Monthly Archives: August 2007

Sailing On The Sun

So this is my third entry for my “Blown Away” project. I picked this one as my final entry because it has a strong overexposure in the Sun’s reflection off the water.

The photo was taken on the beach at Santa Monica while I was at one of Trevor Carpenter’s photowalks. I took this photo because I liked the simplicity of the small boats on the open water. It also turned out that the harsh reflection of the sun caused a severe overexposure. I wasn’t planning on doing much with this one due to the blown out highlights, but it ended up being a good candidate for my project.

Sailing on the Sun Processing

The JPEG (1) of this photo was really washed out and lifeless, but the processed RAW file (2) made for a good starting point. Before applying any adjustments, I made a copy of the processed RAW layer and applied a Hard Mix Layer Blend (3) at 30% opacity and 30% fill. Then I touched things up a bit with a Curves Adjustment (4) to give a little more contrast. The last step in my processing was sharpening using the Unsharp Mask (5) at 100%, 4 pixels, and a threshold of 2.

Sailing on the Sun

** You can also see this photo on Zooomr and Flickr **

Photo by Brian Auer
08/04/07 Santa Monica, CA
Sailing on the Sun
Konica Minolta Maxxum 7D
Konica Minolta AF DT 18-200
300mm equiv * f/11 * 1/350s * ISO100

Which Camera Brand Are You Loyal To?

A while back, I asked What Type of Camera Do You Shoot With? It turned out that most of us are digital SLR users. And somehow, out of all the questions I’ve asked, I haven’t asked about camera brands. So this week, vote for your brand. If you have more than one brand, vote for the one that you use the most or like the best. If your brand isn’t on the list, add it.

My gut tells me that Canon and Nikon will take the majority of the votes, but maybe you guys will surprise me.

What Camera Brand Are You Loyal To?

Be sure to take a look at last week’s poll on “What Method of Exposure Metering Do You Use?“. It looks like Segment Pattern and Center Weighted metering modes are the most popular, while the Squint and Guess method is least popular (and I’m pretty sure I know who added that answer).

Quick Tip: Keep A Baggie In Your Bag

Weather conditions can be unpredictable at times, and a wet camera is the last thing you want. I keep a one gallon Ziploc bag in my camera bag at all times. My camera bag is water resistant and can take a bit of rain, but it makes me really nervous if I know my camera could be getting wet. My camera and lens will fit inside of the plastic bag, and it serves as an extra layer of security against bad weather.

A Ziploc bag is also a good idea for extreme temperature conditions. If you wear glasses, you know that they’ll get all fogged up when you go from winter weather into a nice warm house. Your camera will do the same, and condensation can lead to damage. Throw the camera in the baggie before you come in, and help ward off some of that moisture.

A one gallon bag doesn’t take up much room in your camera bag, and you never know when you might have a use for it.

Dark Flower

Here’s a photo from way back in 2005. This was in Idaho before I moved out to New Jersey after college. The flowers in this photo are just the run-of-the-mill weeds that grow everywhere. I’m not sure what prompted me to take this photo, but I do know that it was well before I started getting into the technical side of things. This photo sat untouched for a really long time, until I started on one of my black & white kicks. I went through a ton of old photos looking for things that would work as black & white, and this one just happened to turn out.

This is another photo that applies to the Blown Away photography project. The overexposure was created in Photoshop rather than in the camera, but it still has the blown-out characteristics.

Dark Flower Process

The original JPEG (1) really wasn’t anything special and the composition was poor due to the blatant centering of the main subject. So I toyed around with some ideas and I decided that leaving it at center and using a square crop (2) would do it justice. I knew I wanted this one to be black & white, so I tried some different things and I found that the “Infrared” setting in CS3′s Black & White adjustment layer (3) got the photo pretty close to where I wanted it. It’s basically strong yellows and greens with toned down blues and reds. Then I applied a curves adjustment layer (4) to add contrast and give it a little “harder” look. The last step was the addition of vignette and sharpening (5). The noise you see in the photo is all natural — it tends to come out of the works when doing extreme black & white adjustments.

