Photographers tend to like rustic subjects. Old and ugly can be interesting subjects. There is an old dam near the San Gabriel Mountains and on the San Gabriel River, that I came across one day. If you are unfamiliar with the LA area, there really aren’t natural rivers in the basin area. We mostly have man made concrete rivers constructed for water runoff to the ocean. This is at the base of the mountains and is dry most of the year. This particular dam was built by the US Army of Engineers and was completed in 1949. It is one of a series of dams along the river and basically it is for flood control.
I photographed this angle because of the interesting structure of the dam. The shape of the concrete along with the metal make an interesting composition. This is straight from the raw file created by the camera. This is a good exposure for the walls of the concrete, but the sky and ground highlights are over exposed. Being a raw file, the processing could improve the highlights, but I chose to make this an HDR photo instead.
HDR photography (high dynamic range) is a process of combining multiple exposures of the same photo to combine the details of highlights together with the details of shadows. Digital cameras are not able to capture this in one exposure, when you have bright highlights and dark shadows together in one photo. Therefore you end up with the first photo above. Not necessarily bad, but in this case I wanted to bring more detail to the overall photo. This HDR was created in Photoshop CS5 using 5 exposures. Many times photographers go crazy with tone mapping and take HDR photos to the extreme. In this case, I wanted this to look realistic. Much like I saw it when I was there.
Now that doesn’t mean I only make realistic photos. Here I wanted to accentuate the details and bring out the grunge. This was built over 60 years ago. So, I wanted to bring out the cracks, graffiti and textures all around. I took the HDR Photo into a filter software called Topaz Adjust. In this software you can add some pop, bring out details or completely change the look of an image. Now it looks old and from the 40’s.
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