Architecture, Melbourne, Photography, Water

Looking at the Singular

When my photography friend first stated coming out with me she was always saying to me, “why do you take so many photo”.  She was referring to the clicking of my camera, as I would take at least 3 images of each thing.  She was referring to the bracketed shots I take.  So I explained to her why.  I used to do it because every image I did I would put it through the Photomatix and make a HDR image. My processing has evolved, and I look back on a lot of my HDR images and think, mmm, maybe better to work just on a single image.  So I don’t do many HDRs anymore, though I still take a series of bracketed shots, you never know right, but also because I never know which image will give me the exposure that I really want.

LeanneCole-scdocklands-3hpm5001So today I thought we would look at some images that I did a few months ago that I did make into HDR images and then see what happens if I process them with just one image.  The above image is the HDR, processed with Photomatix.  It looks fine, but sometimes I find that HDR images can get a kind of brilliance to them, it is hard to describe.  They can also get horrible halos, which I hate, and the colours can become very saturated.  This one doesn’t have the last two, but it does have that brilliance.

LeanneCole-docklands-5002So I thought, how would I process this just from a single image.  I choose the image that was taken 1 stop under, and went from there.  I remembered my art training and thought about what I wanted to be the most important aspect of the image and worked from there.  I have lost a lot of the detail in the image, but that doesn’t matter, it has become something different, well I hope it has.

LeanneCole-docklands-5002-2Then, because it is my image, I decided to try it with some textures on it.  I quite like the effect of the textures.  It does something else to it.

I find myself often looking at my bracketed shots, and sometimes I do the HDR image, then process a single image, and see which one I like more.  It is an interesting idea.  Sometimes I do both and I know the HDR is so much better and go with that, then other times, I delete the HDR.  I am becoming pickier with what I want from my images.  I imagine this is something that will go on for as long I am doing photography.

I have done two others, will put the ones above and the others in a gallery for you to look at and compare.  I wonder if you will agree with me.


  1. Leanne, I do much the same. I take a few pics of the same “shot” never quite knowing how contrast or lighting will come out. I usually “feel” my photos when I edit them, feeling for a certain “look”. Hard to explain. I just know it when I see it.

    Also, I do have the occasion, where one click does it and I KNOW (hard to explain that too) that I GOT IT. Perfectly. I’ve actually posted photos of mine untouched. When that happens, I hear an inner YES! And I GRIN!

    Thank you for sharing how you see and edit your photos. I’ve learned a lot, since I have been coming to your site. I really do LOVE your work!


    • Hey Amy, not hard to explain, I know exactly what you are talking about, the same thing happens to me.
      Thank you Amy, that is wonderful to hear.

  2. The textured version has a faded photo appearance, something like a snap thrown into a shoebox and forgotten for the ages. Very nicely done.

    That lifebuoy looks like temptation. :)

    • Thank you David, I thought the same, it is so interesting seeing what a texture can do to an image. I love the lifebuoy, not sure why, but I love it.

  3. Of the first three I like the hdr image the best because the lower third of the photo is much brighter and to me more interesting than the other two. But then I also like the sky and cloud in the third photo. In the next two I like the single image because of the brighter red color, the more contrast in the building reflection and the missing post on the extreme left. Of the last two I prefer the hdr because it is a little bit brighter and the smudges on the orange portion of the photo give it more character.

    • It is funny hearing what you have said here, not that I think you are wrong or anything, I value your opinion, but when I was at art school and drawing, if I drew a picture with so much detail I would get told off, I would be told that you need to work out what the focus of the image is, and then put the detail into that and less detail into the rest of the picture. So for me, the second and third version of the first image is that exactly. I have decided what I want you to look at, which is the arch on the bridge and the tall building in the background. The river is not important, you know it is there, does this make any sense. I think it is a different way of looking at photos. Or maybe I have it completely wrong and we are so used to seeing everything, that we can’t deal with it when we can’t. Thank you, interesting ideas here.

