Beautiful high dynamic range photo from Japan


This looks like an illustration, but it's a photo by Masato Ohta from the Japan HDR Flickr Photo Pool. Link

Previously on Boing Boing:
Flickr group produces astonishing color pix with new plugin
Introduction to HDR (high dynamic range) photography
Stunning HDR shot of Tokyo skyline


  1. It looks like Ikebukuro to me. The JR tracks are over to the left, with construction still going on. I’m guessing that’s the West side of Ikebukuro Station, with the Seibu sen on the left and Tobu sen just out of view on the right…

  2. I’ve never seen a back-side city-scape of Tokyo so devoid of commercial ads, nor have I seen many haze-free blue-sky days. A rarity. How much enhancing of the photo?

  3. HDR involves taking multiple shots of the same scene with different settings, and combining them digitally. It’s not really suited for things that can move, let alone video.

  4. Anyone have a link explaining how this is done? It’s a very cool looking effect.

    #4–Why would you consider this cornball? Just curious…I’ve never seen anything like this before.

  5. Holy hell that looks so cool.

    The Warachowski’s “Speed Racer” movie is going to look like that.

  6. A lot of what you see around labelled HDR is actually just overuse of Photomatix’s tone mapping on a single exposure. So you could probably could rig something up to do that with video.

  7. Or buy a view camera. Nobody remembers it, I guess, but the zone system for photography has been around for a very long time, and all this foofaraw is because digital cameras still don’t come close to capturing the full brightness range that a large sheet of emulsion film can record in a single image.

    So the digitals take three images to cover the full range of brightness, to regain the ability to capture full detail both in the darkest and brightest parts of the image.

    No, you couldn’t do this with 35mm film — well, barely, with Pan-X 25 black and white film and a very fine-grain developing chemistry, after having used a spot meter to measure the full brightness range of your subject and carefully exposing to capture maybe eight f-stops at best. From memory, wasn’t Ansel Adams getting ten f-stops with his sheet film?

    Those stunning Sierra Club books your grandparents had along with their old Whole Earth Catalog? Look at the pictures in them.

    The eye can do this. So could really good film cameras in the hands of good photographers.

    Print can do this, on good paper.

    Viewing online or TV though, you don’t get the same effect. You get this sense of exaggerated brighter-than-life imagery — not a picture that looks more real than anything you’ve seen lately, like the Sierra Club books had.

    Just wait til the billboard companies finish gutting the last remaining rules that currently forbid them from putting their glare-and-jitter new technology — look at the one they got a special law changed to allow, the first big ugly:

    on every single billboard along every highway and on the side of every building, if you want poke-in-the-eye imagery. You’re gonna get it.

    Advertisers will love this kind of imagery.

    Advertisers communicate like Vonnegut said Tralfamadorians communicate, by tap dancing and farting. In your face.

    It’ll suck. “human kind
    Cannot bear very much reality”

  8. As much as I enjoy Flickr, I’d like it even more if they banned HDR images, Explore, and those insane badges that people pollute comments with. Surely it’s no coincidence that the use of badges ballooned after Yahoo! took over Flickr?

  9. HDR photos are created by taking multiple shots at different exposures using a tripod-mounted camera, and are then combined using software. One popular tool for doing this is available from Photomatix, but it can also be done in recent versions of Photoshop. The Photomatix software can also create a pseudo-HDR effect using a single photo. Typically a digital photo contains more detail than can be displayed. The Photomatix software compresses the contrast of the elements in the scene, and allows more detail to be displayed in the shadow and highlight areas.

    However, this photo uses another technique as well, Known as the Orton technique. Originally this technique was performed using positive (slide) film. One photo was taken with normal focus, and another where the scene was out of focus. These two photos were then sandwiched together in the same slide mount, giving saturated colors and a dreamy, soft focus kind of effect. This can be accomplished using Photoshop, by creating a duplicate layer and using Gaussian blur on it. The duplicate layer is then blended in using the layers palette. The photo above uses this very subtly, and the second layer probably wasn’t blurred very much.

  10. AFAIK, you *can* do HDR with video – you just need a very expensive video camera that does HDR natively rather than piecing it together from multiple shots.

    Of course, by the time these pictures get to you, they’re not HDR, because your regular computer monitor can’t display that. You can either buy a monitor that costs more than your car, or you can squash the dynamic range back into the usual 8 bits somehow, which is what happened here.

  11. This is *not* HDR, it is TONEMAPPING. Big Difference!

    Tonemapping is a huge compromise for photographers who want to compensate the fact that they don’t actually know how to make a proper-looking image, so they use software to “dodge and burn” everything to the correct levels.

    Luckily a superior tool for combining multiple exposures into one image has been developed, it’s called Enfuse.

    Tonemapping is the “cheap painting” filter. Looks amazing the first 3 times you see it, until you realize it’s a gimmick with more drawbacks than advantages.

  12. This image looks great, but most HDR images are plain awful.

    HDR is way overused on Flickr. It’s the same folks who add artificial frames and false vignetting to their photos of stop signs.

    It is possible to get stunning photos by using careful exposure and a polarizing filter. Shooting when the light is most dramatic (morning and evening) helps too.

  13. That image IS an HDR combination of 3 different exposures and I doubt there’s any Orton technique involved – its just that the exposures taken were handheld.

    HDR may not be everyone’s cup of tea but it’s ridiculous to suggest that flickr bans it. You may as well ban pictures of kittens as well. If you don’t like them then don’t look at them.

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