landscape ground too dark, sky perfect

Discussion in 'Beyond the Basics' started by anne, Jun 28, 2006.

  1. anne

    anne TPF Noob!

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    Yesterday evening, after the 2-day front of storms passed, there were incredible clouds along with blue sky, sunlight stripes and shadows. This was about 7 pm est, with 2 hours left of light. I composed shots to have 2/3 ground, 1/3 sky or vice versa. In both compositions, my skies turned out perfectly, but the trees and fields were too dark where the sun wasn't shining. They even appeared as silhouettes in places, although there appeared to be plenty of light. These were trees lining or in a field, not in the woods. I tried adjusting exposure, but would then lose the definition of the clouds against a blue sky. Should I have used a higher ISO (I was using 320)? I try to avoid too much grain, or "noise, as they say in digital".Or should I have kept playing with exposure settings? If so, what would you suggest? I'm using a 6 megapixel digital SLR (Fuji S1 pro).

    Of course, in photoshop, I can lighten up the ground and trees, but the noise is also amplified, and unless I print small prints, the ground/trees appear very grainy.

    Thanks
     
  2. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Welcome to the forum.

    You are limited by the latitude of your medium, which in this case is a digital camera. The sensor simply cannot capture such a wide range of tones in a single exposure. It's the same with film. Digital has about the same latitude as slide film while color negative film has a wider latitude. B&W film has an even greater ability to capture a wide range of tones. The problem is that we humans can see a much wider range of tones (our eyes are constantly adjusting)...often we can't take a photograph that will look like what we see.

    Typically, the photographer has to make a choice...to expose for the bright areas or expose for the shadows...sacrificing one for the other...or make a compromise and slightly sacrifice both.

    Digital has made it rather easy to fix the over/under exposed areas or to combine separate exposures to create an image with HDR (high dynamic range). All you have to do, is take two (or more) exposures and use software to combine them.
     
  3. anne

    anne TPF Noob!

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    Yea. I think I'll do that. The skys were incredible. Of course, today, they are cloud free. Maybe I'll be like Uelseman (sp?) and put the skies where they don't really belong. Or, like I sometimes do, I use the fixed image as my source for a landscape painting. But, boy, painting can be very frustrating. Anyone who thinks painting is a form of relaxation must be from a different planet than me.

    Thanks. I have to teach a basic digital photo class to high school students next year, and I know someone will ask me the same question I posed.
     
  4. Digital Matt

    Digital Matt alter ego: Analog Matt

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    You can use the technique that Mike describes, or simply blend 2 exposures, each on its own layer with a mask, or 2 renders of a raw file. Your other option is to use a graduated neutral density filter when taking the shot.
     
  5. Arch

    Arch Damn You! Staff Member Supporting Member

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    The only thing you have to be careful of when using HDR for a scene like this is cloud movement........ if the clouds are moving fairly quickly, you will get the motion blur...... which you may not want if the clouds have a good range of tones to work with.
    If this is the case, i'd recomend using the technique matt mentioned above.... that way you get the best of both worlds without risking blur or any other unwanted movement.
     
  6. anne

    anne TPF Noob!

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    I was wondering if a filter would help. I use a polarizing filter on my film camera and it seems to make the blues of the sky stronger (or was it just my imagination?). Is "HDR" the name of the filter? The clouds were not perceptively moving.
     
  7. Digital Matt

    Digital Matt alter ego: Analog Matt

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    HDR stands for "high dynamic range", and refers to creating an image with more dynamic range than 1 shot could possibly capture. It's a built in function to photoshop CS2. Take multiple pictures of the scene, bracketed heavily above and below normal, and photoshop will merge them into an HDR image. A polarizer is good to use with landscapes, but the filter I'm talking about is a graduated netural density. it will darken the sky, while leaving the foreground normal. It allows you to expose for the foreground without blowing out the sky.
     
  8. Arch

    Arch Damn You! Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Yes your polarizer helps with the sky....... but as matt suggested an ND grad filter would be better because you can the expose for the sky and forground in one shot.
    HDR is a different process involving merging a series of the same shot..... click HERE for more info..... but because you take a series of exposures you can easily pick up even the slightest movement.
     
  9. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    As Matt mentioned (and I forgot to mention), you can use a graduated or split filter. It's a filter that is darker on one side and clear on the other...(the transition will vary with different styles). In your case, you would use the clear part over the ground with the dark part over the sky. This way, the total range of tones that the camera sees...is not so dramatically different.

    Usually, the best way to use these filters is with square filters in a special filter holder. This way, you can slide the filter to match the horizon in your image. Look at Cokin filters.

    A polarizing filter is a great tool. They absolutely do make the sky darker. They can also take the reflection off of things like water...and foliage. If you have a circular polarizer, you can rotate it to adjust the effects. It probably won't help you with the exposure latitude though.

    HDR is a technique or style...not a specific filter. Try a search of the forums. *edit* Wow, those guys are fast ;)

    I'm more inclined to use the technique that Matt mentioned...layer exposures in Photoshop and use masks to blend them together.
     
  10. anne

    anne TPF Noob!

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    I guess it shows that I've just recently moved up to CS2, was two versions behind. Had not tried HDR. I need to peruse my software more thoroughly now.
     
  11. rmh159

    rmh159 TPF Noob!

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    Do you know if The Gimp has this? I'm still on Photoshop CS but could definitely use this function.
     
  12. Digital Matt

    Digital Matt alter ego: Analog Matt

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    I don't know, but probably not. You don't have to have the auto HDR function to do this. You can do it easily with 2 shots, one exposed for shadows, and 1 exposed for highlights. Place one on top of the other in photoshop, add a layer mask, and blend them together. You can do the blending very strictly, or (similar to a grad ND filter) use a gradient on the mask to ease one exposure into the next.

    There is also a similar technique where you place the shot exposed for highlights on top (ie the darker image), give it a layer mask, select the other image (background layer), select all, copy, and paste this image into the mask of the layer above (alt+click the mask, then paste) Then run a gaussian blur at about 40 pixels and it should look ok.

    I personally do the blending by hand.
     

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