This autumn I had the good fortune to visit Venice for aqua-alta. I took the images for this assignment while there.
Picture 1:Low contrast.
This in my opinion is one of the best photos I have taken in 2010, possibly ever! It’s a low contrast scene. I had just spent the morning shooting pictures in St Marks square with a tripod, up very early to catch the dawn light. I packed up and was leaving, walking across the raised walk-way that they lay out at this time of year when I spotted the sun shining through the Doge’s palace.
I shot it hand help on F-22 to get a good star burst effect on the sun. I did bracket a large amount of photos here to ensure that I got something usable later. Its a RAW file, which means that the camera processing is practically nil. Therefore I get to choose all of the steps during the post-capture processing. I didn’t have time to mess about with neutral density filters and they probably wouldn’t have worked anyway. The processing was done in Lightroom to begin with, cropping and straightening and small exposure adjustments. Then I continued to process a copy in Photoshop, after converting to black and white using layers, then using the shadows and highlight tool to open up the shadows. Sometimes I carry out this type of adjustment on a duplicate layer but in this case I did not. I added a curves adjustment layer to increase contrast. I have added a gradient to the sky in Photoshop and then selectively burned or dodged different areas of the photo to get the look I wanted.
Histogram showing this is a low contrast image.
Picture 2: Mixed Light source.
Keeping with the theme of Venice, this is an example of mixed light sources. It is taken with window light in the background and with a desk lamp which has a tungsten orange colour cast to it. I have set the camera for tungsten white balance which makes the desk lamp turn white and the window light turns blue. The most difficult thing about this photo is when to take it. By that I mean that I tried earlier in the day when the daylight was stronger but it overwhelmed the artificial light completely. I tried diffusing the light from the window but it was still too strong. I had to wait until the sun had moved and the window light was weaker but even then I had to move the desk lamp and hold it right above the magazine to get it strong enough to show up.
It is taken with a 21 mm wide angle lens at ISO 400. The settings were F6.7 and 1/180 second.
Histogram for photo 2. This is also a high contrast image.
Picture 3: High ISO.
This is an example of a high ISO image. It was taken at ISO 640. It is also an example of a low contrast image as the histogram below shows. At time of capture I bracketed a set of RAW shots to ensure I had a proper exposure and proper shadow details i.e the exposure was correct. This reduces noise problems. Perhaps also the fact that I have a full frame sensor helps reduce the noise problem. Following processing into black ands white in Photoshop I applied a noise reduction adjustment in Lightroom.
Histogram for photo 3, showing it is both a high ISO photograph and also it is a low contrast scene.
Photo 4: High Contrast.
Here I have an example of a high contrast image. I used a Lee ND graduated filter at the time of capture to prevent blowing out the highlights. The original colour file is again a Raw file shot with the white balance set for AWB. I check the histogram to ensure I have a correct exposure at time of capture. I have processed the file to black and white using layers in Photoshop and applied a blue filter in the black and white layer. This has had the result of toning down the luminescence of the lamps. I have used dodging and burning in photoshop to accentuate the parts of the photo that I wish to stand out like the steps.
Histogram for image 4 showing the settings and also that this is a high contrast image.
Photo 5:Low Contrast.
Above is a low contrast scene as the histogram below shows. Again I shot a bracketed sequence in RAW format checking the histogram to ensure I had got the correct exposure. This is a 4 second exposure taken because I wanted to geta good smoothed reflection in the water so the camera is obviously on a tripod. I have added contrast in Photoshop using a cures adjustment to the entire image. I finished this off with selective dodging and burning to bring up the areas that I wanted to emphasise.
Histogram for photo 5 showing the camera settings and also that it is a low contrast image.
Photo 6:Low contrast.
A low contrast scene as the histogram shows below. Once the exposure looks right and the histogram looks like I have detail right across the dynamic range I know that I can add contrast back to the raw file in post processing to a RAW file. Its a long exposure too, taken at 1/15th of a second so again the camera is on a tripod. I used a level to make sure the horizon was straight. I had already taken a few shots with no people in them and then this person strolled into the shot and added something not there in the ones that have nobody in them. Here I have converted to black and white,used a gradient on the sky and then selectively dodged and burned the areas I want to bring up in Photoshop.
Histogram for photo 6 showing that it is a low contrast scene.