Operated by John-Riley Harper. Dedicated to archiving photography from Utah's underground scenes, as well as other personal projects.

On HDR, Flatness, and Nostalgia
HDR Efex Pro is a new HDR program being pumped and drooled over by the various hype sites I read and drool over. These sites are, of course, set up to whet the lust of people who want to make other people think the images they take are breathtaking, soulful, and moving. Aside from the Kwik-E-Mart name (brainstorming sessions must be grueling), the following line in their promo video annoyed me: "We've been taking pictures of interesting places and they just come out FLAT." What do these brave capitalists mean by the term? FLAT's technical relevance has been consumed by that ever pressing need to find a new synonym for "uncool." It's opposite is the antimonious expression that describes a photo that "pops." What I mean by saying it has no relevant technical associations is actually much worse. What HDR technologies actually do is flatten extreme exposures so that shadows no longer shade and highlights no longer flare and blind. They flatten images! They pop by flattening! Something like a LDR, a low dynamic range image, would be less flat (and possibly "pop" in its own way). The marketers simply know that flat = ugly/drab/boorish, and therefore would never try and argue that it's actually what they are selling. The viewer (you) is welcome to make a judgment before proceeding to the next paragraph.

What HDR technologies really show is that the culture I belong to is afraid of the world, the world in which reality "pops" our pixels out of rational bounds making everything look scary, the photographer untalented, or even a "negative" person! If you make an ugly picture, chances are that you have an ugly outlook on life. Either that or you're inept. When did we become so terrified of the battles within? Beauty for a while was the idea that images brought viewers to a point of understanding the overwhelming, overpowering nature of nature and the closeness of death - they called it sublime. It was, at least, an attempt at reconciling angst. There was an attempt to face the extremes.

Another thing the promo video explains is that you can blend your exposures together it makes them look "more like what you really saw when you took the photo," then proceeds to show cityscapes that look gleaming, vibrant, colorful, and plastic. Although your city may be fine the way it is, the images demonstrate a mild inferiority complex. They announce to the world that you don't live in a shithole. As if! The subtext reads, unfortunately, that you are mildly delusional and live in a world where memory is hijacked by nostalgia, or that your city isn't good enough without teams of programmers prettying it up and hiding any blemish. Beauty now means tamed, submissive and presentable to the parents. Beauty - Bah! I'm tempted to eat a couple boxes of raisins, bags of prunes, and cans of corn and use their software to really "pop" and "make exciting" an HDR mesh of my own diarrhea.

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