Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Power of Light

Earlier today I came across this scene as I was returning from my "milk" experiment (previous post). This is simply a non-descript tinny boat pulled up along the shoreline by the path that circles Clear Lake. Immediately behind me from this position is the bustling town of Wasagaming and some beautiful cottages.

Plain as plain can be. Blah late morning overcast light, a boat on the shore. Big deal. But I thought there was promise here as a) the boat makes for an interesting foreground subject, b) it sort of leads the eye towards the dock, which c) sort of leads the eye to the distant horizon. Importantly this viewpoint is looking north'ish, so sunset will be coming from my left. Which means the sidelight will add a lot of drama to this scene. Plus I'll be looking at a dusk sky bathed in that same 90 degree light, and my polarizer will be at almost maximum strength to bring out those details. So I made it my goal to return later this evening.

And such is the power of light.

This one I've refined quite a bit in post, but it demonstrates the dramatic impact of light on the scene. It turns the ordinary into something much more. After grabbing this shot I moved forward slightly to focus on just the dock.

This one turned out really well and it's now one of favorites. That said this evening offered some learning for me:

1. The value of scouting. I'm hugely guilty of humping to the beach area while here and madly racing the light trying to find something to shoot. Today I scouted the location and my vantage point. Tonight I casually marched to the spot and set up, knowing in advance what I was looking for.

2. Experimented with a new shooting workflow. Compose first, ignore the rest. Get everything lined up in the viewfinder with a couple of test shots, histogram and focus be damned. Then get the depth of field sorted out. This is a constant challenge as I'm still stymied by the technical details of hyperfocal distance. Tonight I played with starting with a focus point, evaluating near-field focus, and adjusting from there until I had good front-to-back. Finally, get the exposure sorted out - start with the midtones for a base exposure, check the shadows (and adjust if need be), then check the sky highlights and line up the proper neutral density grad to even things out.

3. I'm sick of the magenta color cast that Cokin ND and graduated filters impose on an image. It's extreme to start and gets exponentially worse as you stack them together. The images above are the result of double processing and blending together two color variations of the file. I'm going to be ditching the Cokins and biting the bullet for a set of Lee filters - they are pro grade and by all accounts actually live up to the name "neutral density".

This has been a long post that hopefully fellow photo geeks will enjoy. Congrats to the rest of you who actually made it this far. I'm hoping for a morning shoot tomorrow but, alas, have not fully adopted today's teachings as I have no clue what I'm going to capture.

No comments:

Post a Comment