Amazing photos from early 1900's hint at HDR


It's a small world, after all. Last year I taught a workshop in Russia. About a month ago, I got a call from a Russian man who was here in Bend, OR to do some work. He said he had attended my workshop and would love to say hello, so we got together for dinner. We took him to one of our favorite restaurants in town, Zydeco, and he ordered the popular BBQ ribs - requesting of the waitress several times, "Please, not so big a portion." The plate of ribs was huge, and delicious. We had a great conversation and during dinner he mentioned this Russian photographer from the early 1900's who was way ahead of his time in pursuing color photography. His method was to take 3 quick B&W images in a row, each modified by a red, green, and blue filter. He would then combine them in print to make a color photograph. These separate B&W "channels" look just like they do when you view the channels for an image today in Photoshop. The funny thing is that he never really was able to get the results he wanted in the color print because of the limitations in technology at the time. It wasn't until the current digital era that the Library of Congress (who maintains most of his existing plates) was able to contract digital imagers to re-assemble them as full-color images in Photoshop. He had the pieces, he just needed Photoshop to layer them all together! It reminds me of Leonardo DaVinci, with his ground-breaking ideas that had all the right concepts, but just needed a little bit of modern technology to make it a reality.


It's amazing to see the color quality and almost HDR-esque feel of his images. It looks like it could have been taken today, on an iPhone ;-) Sergei would be speechless.


Check out more of his images of early Russia on Wikipedia, it's fascinating.

Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii



Taken in 1912. Self-portrait of Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii. Early color photograph from Russia, created by Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii as part of his work to document the Russian Empire from 1904 to 1916.