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forestgnome
12-16-2008, 06:39 AM
Hoping JimS will offer some pointers on this scene. I thought of him as i tried to catch the icy foreground and the sky, which was brighter. I'm sure it's a situation that needs an ND filter, but which one? How would you handle these sunrise scenes? This could be helpful to us all. Thanks!

http://i96.photobucket.com/albums/l190/forestgnome/decyards114.jpg



http://i96.photobucket.com/albums/l190/forestgnome/decyards116.jpg

CHRIS
12-16-2008, 06:42 AM
Beautiful pictures. I am anxiously waiting for the answer as I thirst for knowledge. Thanks for sharing.

JimS
12-16-2008, 08:07 AM
Hmmm...Luckily I'm still off today...

Well, first off, despite the dark foreground, I really like the first one as is, wouldn't shoot it much differently if at all. Great shot!

To start off with the basics for everyone, the camera can only capture so many stops of light, far less than the human eye. So if you expose for the sky, the foreground falls into shadow, and if you expose for the foreground, the sky turns white. Controlling the exposure is one of the hardest things in photography.

One solution is to let find a graphic foreground that looks good in silhouette. That way you expose for the sky, and you still retain an interesting dark foreground. I would say that shot one is a GREAT example of this. In this example, the ice is translucent, and backlit with the sky, it takes on a great quality. Shooting this scene with a polarizer might pop the colors and reduce the contrast a bit...but there isn't much you can do with filters besides. A GND would just darken the tree and give the whole scene an unnatural disconnect with the near foreground. Filters aren't miracle workers, and you did really well here.

What would I do with #1.
Well, planning for a little work with the digital darkroom would help. It was actually BillO who first pointed out to me that since digital sensors capture information, and there is far more information in highlight than shadow. And while I always try to get the exposure right in camera using filters, sometimes using modern versions of traditional darkroom techniques seems okay to me. Therefore, I might overexpose the scene by half a stop (stopping well short of blowing out the sky(check your histogram)), and drop the highlit sky back down like a classic darkroom burn. This might get a bit more midtown detail in the ice. If you could, waiting until the sun really backlit the ice would have been interesting, but introduces new issues of exposure...

Back to the first paragraph. The other way to control the contrast at sunrise is to use a Graduated Neutral Density Filter (GND). This is a piece of glass or resin that is dark on top and clear on the bottom. This holds back the light of the sky from reaching the sensor like sunglasses, while the bottom light reaches at full strength. You can then balance the exposure. This is the technique that I most often use as it is traditional, 'natural', and gives me more joy in the field than combining images in the darkroom.

The second shot is a great example of when a GND filter would be perfect. Probably a 3 stop soft edge filter would bring some detail to the ice on the foreground hillsides.

Lastly, though I try not to use extensive photoshop techniques, I have learned alot of tricks from other forums and magazines. I bet that at this point you can use a digital GND technique to get more detail out of the image. If you shot the image in RAW format, process the image twice, once for the sky, once for the foreground. Place the images on top of one another, and simply with the eraser tool, erase the offending part off the top layer.
OR
Even easier you could take the image here, set your color selection to white, go to Layer -> New Fill Layer -> Gradient. Change Mode to Soft Light and hit okay. That will lighten up the foreground. Then in your layers window, just slide the opacity from 0% to 100% until you like the effect.

I did the last idea and got this...which I think is closer to what you are after...a quick rought 2 minute edit
http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3085/3113359260_2d9d10e348_o.jpg

So the moral of the story...I would try to get it right with filters, then if that wasn't effective, I would overexpose slightly to get as much information into the camera as possible and use traditional darkroom techniques to tweak it to the desired effect...

Fire away on questions...

~Jim

Bill O
12-16-2008, 08:17 AM
Here is an overview of one of the things Jim was talking about. Its called "expose to the right"

http://www.luminous-landscape.com/tutorials/expose-right.shtml

BTW, that's a great website for all things digital photography. Reviews, tutorials and some great landscapes.

JimS
12-16-2008, 09:03 AM
Thanks Bill...Looks familiar.

