Monday, August 25, 2014

Playing The Odds

Orchids are gorgeous flowers, plain and simple. But they are not easy to photograph.

These cultivated orchids inside a hothouse were especially difficult to photograph because of the unappealing background. Not only was the background unattractive, but it was quite close to the flowers. The closer the background is to the subject, the harder it is to use depth of field to blur the background. There is just not enough space between the subject and the background for depth of field controls to have much success.

What saved this image was the lighting, and how cameras react to contrast.

The flowers were lit by a bank of windows high up on the wall behind me. The light coming in was strong enough to light the white flowers well, but allowed the darker background to go quite dark by comparison. It was a high contrast situation - well-lit white subject with a darker background which appears almost black.

Our eyes, unlike a camera, are attuned to see detail in all areas of a high contrast scene. We do not see the degree of contrast the way our cameras do. So it is important to view the image on your camera's viewscreen to get a sense of how the contrast will appear in the image. Even so, you might have to use image optimization software to darken the background a bit more. In Lightroom 5 that is easily accomplished by moving the Shadows slider to the darker side.

Always pay close attention to your histogram, especially with high contrast subjects. It is easy to overexpose the bright tones. If you see the "blinkies" appearing in substantial portions of the image (also called the "flashies"  -  how long did it take the digital brainiacs to come up with those highfalutin words!?), then use Exposure Compensation to reduce exposure about 2/3rds of a stop. Take another shot and check the histogram again. If necessary, reduce exposure a bit more.

Shutter Speed 1/1250 sec.  Aperture f/4.  ISO 1600.  Lens: Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS, set at 160mm.  Camera: Canon 5D Mark III.  Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "If you truly love nature, you will find beauty everywhere."  -- Vincent Van Gogh

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