Dark Flower

** You can also see this photo on Zooomr and Flickr **

Photo by Brian Auer
06/05/05 Post Falls, ID
Dark Flower
Konica Minolta DiMAGE Z3
62mm equiv * f/3.5 * 1/60s * ISO50

Link Roundup 08-24-07

  • Creative Commons is Good for Photography
    iSeanReiser
    The reasons why photographers should embrace Creative Commons for their photos.
  • 15 Stunning Images Using Blur to Portray Movement
    digital Photography School
    Shutter speeds between 1/30 and 40 minutes – great collection of images that portray motion.
  • The Dark Side of Photosharing Sites?
    f/1.0
    Are sites like Flickr destroying the appreciation of photography as an art form? an unbiased analysis…
  • Taking Unfocused Photos
    digital Photography School
    Break the rules of photography by taking blurry pictures. You can actually achieve some very pleasing results by adjusting your focus to something away from your subject.
  • Back to Basics – Exposure
    DIY Photography
    This is the first article of the Back to Basics series which tells all about the basics of photography, and it deals with Exposure.
  • How To: Start Shooting RAW
    Sublime Light
    Learn how to process RAW image files from start to finish. What software is available, what you can do, and what you end up with is all covered.

What Method of Exposure Metering Do You Use?

With all this talk about exposure lately, why not keep the momentum going? This week’s poll is a few days delayed due to the “Blown Away Project“, but I think we’ll all live. So I’d like to know what method or mode of exposure metering you all use when photographing. I’ve started the poll with three basic answers, but I’m sure there are other variants out there so feel free to add your answer if it doesn’t fit into one of my three.

The “Segment Pattern” answer applies to most camera default settings. I think a lot of cameras call it “honeycomb” pattern or “multi-something-or-other” segmenting. It’s basically a method that evaluates a majority of the frame and tries to find a good exposure setting. The “Center Weighted” answer is similar to the previous answer, but more emphasis is given to the center of the frame. And the “Spot” answer means that the light is evaluated over a very small area right at center of the frame. So which one do you use?

What Method of Exposure Metering Do You Use?

Also, make sure you check out last week’s poll results where I posed the question of What Movie Should Every Photographer See? Some of the top runners include Baraka, Sin City, and Sleepy Hollow. And in total, there were 15 movies suggested by other photographers. So if you’re tired of nothing being on TV, or if you’ve seen all the new releases, check out this list and go hit the movie store.

Quick Tip: Practical Methods for Overexposure

Keeping up with the theme of overexposure this week, I thought I’d write a little add-on article to my post titled “Should You Expose For Shadows Or Highlights?” And if you’re having a hard time getting started on photos for the “Blown Away Project“, these tips should help you get more comfortable with taking overexposed photos. So here’s how you do it with various types of cameras and settings.

NO MANUAL CONTROLS

Most compact cameras will have to be tricked into overexposing, unless the camera has exposure compensation. If it doesn’t, or if you don’t want to use it, just focus your camera on a dark area before taking a shot of the brighter area. This makes the camera meter it’s exposure for those dark areas. Just make sure you keep holding that focus button down as you move into the shot. Also try to focus on something that is the same distance away as your subject, because you’ll have locked the focus as well as the exposure.

If you have a non-compact camera, you can also use your exposure lock to do the same metering method while freeing up your focus lock.

SOME MANUAL CONTROLS

This category includes things like shutter priority, aperture priority, and even program mode or fully auto mode. If your camera has these types of controls, it probably also has an exposure compensation control. Use your exposure compensation by turning it up to the positive side by a stop or two. This will make the camera expose higher than normal and give you blown out photos.

FULLY MANUAL CONTROLS

If you like to shoot fully manual, you probably also know how to read your light scale or exposure meter in the viewfinder. Of course, to overexpose you want to use settings that make your meter fall to the positive side (usually to the right of zero). If you want to make life a little easier, you can also use the exposure compensation control to shift your scale and make the bar fall on zero when you’ve got the shot properly overexposed.

