Wednesday, September 8, 2010

You Might Think This Is A Night Shot

Like the title says, you might think this was shot at night. Actually, the shot was taken at 4:13 on the afternoon of July 18th, a bright, sunny, hot summer day in Shelbourne Falls, Massachusetts. The facts of the shot are that it was shot at F16 @ 1/400th of a second. The EV (Exposure Value) was reduced by .85 stops, so the equivalent shutter speed would have been close to 1/800th of a second. Well above the “normal” sync speed of a camera. No sun blocking device was used on the background and yet, the background is dark. The close up creates kind of a moody portrait of a flower. So, we have a contradiction, an enigma, a brainteaser of a shot. Not so much. I’d talked about the same technique a couple of weeks ago. The shot was made using Auto FP High Speed Sync. One of the lesser used ways of firing a flash. A couple things to remember about Auto FP are that you can use any shutter speed, up to the limit of your camera and that you lose a ton of light doing it. The camera was set to Manual mode and the f-Stop and Shutter Speed set to give big depth of field and have a reasonably fast shutter speed. Being the cheapskate that I am, I used two SB600 Nikon Speedlites rather than one SB900. The camera was held in my right hand and both flashes held in my left. Doris was off shooting her own set of flowers and we hadn’t brought any light stands. So there I was, bent over, lens almost stuck inside a flower, flashes in one hand and camera in the other. It’s a wonder someone didn’t snap a shot of me working the flower. It had to be a pretty strange sight. People will often give out of kilter glances when they see someone using flashes on a bright, sunny afternoon. The thought is “doesn’t he have enough light already?” It’s not the amount of light that’s important, it the control of the light. A good example would be an outdoor movie set. Everything is setup to work with the ambient light. Then the stars are put under a shade screen and lit independent of the overall scene. The objective is to have flattering light on the star and make it appear that he/she blends in with the ambient. It’s all about control. To find out what happened to the image after the shutter snapped, hit the “read more”.

The first stop for today’s image was ACR (Adobe Camera Raw). ACR lit up like a Christmas tree with nothing but blue bulbs. The indicator was showing that the blacks were blocked up on a large portion of the image. Duh! Look at the image. They’re supposed to be blocked up. I used the Adjustment Brush to bring the exposure down .30 stops in the bright areas and up .60 stops in the darkest areas of the petals. Cranked up the Clarity to about 50% and the Vibrance about the same. The world, being analog, and Adobe Photoshop CS5, being digital, “about 50%” means anywhere from 45% to 55%. About five different “Pins” were dropped and small areas of the image adjusted to taste. It was a short trip over to PS CS5 and a run through a typical sequence of establishing the maximum black and white points, saturating each color and a final round of sharpening. (Even with the Clarity adjusted in ACR, final sharpening is still a requirement.)

There is one more thing about today’s image (in the name of full disclosure). The original shot went from petal tip to petal tip. Today’s image is one of the bigger crops you’ll see here on the blog. Normally, the only cropping done to an image is to get it into a 4x5, 8x10, 16x 20 format.