  4. This made me smile so much. I went through the whole HDR thing as well and I cringe now when I look back on them even though I am fond of them simply because of the learning curve it took me on. I simply could not manage to master it and instead I find myself going much more old school with processing. I like to do less these days apart from the processing that the raw files require (which I love) grabbing that detail and highlights back is like a form of therapy for me. I still have my camera on Bracket even though I don’t HDR because sometimes I just simply prefer the under or over exposed look depending on the photograph, nothing wrong with a choice now is there. :-) I will say though that your HDR were always perfectly done and among the few that I actually loved. There is an art form to getting it right and having them look vibrant yet still natural and you do manage to do that so very well. I think the badly edited HDR shots put me off so viewing yours was always just the breath of fresh air that I needed to know that it really does have it place with the masters of the art.

    • Oh Jo, reading your comment, I could have written this, sounds exactly where I am coming from, kindred spirits, well in photography. I did spend a lot of time trying to work out how to do HDR’s properly, or so I would be happy with them, and sometimes, I think they do look better, but most of the time, I just do what you said in camera raw, and every now and then, I look at an image and think, mmm, what could I do to this image to transform it, that is when the fun starts.
      Thank you so much, I love reading your comment.

      • I do love reading your blog because I do get it so much so same goes plus your portrait photography blew me away. Camera Raw is my true love and really when all the fun starts for me. There are times when I think I should go back to basics and maybe do a bit of film and darkroom but god the learning process would be huge and I am not sure I have the time for that! I like to pretend that camera raw and raw files is ‘kind of’ a teeny tiny bit like that but in a much easier way to how it was in the old days, progress. :-)

      • Thank you so much Jo. I love camera raw as well, and I feel the same way, that is where it all starts. I did come from film and darkroom, and it does teach a lot, especially in creating images. I hated the darkroom, so I am probably not a good person to ask, it always seemed so strange that a medium for light, would confine you to the dark to get your images. I love digital editing, so much easier and so much faster. :)

  5. Not that I’m as advanced as you, but sometimes … a lot of times .. I use a single image as well. I think HDR is wonderful but sometimes just tone mapping or using masks in photoshop on certain selections or channel masks can work nicely I’m finding out. I love your photos though no matter what you do! I admit I’m hooked!

    • I couldn’t agree more Laura, sometimes it is the simple approach that really works best, and I think that is part of the learning approach, knowing when, and when not to do something. Thank you so much.

    • You know, I read this, and though film, what is this person talking about film isn’t inexpensive, then I thought, Oh, they mean digital film, and yes you are so very right. :)

      • I remember those days, having to be careful what you take, being limited to one or two rolls of film. So glad it is different now. Thank you, you be well too.

  6. Pardon if you have heard this before…HDR is just a tool to be used when you need it – can you go overboard? yes, of course, but IF that is your intention that is OK – your picture, your vision. For the above – straight away I like the HDR – if this was my shot, I might take the HDR and blend it with the straight shot – maybe even mask everything but the water – allowing the HDR to come through – but again, not my image. Thanks Leanne!

    • So much here is true Robert, it is all about you and what you want from your images, I think that is why I hate giving my opinion on other peoples work, especially those I don’t know, who am I to judge what they want their image to look like. I do see images and think, uggghh, but I keep it to myself, that is my taste. No, thank you Robert.

      • I think this is the most difficult aspect of teaching photography – to critique without affecting the artistic vision of the student.

      • Yes, it is a tricky one, I offer suggestions, or I point out things they hadn’t noticed, that kind of thing. I don’t criticise what they have taken though. It can be tough, and of course, you can always ignore the advice.

  7. I like the second one of the eureka tower, but my favorite is the lifebuoy, both versions are great.

    • I am glad someone else like the second shot of the Eureka Tow, and like you, my favourite is most definitely the lifebuoy, I love that shot. Thank Olivia.

  8. Gosh I learn so much from you. I love the textured on the most, of the bridge. I love that picture you took of my husband I standing on that bridge. I was showing a lot of photos to my sister in law last night and the shot you took of us really stood out. You have the eye, my dear!

    • I was just talking about those photos yesterday to a friend, I must get my act together and send the high res ones to you and any others that you guys wanted.
      Thank you Nia, glad you liked the textured one, I like the qualities in it.

