Skip to main content

"Beachwalker"


This shot at Ipperwash Beach, Ontario, demonstrates the limitations of your camera's light meter (and also of this photographer!). Most scenes contain areas of widely varying "luminance" (a technical term roughly equivalent to "brightness"). In this shot you have the bright whitecaps and clouds, and the much darker sky, water and sand.

Your eye makes sense of it all, but the light meter only computes the average value of brightness in the scene. So for example when you shoot a snow-covered landscape - a scene dominated by brightness - your camera's "automatic" setting makes the snow look gray. The meter is programmed to set an exposure that brings the average level of light in the scene down to a predetermined level.

I was concerned about the opposite effect here - i.e. that the dominance of dark areas would cause overexposure the light areas - the clouds and whitecaps. So I set the exposure in the BEFORE image a couple of f-stops lower than the meter reading. But I went too far, because the whole image - even the light areas - is underexposed.



In the RAW file I corrected the exposure while keeping an eye on the luminance histogram showing the distribution of luminance across the full range of tones (from darkest to brightest). The histogram told me I was slightly overexposing the whitecaps - which I wasn't worried about because there wasn't a lot of detail in them to be preserved anyway. The benefit of doing this was getting a desirable amount of brightness in the rest of the AFTER image.

Brightening the image washed out the color of the man's red shirt, so I isolated the shirt and increased vibrancy in that area only.

The BEFORE image had a slight tilt downward to the left. I corrected this with a horizon adjustment. I also corrected a slight bluish color cast in the BEFORE image with a color temperature adjustment. I cropped from the bottom to reduce uninteresting foreground.

Notice how pronounced the vignetting (darkening around the edges) is in the BEFORE image. This was easily corrected with a vignetting adjustment to the RAW file.

To create the dreamy effect of the blurred, headless man, I set a shutter speed of 1/3 of a second.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

"Bog"

There's a beautiful peat bog at the eastern edge of my home city of Ottawa that I visit often. On this day the bulrushes were swaying in a westerly wind and the scene was lit by the low-angled autumn sun. To capture the motion of the windswept bulrushes I set a shutter speed of 1/4 second. The trees in the background were relatively motionless but no matter how hard I tried I couldn't capture them in sharp focus with the slow shutter speed. This mattered because I wanted to contrast the blur of the bulrushes with the sharp stillness of the trees. Maybe the elevated boardwalk I stood on was vibrating slightly. Who knows? Point was, I needed an easy solution. I took a second exposure (not shown here) at a fast shutter speed to freeze the trees. In photoshop I combined the top part of the the fast-shutter image with the bottom part of the slow-shutter image. I had used a neutral density filter for the slow-shutter image, and removed the filter for the fast-shutter i

"Boat Tour"

On a boat tour of Western Brook Pond in western Newfoundland two women focused on the spectacular scenery while I focused on them. The pastel colors of their windbreakers contrasted with each other and with the natural tones of the land, water and sky. The image tells a strong, simple story: two people awestruck by 600 meter (2000 foot) cliffs towering over a remote, pristine lake. This image required less work than many of the others featured in this blog. It's a good example of how even relatively modest adjustments can transform a photograph from merely "interesting" to "worthy of displaying". I wanted to separate the women from the landscape - make each part of the image stand out in its own right. I was taken by the colors and textures of the jackets so I increased vibrancy a little to bring out the color and used  fine-contrast and tone curve adjustments to  highlight the fabric's folds and shadows. I added drama to the background through t

"Tulips"

Tulips on a white kitchen table with soft natural light from a north-facing window - excellent potential for a still-life photograph. As I did with the image in yesterday's post, I broke this image into two pieces, worked on them separately, and then blended the two pieces back together. As you can easily guess, the two pieces were "the tulips" and "everything else". The key was to make the tulips shine (literally!) and to separate them from the rest of the frame. I used exposure and tone curve adjustments brighten the tulips and add contrast. I used fine-contrast adjustments to bring out detail in the leaves and flowers.  I added a bit of vibrancy to the tulips to accentuate the contrast between the colorfulness of the flowers and the grayscale tones of everything else in the frame. The background was already slightly blurred in the BEFORE image, and I softened the focus further with fine-contrast adjustments. I also used a tone curve adjustment t