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Book Review: A World In HDR by Trey Ratcliff

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High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography gives you the ability to capture a greater range of colors and levels of light that exist in the real world that your camera and sometimes even your eyes can not see. The results can run from very dynamic images to ones that are totally surreal.

In A World In HDR, Trey Ratcliff, who is best known for his number one travel photography blog Stuck In Customs as well as garnering the honor of having one of his HDR photographs to be one of the first of its kind to hang in the Smithsonian, will explain to you about this somewhat new photographic technique.

A World In HDR is about seeing light and seeing it in a whole new way. It is about using the technique of merging a series of images together so that you can bring out the full range of light that can be realized by the human eye. This book is 216 pages long and is divided into six chapters.

Chapter One, "Welcome to the World in HDR," examines the author's journey into the world of HDR — how he became fascinated with it, how he began to experiment with it, and how it became the focus of his blog. He then explains what HDR is and how it has affected his life; especially since he is blind in one eye. Here he explores how the mind sees, makes sense of the world, and how this art form has evolved into new communities of art.

In Chapter Two, Ratcliff notes that "Photography Evolves" because no one is ever satisfied with just mimicking existing techniques. As in any other discipline, people have to tinker with things, and next thing you know things change. This chapter looks at how these changes happen and how they lead to HDR. This chapter also begins a portfolio of images that come with descriptions of the shot, explanations of how each was shot, as well as various thoughts on the subject of HDR.

Chapter Three, "Q&Q VS. Q&A," shows that while there are always good questions, there are seldom definite answers. As soon as you get an answer, there is always another question to be asked. In fact, sometimes the best answer someone can give you is "I don't know" because it could force you to seek out the answer on your own. This chapter is not about systematic learning, but about how to figure something out on your own because somewhere along the road you may learn how to do something that no one else done. This chapter also contains another portfolio of stunning shots, descriptions, and thoughts on each.

Chapter Four, "The Perspective of Light," is about something that photographers inherently know can change the way that you experience the world. But once you start capturing the world in HDR, it can add an additional layer to your experience. In this chapter you will examine the notion of a "Cube of Light." This is a technique that will help you understand the concept of light and how you can use the cube take the most advantage of the light you capture. This chapter also finishes off the portfolio of HDR images

Chapter Five, "The HDR Tutorial," gets into making HDR images. It begins with the bare essentials of what you need. Obviously you need a DSLR camera and you need some software — primarily Adobe Photoshop and a product called Photomatix Pro. There are some other things like tripods and such that make this all easier and more professional as well. Then you are taken through the HDR process. The first part is a series of six steps to create a traditional HDR image. This is followed by discussions on how to use a single image to create an HDR image as well as some other considerations.

Chapter Six, "Software and Tools," discusses the value of tools and what it means to have the right tools for the job. It is important for the artist to be familiar with the tools that are available to them as well as to keep up with the new trends. Here the author discusses the tools that he uses, why he uses them, and where to get them.

A World In HDR is not a heavy technical book, but rather a heavy inspirational book. The first four chapters, 171 pages, give you a foundational understanding of what HDR is, its history, and how it relates to cameras and vision. The final two chapters focus on the "how" of creating HDR images and provide a good understanding especially to those who are new to the field.

From the aspect of inspiration, this is an absolutely wonderful book. The images are crystal clear and each provides a background of where they were shot and about the site. There is also a little more technical part where the author explains a bit about the technicalities of the shot.

This is a great book for those who are new to HDR. It provides valuable insight and direction into this evolving field. To those with some experience with HDR but not familiar with the author's site, you will find the artistry to be inspiring and the images to be insightful. If you are looking to get into or better understand the world of High Dynamic Range photography then I can highly recommend this book.

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About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.