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Darwen Tower HDR Image

We walked to Darwen Tower  last weekend and we had the  iPhone 5 with us with Panoramic photographic capabilities. We got a great shot of the tower so we plugged it into Photoshop and did some HDR editing on the picture. Here are the results. Pretty good.

Darwen Tower
Darwen Tower – Lancashire

HDR 101: What You Need To Know

Have you ever used your phone camera’s HDR setting? Do you really know how to use it?

If you have no idea what HDR is (short for High Dynamic Range photography), don’t feel bad – a lot of people are clueless as to how to shoot in HDR. If you’ve ever wondered what it is and how to capture amazing photos in the setting, here is everything you need to know about HDR

Why you’d want to use it?

Unlike the human eye, even the best cameras can truly process the world with enormous dynamic range. The human eye can actually see about 20 stops of an image’s dynamic rage and cameras can only process about 13 stops – and that’s not entirely perfect given shadows or highlights that compromise the image. HDR is a way to recreate a human’s ability to take in such a huge dynamic range by snapping many exposures of a scene and then combining them using software. So if your camera processes an image as 0 exposure, you’d want to take further exposures from -3 to +3 (when in manual mode), at one stop intervals and then combine them to have the best detail in the image’s shadows and highlights.

When would I use the HDR setting?

You’ll want to use the HDR setting on your camera when you’re trying to capture a scene with dynamic range, which has lots of bright highlights and dark shadows. HDR will be able to keep both the highlights and any deep shadows in the scene. Another great situation you should use it is when the light you have is very flat because the multiple exposures of the setting will capture both highlights and shadows in great details. The setting will find whatever color depth that might be missing from that exposure to bring your image to life by adding more atmosphere to it. The end result is a vibrant and realistic scene that’s beautiful!

In essence, HDR is supposed to help you take better photos in various situations. Landscapes usually have a lot of contrast and with HDR you’ll be able to capture all the details without making one piece too dark. Portraits in sunlight will also benefit from HDR since harsh sunlight can create dark shadows. Finally, low-light and backlit scenes will look better in HDR so that they’re not too dark.

Darwen Tower

darwen tower
Darwen Tower by Matt Donnelly

Darwen Tower is always a great place to get beautiful shots as it overlooks the town of Darwen in Lancashire, England. Also called the Jubilee Tower, it was built by architect R.W. Smith-Saville to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee and to celebrate the victory of its locals for the right to access the moor. The Tower was first open on September 24, 1898 and has since then been a local treasure.

As history goes, peddlers, farmers and the like used moorland paths to go about their daily tasks. However, that ended in the 1870s after the Lord of the manor of Over Darwen, The Reverent William Aurthur Duckworth, blocked the path and prevented access to the moor. Duckwoth didn’t want his land to be trashed on by trespassers on the moors. But then, William Thomas Ashton, who was a manager of the Eccles Shorrock’s mines at Dogshaw Clough and Entwistle Moss would create footpaths on the moorland to deliver coal to customers. The struggle between him making pathways and Duckworth’s people blocking them went to the courts and in September 1896, it was ruled that the moorland footpaths could continue being used by locals.

Today, the Darwen Tower stands tall at 85-feet high in memorial of that ruling. Because Darwen Hill is 1,200 feet above sea level, many visit the tower to admire is gorgeous views. Climbers can go all the way to the top of the tower to stare out at view of Blackpool Tower, Morecambe Bay, North Yorkshire, Cumbria, North Wales, the Isle of Man, Derbyshire and the surrounding moorland. The red sandstone tower features a beautiful spiral stone staircase that leads people all the way to the viewing platform for such amazing views! Although climbing up Darwen Hill can be quite exhausting it’s totally worth it once you see the views.

The pictures you can get up here are beyond amazing, especially when you know how to optimize your pictures with HDR editing. It’s the perfect place to practice landscape photography, regardless if you use your smartphone camera or DSLR.

Tips For Taking HDR Photos

If you’re looking to take your HDR photos to the next level, here are some helpful tips:

  1. Use a tripod

The HDR mode on your smartphone camera works best when you a tripod. It’s important to have a steady hand when taking the picture if you don’t used one. This is because HDR doesn’t capture movement very well. Too much movement won’t allow the photo to align correctly since HDR on your smartphone’s camera combines three different shots into just one. Also, taking pictures of moving objects won’t work well with HDR.


  1. Use HDR for portraits when in sunlight

HDR can help when you have harsh sunlight. If you photo is dark because of too much backlight, the setting can brighten up the foreground without washing out well-lit spots in the photo. Plus, HDR can make them look crisp and clean.


  1. Use it in low light (with no flash)

Combining three HDR images can help when capturing the shadows, details and highlights that would have otherwise gotten lost when taking a single image.


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