Bill has quite a collection of nice photographs himself (check out his signature website), and was a big influence on me taking the next step in my photography a few years ago.

So since we are posting articles, here's one by Darwin Wiggett on filter systems for the digital camera...

http://www.naturephotographers.net/articles1108/dw1108-1.html

Enjoy

mtruman
12-16-2008, 09:34 AM
Once again, amazing images Patrick. And a terrific tutorial from Jim. The forum is turning into the place to be to learn outdoor photography techniques as much as the other subjects that it supports so well. Thanks for continuing to share and help those of us who aspire to your levels of creative genius.

CHRIS
12-16-2008, 09:49 AM
Thanks for the links.

Steve M
12-17-2008, 07:13 PM
How about this picture of our Christmas tree? It seem incredibly hard to photograph and look right. Either the lights get washed out by the flash or it looks too dark unless I over expose it. Not sure how to tackle this. Any suggestions?

http://images43.fotki.com/v1383/photos/1/1138397/5151277/DSC_0044-vi.jpg

forestgnome
12-17-2008, 07:38 PM
Thanks very much! Nice!

I tried to do your second suggestion but I could not find how to set color selection. The rest of it I did but I'd like to be able to do it exactly as described. I have PS Elements ll. I know it's quite archaic by now but all I ever do is contrast, brightness, saturation, and cropping, so I haven't dropped the coin for the latest version.

h2oeco
12-17-2008, 07:50 PM
Steve,

Hard to know without seeing it in person, but is this closer to what it should look like?

http://www.ecomalley.com/mwoposts/stevemxmas.jpg


Ed

Steve M
12-17-2008, 11:14 PM
Ed,

That's the problem. Though this picture looks kinda cool, it doesn't represent what the eye sees. The room is much darker than in the image and the lights on the tree are crisper and brighter and more colorful. The tree itself (meaning the branches) are darker in person also.

When I use the flash the tree looks good but the colorful lights get washed out. Without the flash the whole thing takes on a red hue as in this image.

http://images47.fotki.com/v1402/photos/1/1138397/5151277/DSC_0038-vi.jpg

Here is the image with the flash.

http://images45.fotki.com/v1422/photos/1/1138397/5151277/DSC_0047-vi.jpg

h2oeco
12-17-2008, 11:16 PM
What camera are you using?

Ed

Steve M
12-17-2008, 11:22 PM
What camera are you using?

Ed

Nikon D80 with the AF-S NIKKOR 18-55MM DX LENS

JimS
12-18-2008, 06:51 AM
Thanks very much! Nice!

I tried to do your second suggestion but I could not find how to set color selection. The rest of it I did but I'd like to be able to do it exactly as described. I have PS Elements ll. I know it's quite archaic by now but all I ever do is contrast, brightness, saturation, and cropping, so I haven't dropped the coin for the latest version.

I'm glad you got that far...the rest is easy.

Here's a screen cap with red arrows of everything important. I only have elements I right now. I try to get most things right in camera, so elements does almost everything I need...

http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3224/3118175174_8402182243.jpg

So to pick color, you simply click on the black and white squares in the bottom corner of the tool selector. As long as white is in the top position when making the gradient layer, the gradient will be white.

You can also make a digital GND for when the sky is too bright by making a black gradient and hitting "Reverse" when you select the gradient. See arrow. Bear in mind you cannot bring back blown highlights, but you can help to balance a scene.

The rest of the instructions are also highlighted...changing the blending method, and sliding the opacity of the layer.

Happy to help,
Jim

JimS
12-18-2008, 06:55 AM
How about this picture of our Christmas tree? It seem incredibly hard to photograph and look right. Either the lights get washed out by the flash or it looks too dark unless I over expose it. Not sure how to tackle this. Any suggestions?

http://images43.fotki.com/v1383/photos/1/1138397/5151277/DSC_0044-vi.jpg

A lot of the challenge of christmas lights is selecting a color temperature. The camera rarely encounters light of that color, and doesn't have any idea what to do with it. You can see the wide range of what it tries to do with color when you compare the ambient picture to the one with flash. Quite the difference...

