The Agile Fox Friday Foto – 10.19.2012
After a year and a half of including a ‘pic of the week’ at the end of my weekly training summary, I’ve decided to let it stand as a post of its own. I’m also implementing a rule that the Friday Foto needs to have been taken sometime in the last week. No recycling. I am doing this to keep me engaged in building my photography skills, and to make me work harder to get fresh shots. Click here to see my previous Friday Foto posts.
When I started doing this weekly Friday Foto feature/project I intended to use it as a way of pushing me to explore and learn new photography skills instead of just posting a picture I happened to have taken the previous week. Pick a technique or style and go for it. To some extent I have been letting that slip, and while posting about interesting subject matter, I have gotten away from my original intent.
I set out Sunday afternoon in search of 3 elements to photograph. Yellow leaves, blue sky, and dark water. I also wanted to practice using a Neutral Density filter combined with a small aperture. Each of these would cut down the amount of light entering the lens, and allow me to keep the shutter open for as long as possible in the daylight so I could let the water movement blur and also get the most color reflection from the water’s surface.
I used HDR (High Dynamic Range) technique to get the best exposure from all areas of the frame. In this particular location, the foreground was very dark and the sky was very bright. Which made it difficult to get a balanced look.
HDR can be a tricky thing to get right. And getting it ‘right’ is solely in the eye of the beholder. It’s very easy to overdo the tone mapping, and end up with that typical hyper-saturated ‘HDR look’ with white-ish halos around objects (especially where the sky meets the earth), and blacks that look smeared onto every surface.
Here is a before and after example from a few years ago:
That look can be cool. For a little while. Then you kind of burn out on it. Even more when every single photo you see looks like HDR (thanks, Instagram). Lately, I have been preferring to use HDR to create non-HDR looking photos. If that makes any sense…
I took 3 shots to make this composite image. One at normal exposure – which looked nice, but the foreground was a little dark, and the sky was a little washed out. Then one that was 2 stops underexposed. That made everything in the foreground super dark, but the sky looked great. Then one that was 2 stops overexposed. The sky was completely washed out in this one, but the foreground had all of the detail coming out of the shadows and the stream movement was nicely blurred since this was the longest of the 3 exposures at one second.
Then in post-processing you blend the 3 images together to get the best from each one. I used Photomatix software for that step. After that, I load the resulting file back into Lightroom and carefully adjust the individual saturation sliders (there are 8 – red, orange, yellow, green, aqua, blue, purple, and magenta) to hopefully end up where things are nice looking, but still in the realm of being realistic. It’s a process I have been refining for a while, but I am starting to get better at it and am happier with the results now compared to my earlier stabs at HDR processing. There is a lot that goes on behind the scenes to create an image like this. Oddly enough, the trick is making it look like a lot of work hasn’t been done. I’ll keep trying as the occasion presents itself and hopefully get the technique fully dialed in at some point.