Posts Tagged ‘digital’

Mastering Exposure – Expose to the Right

November 16th, 2013

Over the years there has been a lot of interest in the concept of ‘Expose to the right.’  This is something that is commonly done in digital photography where you intentionally overexpose an image.  The idea is that in digital images there is more information to work with in the brighter tonalities than there is in the darker.  And this will give you more to work with in the darkroom (Lightroom and Photoshop) which will result in a better image.

I’ve written several posts on this topic and if the concept is new to you please read these.  I’m not going to go into the theory here; that is spelled out in these posts.

Lightroom Tutorial – Expose to the Right

Expose to the right – Revisited

Now, I understand the theory.  I’m a computer guy; I had better understand it.  But I’ve always wondered if the promise of a better image actually worked out in real life.  So I did a test during our recent photography workshop to Big Sur.

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Color Management Made Simple – From Camera to Computer

June 21st, 2013

If Color Space can be described as a box of Crayons as we suggested in  Color Management Made Simple – Color Space,  what else do we need to know about Color Management?  Well, Color Management is essentially about getting the right colors – and here’s the most important word – consistently.

Let’s spend a few moments talking about the ‘right color.’  (I’m inclined to add, ‘whatever that is.’)  The story begins when you press the shutter.  Let’s suppose you are photographing the beautiful redwoods of Northern California.

redwoods_130528__SM36093_4_5_6_7-Edit

The scene is full of rich browns and oranges and vibrant greens.  We can say that these are the right colors, these are the colors you want.  You set up your camera and snap a picture and your sensor captures these colors, pretty much just as they are (the sensor is playing with pretty much the full big box of 120 Crayons). The camera’s processor does its thing and the image is saved in a file to your memory card.  Eventually we’re going to view the photograph on our computer’s monitor and we just might be a bit disappointed.

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Is HDR a Four Letter Word?

November 17th, 2012

HDR.  Many people respond to those three letters in shock and disgust.  For them, HDR is synonymous with over the top processed images.  It embodies all that they think is wrong with digital photography and the implied MANIPULATION that goes with it.  It is a shocking insult on reality.

I’ve heard of photography contests that strictly forbid HDR and insist that all the photographs that are submitted be a single exposure.  I’ve judged photography competitions in which the other judges viewed an HDR image that was just slightly over the top and felt it should be placed in the Manipulated category.

But the letters HDR stand for High Dynamic Range.  Nothing sinister about that.  It’s a situation frequently encountered when out photographing.  That’s when the dynamic range of the scene, the difference between the darkest and brightest spots in the scene, is greater than the dynamic range our camera’s sensor is capable of capturing.  When we encounter this situation we’re going to get clipping where the highlights or shadows or both lack detail, are blank.  This is not a desirable situation.  If there’s anything that’s shocking here it’s that the camera, that supposedly great recorder of reality, does not, cannot see what our eyes see.  So what can be done about that?

Well, if you’re shooting color film the answer is simple. Nothing.  Move on.  You’ll never be able to capture high dynamic range images on color film (without clipping) no matter how beautiful they are.  If you are shooting black and white you can do what Ansel Adams did – water bath development.  He exposed for the shadows and adjusted his development process and chemicals to get a proper development of his highlights.  Sounds to me like he’s doing what we digital photographers do with HDR – adjusting the process to capture the full dynamic range (Read “How Ansel Adams did HDR”)

If you’re a digital photographer you can use the HDR technique – capture two or more images with bracketed exposures that span the dynamic range and then blend them together using software like PhotoMatix Pro.  So where’s the problem?  I mean, doesn’t that sound like a good thing, taking photographs we weren’t able to do at all with color film or with great difficulty with black and white?

But somehow HDR has become a four letter word in some circles.  It’s become synonymous with that word that is so offensive to some – MANIPULATION.  HDR images are manipulated images.  Never mind that HDR can be used to create photographs that are a lot more like what our eyes see than what our cameras are even remotely capable of capturing. 

