Friday, October 9, 2009

Just A Hint

How many times do we see a shot where you've got the subject and way too much of the surrounding environment? Why is it that some photographers are too shy or unsure of their ability to get in close on a subject. This is especially true of people shots. People who don't have a good grasp of what their camera can do often stand back and don't get the intimate shot. Today's image shows how a powerful image can be taken by getting in on a subject. Before I started shooting I asked the cowboys who were giving the presentation about ranch life if I could shoot them. Both were agreeable and went along their way, doing what they do each day a tour comes through the range. They knew, and had probably gone through, the exercise of people taking their pictures on a daily basis. The day we were there was no different than a hundred other days. I have pictures of them riding, roping, cutting cattle out of a herd and just plain talking to the group. The only "crop" on today's image was to put the image into a 4 x 5, 8 x 10, or 16 x 20 aspect ratio. (It's all the same ratio.) Other than that it's pretty much full frame. To understand what sets this image apart from a hundred other shoots that day, hit the "read more".
The first thing that's fairly obvious is that I wasn't going for a wide shot. I was zoomed out to about 180 mm. The main light (sun light) was coming in over his right shoulder, as can be seen by the highlight rimming his nose. The "fill light" is a little bit trickier. His fellow cowboy was mounted on a white horse on this fellow's left. Just enough light was kicked in to give some fill. Once everything was developed to show off, what looks like, a pensive mood, Photoshop had to be called upon to keep the hat from becoming a dark blob blocking his face. The hat had to become an "element" rather than a negative.
The first thing to do was to create a "throwaway" layer. This layer would never be seen in the final image. It's there only to allow experimentation. To keep it as useful as possible, a set of adjustment layers were applied. The first was an Exposure Adjustment. The sliders were brought up until the entire image was over exposed by about three stops. Out of what was a dark blob came the deep brown of the hat and, more importantly, the hat band. The hat band had disappeared into the depths of the shadows, but could be seen clearly in the overexposed layer. Using a selection method it was easy to outline the band. A new, blank, layer was added, filled with 50% grey (Shift F5 and select 50% grey), and set the blending mode to Soft Light. With the band isolated it was an easy job of using a white brush to bring out the band. Any "tweaking" was done by adjusting the Opacity levels.

One thing to remember is that highlights are tough, but shadows typically have a lot of detail that can be pulled out. It's just a question of figuring out how to look for it.