Archive for August 15th, 2009



Deep in the Green

Deep in the Green

Emmon’s Preserve, managed by the Kennebunk Land Trust, is one of my favorite places to photograph. It is also one of the most difficult. A river runs through it ­čśë under a solid canopy of maples and pines, and depending on the weather can be anything from a trickle down over rocks and through pools to a raging torrent. The light is very tricky. Lots of shadow, from open to deep, and shafts of full sun illumination random patches of┬ávegetation, a rock here and there, and select passages in the stream…often a single curl of water around a stone. It is any exposure system’s worst nightmare. Then too, the light is green in the shadows which gives most white balance automation fits.

And it is beautiful with an almost mystical beauty.

So I go back again and again to try again and again to capture what I see and feel there…with never any more than limited success.

This shot comes from an area of the Preserve I only discovered on my last visit. I don’t know how I missed it all these years, but a side trail loops up over a small ridge and comes back down to the river above the rapids and pools I know so well. This section is quieter, but with its own beauty.

Sony DCS H50 at full wide (31mm equivalent). F3.2 @ 1/60th @ ISO 100. Programed auto with -.7EV exposure compensation to tame the highlights.

Even with the exposure compensation, an image like this requires post-processing. Heavy Recovery was needed to bring out any detail in the brighter areas back among the trees, and Fill Light was needed to open the shadows. Added Clarity and Vibrance and Landscape sharpen.

I have mentioned before that post-processing in situations like this is not used to save an incorrectly exposed image. In the field you expose the image knowing what you can and will do to it in Lightroom. You expose it differently than you might if Lightroom were not available. -.7 EV is not enough to bring out detail in the highlights, and yet it makes the shadows too dark, obscuring detail there. -.7EV is, however, the correct place to begin expanding the dynamic range with the tools available in Lightroom. All but the brightest highlights can be brought back in range by Recovery, and the Fill Light tool does a good job of selectively opening the shadows. You have to know this when making the exposure in the field. In a sense you see the image as it will be after post-processing, and expose for that.

It is easier than it sounds, since, with the EV adjustment, the Programed auto on the H50 produces an excellent, well balanced, beginning exposure. If I ever switch cameras (realistically when I switch cameras) I am going to have to learn to do this all over again.

And Emmon’s Preserve is there, always willing to teach me.

[An expanded version of this post, with more on learning to expose for post, will appear on Point and Shoot Landscape in the next few days.]