Sunday, December 2, 2007

My Winter Snow capped Friends

As some of you may have been aware, at least from my previous blogs, is that Fall and those parts we associate with the pleasant memories is slowly ebbing away. There are those other periods when it becomes a precursor for the hardest season of all - Winter.

I truly enjoy being outside, even when the weather may not be at its best, because there are so many changing elements and other obscure things to observe around you.

During the night the temperature was just right that, when it snowed a couple of inches with large and delicate snow flakes they just hung perfectly from all the tree branches, shrubs or anything else that was outside. It was then I noticed some interesting patterns that played with the diffused light. There were a few remaining garden plants, although dead, were still standing into late fall season and providing some interesting textures in the backyard.

These plants with the large dried flower heads and snow-covered caps gave me the impression of a group of dwarfs sitting together. I was never quite able to capture that impression.

I thought that I might be able to somehow capture this on film and went inside to get my camera. In hind sight, even though being so close I should have also grabbed my snow clothing as I was not quite able to get down as low (lay flat on the ground) as I wanted to. I find once you are out shooting, it becomes harder to go back and adjust other thing.

In the image above, I embedded 2 RAW files as ‘Smart Object’ layers in Photoshop. This allows me at anytime to go back to the RAW settings and fine-tune them just for that layer. One layer was set to a cool temperature to best bring out the blue in the snow. The other smart object layer was adjusted to the correct white balance setting to permit me to give the plants a more vibrancy in their colours. I decreased the orange saturation to make the main stalks appear more woody and then increased saturation and luminance in the yellow channel to make the leaves pop more. Masks to just let through each of their own main features.

When there is a lot on snow or other broad monotones, it make it easy to quickly bring out the creative elements by being able to colour control only a few elements in the image.

This is the version I selected mainly for the contrasting greens and reds. The image below shows the other colour variations I made on the same image.

Photographing snowy objects under overcast conditions is a difficult task to be able to bring out the rich tones, at least in some parts that most of us are familiar with. The camera will, in auto mode, try and set the exposure for the snow to mid grey when snow fills most of the frame as opposed to pure whiteness.

All cameras try to set the exposure so that the majority of pixels fall around the mid grey point. This is because most of the time the useful information falls around the mid grey tonal range, except for black cats and snowy landscapes or bright white sandy beaches. The camera doesn’t know, unless you have program setting for snow and black cats, what the image is about. It just likes mid grey.

To solve this, increase the exposure about 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 stops. The histogram is a very useful tool that can help overcome this auto over compensation by showing you where the lightest points fall and thereby helping you to fine-tune the compensation changes. Always try to expose to the right by keeping the lightest pixels with any information just starting at the left edge on the right side of the histogram display.

Whenever you have a chance, change the colour in some parts or all of your images. It helps to increase the creative mind by just playing around. Who knows what will turn up.

Niels Henriksen

A Photographer's Adage

I have been frequently accused of deliberately twisting subject matter to my point of view. Above all, I know that life for a photographer cannot be a matter of indifference. Opinion often consists of a kind of criticism. But criticism can come out of love. It is important to see what is invisible to others. Perhaps the look of hope or the look of sadness. Also, it is always the instantaneous reaction to oneself that produces a photograph. -Robert Frank, Page 115 of U.S. Camera 1958. Published by the U.S. Camera Publishing Corp. in 1957.


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