  9. Everyone who started in film, brackets. Sometimes I have so many nearly identical shots I get overwhelmed trying to figure out which is the best — and all those pictures can sure fill up a hard drive fast. On the up side, chances are at least one shot be good. I can’t NOT bracket. But — I’ve noticed people who never worked in film (or HDR) don’t automatically bracket. They are more likely to trust their camera.

    • I like to bracket to, and it is also something I started doing when I was shooting film. That is so true, one will be great. I am the same, I can’t not do it either, it doesn’t feel right, I do like that digital cameras make it so much easier to do it though. I think you are right about people bracketing, not many people think to do it.

  10. Interesting transition! HDR images can be off putting, to my mind; often presenting an unnatural, otherworldly look. The brilliance and saturation can easily be overpowering and distracting. I like your first photo – it is nice and crisp, while still appearing natural. The textures in your third photo would also look really spiffy applied to older architecture and subjects, yielding a period postcard sort of flavor. Nice!

    • I agree with what you are saying John, they can tend to look quite grey too, if that makes any sense. I try to do my best to make mine as natural looking as possible, though sometimes it doesn’t and better off going with one image. Thank you John.

  11. It depends on the image sometimes I love HDR (can’t do it myself!) sometimes I find it too intense and unnatural. I’m less keen on ‘aged’ images like you see so many of with instagram which is getting a bit boring.

    • Hahaha, I think I am with you about the aged photos, the problem to is that instagram has kind of made it all too easy.
      I like HDR’s as well, but as you said it does depend on the image, and they can look so bad and overdone that you just know that they are a HDR. Thanks Gypsy.

  12. Reading through comments… everyone who started in film brackets! Yes, I still do, and not for use in HDR, just to see which will give me the image I want, so I’m on your page there! I actually like your first, HDR, shot – but as you say, personal preference. And as someone else said, HDR is just a tool, to be used when you think it will produce the image you are looking for…. Oh, and shooting in RAW, because it is non-destructive. :)

    • I like to bracket for the same reason. You just never know. I think the same for HDR, I do try and sometimes it is better, sometimes not, just depends. I always use RAW now too, love camera raw in PS and smart objects. Thanks. :)

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  14. joncoetography says

    Just out of curiosity, why not choose the settings you intent to use manually, instead of bracketing your shots and just hoping that one out of 3 will be right? The wonderful thing about digital is that if you dont know your settings, you can take a shot, then fix them to the correct exposure and timing, without having to worry about loss of the shot or film. Sounds like you rely on your camera’s guess work instead of your own camera knowledge.

    • Not at all, I am relying that the camera probably won’t get it right. I look at the image and will adjust if I have to, but I don’t know how many times I have taken a photo and thought it was good, got it on the computer and it isn’t as I thought, that is where the bracketing is good. It doesn’t cost anything to do it, so why not.
      I also don’t understand why manually, I never use auto or program, so what do you mean?

  15. Wow, Leanne, you have brought to the front the photographic equivalent of solving the mysteries of the universe. What is correct exposure?

    Is it the reproduction of overall light on that day, at that moment? If so, then the camera will get it right a surprisingly high percentage of the time. Our eyes adjust to overall brightness and shadowed objects have less detail, unless we focus on them.

    If, on the other hand, it is how we perceive our subject, how we felt, finding that subject worthy of our attention, then we have singled it out and given it visual priority. I subscribe to this thought and try to make my photos match how I felt and how I perceived that subject, and not necessarily “correct”. I think you stated that was taught to you in art school as well, focusing attention on your subject.

    I suspect many of us tend to do this, I just happen to like highly saturated colors and bright scenes (in my photos) and some do not. And I do this in jpg, because I can set up my camera to do most of this and not spend a lot of time post-processing. You might wonder if I work with lighting, and that would be correct. This is very much like (commercial) room lighting and task lighting, and the challenges of addressing both at once.

    Leanne, thanks once again for letting me offer my opinion.

    • I suspect you are right about that, I think we do tend to go for feeling. I think I look at my exposures and decide which one will give the best base for what I want to do with the image.
      I think we all have our own preferences of what we like and such, what we want to achieve.
      Thanks Robert and really anytime.

  16. “Playing” is not only fun, but a very fine learning experience. You’ve gotten more and more creative in your processing, Leanne, and I feel that’s a wonderful thing!

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