In photography, "dynamic range" essentially refers to the range of brightness and darkness in an image. Take an indoor picture of a person standing by a window on a sunny day. The picture you get either has the person looking perfectly exposed and the window overexposed and "blown out", or the window is perfectly exposed and the person in way underexposed and dark. I'll bet you have dozens of these shots in a shoebox less than 100 feet away.
The problem is the limited dynamic range of film or a digital camera's image sensor. In contrast, our eyes, have an ability to see an astounding range of lights and darks. And that's where so many casual photographers go wrong. When they trip the shutter, they expect to get back what their eye saw. Problem is there eye is usually seeing much, much more in the way of dynamic range than their cameras can record.
When I was in Venice in July, I experimented with a relatively new form of imaging called HDR (high dynamic range) photography. The basic concept is simple: take a series of shots of a scene at varying levels of lightness and darkness, then combine them together. There's a wonderful program called Photomatix that radically simplifies the process and works ideally with digital cameras.
My first go at HDR photography was inside the place we rented in Venice last July. The apartment was amazing. Venetian antiques. Six windows that overlooked Campo San Vidal, the Franchetti and the Accademia bridge. A bedroom that looked on out onto the Canal Grande. A sweet terrace, Murano chandeliers (if you like that sort of thing), great kitchen, air condo. Perfect.
Here are 4 HDR images of the apartment. It seemed like a good application of the technique because the magic of the place was both indoors and outdoors, and conventional photography would totally miss this context.
Here's our bedroom. You see a hint of the Accademia bridge and a palazzo across the Canal Grande.
Here's a shot in the living room, with the Palazzo Cavali Franchetti in the background, across Campo San Vidal. (This is the first shot I ever made with the HDR method ... darkish but has a nice mood.
Here's the room my 4 year old son, Miles got. It's a space where the HDR technique shines. The room is rather dark, as it is covered with that shiny green fabric. It's mainly lit by a single light bulb and any natural light. This is a scene that would have a huge amount of pure black in the shadows. With HDR imaging, however, literally every corner of the room has detail -- even under the stool.
Here's another one, looking from the study onto the terrace (and the Dutch consulate). That's a cool print of Joseph Brodsky on the wall.