Many of these same people that think that HDR is a four letter word are also prone to look down their noses and ask, “Did you PHOTOSHOP that picture.”  Yes, with Photoshop we can easily drop in moons that weren’t there.  And our photographs are cheap because of that.  But it was OK in the days of film when the masters that we so admire did it.  What’s the difference?  Is it that it was hard when you did it with film and therefore to be admired but it’s easy with Photoshop?  Don’t know.  Could be.

And with HDR a similar thing might be happening.  With the software tools that are available you don’t have to settle for recreating what our eyes saw, you can take your images over the top, give them that grunge look.  Or that painterly look.  It’s up to you and your vision.

Now, for the record (not that it’s important) I choose not to go for the grunge or painterly look in PhotoMatix Pro.  I prefer to control the dynamic range, remove highlight clipping and return an image to Lightroom that I can continue to work on.  And when it comes to moons in my  photographs I prefer to be there when the full moon comes up behind my  favorite bristlecone pine.  It’s a lot more fun that way.

But I have no argument with those that drop moons or cloudy skies or whatnot in their photographs.  And I have no argument with those that choose to express themselves with grunge HDR images.  I readily confess that some of them are extremely effective with the grunge look.  That’s just not my style, not my personality. 

The only thing I think we all owe our viewers is to be honest about it.  When people come into my booth at an art festival and ask if I manipulate or Photoshop my photographs I  answer, “Of course.”  I often go on to say, “Let me put it this way.  I approach photography from the mindset of a painter.  I want to have all the creative freedom a painter would have.’”  And more than once, they have responded, “Oh, I get it.  You’re an artist.” 

Smile

Love it when that happens.


What do you think of HDR?  What do you think of manipulation in Photoshop?  Leave a comment.  We’d love to hear your opinion. 

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How Ansel Adams Did HDR

August 13th, 2012

High dynamic range (or HDR) is a condition frequently encountered by landscape photographers where the digital camera’s sensor cannot handle the dynamic range of the scene.  In other words, the scene has very bright highlights with areas of deep shadow.  The resulting image will have clipped highlights (highlights that are pure white with no detail), clipped shadows (shadows that are pure black with no detail or at best, muddy) or both.

In digital photography we have several options including HDR, the techniques whereby we take multiple shots at varying exposures.  The most underexposed image will capture the highlights and the most overexposed image will capture the shadows.  Then we blend them all together with software like PhotoMatix Pro.  The result is an image with bright highlights that still have detail and dark, crisp shadows, also with detail.

But what do film photographers do when they face this same situation?  After all, film may not be able to capture the dynamic range of the scene any better than digital can.  And with film there is not the option of taking multiple shots at different exposures and blending the negatives together.

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Santiago Fire Aftermath – 2 months

December 23rd, 2007

Last night marked two months since the fire came through our ‘back yard.’  Since then we’ve had about four inches of rain.  In fact, there was more rain in one storm than all of last year.  As a result the scorched hills are starting to turn green.  We’ve seen crop duster planes flying over the foothills and mountains seeding the slopes to help control erosion.

Last night’s sunset was spectacular!

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What Constitutes a Fine Art Photograph?

December 8th, 2007

At shows I’m frequently asked the following questions:  “Do you use filters?”  “Do you enhance these photographs?”  “Are these colors real?”

 

The answer is simply, “Of course.”  But I often want to respond, “If these were paintings would you be asking me whether the colors are real?  Or would there be an assumption that as a painter I interpreted the scene before me and selected the colors that contributed to my artistic vision?”  This leads to another question.  “As an artist, is a photographer any less free to express her feeling by whatever means the medium allows,  Is a photographer expected to hold to a different standard than a painter, sculptor, poet, novelist or composer?”  So, “Of course” is the simple answer but there is oh so much more behind it.

 

A follow up comment I often make is something to the effect that there are many, many hours that go into each photograph to get it to express my artistic vision.  Sometimes there are as many as 30 or 40 hours often spread out over a period of months or even years.  If we snapped a picture and took it down to Costco for a print would it be fair to call it fine art?  Or, if it took a photographer any less time to created a fine art print that it did a painter to create a painting, would it be fair to call that fine art?

 

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