Archive for September, 2010

30
Sep
10

9/30/2010: Fog on the Cliffs of Quoddy Head

Fog is difficult to photograph, since the scattered light within the fog itself makes it photographically bright, though it has the opposite effect to the natural eye. A bank of fog almost always comes out as a white indistinct mass in an image. If you expose for the fog, to keep it natural, then the landscape under it goes dark and muddy. Seems like an ideal situation for HDR…kind of. I tried several shots on the cliffs of Quoddy Head to test the effect. As always with HDR, I’d have done better with a tripod…especially as the base exposures all had show shutter speeds due to the overall low level of the light. I did get a few shots that worked though, like the one above.

A secondary problem, if you go the HDR route, is Photomatix’s inability to blend exposures where fine detail masks an open sky…trees against the sky are particularly difficult for the app…and you almost always get a light halo around limbs and leaves where the lighter exposure shows through. Changing the smoothing setting can help in making this less obvious but in this image it still shows somewhat in the trees in the upper right.

The other way to work the fog is to use Revovery and Fill Light in Lightroom, along with some filter trickery. This shot is not HDR, but I was able to extend the range and keep the fog semi-transparent, by using heavy Recovery, which reduces the highlights in an image without effecting the rest of the tones. Fill Light for the foreground allows me to move the Blackpoint right to increase color depth and contrast. Finally, in this case, the fog in the upper left corner was totally blown out and distractingly white…so I went in with a Local Adjustment Brush, set large with maximum feather, and brushed in an adjustment area in that corner. I used to to reduce exposure and brightness selectively there, producing a more natural grey where it was white. If the area had not been so oddly shaped I would have just used a Graduated Filter Effect pulled down from that corner, but LAB worked better for this image.

Canon SX20IS at 28mm equivalent.

From Quoddy Head and Lubec ME.

Advertisements
29
Sep
10

9/29/2010: Birch

Birch bark has always fascinated me. As a boy I kept a collection one summer, of the best scraps I had found, pretending, if memory serves me right, that they represented some kind of wealth. This snippet is from a foggy morning at Quoddy Head State park, and you can see the moisture saturating the bark…in both the natural and the photographic sense. Backing away a bit…and a bit further

You can see that even at these moderate distances you begin to see the effect of the fog…though it does not diminish the beauty of the birch.

Canon SX20IS at 1) 400mm equivalent @ f5.0 @ 1/30th @ ISO 200, 2) 170mm equivalent @ f4.5 @ 1/50th @ ISO 200, both in Landscape Program, and 3) 28mm equivalent @ f2.8 @ 1/125th @ ISO 160, Programmed Auto.

In Lightroom, a small amount of Recovery, some Fill Light and Blackpoint right, added Clarity and Vibrance, and Sharpen narrow edges preset.

From Quoddy Head and Lubec ME.

28
Sep
10

9/28/2010: Quoddy Head Forest

The forest at Quoddy Head is a typical northern coastal forest…full of moss and lichen…and, on my visit, made even more mysterious by the fog. I love this kind of landscape, but experience has proven that it is very hard to capture what I see there in an image. This one comes close. And so does this.

Both Canon SX20IS at 28mm equivalent. 1) F2.8 @ 1/30th @ ISO 100. 2) three exposure HDR using auto bracket.

In Lightroom, some Recovery for the fog, a bit of Fill Light and Blackpoint right, added Clarity and Vibrance, and Sharpen narrow edges preset. Processing of #1 was more extreme than #2 as I was working from a single exposure.

27
Sep
10

9/27/2010: Quoddy Head Light

Quoddy Head Light, while not, perhaps, one of the more attractive Lighthouse in Maine, has the distinction of being the eastern-most Lighthouse in the United States, standing on the eastern-most point of land in the United States. It is so far east that my cell phone claimed it was in another time zone.

The other thing that distinguishes Quoddy Head is fog. Beside the light is the fog horn, and it goes part or all of most days. Certainly, while I had hopes according the National Weather Service, it never stopped sounding during my visit, and the fog never lifted more than a few feet off the ground. Maybe the NWS is not in charge of the weather in that time zone?

Still, you can’t visit Quoddy Head without photographing the Light, fog or no fog…so…

Though I tried this shot as an HDR, hoping for better light on the Lighthouse, I like this single shot version better, as I was able to maintain, and even emphasize, detail in the foreground grass…maybe I would have done better with the HDR with a tripod.

