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Tag Archives: high dynamic range

What DOES zone editing have to do with it?
Minus 21 Farenheit at the winter creek

This is creek water frozen solid while making a texture of large ice crystals. See the detail of shadows in the bank above and with a glint of snow diamonds here and there.
Canon 5Dm3: 100mm 2.8 L ISO:50, 1/60, IS USM with UV plus 8xND filter;
Panorama, then zone editing in CS6 with channel masking for luminosity layers, then curves first before other adjustments, final hi-pass sharpening

Snap-Crackle-Pop through the night

When you live in southwestern Wisconsin -21°F (that’s below) zero is February normal. We expect it; we plan for it. Life doesn’t stop because the temperature plunges. The house cracks like gunfire as it shrinks into midnight, snaps-crackles-pops all through the night, then explodes into morning with the sun. It wakes me for an early run, gets me thinking about images with plans to match what the eye sees to what the camera captures.

Ready, set, shoot!

When it’s bitter cold and you’re passionate about photography, being prepared means more than long underwear, triple layers, and chem-heat. The equipment demands preparation too for the brilliant-bright day. For instance, in a mostly white scene proper exposure benefits from a neutral density filter and knowing what camera settings are most likely to produce the shot. I’m wearing mittens so prepping the Canon means menu-ready with lens and filters in place and settings dialed in. Last week I set a task to learn even more about zone editing in order to get the most from white winter shots. When it’s this cold, I’m willing to sit and even lay in the snow, but adjusting a tripod doesn’t work so these shots are all handheld. My goal was to see details in the snow even when squinting into the brightness behind sunglasses. These accomplished what I wanted. To judge for yourself, click a photo to see the original in a new window.

Sitting in a snowbank at -21°

If you’re a photo nut like me, read in the bezel below each photo for the basics of what worked. For everyone else the pictures speak for themselves, an up-close look at what draws a photographer out of a warm house in the early morning of a frigid day, a string of many such days of this 2015 winter when the temperature never climbed above zero!

Cold Creek

Notice the frost flowers blooming 20 feet below where the spring flows out of warmer ground. A few feet further and there’s no open water.
Canon 5Dm3: 100mm 2.8 L ISO:50, 1/125, IS USM with 8xND filter;
Development from five AEB bracketed shots with Curves adjustments, then mostly hand masking and some clone stamping,

I’m actually laying in the creek for this and the next one. Five minutes later I rushed into the house for coffee and dry clothes. Did I mention that it’s MINUS 21° Farenheit (minus 30 Celsius)?

Click to see the original image in a new window.

Moving closer–and getting wetter as I lay in the creek. Focus on the snow flower bouquets on mossy stones.
Canon 5Dm3: 100mm 2.8 L ISO:50, 1/125, IS USM with 8xND filter;
Development with Lumenzia

Don’t be a little crazy like me . . . stay warm! But do give Lumenzia a try in your  own workflow!

It’s hard to photograph a black dog!

If you’ve ever photographed an all black dog, you know the problem. It is almost impossible to capture the texture of fur or to see clearly the interior contours of shape and body. Black is made of all colors and it absorbs light very efficiently. As a result it’s often easier to paint a portrait than to take a quality photograph.

Black dog Janey, an English Cocker Spaniel

Here we have dear Janey, an English Cocker Spaniel whose mission in life is to love Mark and Mary. And in return they love her abundantly. So how can you take a photograph of your black dog? So, how do you polish a black dog?

Polishing a black dog for maximum impact

Dear Janey

Strategies to photograph something furry and black

If you have a studio full of equipment, speed lights, beauty lights, and reflectors you already know what to do. But if your photos of an all-black animal (dog, cat, horse, rabbit or whatever) are indistinct, if the eyes blend seamlessly with the ears, if the fur is flat and you cannot tell if it’s curly or straight, front end from rear, take heart. Simple tools at hand and simple strategies give a much better result.

It’s about the light, beautiful light

Light is key and, in the case of an all-black animal, more is better than less. Plain natural light is more pleasing than onboard camera flash which tends to look harsh and often produces the animal-equivalent of red-eye, fixable but a nuisance. Black guard hairs can be made to shine in sunlight if the angle of light is right. In this case Janey faced into the setting sun seated at a glass table top and beside a broad expanse of lake shore. So the natural sun at late-day and low angle shown directly into Janey’s face at the same time that it reflected up from lake and table top. It was a beautiful light! And Janey’s eyes glisten with lovely catch-lights! Look closely at them and you see the bright western horizon.

Get it right: tips and tricks to photograph a black dog

Newer consumer-level cameras have many features that once were available only on professional models. Prices for these specialized features are now reasonable and competitive. If your camera has selectable modes, choose higher contrast. Use a higher dynamic range. Increase vibrancy to better distinguish blue-black from brown-black from grey-black. Ensure sharp focus with a tripod or set the camera on a level, solid surface. If all else fails, hold your elbows tight into your waist, take a deep breath and hold it while you squeeze the trigger–don’t push or punch.

