details in already bright areas in the scene get lost. Typically, it’s the sky that gets sacrificed and becomes white-washed or dull. Here’s an example of a photo suffering from BADSS…

Taken with Casio Exilim ZR100’s Auto Mode (a.k.a. Normal Mode in some cameras). Location : Orchard Central Roof Garden.

 

The day that I took this photo, it was grey and overcast with mild clouding due to an impending rain. The lack of light striking the foreground subjects (the colourful sculptures and garden) also made them appear darker in contrast to the sky.

So in order to make the foreground subjects brighter, the camera compensated with a higher exposure but that caused the sky to be brighter too and it lost all details and looks blank in the photo. All cameras function this way in Auto / Normal mode, including powerful DSLRs, and are susceptible to the BADSS plague.

Is there something that can be done about it? Yes. The solution is High Dynamic Range (HDR) imaging technique. Here’s a photo of the same scene taken with a HDR function…

Taken with Casio Exilim ZR100’s one-touch HDR Mode.

 

Notice how the sky appears in the photo now. Doesn’t the photo look better and more attractive? But wait till you see this…

Taken with Casio Exilim ZR100’s one-touch HDR-Art Mode.

 

Not only does the sky appears, the colours of the scene is also made more vibrant and really jumps at you! Now, ALL PHOTOS appearing in this post ARE WITHOUT ANY PHOTOSHOP OR IMAGING ENHANCEMENTS.

For those of you in the know of HDR photography, you know it is a valuable technique to get an evenly exposed photo. But you also know the hassle that this technique requires. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the growing popularity of HDR, I shall attempt to share what I’ve learnt and why Casio Exilim ZR100 really takes the pain out of HDR imaging.

What is HDR Imaging?

The technique of creating a single photo from multiple photos first appeared in the 1850s when a French photographer, Gustave Le Gray, combined several seascape photos with extreme luminosities into 1 picture.

Today, this technique has evolved into HDR (also known as HDRI, High Dynamic Range Imaging, with some camera and videocam makers) and is basically a technique used to create an evenly exposed photo in situations where there are high lighting contrasts.

Some of these situations include taking a photo when facing the sun causing the foreground to appear dark while the sky is very bright (gradual contrast) or taking a photo with a sharp lighting contrast (eg. capturing details of a dim room with the bright scene outside its windows).

How is a HDR Shot Acheived?

Traditionally, and this is how I was taught to get a HDR photo with a DSLR, I must first own a stable tripod. I must fix my camera on the tripod, lock it to the composition I want then take 5 shots of the same scene by varying the Exposure Value (EV). This is to underexpose (-EV) the scene to capture the sky and overexposing (+EV) the scene to capture the foreground subjects.

After the tripod set-up is complete, I’ll proceed to take a photo each at -2EV, -1EV, Normal Exposure (0EV), +1EV and +2EV. After that, I’ll combine all the 5 shots into 1 photo with an imaging software. Here’s an example of what I would do to get a HDR image using a DSLR…

Effects of varying the EV value to get a HDR shot. The lower EV values give the sky a richer colour while the higher EV values capture details of the merlion. Location : Merlion Park.

 

Final HDR image after combining all of the above 5 photos in Photoshop. It took about 5 minutes of work to import and process the shots for this photo.

 

Getting a HDR image with a DSLR is a lot of work! That’s the reason why I never quite caught on with this technique because I’ll need to lug a tripod around whenever I go, spend time setting up, get a HDR imaging software such as Photomatix (before Photoshop came out with in-built HDR capability), and spend time processing the image.

Get a HDR Photo in 5 Seconds

But thanks to Casio Exilim ZR100, getting a HDR image is made so, so, so much easier! With just a turn on the camera’s dial, I could activate the HDR mode and in one click, get an evenly exposed photo like this…

Handheld HDR photo without the need to set-up a tripod. The image’s colour range and quality is comparable to what I got with the traditional method using a DSLR.

 

The EX-ZR100’s HDR function really saves time, effort and money to get an evenly exposed shot. Better yet, try the camera’s HDR-Art mode which saturates the colours even further to boomz the hues like this…

Sunrise at Merlion Park with Casio Exilim ZR100’s one-touch HDR-Art mode.

 

With both the HDR and HDR-Art mode, it takes under 5 seconds for the camera to snap and process the image. What the camera does is that with 1 click in these 2 modes, it rapidly fires 5 shots with different EVs and then combines them into a single photo within the camera’s body. There’s no need for external softwares to do it. I can’t believe how easy it is!

Other Scenarios to Use EX-ZR100’s HDR Mode

Apart from the Orchard Central Roof Garden and Merlion Park examples which demonstrated the use of HDR mode during gradual and sharp lighting contrasts, here are some other situations in which the HDR and HDR-Art modes will come in handy…

Trying to capture the sun in Auto Mode resulted in a diffused bright spot that doesn’t show the relationship between the tree and its source of sustenance.

 

With the HDR and HDR-Art modes, the sun appears as defined circle of light that brings life to the foliage.

 

HDR and HDR-Art modes are great for capturing under-bridge scenes. Loved the blue sky peering between this pair of highway bridges in Bangkok but couldn’t capture it in Auto Mode. When I switched to the HDR Mode, voilà the strip of blue appears!

 

Used the HDR Mode to photograph this perspective below the Esplanade Bridge to show details under the bridge and its sides.

 

I pass by this scene under the CTE Expressway (Moulmein Road exit) on my way to work each time and love the atmospheric perspective. It was a particularly sunny day when this photo was taken with the street scene beyond the bridge made visible with the HDR Mode.

 

From under bridges, let’s go above. This photo was taken at Bangkok’s Mo Chit BTS Station. The HDR Mode allows the gloriously blue sky and darker in-station platform to be evenly exposed.

 

With the usefulness of the HDR Mode, it’s tempting to just photograph everything in this mode but I would use it with caution because of the following reasons :

1) As each click of the camera’s trigger in HDR or HDR-Art mode fires 5 shots, battery life gets drained pretty quickly.

2) Sometimes having a contrast in lighting is good to convey mood, such as the effective use of silhouettes, rather than having every detail visible.

3) The camera takes a couple of seconds to process each HDR shot so there’s a down time and not suitable for shooting high speed action shots.

4) When overdone, HDR shots can appear fake and look unappealing.

I hope this post gives you a good idea about HDR imaging and what Casio Exilim ZR100 can do. Again, I would like to emphasize that NO PHOTOSHOP PROCESSING has been done on the photos here except for resizing, adding my shameless self-promotional blog address and combining the 5 DSLR shots into a single HDR photo.

For more photos taken with the camera, please visit my album A Month with Casio Exilim ZR100.

Related posts :

Is central Bangkok flooded huh?

Singapore – Merlion Park at Marina Bay

Orchard Central – The Art of Shopping

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