The other problem is that the scene is very low light, but high contrast, which is tough to expose for.

So what would I do? As good as I am with outdoor photography, I'm a studio noob. No idea. I would put it on a tripod, shoot a low iso, long exposure, and be confused as you about the results ;)

Sorry!

h2oeco
12-18-2008, 07:24 AM
Steve,

Are you using the built-in flash, or do you have an external flash? If you have a separate flash, be sure to bounce it off the ceiling, don't aim it right at the tree.

Also, if you have a polarized filter, try it, typically they're used outside, but it might help with the excess glare from the christmas lights, and might even help their color.

Another thing to try - intentionally take a dark picture - no flash, do a short exposure on a tripod so that you don't get too much light, then fix it in whatever software you have.

If I get a minute, I will ask a friend who does have professional/studio experience, and let you know the result.

Ed

Patrad Fischroy
12-18-2008, 09:23 AM
Steve, one of the real beauties of digital photography is that memory is cheap and you can keep shooting until you get it right. Plus, since it is niice and warm inside, you don't have to worry about your comfort as well. I say drag out the tripod, turn off the auto exposure and systematically go through the variables. I would start at a low iso and try different combinations. Try to only alter one variable at a time, i.e. use the same iso and f-stop and run through some different exposure times, then change the iso and repeat. Also look at the white balance, I am not familiar with the Nikon, but I think you should be able to change the temperatures on that. Alternatively you could shoot in Raw mode and play with the white balance in the software. This sort of exercise will help you make better judgements in the future as well.

Mike D
12-18-2008, 11:59 AM
What kind of filter did you use to make your palm tree look like an evergreen?


How about this picture of our Christmas tree? It seem incredibly hard to photograph and look right. Either the lights get washed out by the flash or it looks too dark unless I over expose it. Not sure how to tackle this. Any suggestions?

http://images43.fotki.com/v1383/photos/1/1138397/5151277/DSC_0044-vi.jpg

Brad
12-18-2008, 12:10 PM
What kind of filter did you use to make your palm tree look like an evergreen?
It may have been cut in NH right after Labor Day. But, seeing palm trees with Christmas lights just does not seem right.

RI Swamp Yankee
12-18-2008, 12:55 PM
Although my skills are WAY below those of the photographers here I will offer a couple of ideas.

My camera has a "fill" setting for the flash so it only provides part of the light needed. ... sooo.... try a flash pix, look at the EXIF settings see what the aperture was, maybe about f8 ... next a pix without flash, look at the exposure time. Now put those setting in manually and see if the flash balances the natural light.

The hard part is that the color temperature of the flash is way different from the color temperature of the lights and the camera has no idea what color "white" really is there. The eye/brain makes an auto correction that the film can't do. If you can set a custom "white balance" in the camera, try putting a sheet of white paper in the scene and use it to set the "white balance" of the camera then remove it when you take the picture. I used that trick once when I did some inside shots during a "no flash allowed" event.

The erase picture feature is one of the great features of digital camers. ;)

Steve M
12-18-2008, 02:20 PM
Thanks for the great suggestions. I'll be working on my Palm...I mean...Evergreen...shots and post some results.

Steve M
12-18-2008, 09:40 PM
Well, after about 30 shots of the tree, I have one that looks pretty close. At least the lights aren't washed out.

Exif Image Details

Make:
Nikon Corporation
Model:
Nikon D80
Width:
1024 pixels
Height:
685 pixels
Focal Length:
19.0 mm
F-Number:
F/8
Exposure Time:
0.6 sec. 1/2
Metering Mode:
Multi-segment
Exposure Program:
Manual
ISO Speed:
100
Flash Mode:
Auto, Fired, Return detected
Date:
2008-12-18 08:25:55

I let the flash fire with a long exposure.

http://images42.fotki.com/v1379/photos/1/1138397/5151277/DSC_0073-vi.jpg

forestgnome
12-19-2008, 05:43 AM
Jim, thanks very much. I'll be working on these techniques now.