I can’t stop raving about how awesome Photomatix 4 is with making HDR images out of single RAW files! It’s nearly magical, and no, this won’t be the last time you hear me (or any of us for that matter) say this. I’ve had a lot of fun digging through my photo library looking for some RAWs that deserve processing, and I remembered that on my trip to DC a few summers ago we had some great clouds as we visited the World War II memorial, on our way to the Lincoln Memorial. Yes, these shots fall under the category of “generic tourist shot made to look cool because of HDR” but that’s kinda the point. The HDR process turned a “boring” photo into something post-worthy, and I like that there is a new variable here beyond simply finding a good subject to photograph that can determine the quality of the photo. In this case, HDR was actually essential to these shots even being considered usable, and I’ve included links to the original RAW files (compressed, of course, but color-accurate) so you can see what I mean. They were poorly exposed to begin with.
I rarely comment on issues of composition beyond the occasional note, but in the image below a lot of things are coming together to make this work. Obviously, symmetry is huge. 4 pillars on each side, opposing groves of trees, equal parts foreground and background, horizontal bands of clouds mirroring horizontal swaths of grass and pavement. All of the orthogonal lines converge on the single point on the horizon, the Memorial itself, but more prevalent is the layers of horizontal elements that recede back, the alternating grass and pavement, and bands of dark and light clouds. All of this is stark and obvious in the black and white; it is muted and becomes lost in the original color version.