Photographs of Abandoned Places
September 22, 2008 2:00 PM   Subscribe

Previous post on HDR photographs of abandoned places.
posted by homunculus at 2:01 PM on September 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

Hey, wait a minute, this building is NOT abandoned. As you can plainly see, every room on every floor is inhabited by PURPLE!

Just because GREEN moved out of the neighborhood years ago is no reason to reduce PURPLE to non-color status.

Gaddam colorist website.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 2:20 PM on September 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

Yeah. Subtlety is lost on these HDR folk isn't it? Never saw the attraction to having photos that look like screencaps from a game.
posted by Jimbob at 2:23 PM on September 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

The novelty of HDR images is beginning to wear off for me. It's one of those techniques that, if done with a degree of subtlety, can add a little something without removing realism. But the majority of these are photoshopped all to hell.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 2:23 PM on September 22, 2008

my fave is chairs at abandonments It's such a weird new cliche to take a photo of an empty chair at these places.
posted by joelf at 2:24 PM on September 22, 2008

I don't think people are going to be looking at HDR images in five years.
posted by chuckdarwin at 2:29 PM on September 22, 2008

The HDR aspect completely cancels out the abandoned aspect. The experience is so mediated that you don't get even a hint of the rawness or isolation of this space. They're "stunning" for the wrong reason.
posted by [NOT HERMITOSIS-IST] at 2:35 PM on September 22, 2008 [2 favorites]

@la morte - agreed, HDR doesn't have to look like this - I've been doing HDR for a few months now, and aiming for subtlety while still getting results that exceed the dynamic range of any single exposure I can capture. Here are three examples that I could not have achieved without HDR: 1, 2, 3

Some of the photos presented in the FPP are sorta interesting to me if you look at them as stylized artwork instead of a straightforward photographic record - others are just plain overdone, and in years to come, when HDR technology is incorporated into every point & shoot at the touch of a button, we'll probably look back at these early examples the same way we now view "stereo test records" of the past.
posted by kcds at 2:36 PM on September 22, 2008 [2 favorites]

What is with the HDR stuff? The first link looks like Thomas Kincaid went off of Zoloft.
posted by milkrate at 2:38 PM on September 22, 2008 [5 favorites]

Please, for the love of Pete, just stop with the HDR. I've never seen a "style" play out so quickly.
posted by photoslob at 2:49 PM on September 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

See, this is HDR done right. That? Love the subject matter, but they all just look so flat. Half of those have huge screaming halos around everything.
posted by echo target at 2:54 PM on September 22, 2008

There is so much good photography out there, why are people so fascinated by these images that are so devoid of any substance? Uninteresting photo + stupid Photoshop gimmick != good
posted by bradbane at 2:57 PM on September 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

kcds and echo target are exactly right about most of that not being what HDR is actually supposed to be.

HDR is quite technical, and there are dozens of parameters that must be tuned in to make it do what it is meant to do.

If you didn't read the manual for your new color TV, and had some crazy fun playing with the knobs, you may well get some wacky and entertaining imagery. Just don't go around telling people that that's what color TV is about.
posted by StickyCarpet at 3:04 PM on September 22, 2008

I cannot recommend highly enough Stephen Wilkes' Ellis Island photos. They are, fortunately, not all HDR-screencappy like the ones in the FPP. (They're also currently at the Chicago Cultural Center until October 5th.)
posted by shakespeherian at 3:11 PM on September 22, 2008

See, this is HDR done right.

To each their own.
posted by Eekacat at 3:20 PM on September 22, 2008

HDR is an offense to my eyes, sorry
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:28 PM on September 22, 2008

Eekacat: okay, I'll bite. What's wrong with that one? There's no accounting for taste and all, but it avoids all the pitfalls of HDR (lack of contract, garish color, glowing halos, overall 'flat' image) while using the strengths (revealing shadow detail). In that particular shot, the details in the shadows are made visible, but the balance between shadows and highlights is retained. You can see what's in that dark corner, but it still looks like a really dark corner.

Do you have any examples of good HDR, or do you object to it on principle?
posted by echo target at 3:43 PM on September 22, 2008

No one can explain the eerie glow surrounding the abandoned, rotted buildings nor the eye searing oversaturation of their eldritch paints. Truly, it is the Colour Out of Space.
posted by Nelson at 3:51 PM on September 22, 2008 [2 favorites]

What gets to me is that most of those photos that show some sky completely mess it up. The sky should not be a lighter blue halo around every object standing in front of it. It looks terrible. There was one photo in that set that didn't, to my eye, look awful.

However, kcds---the latter two images you linked to looked fantastic.
posted by vernondalhart at 3:58 PM on September 22, 2008

This post is useless without tilt-shift HDR images.
posted by thinman at 4:16 PM on September 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

This one reminds me of H.R. Giger. It's my favorite of the first linked set, and there are a few other standouts. (Sturgeon's Law still applies, natch.)

If you study the masters of film photography, you'll find that they often hacked their images in the darkroom, and for the same reasons digital photogs hack theirs. The photog is not trying to show you bluntly how the subject looked, but how it felt; HDR is to a snapshot what impressionism is to realism in painting. Saying an HDR image looks fake is like saying that Pointillist paintings are made of dots. It's true, but needlessly dismissive of a technique that can yield striking images.

I took a snapshot of a page from Richard Avedon's Evidence; check out all the dodging and burning that went into a single face. Photographs have always lied, in the same way that novels are totally made up and therefore kinda lies... but many novels are plenty truthful, aren't they? The democratization of the tools of photo manipulation have created a profusion of whopping visual lies that can't fairly be judged by the criteria we use for documentary photography.

