Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Being A Control Freak Isn't Such A Bad Thing

There is a difference between posterization and what we see in today’s image. It does have some sort of effect that makes it appear somewhere between a straight photograph and an illustration. The shot was taken with an off camera flash overpowering the sunlight on the Bridge of Flowers in Shelburne Falls Massachusetts. The bridge is one of the most fun places a photographer can go during the summer months. I can’t suggest the bridge as a “destination”, but if you’re in the area it is an “interesting” stop. The background in today’s image is the river and the far bank. The light from the speedlite was enough to allow control of the shutter speed to reduce the background by several stops, creating the dramatic lighting. The blue in the bottom right is from the sun on the Deerfield River. One of the things that drew me to this image is the purple coloring on the stalk of the flowers. At first, as I was “developing” the image, I thought it was a false color and was trying to get rid of it. Then it dawned on me that it actually was a natural color that belongs to this species. Once that was determined and I thought of it as a “feature” rather than a problem it became something that caught my eye every time I look at it. The poster look to the images comes from more playing with the Lightness Slider in the individual Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layers. Sucking some of the color out (particularly in the Red) also drew out some of the detail, giving the individual pods an impressionistic look. To find out about the “secret” of today’s image, hit the “read more”.

The “secret” to today’s image is in the camera. It’s pretty obvious that the speedlite was placed to the left and above the flower. In order to get the depth of field to get the flower in focus from front to back a high F-Stop was used. This allowed for the shutter speed to fall within the range needed to darken the background.

I was out with a group, shooting a horse event, when one of the folks asked if I always used a flash out in the bright sunlight. The answer is “pretty much”. When I don’t use one I, typically, don’t like the results I get. (Of course this doesn’t hold for landscapes.) When the sun is out the contrast between sunlit and shadow is way too much for the sensor to handle. The way to “fix” this problem is to take control of the light. As an example I’ll offer this situation that actually happened. I was a scout leader a while (a long while) back and took the boys on a fifty mile canoe trip through the Adirondacks in New York State. One of the other adults asked if I had brought a camera. I had a Fuji point and shoot that the company I was working for had given all its employees to celebrate its thirtieth anniversary. The other fellow made the bold statement that he had brought a 35mm SLR and at least we’d get “some” good pictures. He was right. The part he was wrong about was where the “good pictures” would come from. The boys all wore baseball caps and, in every one of his shots their faces were in such harsh shadows that no one could be identified. I had popped the flash up on the little point and shoot and tossing a little fill light in under the brim of the caps. The shots all looked very natural and each boy could be named. Moral of the story is the same old one. It’s not the arrows, it’s the archer.