So those are the basics of overexposing a photo, now get out there and try it out. It’s an interesting activity when you don’t expect your previews to look the way you saw it through the viewfinder. You can’t tell what you got until you check it out on the LCD because a blown out photo sometimes looks much different than the real life scene.

Blown

So I finally inspired myself to process this photo of the crow. After my article on exposure and after looking through gobs of underexposed and overexposed photos on Flickr, it put me in the mood for doing some blown out highlights. The article also inspired me to start up a group project called “Blown Away“, which asks readers to post an overexposed photo they’ve taken. So here’s one of my entries for the project.

This photo was taken at the Petrified Forest, and it was really just an accident. I was going for the bird, but I wasn’t really going for overexposure of the background — my camera just happened to meter that way. So because of that, it’s the only shot I took with these exposure settings. I’m a little disappointed that I centered the bird in my rush to get a shot before it flew away, so I ended up cropping the image for better composition.

Blown Process

The JPEG (1) was seriously blown out, but that’s what we’re going for here. When I did the RAW processing (2) in ACR, I could have actually saved much of the highlights due to the fact that RAW images tend to have a slightly larger dynamic range than camera-processed JPEGs. But I left the highlights blown out, and I actually warmed up the photo a bit to add a little mood to it — I wanted it to have that warm yellowish-brown look. The first thing I did in CS3 was a color burn layer blend (3) at 50% opacity and 50% fill. This made the photo look a bit more harsh with sharper contrasts and more saturated colors. I then applied a curves adjustment layer (4) to bring the highlights and midtones back up a notch because the blend was a little much in certain areas. The last step was sharpening via the Unsharp Mask (5) at 183%, 3.7 pixels, and a threshold of 2. The sharpening was more extreme than I would usually do, but I liked the look it gave it.

Blown

** You can also see this photo on Flickr **

Photo by Brian Auer
07/13/07 Petrified Forest, AZ
Blown
Konica Minolta Maxxum 7D
Konica Minolta AF DT 18-200
300mm equiv * f/6.7 * 1/90s * ISO100

PHOTOGRAPHY PROJECT: Blown Away

UPDATE: The entry form for this project has been closed. Results can be found on the PROJECT RESULTS page. Go take a look at the entries — there are some pretty amazing images in there.

It’s that time again! Time to participate in a super-fun project here at Epic Edits. The last project on reader websites went pretty good, so I can’t imagine that you guys would let me down now. This one’s going to take a little more effort on your part though.

WHAT’S THIS ALL ABOUT?

The topic is overexposure and the subject is a photo of yours. I want you to post a photo that exhibits overexposure, or blown-out highlights. If you need further definition or examples, visit my recent post titled “Should You Expose For Shadows Or Highlights?“. The image can be overexposed by the camera (which is really the intent of this project), or through post-processing.

HOW DO I PARTICIPATE?

This project is open to anybody. Your entry will be in the form of a photo and optional text items, but just one photo. If you have your own blog or website, use it to publish your entry. Post the photo and tell us about it — how you did it, why you did it, what it means to you, or any other thing you’d like. If you don’t have your own site, you may also post your entry on a site like Flickr or Zooomr. These types of sites allow you to post photos and add titles, descriptions, keywords, geotags, comments, etc.

So after you post your photo

  1. Go to the Entry Form.
  2. Fill it out.
  3. And wait for the results on September 4th.
  • DEADLINE: September 1st, 2007

Just like with the last project, DON’T SUBMIT YOUR ENTRIES IN THE COMMENTS!!! Use the form; that’s why I made it. Limit your entry to one photo per person. After the project comes to an end, I’ll gather up all the photos and links and I’ll post all of them in an article. I plan on using a 150 pixel thumbnail image to link to your original photo/article. With each image, I’ll also list the title of the photo and your name.

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN IT’S OVER?

Once I post the final list, you will all have the option of posting other participants’ thumbnail images and links. You can post the images (with credits), text links, or any other creative method of linking out — just as long as you give credit to the photographer. You can post the entire list, you can post your favorites, or you can post none. It’s up to you. You can also link back to my final list if you don’t want to repost all the images, but it’s not a requirement.

