Monday, March 1, 2010

You Bought The Computer, Now Use It

Back in the "olden days" of the manual everything camera we used to say that a camera was a light tight shoebox that you could attach some glass to. To prove it to those new to photography we'd get a shoebox (literally, a shoebox), a piece of 4 x 5 Tri X film and go out a make an image. We'd go to considerable lengths to put a hole in the box, cover it with aluminum foil and very carefully put the smallest pinhole we could make into the foil. It was the definition of a pinhole camera. Due to the "aperture" of about F 9000 the exposures were quite long, so any "camera shake" due to opening the shutter (pulling back the paper covering the foil) was nonexistent. On the other hand, camera movement due to a gust of wind blowing the "camera" off the rock it was sitting on was a real danger. Depth of Field was typically amazing, going from just outside the shoebox to infinity. It was a great way to convince "newbies" (that wasn't even a word at the time) that the lens was much more important than the box you'd attach it to. The same can't be said for today's cameras. No longer are you buying an empty box that you attach lenses to. You're buying a pretty sophisticated computer that is capable of doing millions of calculations per second. I'm not going to say today's cameras are smart, computers are just pieces of sand if they don't have clever programming telling them what to do. On the other hand, they can process data at a blinding rate and make recommendations about shutter speed, aperture, focus and other things we used to have to worry about. Today's speedlites (flashes) are also little computers. By the time you've bought a camera, lens and a couple of flashes you've invested several thousand dollars in "computers". It seems to me that once you've bought these little computers, to get the best return on your investment, you really should let the computer do anything related to calculations and keep the creative stuff for your mind to figure out. To hear about what was done to today's image in the "little computer" as well as the big one on the desk, hit the "read more".

Today's image starts out as a result of those "computers" that were invested in. The camera was in shutter priority mode, set at F 5.6. That put the flash information into High Speed FP (Focal Plane) Sync, which automatically reduced the total flash output. The flash was setup for off camera use and iTTL in-fill balancing. It did a great job figuring out the balance between the cowboy and the ambient light on the trees. One thing it couldn't resolve was the bright sunlight on the grassy area. That was taken care of in post processing by use of the Darker Color Blending Mode and a Layer Mask.

The post processing involved making a copy of the background layer (CTRL J) and using the Move Tool (V) to slide the copy down to cover the bright grassy area. Once the copy layer was in place the Blend Mode was changed to Darker Color. This filled in the bright areas and splashed strange colors over the cowboy and horse. A Layer Mask was applied to the copy layer and a fairly soft Brush (B) selected. With the foreground color set to 100% black, the offending colors were masked away. If you look very carefully at the back of the saddle you can see the cowboy's shoulder peeking out. I looked at it, decided it didn't add or detract, so I left it as an "educational tool". The lowered copy looks like it could be the grass in the shot. Look just above the cowboy's hand and you'll see a reasonably straight line that appears to the grass to undergrowth boundary.

The cowboy face was brightened a little to bring attention to it. His eyes were made slightly larger with the Liquify Filter dialog box using the Bloat Tool. Normal High Pass sharpening and Marquee vignetting were applied to finish the image.