Canon SX20IS at 28mm equivalent, f2.8 @ 1/640th @ ISO 125. Programmed auto.

In Lightroom, recovery for the fog, Blackpoint right, added Clarity and Vibrance, and Sharpen narrow edges preset. Then I pulled a Graduated Filter effect up from the bottom to increase brightness, contrast, and clarity on the lawn (to bring up the fine details) and one down from the top to darken just a bit, increase contrast considerably, and add a bit of saturation.  Finally, I used the vertical distortion control to straighten the house and Light.

And here it is from the other side:

26
Sep
10

9/26/2010: Orange River Marsh

Happy Sunday!

I am in Machias Maine this morning, having brought daughter #4 up to visit daughter #3 at college on Home Coming weekend. Yesterday, despite heavy fog over the coast, I drove up to Quoddy Head State Park to explore and to see what I could find to photograph. On the way up, while still on Route 1, I passed an Atlantic Coast Conservancy pull off for Reynolds Marsh, and a few seconds later crossed the marsh (or river…it is the Orange River) itself. It looked so promising that I had to turn around and go back.

It was actually raining lightly when I got out of the car, and I had to work with one hand covering the controls of the camera all the time, and trust to my lens shade to keep water off the lens. There was a short walk down through the woods to the marsh, and I no more than stepped beneath trees than two Ruffed Grouse shot up in front of me and beat away among the spruce. The trail led to a canoe launch on the edge of the marsh.

The challenge with fog is getting enough light on the foreground so it looks natural without turning the fog into a bright white nimbus that blanks out the top 2/3rs of the image. And of course it is the contrast between the saturated wet colors close by, particularly rich in the diffuse light, and the grey encroaching atmosphere, that makes a foggy morning so interesting photographically.

I tried a few three exposure HDRs, and I am pretty happy with the results. I find that, using Photomtix for the HDRs, I still have to envision what I will be able to do with the image in Lightroom, and adjust the tone mapping in Photomatix with that in mind.

Canon SX20IS at 28mm equivalent. Three exposures separated by 2EV with the center of the range moved down –2/3EV using exposure compensation. ISO 125.

Photomatix tone-mapping, and then a bit more Recovery in Lightroom, some Fill Light, and the Blackpoint moved right…added Clarity and Vibrance, and Sharpen narrow edges preset.

And, being Sunday, I think about the parable potential of the image as well…

The fog that obscures the distance (future?), should not lessen your enjoyment of the rich saturated colors of your life close at hand…and, in fact, the contrast is, often, what makes life interesting. Or so say I.

One more from the foggy marsh. This one is not an HDR, but I was able to balance the exposure using Recovery and Fill Light in Lightroom. Taken in wide (16/9) mode.

25
Sep
10

9/24/2010: Monarch

Another of those quick shots in passing. I chased this guy from rose to rose among the beach roses at Parson’s Beach while there to do some HDR work…who could resist. This the full tele macro on the Canon SX20IS…which always gives amazingly sharp close-ups and interesting bokeh.

Canon SX20IS at 560mm equivalent, f5.7 @ 1/320th @ ISO 80. Programmed auto.

Blackpoint adjustment in Lightroom. Added Clarity and Vibrance. Sharpen narrow edges preset.

24
Sep
10

9/24/2010: Back Creek iPhone HDR

Early morning light along Back Creek where it meets the Mousam River. This is an iPhone 4 HDR. With the 4.1 upgrade to iOS, HDR is now built into the iPhone camera, but, though very fast, it is pretty mild compared to the effects that you can get with the dedicated ProHDR app. The built in variety is great for opening shadows in difficult lighting, but for dramatic landscapes ProHDR is the app you want.

I am learning where HDR is appropriate and where it is not. This shot, for instance, did not benefit all that much from the HRD treatment, and I probably could have achieved the same results with a standard exposure and post processing…and there are a growing number of excellent post processing apps for the iPhone.

In this case, I straightened the horizon, sharpened the image, tweaked the color temperture, and adjusted shadows and highlights in PhotoWizard. The tools (filters) in PhotoWizard will be familiar to anyone who has worked with any variety of PhotoShop or most other dedicated image processing applications.

This version, with a bit more sky, made more of the HDR treatment.