This should be kind of a fun project, so have a good time with it. Blown out images aren’t typically “normal” or “natural” looking, so get creative with the camera and with Photoshop and turn on your artistic side.

NOW TAKE ME TO THE ENTRY FORM!!!

Should You Expose For Shadows Or Highlights?

I guess the answer to this question can only come from the photographer taking the shot. Really, you should expose for whatever helps you capture your vision of the scene in front of you. I’ve seen great photos that were taken underexposed, overexposed, and perfectly exposed — but the photos were great because they captured the artist’s intent.

Expose For Shadows Or Highlights?

It’s generally accepted that digital photographers should expose for the highlights in order to keep things from getting blown out. It’s generally a good rule of thumb because pure white pixels tend to be more distracting than pure black pixels — but there are always exceptions. I’ve also heard once or twice that film photographers should expose for the shadows because the film can be processed in such a way that the highlights can be somewhat revived — I have no idea if that’s totally true, but maybe a film buff can set us straight in the comments.

Regardless, these are general rules and you’re probably better off knowing the story behind the root issues than taking advice from a rule of thumb. The intent of this article is only to provide information that can be used to make decisions about exposure in harsh lighting conditions. So here we go…

WHY DO YOU HAVE TO CHOOSE BETWEEN THE TWO?

Film and digital sensors make a record of light intensity. Bright light is recorded at a high intensity, while dim light is recorded at low intensity. Film and sensors have a limited ability to record light, and they can only capture light between certain intensities. If there is not enough light to register, you end up with black. If there is too much light, you end up with white. These high and low thresholds make up what’s called the dynamic range (definition by Jim Goldstein) of the medium.

WHAT DOES DYNAMIC RANGE HAVE TO DO WITH IT?

When you photograph a scene that contains light intensities beyond the dynamic range, you end up clipping one or both sides of the range. You can see when this happens by checking your image histogram for clipped values. This usually occurs in harsh lighting conditions such as bright sunlight. At this point, no matter what you do to your f-number, shutter speed, or medium sensitivity, you still have the same dynamic range. One option to deal with this issue is to use HDR techniques (which I won’t get into here) so that the entire range can be captured. The other option is to shift your exposure and try to minimize the damage.

WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN EXPOSURE METHODS?

Glowing Daffodil

Well, you actually have three buckets to choose from when it comes to shifting your exposure: preserve the highlights, preserve the shadows, or throw both out the window and expose for mid-tones. All three options will result in a different image, and each has it’s positive and negative characteristics. As the artist, you have to decide what you want the photo to look like, and how to go about making that happen.

To assist with visualizing all this stuff about dynamic range, highlights, shadows, light intensity, clipping, HDR, etc. I’ll use an analogy to bring it to something a little more tangible. Imagine that you’re standing on the peak of a small mountain surrounded by beautiful scenery. You have your camera, but you only brought your fixed focal length lens. You want to capture a part of the scene before you, but when you look through the camera you realize that you can’t get the whole scene in one shot — your viewing angle isn’t wide enough! What to do? You can’t move off the mountain peak because then it will be in the way of your scene, and you can’t switch to a wider lens because you didn’t bring your camera bag.

Keep this analogy in mind and I’ll come back to it as I discuss exposure options. In the analogy, the scene represents the full range of light intensity you want to capture, the lens represents your film or sensor, the viewing angle of the lens represents the dynamic range of your film or sensor, and your aim represents exposure.

EXPOSING FOR THE SHADOWS

  • What It Means
    If you “expose for the shadows”, you’re choosing to preserve the low light region of your exposure. When you look at the histogram, you won’t see any clipping on the left side. Essentially, you’re shifting the light toward the highlights, thus making a brighter image.
  • How You Do It
    To shift your exposure for the shadows, you can use a slower shutter speed, decrease your f-number (aka increase your aperture size), and/or increase your medium sensitivity (aka ISO or film speed).
  • Positives
    This method preserves the detail in the dark regions of the image, so you won’t end up with pitch black pixels and you won’t lose texture detail in the dark regions.
  • Negatives
    While you maintain detail in the shadows, you also force less detail preservation in the highlights. You’ll end up with pure white pixels that no amount of Photoshop can bring back to life.
  • The Analogy
    Back to our beautiful mountain scene, you decided to point your camera to the left of center scene. You included the left-most edge of what you wanted to capture, but you had to leave out a chunk of the right edge.

