Monday, June 28, 2010

Welcome Home

No, not to my home, it’s the title of the shot. This is another shot from our recent road trip. One of the not so good things about shooting in areas not close to your home base is that you’re there when you’re there. We were at Westover Plantation somewhere around noon, on a bright sunny, cloudless day. It wasn’t like we could stand around for five or ten minutes for a cloud to drift by and flatten out the lighting a bit. The answer was what I was doing all during this particular vacation. Almost every “shot” taken during the trip was auto-bracketed by one stop. I sure it’s easy on a Canon, Sony or Olympus DSLR, but on a higher end Nikon it’s ridiculously simple. In the menus I’ve set the Function Button on the front lower right hand side of the camera to bracket Auto Exposure (AE) only. Once that’s done it’s just a matter of holding down the button and turning the Main Command Dial. As a “norm” I used a three step bracket at one step increments. That typically gave me exposures at -1.3, -.3, and +.6. My “normal” Exposure Value (EV) is set to -.3 to get richer shots in general. That’s an easy recommendation for getting “better” shots in general. There are two reasons for doing a plus and minus one stop bracket. I usually have the camera set to high speed sequence on the shutter. The first reason to shoot a three stop bracket is to have a selection of exposures to choose from. Most of the time, if you’re shooting a landscape or informal portrait, the land isn't going to move and the subject of the portrait isn’t going to change expressions too much when you’re shooting at daylight speeds. The second reason is that it will give you a basis for a soft HDR. You won’t be able to get the wild swings you can get with a two or three stop bracket, but you will have something to work with. To find out what twist of techinque was applied to today’s image, hit the “read more”.
The biggest “out of the ordinary” thing that was done to today’s image involves the absolute final step in the processing. It was putting the vignette on the image that became a bit of a struggle. The lower right corner of the image was bright. I mean bright bright. The brightest part of the entire image. Typically putting a vignette around an image darkens the corners and holds the viewer into the subject of the image. That worked on three of the four corners, but did almost nothing for that darn lower right corner. The vignette is on its own Layer, so it is controllable. I added a second vignette Layer (CTRL J) and a third, a fourth, a fifth and finally a sixth. That’s a lot of vignette in anybody’s book. By the time I got to the sixth Layer the offending corner was tamed. The rest of the corners were totally gone, with no detail for the last three iterations. In order to balance the vignette I Merged vignettes two through six and added a Black Layer Mask (ALT + New Layer Mask icon). The only thing left was to get a big, soft white brush and make a quick, broad swipe across the corner. It balanced the corner fairly well. It’s still bright, but not offensively bright. All that concentration on a corner where I was trying to reduce the viewer’s attention. Sometimes it’s not the main subject that needs the work.