Archive for February, 2009

28
Feb
09

2/28/2009

Scots Weather along the A82

Scots Weather along the A82

One of the hardest things to photograph is weather. Atmospheric effects. Fog. You see things with the eye in weather that you just can’t capture in an image.

But you can try.

This valley along the A82 in the Highlands somewhere between Glasgow and Skye was filled with the coming storm, or passing storm on that day, and I was after the veiling effect of the cloud against the mountains on the far side, and that little bit of sun (almost…well at least a lightening in the atmosphere) ¬†creeping up the valley ahead of the cloud.

With a shot like this, you do your best in camera but you know that most of the work will be done in post. I counted on the Recovery slider in Lightroom to let me pull detail from the veiling cloud and shot on Programed Auto. As it was, the image required both Recovery, and some fill light, as well as a bit of adjustment of the curve at the high end to balance the light for this effect. I also moved the black point slightly to the right to add intensity. Some Vibrance and Clarity in the Presence panel, and a touch of added saturation for the yellows in the HSL panel. Landscape sharpen preset.

I also applied a slight crop at the left and top…left to eliminate a bit of road and two cars, and then top to balance the composition. This had the advantage of shifting the little grove of trees in the mid-ground off center, which I like.

With all that I got close to what I was after. Close enough. With weather, that is about as close as you get. If I stand back from the memory and just look at the image, I like it!

From Scotland.

PS.

After some comments, especially concerning hot white area at the upper left (fully saturated) I decided to take another crack at post-processing this image in LightZone. If you don’t know LightZone, it is wonderful tone mapping program, with some very unique features and abilities, not to mention a powerful set of styles: presets which make major effects possible in a single click of the mouse. Though it is designed, like Lightroom for that matter, to work primarily with RAW files, it does wonders for jpegs, if there is enough data in the file. In addition to dealing very effectively with a wide range of light values, it provides local contrast enhancement which can bring out a startling amount of detail in a landscape, pumping up the molding or modeling of even small details until they look much more 3 dimensional.

Take a look at the image below and compare it to the Lightroom version above. In a single click of the “relight” button, LightZone shifted the tone values to bring the burned out white area in the upper left back, but there was evidently enough information even in the burn to provide shading, so that the area was not filled with solid gray. The light now flows naturally from dense cloud cover in the right to misty cloud on the left. I used LightZones sharpen and color tools (adding some luminance and saturation), and finally applied a second relight to pull up shadow values and deepen the molding of details. The result is impressive. Not necessarily more true to life, but certainly striking.

 

LightZone Version

LightZone Version

For a larger view, click the image.

S. Ingraham

27
Feb
09

2/27/2009

Sheeps Bit

Sheep's Bit

Taken at my feet right after the shot from yesterday. I was standing in wildflowers (another reason I was not eager to move around much). This is Sheep Bit, which we saw all through the Highlands, and on the Hebrides.

The H50, with its tip-out, articulated LCD panel, allows for extreme low shots, and the 2 cm close focus makes for interesting macros. With shots like this, you have to pay attention to what is in the background. I have a wider shot of the same flower which I like, but I will have to go back and edit out some tallish weed behind the flower, breaking the skyline, to be completely happy with it. This works for me. The fence pulls the eye a bit, but the flower is a strong subject, and placed right at the upper left powerpoint of the image, so that it holds focus. I find the bokeh interesting as well, with what amounts to a swirl of pink clover caused by the shape of the hill.

Sony DSC H50 at full wide (31mm equivalent), at about closest focus (2 cm from the flower). F4.0 @ 1/250 @ ISO 100. Programed Auto.

In Lightroom, I used the Recovery slider to put some drama back into the sky, and some Fill Light to pick up the purples in the flower. I moved the black point to the right to add intensity, and used both Clarity and Vibrance in the Presence panel. Landscape sharpen preset.

From Scotland.

26
Feb
09

2/26a/2009

Loch Lochy Improved?

Loch Lochy Improved?

After a few comments on today’s Pic of the Day, please see Loch Lochy, I decided to edit out the gravel heap and tree in the center, just to see how it looked? I used the clone tool in Photoshop Elements 7.0 and carefully painted out the both the pile and the tree.

What do you think?

It is certainly a different image. I am not sure which I like best.

See it larger here. Loch Lochy Improved.

And for a really extreme tweak, take a look at this.

26
Feb
09

2/26/2009

Loch Lochy

Loch Lochy

I thought we might dip back into my images from Scotland for a few days here, while I am at home working. My trip to Scotland for 4 days in late August last summer was one of the most amazing and photographically rewarding intervals in my life so far. 1400 miles in 4 days, with a full day on the Hebrides.

This is Loch Lochy, near as I can tell from the map, one of the highland lochs along the road from Glasgow to Skye on what might, at least by my experience, be a typical Scottish summer day. We stopped just long enough for me to pop out of the passenger seat and grab a few shots, as we had a ferry to catch at the end of the day. Still, I could not pass this view up. The brooding sky, the wind ruffled water, the intense green of the foreground and the misty blues of the mountains in the back, all under folded gray…it has a lot of atmosphere. Even the heap of gravel on the shoreline can not diminish the grandeur.