Polish the black!

Once last thought: I often prefer shallow depth of field–lower f-stop/larger aperture–because an out-of-focus background contributes more abstract color and interesting patterns without distraction. Here the effect isn’t pushed toward a strong bokeh, a Japanese term for blurry background circles. Even if you don’t know the term, you will recognize the technique. It’s popular because it’s a beautifully creative use of light. Show your black animal to advantage. Polish the black!

To see how I solved a similar problem in a different way with two black Labs: see Best Dogs Ever for their painted portrait..

While emphasizing the rocks, I  missed the ghostly ship moored beyond! The Baths at Devil’s Bay, near Spanish Town on Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands

The Baths and grottos of Devil

Spectral Ship

It’s risky to take expensive camera equipment to the beach, especially when a swim from boat to shore is required followed by a long hike as the main event of the day. In this case I took a pocket Nikon S8100 in a waterproof bag. This was shot at f/3.5, 1/460 sec., ISO 160. Unfortunately, this little camera, with small size and weight as its big advantages (along with the same lovely cmos chip that Canon uses), doesn’t shoot raw images so after-the-fact jpeg editing options were limited compared to what can be done in raw format.

It was only after I printed the image while checking it with my loupe that I “discovered” the phantom ship perfectly framed in the background. And it begged to be enhanced enough to be discovered more easily. What to do?

Before printing I’d already enhanced saturation of the natural colors in the rocks, sharpened their textures ever so slightly, then somewhat darkened the foreground to separate it from a sun-blasted background. So now I re-opened Photoshop CS5 and took the magnetic lasso tool feathered at 15px from the toolbox to isolate the triangle of too bright light which secreted the sailboat. I added a 15px  quick selection tool to refine the shape and jumped it to a new layer (Command/Control-J), added a curves adjustment to affect only the blue color (clipped to just this one layer), and then dragged the curve downward just enough to define the sailboat.

There are always decisions to be made in creating or editing an image. Surely when I was standing among the rocks at Devil’s Bay I saw that sailboat and framed it deliberately in the triangle of rock. I could not have missed the perfect and serendipitous shape of rock mirroring the sailboat beyond. So I can’t really call it a lucky accident. But months later after processing thousands of images from two cameras following the shoot, I had totally forgotten it. Where my first edit was to make the rocks the only subject of the scene, now I saw a greater possibility in allowing others to discover as I did twice that there was more beyond!

I considered several things to draw the eye to the sailboat. Some I accepted and others ignored. But it was a self-aware process always focused on what I wanted the viewer to see. As a result of what I decided was most important, I recropped to put the sailboat at precise photo-center and slightly darkened the foreground rocks to emphasize the brighter triangle. Initially I darkened the sky above the rocks; but no matter how subtle that attempt it looked unnatural which ruled out a dark vignette as well. I did slightly frame a lighter edge across the rocks and foreground water, not enough to pull you out of the frame or distract from the central triangle but hopefully enough to build a tunnel of light to pull you further into the frame. The image is still about the rocks but the sailboat is there to be found.

Does it work for you? Use the “please add your comments” box  or link to Facebook to tell me.

Your Eyes See in HDR but the Camera Can’t

(at least, not without your help)

Your eyes see in High Dynamic Range (HDR) but the camera is typically set for one focal distance and exposure. As a result a standard photograph shows only a part of the information in a scene. A photographer can capture high dynamic range images, but in order to capture it you must do more than just release the shutter. By stabilzing the camera in a tripod to insure sharp focus, then taking a series of images with the same aperture opening but different shutter speeds, then blending them together, it’s possible to have a photograph that appears more like what the unaided human eye actually sees. Here’s an example taken inside the 19th century wharf house at the Kjerringoy trading post north of Bodo, Norway.

Kjerringoy, near Bodo, Norway

Wharf House

HDR images let you see into normally dark corners, look inside the glass museum case, and even see mountain scenery far outside and beyond the open window. HDR does justice to this World Heritage Site as well as what the traveler might actually remember from being there. So, how is it done?

I use a Canon dSLR for HDR. By setting auto exposure bracketing (AEB)  1/3, 1/2 or 1 full f-stop between each Av Aperture Priority exposure the camera automatically takes three images. A complex scene like the one above requires six or more evenly spaced exposures which can be achieved by rolling the camera’s Main Dial to the next sequence of f-stops. There are software packages, stand-alone as well as plugins, to “create” the final image. But I prefer to choose the best from each individual exposure and then “paint” that information to a new master layer. Here are some other examples of HDR photography that show the depth of detail beyond a typical photograph.

CLICK an image to see it full-sized, to buy a print, or to send a FREE e-card complements of Light Pixie Studio.

GlassworksUnder GlassKjerringoy, near Bodo, Norway