Thursday, March 3, 2016

No Exit #7

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No Exit #7
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Image by Kent Barrett
From the No Exit series. Visit my website at

Footnote: the boy here is the son of my lover at the time. He was somewhat "undocumented" as can happen 'around here, and so he got to pick his own name, and he chose Robin Beach. A beautiful name. Anyway, he lived with his father so I didn't see much of him and I left the province shortly after this show was shot.

Fast forward about eight years...I'm in Vancouver. North Vancouver somewhere...on a ledge at the edge of a cliff hundreds of feet over the Georgia Straight. It's an unbearably beautiful bright spring day. I'm sitting on a blanket with two beautiful women, drinking champaigne and eating strawberries the size of golf balls. We're there relaxing, waiting for the marriage cerimony for my two friends to start. We have time to kill. The bride is stuck in traffic because Bill Clinton has the Lion's Gate bridge closed so he can jog the seawall. We're listening to jazz music on my portable stereo. The wind dies and the cd finishes and a great quiet appears to our ears.

I hear a faint scrabbling sound. Then again. It seems to be coming from nowhere. It gets louder and I can hear breathing. It seems to be coming from the bay below. I look up and see the edge of the cliff and nothing more, but I can hear the sound of laboured breathing. Two seconds later a naked hand appears at the top of the cliff. It feels around for a grip and digs in. Another hand appears and does the same. I hear a great exhalation and a foot appears and with a tough grunt a body pulls itself over the top of the cliff and rolls over panting at my feet.

I look down into the dazed face of the climber. A shock of recognition ran through me as I looked into the eyes of this strapping fearless athlete.

"Hi Robin." I said, "How's yer mum? Care for some champaigne?"

True story.

P.S. The groom was a mutual friend of myself and Robin's mother and we used to hang around together at the time these photos were shot, of course. And people ask me why I think Newfoundland is magic.

HDR - The Autotune of the Photography World
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Image by ShutterRunner
Yesterday, while browsing one of my favorite non-photography websites, the topic of HDR came up in a comments discussion and one of the comments contained the following quote:

"HDR=The autotune of the photography world"

This ignorant commenter is relating the use of autotuning in the music industry - the process of digitally modifying a vocal track by making pitch corrections - to the creation of high dynamic range images. This implies two misconceptions about HDR that need to be cleared right now.

1. The HDR image creation process (also called tonemapping) is easy.

False. For proof, check out my HDR Tutorial. I think there are a lot of people out there that think HDR is simply a button on the camera or a program that easily turns a standard image into a tonemapped one. This is not true, it has taken me almost 2 years worth of trial and error with all the different sliders and settings possible, to get the production of my photography to where it is now, and I am still learning new things every day. No two images are ever the same, and each image that I produce requires a different balance of settings to achieve the right balance of light.

Ok, so maybe it is not easy to create a tonemapped image from brackets, but any amateur can create a compelling HDR once they learn tonemapping, right? This brings me to misconception #2.

2. The HDR process can turn any photo taken by an amateur photographer into something appealing.

This couldn't be further from the truth. When producing an HDR image, all the rules of good composition, lighting, and time of day still exist. If you don't believe me, take a look at some of my early work and you will notice a complete disregard for many of the core principles of composition. I will admit that a byproduct of the HDR process is the creation of excellent looking texture and this leads certain subjects to be more suited towards HDR than others. The below image of a wine cellar at Castello di Verrazzano is a perfect example of that. That does not, however, mean that any composition, with any set of f-stop, white balance, ISO, and expsoure settings would come out looking like the image you see below.

I give my readers the benefit of the doubt, and I believe that it is only a small percentage of people that still have these misconceptions about HDR photography. For the critics that are still out there though, I ask you to stop looking at HDR as some sort of cheap equivalent of autotuning in the music industry and start seeing HDR as what it really is. HDR is simply a breakthrough technology in the photography industry. Photographers can embrace this technology, or they can ignore it.

From the photoblog at

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