EXPOSING FOR THE HIGHLIGHTS

  • What It Means
    If you “expose for the highlights”, you’re choosing to preserve the high intensity light region of your exposure. Looking at the histogram shows that there is no clipping on the right side. You’ve shifted the light toward the shadows, thus making a darker image.
  • How You Do It
    To shift your exposure for the highlights, you can use a faster shutter speed, increase your f-number, and/or decrease your medium sensitivity.
  • Positives
    Opposite from the last example, this method preserves the detail in the bright regions of the image. You won’t have any pure white pixels, and you’ll retain texture detail.
  • Negatives
    Keeping those puffy white clouds from blowing out has caused your shadows to be plummeted into darkness — pitch black. Just like with overblown highlights, you can’t bring them back with Photoshop.
  • The Analogy
    In the last example, you turned left. But in this example, you turned right. You decided to capture the right-most edge of the scene and let the left side get cropped out.

EXPOSING FOR THE MID-TONES

  • What It Means
    If you “expose for the mid-tones”, you’re choosing to exclude the high and low intensity light from your image. The histogram will reveal that the left and right side are clipped.
  • How You Do It
    The same methods apply from above to shutter speed, f-number, and ISO. You just shift up or down until you have a centered exposure.
  • Positives
    The shadows and highlights won’t be clipped as severely as in the previous two examples.
  • Negatives
    The shadows and highlights are both clipped, and you lose information on both sides of the spectrum. The image will contain pure black and pure white pixels at the same time (just in different spots).
  • The Analogy
    Rather than turning left or right, you decide to shoot right down the center of the scene. You lose a bit of scenery on both sides, but it’s not as severe.

EXTENDING YOUR DYNAMIC RANGE

  • What It Means
    Just because you can’t capture all the light values in one shot doesn’t mean that you can’t capture them. Taking multiple exposures by shooting for the highlights, shadows, and mid-tones will allow you to combine the information during post-processing via HDR imaging (High Dynamic Range). You effectively widen the dynamic range of the sensor or film by splitting it up into several shots.
  • How You Do It
    Use the same methods from above to get all the exposures you need in order to include the entire light intensity range. Just remember to use your tripod. The best method for shifting exposure is accomplished by varying your shutter speed — a change in f-number will effect your depth of field, and a change in ISO value will effect your noise levels.
  • Positives
    No clipping! You get the entire range of light.
  • Negatives
    It takes a bit of post-processing to achieve really good HDR results. When poorly done, it looks worse than blown out highlights. Even when done well, the resulting photo typically has an unnatural look and feel to it — but maybe tha’s what you’re going for.
  • The Analogy
    From your mountain peak, you decide that you want to capture the entire scene and you don’t want to leave anything out. So take two or three overlapping shots and use software to stitch them together as a panorama.

GETTING CREATIVE WITH WHAT YOU HAVE

  • What It Means
    Rather than taking harsh lighting conditions as an impedance to your photography, use it to your advantage. Get creative.
  • How You Do It
    Check out Andrew’s articles on How to Take Great Photos at High Noon — he has some great tips.
  • Positives
    It’s fun and you get to enjoy yourself.
  • Negatives
    You have to use your brain.
  • The Analogy
    Get off your mountain peak and go take pictures of something else!

SO WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

It means that you should have a basic understanding of how to control exposure and the effects of clipped histograms. Or maybe it means that you should have a battle plan for harsh lighting conditions. Or maybe it means that you should learn HDR techniques. Or maybe it means that you should learn to be more creative.

Or maybe it’s just information… now go take some pictures.