Northwest of town there is an old warehouse/industrial complex building that used to be part of a coal mining operation. My assignment was to simply go to the site and get a "building mug" to show our readers what the place looks like now.
I got my shots, and went 360-degrees around the building to see if the structure would be more interesting from another angle. That's when I saw that not only were the small doors around the building wide open, but one of the big overhead garage doors was opened about 8 feet high. A quick peak inside revealed a pretty cool scene, though it was dark with some real hot spot of light shining in. I set up my tripod and started shooting.
So what is it? It is a HDR image. That's a High Dynamic Range image, taken from a compilation of seven different exposures, each one stop different, for three stops under and three stops over exposure. Now comes the interesting part. Photoshop CS3 has an HDR processing image built into it, but it is pretty straight forward and does not create a grunge look that seems more illustration than photo.
I mentioned in an earlier post that I was taking on-line classes from Xtrain.com; and this technique is the subject of an entire class taught by Ben Willmore. Basically the photo is processed taking the details from each exposure, and then the micro-contrast setting is turned all the way up. This creates detail and contrast between pixels and the edges glow and the color gets saturated.
So in answer to the question is it a photograph or an illustration - yes. And no. It is not strictly a single photograph, and it is also not an illustration. It is HDR.