Japan HDR Gallery (with JPEG Gain Maps)

An experimental photo essay using HDR techniques to enhance images from Japan: a country where old and new stand side by side, just like SDR and HDR photography today.

HDR photography allows capturing a wider dynamic range of lighting in a scene. Recent advances in hardware and software, like gain maps, now make it possible to create HDR images from a single raw file.

To experiment with this, I reworked some photos from my Japan trip into an HDR gallery. The ~20 photos here were taken on my Ricoh GR IIIx camera and edited using 2–3 stops of HDR range in Lightroom. No bracketing required!

Notice how light sources pop on HDR displays. The photos are best viewed on recent Apple, Pixel, Galaxy and other devices that support HDR using a Chromium-based browser.

Enjoy this glimpse of Japan in enhanced dynamic range! Click any image to start the full-screen gallery.

P.S. Since I edited these solely for HDR with no thought for SDR compatibility, they may look overly processed on non-HDR screens.
Famous kushikatsu in Osaka. HDR brings out the paper lamps and dramatic lighting.
Old and new Japan side by side in Kyoto. Unlike above, HDR provides only marginal advantages.
I feel that such mix of tradition and modernity is everywhere, and maybe a great approach overall.
Summer Sundays at Tokyo Tower. HDR enhances the sky while preserving clothing details of the couple's traditional yukata.
Lego-sized life from the Tokyo Tower observatory.
Jizo statues at Zojoji Temple. Vibrant HDR building on Velvia-style processing.
First night in Tokyo. HDR adds depth via artificial lighting, casting a more decisive chiaroscuro pattern on the facade.
Summer stroll in Gujo Hachiman. Extended range creates vivid tones and contrast in the most HDR-ish shot in this gallery.
Fishing for rocks in the river. HDR enhances sunshine sparking on water.
Most people in Japan leave their bikes unlocked in Japan, even in big metropolis. Minimal HDR used here: not every creation benefits from it, so I avoided it.
Sanjūsangen-dō temple in Kyoto. Home to 1001 Kannon statues.
Kiyomizu's Blue Dragon statue. HDR brings out intricate metal details.
Pilgrims en route to Kiyomizu. HDR makes clothing and leaves "pop".
Kiyomizu cemetery.
Bon Odori summer dance festival.
Caught inside the dancing circle below the singer for 30 mins!
Empty Osaka streets during typhoon.
I wanted to play with shoji doors and light in this over 300-year-old hotel in Kinosaki Onsen, a hot springs town by the mountains and the ocean in Hyogo Prefecture. The town just celebrated its 1300th anniversary.

Recent developments like gain maps, wider availability of HDR displays, and updates to Lightroom have finally made it practical to unlock the full potential of HDR photography from a single raw file. As shown in this gallery, even 2–3 stops of expanded dynamic range can make highlights sparkle and shadows come to life. Expect to see more everyday photos take advantage of HDR as the technology becomes mainstream.

For now, I'm enjoying experimenting with these enhanced images of Japan: a country where old and new stand side by side, just like SDR and HDR photography today.

Liked these photos and my experiment? I share more regularly, so take a look at the Photos series page for other galleries and essays, and sign up for updates.

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