LESLIE GULCH......DAYS END : DECEMBER 2010
A large Range Fire's smoke partially obscures the setting sun over a Leslie Gulch craggy canyon along the Owyhee River in SE Oregon.
This was the "Image of the Month" for Dec 2010. The following is the technical info that supported the image.
IMAGE OF THE MONTH TECHNICAL INFO
The image was shot on Sept 30th late in the afternoon about half way down the Leslie Gulch road en-route to the small parking area and boat ramp. After quite a climb up to a ridge line I set up and waited for the sun to drop low enough to fit the composition I saw before me. I used my Nikon D-700 with my 14mm to 24mm fixed 2.8 zoom with a focal length of 24mm for this specific shot. The sagebrush was about 3 feet in front of the camera and the camera position was about 18 inches off the ground. I use a 90 degree right angle viewer on my cameras for low angle shots in an effort to stay off my knees since I just had both replaced with bionic parts over the past year.
I metered the sky/sun/clouds and then I metered the sagebrush directly in front of the camera. There was a 6 f-stop difference between the sky and foreground so I set my cameras auto bracket feature to capture 7 frames in a continuous burst. I almost always use Aperture Priority so the shutter speed varies with each of the 7 frames the camera captures as I shoot. I normally shoot almost every landscape image at f-11 as my personal tests have shown f-11 to be the sharpest setting for that specific lens. However, in an effort to capture a wider depth of field in this shot (ie: the distance between the sagebrush and the craggy rocks in the background) I purposely choose an f-stop of f-16 to ensure a tack sharp image throughout. I confirmed the field of focus by activating my depth of field preview feature which on a D-700 is next to the lens of the front of the body very convenient to my trigger finger when holding the camera in a ready to shoot position. I ALWAYS use a remote cable release to help steady the camera in addition to a very sturdy carbon fiber tripod. * ( The smaller f-stop of f-16 also allows for a little better capture of the star burst effect coming from the setting sun itself. An f-stop of f-22 would have done even more specific to the suns rays)
Immediately after setting up for the shot I ran a test burst of 7 frames and with my 15x optical magnifier I closely examined every aspect of all 7 images looking for sharpness, little things I might not have seen while in a panic to get set up before it was too late and trying to catch my wind after climbing up 250' to my little perch. Once I was satisfied with the composition, focus, ISO setting, EV settings etc etc I then went back to the 7 frames and activated the Histogram review feature and closely looked at each and every of the 7 frames to ensure at least half of them were within the dynamic range of my cameras capability. I knew from experience that three of the frames should meet that requirement and the remaining 4 frames would be half over the norm and half would be under the norm.
Its been my experience that most beginning or aspiring photographers DO NOT KNOW HOW TO USE THEIR HISTOGRAM IN THEIR NORMAL WORK FLOW WHEN SHOOTING DIGITALLY. Needless to say I can only tell you that I live and die by my histogram !!! and so should you.
If there is enough interest in knowing more and better understanding the histogram feature I will provide more info in the next technical review........just let me know if it would help you and your photography.
During this shoot I shot 15 seven shot sequences of the sun going down and since I capture both RAW and Jpeg with each press of the shutter I ended up with 210 images for this one, lonely little spot. But.........I absolutely nailed it and that was what it was all about.
When I opened the 200+ images on my PS computer I did a quick review of the Jpeg thumbnails in a program that I find very useful. ACDSee 9 provides very quick opening, full screen review, quick check editing to see if all might work out ok and it is quite easy to move files around as needed, not to mention attaching labels to help keep track of which 7 I actually wanted to use out of the over 200 files. Once I had selected the 7 files I opened my HDR conversion software Photomatix and carefully selected 4 or the 7 that would give me the broadest exposure representation and that were a minimum of 2 stops apart throughout the series. If you look at all 7 images on the screen, as thumbnails, (with the most over exposed on the left and the most underexposed on the right) I selected (counting from left to right) exposures number 1, 3, 5 & 7. I have found that Photomatix works best if there is at least a two stop spread between each image to be processed. With the basic processing out of the way I take the image into Photoshop and begin my process of duplication of the master working file so I can pay particular attention to specific detail areas of the image which will ultimately end up being different layer masks that I will blend together with the final image. I pay close attention to the dynamic range, tonality, contrast, hue, saturation and whatever else seems to bring out the nuances I saw and felt while standing on that ridge looking at the scene unfold around me.
I do spend a fair amount of time making sure the compositional directions and pathways of light within and through the image takes the viewer exactly where I want them to go and to ensure they will see the image, piece by piece like I want them to experience it. I have often likened it to a composer and conductor that takes the listener through a score of music in a very determined way. Fine Art images should provide the same experience for the viewer of your fine art piece. I feel I have an obligation to provide that pathway and direction for my viewing public.
In summary, you have to know your camera inside and out. At the very least read your camera manual at least ONCE. you might be surprised what treasures are lurking in those pages............use your tripod, cable release and above all else.........LEARN TO READ YOUR HISTOGRAMS !! there are few tricks or techniques that will serve you better than knowing what the heck a histogram is trying to tell you.
Till next month............vb