Sunday, July 20, 2014

Split Decision



The lighting on this bison is called “split lighting.” That is because the sun was illuminating his left side (as we view the picture), with his right side being in shadow. Hence he is “split” by the light.

Determining exposure can be difficult with this type of lighting. I was lucky that the grasses around him were evenly lit, and only his right side was in shadow. So a straight meter reading worked well. But I had to check the histogram to make sure of that. Always, always, always (and did I say “always?”) check your histogram every few shots, especially if the subject is changing direction, or if the light is changing. Reliance on the histogram is the best way to be assured of good exposures.

Some people think that if the image looks good on the view screen on the back of their camera, that the exposure is fine. That is not the case. The brightness of the view screen can be changed (it is a custom function setting in your camera, and comes pre-set to an “average” default setting by the manufacturer), and does not provide any reliable information on the accuracy of the exposure. Only the histogram can do that.

Here is what the histogram looks like for this image.
There are no issues with the exposure. No data is jammed up against the sides to the left or the right. But look at the Before image above. It does not have any richness of tone or color, even though there is nothing wrong with the exposure. And there is no visible detail in the shadows. What it needed was optimization in Lightroom.

In less than 5 minutes the After version was produced. It only took six simple steps to dramatically improve this image. Moving the Shadows slider all the way to the right (to +100) opened up the shadows, and moving the Highlights slider to the left to minus 84 reduced the brightness of the yellow grasses. 

Then, using the "HSL" (Hue/Saturation/Luminance) controls set to Saturation enabled me to selectively saturate the yellow grasses. The Vibrance slider was then increased to +29. 

The final two steps were to increase Clarity to +30 (which boosts the mid-tone contrast), and to reduce noise by moving the Noise Reduction Luminance slider to  30.

That's it. In just a few minutes the image was optimized to look more like the actual scene at the time I made the original exposure.

Don't be afraid to experiment with the optimization options that are available to you. Play with different sliders and practice. In general, keep a light touch so that you do not over-tweak images to the point of looking unnatural. 

Shutter Speed 1/1000 sec.  Aperture f/8.  ISO 800. Lens: Canon 400mm f/5.6L with 1.4x extender for an effective focal length of 560mm.  Camera: Canon 5D Mark III.  Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "The starting point of all achievement is desire."  --Napoleon Hill

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