HDR Collection   2 comments

Dedicated to my favorite HDR images and the stories behind them

Fishing in Nova Scotia

I have written frequently of my affinity to the sea, growing up in Nova Scotia. This image, like none other, represents for me the spirit of the sea and those that make their living from it. I knew this image was special and it took several hours to finally settle on the post processing retouching that extracted both the shadow detail and the contrast to yield the almost painterly quality I arrived at. The only thing missing is the sweet smell of salt air.

Central Park, NY

If you are new to HDR (High Dynamic Range) photography I urge you to do a Google search on HDR and see what photographers all over the world are doing with this relatively new technique. I really like this site as well (HDR Spotting), as they showcase some of the best HDR images I have seen. HDR, simply defined, is the digital layering and melting of multiple exposures of the same scene so that the highlights and shadows are preserved across a greater dynamic range (the range of tones the human eye can discern). HDR has become a controversial subject among photographers for a few reasons.

  1. HDR can easily be overdone and can be cartoonish
  2. HDR is easily identified and is not a natural way for images to be reproduced (This is puzzling to me for reasons I’ll explain)
  3. HDR is fake

The human eye in combination with the way the brain interprets the messages received by the eye, compensates for tonal differences and builds a high dynamic image in our mind. I would argue that properly processed HDR images, do indeed, most closely reflect the visual spectrum we perceive and will become the defacto standard of photography in the coming years. HDR will be to traditional color photography as color was to black and white photography.

While the creation of HDR images is reserved for those who have the appropriate tools, we are already starting to see consumer level cameras with built in HDR processing capability. If you have an iPhone 4, you have one in your pocket.

I’m a huge fan of HDR and am guilty of “over processing” from time to time. I try not to overdo it unless I think the image lends itself to this effect. The picture above of Central Park has very little post HDR processing and, for me at least, represents exactly what I saw that day.

Buckingham Palace

It’s funny how you perceive things one way and when reality sets in or you’re actually present, you feel altogether different. That is how I felt when I was in London for a couple of days at the end of a business trip in 2009. We Canadians have a certain affinity to the crown and for me at least its more a romantic one and less a colonial one. There is a majesty to this place. Like any loyal liege I ventured to Canada Gate while there not far from where I was standing when I took this picture. I proudly shouted “this is my gate” as I stood underneath the Nova Scotia emblem. I’m not sure people thought I was entirely sane, but that didn’t matter. On that day I claimed the gate and no one passed while I was on guard. The good news is, no one tried.

This particular photograph is a 3 shot HDR image. There are a number of tools on the market today to process HDR, this one happened to be in the new Photoshop CS5.

Mt Zion Methodist Church

This is one of my favorite photographs, taken on a drive through the south-east of the state of Georgia, near a small town named Sparta. This is the “South” and there are a number of churches that have become abandoned or are in great disrepair. It’s sad really. If ever there was a location where I truly felt the spirit of the place, this is it. Imagine the choir singing to the congregation, gathered to celebrate and praise. I can’t wait to return to this church.

Here is a little history of the Church.

This church was originally Presbyterian but eventually became Methodist. Plaque on church reads: “The Mount Zion Presbyterian Church was organized in 1813. $700 was raised in 1814 to complete the building. Services were held here until 1903 when the membership had dwindled from 130 to less than 10. That year the Church property was sold to the trustees of the Mt. Zion Methodist Church for $200. The Methodists worshipped here until 1958. From 1958 until 1969, the church was silent and empty, except for an occasional wedding or funeral. In 1969, the North Georgia Methodist Conference gave the property to the Hancock County Foundation for Historic Preservation. The combined efforts of the community and the Foundation have been made to restore this Historic old church and preserve the records.”

From the description of the Putnam-Hancock Scenic Route web site: You will pass through Mt. Zion, which was once a thriving community of some 30 homes with a post office, newspaper, and boys’ school. It boasted fine homes with names such as Pleasant Valley, Rocky Hill and Cornucopia as well as the Mount Zion Academy. The school was started by Nathan S. S. Beman and his brother Carlisle P. Beman. Nathan was offered the presidency of the University of Georgia in 1818, but declined due to his wife’s ill health. Carlisle was the first president of Oglethorpe University. One of the few surviving structures is the Mount Zion.


Mary and I decided to take a drive to Gainesville, GA one Saturday afternoon and headed west from there towards Dahlonega. On our way we stumbled upon an abandoned set of buildings that seemed to have been randomly dropped in place on the side of the road. An odd collection of buildings that resembled period houses from a bygone era. A garage, a home, and a building that contained some sort of small manufacturing equipment.

The picture above is a view from within that building taken on a second trip back. I heard several noises as I stepped in, which I imagine were rats so I didn’t stay long. There is something about abandoned buildings that I am attracted to. How did this building get here, who worked in this room and what stories could be told of the many hours worked inside.


This scene was taken on the same day as the working room above in a different building. The painting of the horses on the wall is a stark contrast to the surroundings. The bed sheets left un-tucked almost makes me think the occupants just left and yet I know it’s been a very long time since someone slept in this bed.


Posted December 21, 2011 by Paul Coffin

2 responses to “HDR Collection

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  1. Hi Paul,
    Just passing, like your HDR work. I too am often guilty of overprocessing, but hey, if it looks good, just do it!
    Can you tell me how i get a code for HDR Spotting? I check the website often and i think i might like to put 1 or 2 of my creations out there., but don’t quite know where to start!!!

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