The Digital Advantage

The Digital Advantage  Double-crested Cormorant

When digital photography first came to exist, I found much that I didn’t like, and much that I did.  Using computer software to fix difficult exposures, was and is the best thing since sliced bread, and one of the best things about digital photography.  I say that, being somebody who likes sliced bread. I am not talking about making sloppy exposures and fixing them when you get home. Even digital photography has exposure issues when it comes to bright light to the side or back of your subject.  Especially when your subject is a wild animal.  A certain amount of detail is necessary in that subject, if the image is to succeed.

The top  Cormorant photo is a software altered image.  I changed the picture to make it exactly like I saw it with my eyes.

It was a sunny summer day.  The sun was coming almost over the birds back.  To my extreme right the sky was a fairly deep blue.  In back of my subject it was a light blue.  I needed to open up my exposure to hold detail in the bird, which meant my sky would have been transformed into a blank white.  I had been previously shooting front lit subjects, with my aperture priority mode set for a minus 2/3rds of a stop.  When I turned my camera to photograph my friend, I changed my setting to zero compensation.  This meant I would retain detail in my subject, but I would lose color in the sky. I went ahead and made my pictures because I knew I could bring the sky back when I got home.

I brought up the picture in Photo Shop and took the magic wand tool and clicked to the right of the bird. This featured the area in the far right corner of the screen.  Notice that the tree divided that part from the rest of the picture. I went to image on the tool bar and clicked.  I went to adjustments and then I opened up the brightness/contrast feature.  I reduced the brightness by sight until it looked like it did in real life. I wrote down the amount of the brightness adjustment.  I then went around with the magic wand and clicked on each section (one at a time) that was divided by the tree or a portion of the bird, and repeated the same amount of brightness reduction. I could have gone further and created a deep blue sky but my goal was to create an image that looked the same as it did when viewed with my own two eyes.  If the original sky at been a bright gray, the reduction of brightness in back of the bird would have created a medium steely gray tone. That would have been a true reproduction of the sky just as the blue was in this photo.

Remember, I did not the change the color of the scene at all.  Only the amount of brightness was changed.  The blue was there in the washed out sky picture, but  the image is too overexposed to see that blue.

The second image is the original.  Once again, by making sure I had enough exposure to record detail in the bird, I knew I would “blow out” the sky into a featureless white.  I knew I could return it via Photo Shop or several other software programs.

When I shot film, an image like this would have a burned out sky unless you used a cumbersome tele flash system to light up the bird.

Knowing how to edit on your computer in order to save an exposure, is pretty much (today) Photo Shop 101.  It is simple to do once you try it, and it will take your photography forward into the 21st Century.

The Three Amigos  Pronghorn.  Strong backlighting can work.  When you have a light toned subject, and a foreground that is reflecting some light back into the shadowed side of that subject, a compromise exposure can make for an effective image. No Photo Shop alterations were made. I actually think that the backlight, and the high value exposure of the landscape, helps make this arid/mountain valley scene more compelling.

Just Pictures

The Awkward Age  Canada Goose Gosling

Looking Up To You  Red Fox Kit

Good Things Come To Those Who Wait  Green heron

A Light In The Darkness   Bighorn Ram

Odd Couple  Caterpillar and Bee

“I am not young enough to know everything.  Oscar Wilde

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