Shooting in Scotland, the most difficult challenge is balancing sky and land, both in a composition sense and in an exposure sense. You don’t want to lose the amazing drama of the sky, but you need to get enough light on the landscape to capture the greatness there too. Lightroom helps, in that I can shoot higher exposures for the land values, and pull back the sky using the Recovery tool. I am always amazed at how much detail there is in the light areas of a digital file if adjusted correctly. And I am working with jpegs. I am sure there is even more in a RAW file.

Sony DSC H50 at full wide angle (31mm equivalent). F4.5 @ 1/250th @ ISO 100. Programed Auto.

It is from the Scotland gallery.

25
Feb
09

2/25/2009

Rockys Tail

Rockies Tail

Sandia Crest is a famous birding destination. It is one of the few places in North America where you can reliably see at least two species of Rosy Finch, and often all three, in a single day. For a birder, no visit to Albuquerque is complete without the drive to Sandia Crest.

Sandia Crest is also the last major peak at the southern tip of the Rocky Mountains. From the crest, looking south, you can see the Rockies tail, so to speak, winding down one side of the Rio Grande Valley.

This is a difficult shot. There was a lot of haze in the air, and a heavy cloud cap to the south, and the mountains just kind of disappeared into the gray. Visually, there was significant detail, enough to make an interesting image, but I knew that the camera would catch mostly scattered light from the water in the air, hiding the distant detail. I also knew, from past experience shooting on similar days, that the scattered light is mostly blue light, and that, in Lightroom, I could lower the luminance of the blue channel in the finely divided luminance controls provided, and recapture much of that detail.

The image still shows more haze than I would like, but who knows when I will get back to Sandia Crest, and it is still as satisfying record of a magnificent and particularly significant view.

And, yes I did see the Rosy Finches: All three species, feeding on the deck outside the window, while I sipped tea and ate a breakfast muffin at the Sandia Crest House. It doesn’t get any better than that.

Sony DSC H50 at about 45mm equivalent. F6.3 @ 1/320 @ ISO 100. Programed Auto.

In Lightroom, as I mentioned above, I first reduced the luminance of the blue channel in the Color panel, which restored much of the detail that otherwise was lost in the haze of scattered light. Added Clarity and Vibrance, and used the Sharpen landscapes preset. I pushed the Contrast up a bit.

From Albuquerque.

This is, by the way, my 100th Pic of the Day! Pic of the Day has gotten over 11,000 views since I started it in December. Thank you all.

24
Feb
09

2/24/2009

Blind

Blind

Bosque del Apache in one of may favorite places for bird photography: in November. A trip down while in Albuquerque this past week was, not exactly disappointing (Bosque will never disappoint) but a lot more subdued than I expected. Most of the wintering birds had left and the summer (breeding) birds have not arrived. Very slow on the tour loop.

This image presented itself at the photo blind (in lue of the birds I suppose). I had almost walked away without taking anything, in my focus on what I expected to see, when stepped back a really looked at what was there. I should learn to do that more often.

I was not sure I could get satisfying focus on both the wood of the frame and the view beyond without resorting to Program Shift, but the first exposure on Programed Auto looked fine on the lcd and turned out to be almost exactly what I envisioned.

In post processing, I noticed the shadow of the tree on the water…that makes the image, and I was, at best, only partially conscious of it while shooting.

Sony DSC H50 at full wide (31mm equivalent). F5.6 @ 1/640th @ ISO 100. Programed Auto.

Vibrance and Clarity in the Presence panel and Landscape sharpen…but I also use Fill Light to lighten the shadow on the wood and reveal more of the detail there.

From Bosque del Apache

23
Feb
09

2/23/2009

Southwest Sun

Southwest Sun

This is my last day in Albuquerque. I am heading home to a late winter snowstorm and all that comes with it, so…

One more sun and hot chile shot. Just a corner of a building glimpsed down a passage to small interior plaza off the main streets in Old Town, but the typical riot of New Mexico color and form. I especially like the flower head molded into the adobe. This is another sunset shot, the lower floor of this building was already in shadow, and the warmth of the light adds to the character of the image.

[Dan from Albuquerque tells this story about the flower shape, which is apparently a common Albuquerque decoration. It is made by repeatedly pressing a watermelon into the still wet adobe. This makes it an interesting visual pun, since the original Spanish immigrants to the area named the mountains that dominate the Albuquerque skyline “Sandia” (watermelon in Spanish) because the color of the range in the sunset reminded them of watermelon. Interesting! Thank you Dan for the story.]

Sony DSC H50 zoomed out to about 140mm for cropping. F4.0 @ 1/160th at ISO 100. Programed Auto.

In Lightroom, I added Clarity and Vibrance in the Presence panel, and used the Sharpen landscapes preset. I also, since this is really about color, pulled the black point up a bit and added just a tiny amount of saturation.

From Albuquerque.