The principle was so obvious to me, and yet as soon I finished the study of this book, I realized just how limited my prior knowledge was. Apparently I did not knew about existing image standards, tools and about a fundamental importance of HDR (high dynamic range) imaging for digital photography as a superior way of preserving images.
Foreword is by one of the top gurus in the discipline and author of several graphical file formats, Greg Ward.
Author starts with explaining the basic concepts of dynamic range, EV (exposure value) and specifics of human perception of light and shape. This sounds like a platitude, but in fact the chapter is very educational and to the point. Reader can quickly understand the limitation of the contemporary digital imaging based on integer numbers. I had no idea that HDR tools and files use in fact floating point numbers, utilize exponents to cover the vast dynamic range, while occupying still the same number of bits per pixel.
In chapter 2 author goes through the numerous file formats invented to hold graphical information, beginning with Kodak's Cineon, Portable Float Map, Float Tiff, Radiance, LogLuv, Open EXR (devised by Florian Kainz at Industrial Light and Magic,) High Dynamic Range Jpeg, Fjpeg, and several more. I was not aware of the most of them. Tabular summary at the end provide a perfect and compact summary.
He summarizes than properties of the diverse HDRI tools, of which I knew of Photomatix, but the rest was widely unknown to me. One group of programs contain generic image viewers with HDR capability, like HDRView, exrdisplay, JahPlayer. Even Irfanview can apparently interpret two HDR formats: radiance and TIFF LogLuv. Later Bloch compares features of HDR file generators and tone mappers: HDRshop, Picturenaut, PhotoSphere, Photomatix and FDRTools. This is the most comprehensive enumeration of HDR software which I saw so far. Of course, he also talks about full image editors and compares their features to Photoshop CS.
Chapter 3 is devoted to capturing HDR images. Bloch explains limitation of contemporary CCD and CMOS sensors, talks about future prospects. He explains how to use bracketing in ordinary digital cameras to gain series of images covering the wide dynamic range. Foremost he reminds to use the same aperture to preserve identical depth of field in each shot. Sounds so obvious, and yet before I red this book, I made series of images violating this principle. Expectedly I gained poor results, which I than attributed to an "immature HDR software." If fact, I was not ready. Bloch follows with a description of a series of workflows using dedicated tools, like HDRshop, Photomatix, Picturenaut, and compares them to a fully manual process in Photoshop. Very educational.
Next chapter describes tone mapping: Once the HDR image is in place, its vast dynamic range must be mapped into the Low Dynamic Range (LDR) of the display, screen or paper alike. The process has many variables and an element of artistic freedom. Here again Bloch compares several automatic tools with a manual process in Photoshop. Some of the example images are simply stunning. The chapter has several sections written by other photographers presenting their selected HDR images.
As a bonus follows a chapter about shooting of HDR panoramas, a combination of two dimensional series of images for each part of the scene, and for each part of the dynamic range. Fascinating are all the gadgets and contraptions being used to generate the surreal projections and circular panoramas.
To sum up Bloch speaks about trick photography combined with CGI (Computer Graphics Images.) This is of course just a short introduction in context of HDR, and yet very informative.
For me this is one of most educational books in photography which I ever read, and do I press the shutter button for over 30 years. Do yourself a favor: grab it and read it and foremost: Experiment with HDR!