Just a few days ago my good friend Marcia Myles (SnowAngel Photography), Sinthia (Proprietress of Sinthia's Chicken Palace) and I went on a great hike to Fossil Creek. For those of you that don't know the location, it is a natural spring fed, extremely scenic creek near Camp Verde, Arizona. There are falls, cliffs, greenery, wild flowers and, unfortunately (point of view), lots and lots of people. It is a social gathering place for the college crowd that, all to often, leave their trash behind.
At any rate, an acquaintance recently took an image very similar to the subject one. Two years prior, Marcia had taken a nearly identical image at the same location. Not to be left behind, I took the one posted. Mine, in my own judgement, while not to bad, is the worst of the three. When I posted it on Facebook I even commented about the blown highlights. Enter CK.
CK is my brother and lives in southern California near Ventura. He's a bit of creative genius in his own right. The conversation, via FB postings, ensued between us. It's a bit of an insight into digital imaging that is more fun than informational. I'm hoping it might give you, Dear Reader, food for thought or cause to contact me for more.
The first two lines are commentary about the blown highlights. MM is my friend Marcia, CL is Sinthia.
MM graduated polarizer.....
ATGNIphotoworks Graduated ND filter. Polarizer might have helped, tho.
...then a reference to the drought conditions in California.
CL eat your heart out california!
CK You wouldn't say that if you saw the horrible carnage... entire lawns laid to waste. Dirty cars driving around... horrible I tell you.
CK Go hug a cactus you brute...
CK Nice. Would like to see more time smaller hole for the cotton look and field depth breezes permitting....
ATGNIphotoworks This was a compromise given the harsh ambient light shooting out of a shadowed area and equipment at hand. The highlights were either blown out completely or the cotton effect was lost. Needed the graduated filter on top of a standard ND filter to slow things way down and yet get some depth of field. Your observations are dead on.
CK You got great balance in spite. Didn't fall in either.
CK Now for the jerk question... how big of a bracket did it take? 3, no, 4 cards?
CK sd or other type of memory cards
ATGNIphotoworks My camera uses sd cards and I have a few ranging from 16 to 64 gigs. Normally I shoot with a 32 in place. This gives me over 1000 images in RAW format per card. A typical outing like yesterday netted 150 +- images some of which are "duplicates" and I still had room for over 1000 images.
CK See, that's what I was playing with. Thousand shot brackets and all... "Somewhere in here is a winner, dammit! They can't ALL be like this!"
ATGNIphotoworks Ahhhhhh...got it. Exposure bracketing or High Dynamic Resolution is a process where you anchor your camera to a 500 lb block o' concrete so it don't move and take several identical shots starting under exposed to exposed to over exposed and then stacking the images together in software. When I do it I usually use 5 images 1 full f-stop apart. My friend in Calgary has done as many as 12 images but that's really overkill. The whole idea is pretty basic but the image has to be still or you get ghosting. While ghosting can be removed in a lot of cases, it wouldn't work well here since the water is moving damn fast. I could have taken 10 or so images at varied exposures but each change affects some aspect - motion of the water, depth of field, highlights, shadows, etc. The real solution would have been the two filters...probably. Some of the first shots I took were typically at 1/5th to 1/8th second at f14 or so giving good silk effect on the water, not bad DOF and kept the highlights under control. I was using a .9 ND filter.
CK You have a friend in Calgary?
ATGNIphotoworks More a Facebook acquaintance. She's a portrait/kid photographer. We've never met.
CK I was being cute, my takehome from your entire story about technique and process being that you have a friend in Calgary. I need to come visit you to reurbane (yes, that's a verb) your sense of humor before it considers the Smothers Brothers the height of intellectual mirth... Or possibly knock mine back where it belongs, because I really like the Smothers Brothers...
CK Back when I used to shoot for our magazine I would run into cases where I had only one opportunity to shoot a subject and more often than not it would be in way less than ideal conditions. However, thoroughly impressed by my Nikon digital's (damn they make a lens, don't they?) ability to manufacture light 200 feet inside an unlit coal mine, I'd just set up the pod, lock the arm and hammer away running the full range of exposure variables in the smallest increments available, ending up in a 'bracket' of 30 to 50 shots, one of which would be acceptable. Of some detail of a car on a lift in a dark shop or warehouse, shooting up at the underside.
ATGNIphotoworks Exposure bracketing, aka HDR, is a little different than screwing with all the variables for 50 shots hoping to get 1 right. Invariably you did. HDR takes 3 or more shots with the only variable being exposure. There is also a technique called focus stacking that utilizes aperture variation to tweak the living crap out of depth of field. In theory, if you combine the 2 processes, you'd end up with a perfectly exposed image with near infinity depth of field. Frankly, Id rather take 50 shots and say "I took that image" than submit some hybrid, software generated graphic art albeit one that might prove to be spectacular. As for Nikon lenses, can't comment. No experience. Canon's L series is their flagship glass. Im sure Nikon has good, comparable stuff. My favorite low light prime lens is an 85mm 1.8f. Its primarily a portrait lens and will take candle lit portraits hand held. Im thinking you should maybe get back into this stuff. BTW, tell Kim to Get Well Soon.
CK That is SO cool! Never heard of that before. You have gone light years ahead in this stuff and it seriously shows in your work. Really is pro level. Anywho, I've always felt that Nikon makes excellent glass (took embedded plastic numbers less than 0.030" high inside an Audi trans harness connector and made them look like billboard art) and Kodak had a really good grasp of what WHITE is. Funny story about a Casio I tried for about 90 minutes one day after my Coolpix broke before wrapping the Casio right back up and sending it back... Tried a few shots, all of which were horrible. White came across as an almost pea soup green. Had to get some shots that night for an article due early AM. Ended up taking a picture of my white board under my CRI 99 lights. Printed it out on the color Epson and did a manual white balance adjustment on the result. Shots still sucked, but at least then I could correct in software.
ATGNIphotoworks White balance is probably the only function in my camera that I leave on auto. I've done the custom thing, taken shots like you did of "white" objects, did the 18% grey card thing, used the different light source settings and found that the camera does this just fine without me. Besides, its one less thing to remember. And there is always temp settings to mess with in software. Lighting is a whole 'nother ball game. I have 2 daylight fluorescents, 2 daylight incandescents, and, when the big guns are needed, 2 halogens. All 3 are slightly different temps, i.e., white balance. The fluorescents are umbrella'ed so they get really soft and the halogens are on the other end. We just shot a session with 3 models, at night using lights and a sweet Honda generator. I've taken shots using just a mini-maglite. It's a lot of fun and can be hard work. It can also be very frustrating to spend hours on a session and walk away with little. The term we use is "worthy" as in "worthy to submit for judging". Spent all day at Fossil Creek, 155 shots and I don't think I got anything "worthy". Took 10 minutes, 6 images of the clouds and I think the 1 is worthy. Go figure. Again, maybe you should get back into this. If you haven't shot anything since CoolPix days, you're in for a real treat as to what's available. Give it some thought.