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Photos: Vivid photos via HDR technique

High dynamic range photography helps you make up for a light-sensitivity shortcoming of your digital camera.
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King's College

The darkroom may be a fading element of the rapidly vanishing world of film photography, but all of you out there with digital cameras do have options for manipulating and enhancing your pictures. One of those is known as high dynamic range, or HDR, photography. This technique can help make up for a digital sensor's lack of sensitivity to scenes with a wide range of brightness values.

One practitioner of HDR photography is Sean McHugh, who has an online gallery of photos from his time pursuing a Ph.D. at Cambridge University in England. The image here shows Cambridge's King's College at sunset. McHugh's camera of choice is the Canon EOS 50D digital SLR.

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HDR technique

In a nutshell, the HDR technique involves taking not one but several pictures of a given scene, overexposing some and underexposing others. The next step is to use specialized software, such as Photoshop CS2, to take all that data and construct a new image with a wider dynamic range.

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San Francisco evening

Photographer Mathew Spolin explains how he took this HDR photo of San Francisco (posted on the Wikimedia Commons): "Another HDR - made from three exposures. To get these I hung the camera out of the eighth floor of the Mark Hopkins and braced it against the exterior of the building. The windows in the rooms open just enough to get the camera outside. I held onto the camera strap with my teeth just in case it slipped. Like many HDRs this one looks a lot better at the larger sizes."

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Old Saint Paul's #1

This HDR image of Old Saint Paul's church in New Zealand, taken by photographer Dean S. Pemberton (and also posted to the Wikimedia Commons), was constructed from...

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Old Saint Paul's #2

...six exposures using a Canon 350D. Exposure times from top left are 1/40th of a second, 1/10th of a second, half a second, 1 second, 6 seconds and 25 seconds.

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