(When it comes to overShopped images, though, nothing beats tilt-shift fakes!)
posted by cirocco at 4:49 PM on September 22, 2008

I don't think that HDR is awful because it looks 'fake', I dislike the in-yo'-face super-WEEEEEEEEEE stuff because little thought has gone into it. Of course, I did just post a few HDR scribblings to my Flickr stream, but just ignore that!

To come up with Avedon's crib sheet took hours and hours of thoughtful experimentation on top of years and years of experience shooting and printing pictures. Then, Flickr comes along and allows any jerk with a Digital Rebel, a tripod, and QTPFSGUI or whatever they use, and all of a sudden expect everyone to swoon -- and most people do. Really, the popularity of HDR feeds on people who haven't really seen HDR images before, and without them, it will go back to being used tastefully. Or somethign.
posted by Geckwoistmeinauto at 4:56 PM on September 22, 2008

There's a wow for images that impress technically, and a wow for images that impress artistically. These are meh.

It's possible to take a photograph of a high dynamic range scene and process it to look good on screen and in print without using the local contrast enhancement and high-pass filtering gimmickry described as "HDR". But it takes more than the press of a button in Photomatix. (Self links; I teach some of these image processing techniques in my workshops but have no courseware online at the moment.)
posted by seanmpuckett at 4:59 PM on September 22, 2008

echo target, I have no problem with HDR on principle at all. It's just a tool. Thankfully seanmpuckett has saved me the trouble of searching out images done well with HDR. The image you link to has the obvious color shift and haloing that are the classic obvious HDR. If you like that kind of thing, that's fine, but I don't really think that's effective use of HDR.

Cirocco, while I agree that there was a lot of darkroom hackery done, and still being done by those that still use film (I've done plenty myself in the day, and am getting back into the old analog ways), I wouldn't call them lies, but rather an impression. The lies would come in examples like Stalin having people edited out of photos. Ansel Adams always said that he wasn't a realist in his photography, but rather presented his vision of an image. Most HDR presented is more like velvet paintings, but with less talent involved.
posted by Eekacat at 5:28 PM on September 22, 2008

Thank you for the even-headed responses on HDR. I wish AfterCapture magazine was as reasonable as the responses in this thread... unfortunately, most of their issues this year have been HDR trainwrecks.
posted by VulcanMike at 6:04 PM on September 22, 2008

Apart from the HDR issue, I stopped taking photos of abandoned places/rundown warehouse districts thirty years ago because it had become so cliched. I'm glad someone is doing it, though, because decay + urbanism is still beautiful. I just can't bear to fall back on that aesthetic cliche: is there no avant-garde anymore?
posted by kozad at 7:48 PM on September 22, 2008

You can have my shadows and highlights when you pry them from my cold, dead hands. HDR is the Carpet Elvis Painting of our time.
posted by Poagao at 8:17 PM on September 22, 2008

Wow. Thanks for the new desktop, echo target.

My first exposure to HDR was the last HDR thread, and I'm already tired of it by this one. I get bored fast, but that's got to be some kind of record. As a gimmick, I like it. It's like a velvet painting. I'm surprised the Vampire Masquerade crowd hasn't specialized in HDR portraits by now.

With some of the more subtle examples in this thread, I can see the more lasting appeal.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:44 PM on September 22, 2008

(When it comes to overShopped images, though, nothing beats tilt-shift fakes!)

I am gobsmacked. Truly fooled and amazed when I read what I was looking at.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:47 PM on September 22, 2008

Glossy dayglo nonsense, at least there weren't any horses or ponies.
posted by stuffedspacedog at 9:53 PM on September 22, 2008

Kai's Power Tools -> Drop Shadows -> Page Curls -> Obvious Photoshop Retouching -> Kinetic Typography -> High Dynamic Range.

What am I missing?
posted by VulcanMike at 11:21 PM on September 22, 2008

Lens flare, VulcanMike.
posted by Spatch at 5:35 AM on September 23, 2008

More abandoned places with less HDR: LiveJournal Abandoned Places.
posted by fiercecupcake at 6:11 AM on September 23, 2008

Bleh 'HDR.' These dolts who have to over artsify everything have done two things that really make me mad.

One, they give HDR a bad name by calling oversaturation HDR, which it is not. (Just because you use an HDR tool to do it doesn't make it an HDR image, just like I don't call all my photos 'Lightroom')

Two, the extreme overuse of the technique, which can be interesting on occasion has completely ruined it for many viewers, taking one technique out of my postprocessing arsenal. Worse, most of them aren't even made from multiple bracketed exposures of the same scene. Even the 'HDR' exemplified in the link, used sparingly, can make for an interesting photo. Sadly, people are burned out on it now.

All that said, HDR can be nice, when it's used for, you know, getting high dynamic range, not oversaturated colors. I've got a couple of nice HDR sets of an iconic building at sunset that just wouldn't be the same without the multiple (in camera, not fake) exposures. The saturation is the same as it was on the original pictures.

My point being that HDR is quite a useful technique, but people have turned it into some sort of shallow caricature.
posted by wierdo at 10:06 AM on September 23, 2008

HDR is the new black (velvet painting).
posted by Mr. Anthropomorphism at 10:29 AM on September 23, 2008

HDR style photography is one of the big problem influences on modern movies. If you watch something like Superman Returns (I rewatched the trailer in that recent SR thread) you see the entire city appears to be HDRed as do many interiors. People think this is what makes for a great dynamic/gritty backdrop, but it only makes things look fake. It's a drag.
posted by JBennett at 10:14 AM on September 24, 2008

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