MAY 2012 IMAGE OF THE MONTH - CAPE KIWANDA HOODOO
Tucked away in the heart of Cape Kiwanda’s rugged sandstone landscape lives a little known, and seldom seen, rock formation that I call the Cape Kiwanda Hoodoo.
The moment I saw this lonely hoodoo I knew I wanted to photograph it at night. As I scouted its every angle and pre-visualized the composition and lighting workflow requirements it all came together for me. I could see what was complimentary and what might be distracting. I studied the foreground, midground and background. And, now I was ready.
Late last week I revisited the hoodoo site, accompanied by two faithful photographer friends, Gary Alvis from Bend, a long time commercial and stock agency photographer and Laren Woolley from Newport, a seasoned landscape photographer. They were going to help me light the scene.
I decided I was going to use a technique called PAINTING WITH LIGHT to illuminate the hoodoo and overall scene.
So, what is Painting With Light ? Well, it’s photographing your subject at night with a long time exposure while you shine (or paint) the subject with light from a flashlight while the shutter is open. It takes considerable practice and involves a lot of trial and error but after awhile it all starts to come together.
To create my Cape Kiwanda Hoodoo image there are 8 distinctly different components, or photographs required to complete this image. Once the point of view was selected I placed my Nikon D700 on a heavy duty tripod that would hold my camera very steady while I made 3 to 6 exposures of each of the 8 totally different lighting setups.
The first image I captured was about 40 minutes after the sun went down. I made my exposure of the overall scene paying specific attention to the sky and ocean in the background. There was NO ADDITIVE LIGHT in this capture. It was simply an available light exposure that was purposely underexposed by three stops (f-stops) to darken the sky and ocean to a degree that there was still good detail in those areas. I knew the hoodoo and foreground would be way, way underexposed (dark) and would only show as a black blob on this particular scene. That is exactly what I wanted. I was only going to use the sky, background and water from this capture, in the final assembly of the 8 different images for the master image.
This is a good time to insert the basics of the workflow in ultimately capturing and creating an image like my painted with light hoodoo. When you are shooting this kind of image you have to train yourself to see SELECTIVELY. On each of the 8 captures, all of which would be added to the final, master image, I was ONLY LOOKING AT A SMALL PIECE OF THE OVERALL SCENE. *(Like in the first capture I only cared what happened to the sky and water as that is all I was going to use in the final master image).
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In each of the 8 individual images captured I never moved the camera **( at all !!!) I didn’t change the f-stop and I didn’t mess with the focus of the lens. To change exposures I ONLY changed my shutter speed, and nothing else.)
The second capture was of the exact same scene (remember we can’t move the camera even slightly) but this time we used a really big LED light source off camera and way over to the right of the hoodoo. I used a 30 second exposure at f-11 with an ISO of 200. During the 30 second exposure Gary shined the light on the head, chin, neck and bottom of the hoodoo. He constantly kept the light moving and spent a little more time on the chin and neck than on the head and bottom. *( note the difference between the light value (brightness) between the top of the neck and the bottom of the hoodoo). We shot this lighting setup 4 times before we got exactly what I had envisioned.
Then we moved on to lighting the left side of the hoodoo. Laren used a little smaller light on the left in an effort to balance the light values from right and left. After all there should be only one key (primary) light source in most images. Again several takes on this side and we were ready to move on to Laren lighting the background far left side, then Gary for the far background right side and on and on until we had lit every segment of the entire scene.
The shoot started around 7:30 and we finally finished around 10:30pm. When we left I had 143 images of the Cape Kiwanda Hoodoo but the post processing would have to wait for another day.
*( So now that I have 143 partial photos on a card you could ask....... Now what?? Since there isn’t room on this format to fully explain the post processing side of the creation of this kind of image, let me provide a path to follow if this kind of work excites you.
Once you download the images into your editing software and have selected one final frame from each of the 8 different lighting setups you will have to take them through your RAW converter to get to a PSD or TIFF file to fully manage the final production of the images. It is important that you use the same or nearly the same RAW conversion settings to ensure there is consistency of lightness, contrast, color balance etc of one file to another. Once you’ve gotten that far then you are headed into the Layer Masking and Compositing world of Photoshop. I have found it challenging to figure it out but with a little coaching from some friends that live and breath PS I have been able to keep my head above water. My best recommendation would be to purchase Katrin Eismann’s book titled Photoshop Masking and Compositing by New Riders. Pay special attention to chapter 7 and buckle your seat belt. It will be quite a ride.
Hope you enjoy this new image half as much as I did in capturing and creating it.......................And, a special Thank You to both Laren and Gary for hanging in there for the entire 3 1/2 hour shoot. We all learned a lot from each other........ Vern