There’s a beautiful and quite moving memorial on the South Downs just outside Brighton which I have wanted to photograph for some time. It’s a short hike from around where the A27 and A23 meet.
The memorial was built in 1921 for Indian soldiers who fought for Britain during the First World War. I have had some interest in the Great War since visiting the trenches when still at school. I’m not a fan of war at all, however it’s a fact of life and intriguing to someone who’s never been involved first hand. You can read more about the history of the Brighton Chattri here.
The Chattri outside Brighton seems to stand isolated, set in a windy harsh landscape, which made me think of the feeling that the Great War conjures up for me. Images of grainy, mud soaked trenches, shrapnel and minuscule detail. Being there in January with these images fleeting across the fading light made me think of shooting an HDR image. I’ve never attempted one before however I’ve seen a lot of HDR photographs and it’s definitely a technique which appeals on some levels and it just felt like I might be able to pull off the mood I was getting from The Chhatri with this style of photograph.
Essentially an HDR photo is a series of multiple exposures merged together into one image which uses the dynamic range desired from each individual image. Perfect for grabbing detail from shadows and highlights which seemed suitable in this instance. HDR can look pretty surreal when pushed, or be toned down to simply draw out a lot of detail where normally it wouldn’t be seen in one photograph. I opted to keep it as real as possible whilst still gaining the effect I was after. It was a cold fairly cloudless January evening and there was enough mood in the setting and stone monument for a reasonably realistic take through HDR.
I used my trusty 21mm Zeiss manual focus lens and got right into the action. You have to be close to your subject when shooting this wide and I had my tripod perched on the wall a couple of meters from the Chcatri, you can just see the wall at the front of the photograph. I think from memory I shot 7 images each with a one stop difference to get my source photos, then when I got back to my studio (aka dining room) I used Photoshop CS5 to merge them with the built in HDR facility.
I believe there is stand alone software for HDR and a great deal of the skill is apparently in getting the merge settings right for your particular image. A photographer called Trey Ratcliff runs a great blog over at : Stuck in Customs which goes into a lot of detail about HDR and is a thoroughly recommended read if you like this style of images.
The second image is a 100% crop so you can see the detail which using HDR can draw out of the image.
Hope you like the photo and thanks for passing through!
F16, ISO 200, Nikon D700
* UPDATE June- how the heck to spell chatri!? Chhatri is on Wikipedia, the main website calls it Chattri – and I thought it was chatri – if anyone knows for sure let me know please and thank you.