It is always wonderful to have a fresh enthusiasm to share.
HDR photography (or HDRI) is new to me and in the last weeks of the holidays I learnt much about this art. Just a few years ago it would have been very difficult for me to learn about this quickly as I do not know anybody who shoots HDR in ‘real life’ and there are no books at my local library or on the shelves at the nearby bookstore.
What is HDR?
High Dynamic Range photography is created using software to merge multiple shots of the same scene, at different exposures, to accentuate the contrasts and colours. The photos, even if they are hyperreal, make you feel more like you feel when you view a scene ‘for real’, rather than look at a photo.
This has been my process over the last few weeks and it is one I will share with students at school, as a model of how social media and learning can work. As I reflect on what has been happening with my learning, the more and more it is evident how much is involved and that my prior learning has been absolutely essential. It has made me further reflect on how difficult some activities are for students in schools, especially if they lack the earlier skills and concepts needed, which makes it extremely difficult for them to engage and progress. If the school or teacher does not value how students often learn best, engaged in social learning about their own interests and passions, it can be very difficult for many to make the effort required to learn happily or effectively.
I started this post thinking about the specifics of HDR and quickly realised that so much more was involved than a software program and learning about bracketing on my camera. This long list of tools used to produce my first HDR photographs will give you the idea of what I mean. I used: my Nikon D90, manfrotto tripod, 11-16mm Tokina lens, SD card, shutter release, camera manual, number of HDR photographer blogs, twitter, online video tutorials, YouTube, my laptop, Photomatix, CS4 Photoshop, Lightroom 3, Lynda.com, read several Amazon HDR books on my kindle and iPad.
I originally started searching, using Google, for info about HDR – and struck gold. Trey Ratcliff is a photographer on twitter and his HDR tutorial and book really got me started. Trey ‘gets’ social media and his digital identity is consistent, warm and welcoming. Many other photographers have the tools but do not know how to use them (or social media) as effectively as Trey to connect with a potential audience and I guess, his market. Seth Godin would approve of his style, I am sure. For example, I love how his brilliant pictures have a Creative Commons license to share and share alike at his flickr photostream. I highly recommend a feed from Trey’s Stuck in Customs blog where he has a ‘clubhouse‘ for HDR enthusiasts and generously responds to questions and shares, as well as sells, very informal video tutorials.
I checked out some other bloggers on twitter too and they had different things to offer from their tutorials and books. Christian Bloch’s book is much more technical and left-brained, which I battled to read in places but complemented Trey Ratcliff’s resources perfectly. A friend said to me recently, that photography tends to attract people from very different learning backgrounds with vastly different perspectives on how to be a good photographer. Someone who comes to photography from technical fields looks at the process very differently to another person who is more interested in the ‘softer’ aspects of the craft. Both ‘types’ end up crossing over and gaining an interest in the areas they are not so confident or comfortable. Maybe someone else can try and flesh out this thought with a comment?
The great part of all this for me is actually setting off on my bike at dawn, taking some shots and coming home to process before my family awakes. This always makes me feel great as I share my morning efforts with them. Trey’s tutorials led me to experiment with a different workflow when I arrived home, with my bracketed shots, using Lightroom 3 and the Photomatix plugin. I often rely on Lynda.com for video tutorials and learnt the basics of LR3 at that site.
Being able to joing HDR groups and share photos on flickr changes the experience of photography and makes it social. Learning is about sharing and fun. Here are my first fledgling HDRs on flickr.
The process of learning about HDR and writing this post has given me a number of different teaching ideas and I will produce some resources to share this weekend. Have you any suggestions for where I could take these ideas on learning in a formal classroom environment?
Here is another post about learning photography.