Saturation & Contrast!

So, I’ve pretty much gone over most of the basics without rehashing a lot of the information that is freely available on the internet. So what is it that most new and inspired photographers/art dwellers should know about? Contrast and Saturation.

Contrast
The difference in value between a pixel, and the pixels that surround it. Very simple, not to complex to understand, but again… some side-effects to having to much contrast.

First thing you should grasp is how much ‘contrast’ is in the image, when the image is un-processed, right out of the camera. Most cameras try to simulate what you see and apply contrast to your image. Some cameras are good at manipulating contrast straight out of the camera, some are not. If you shoot raw, there are no adjustments to the image, so when you take raw images, the contrast is very ‘flat’ (not a big difference in brightness values from one pixel to the next). This is a big deal because that means you must add it back in. There is a lot of control with the contrast setting, it is almost a universal adjustment, so be careful when playing with any sort of contrast ‘slider’. Sense we are dealing with color photography, when changing a pixels brightness value, you are essentially changing the color too, or rather… the ‘saturation’ of those pixels.

Saturation
Simply put, it’s the color intensity of a pixel. If a red pixel is a deep red and considered saturated(intense), what would unsaturated be? It would be a pixel that is closer to black and white values with no color. Not sure how else to put it other than that…

It’s hard to continue from here without talking about these things visually, so from now on this blog will be transitioning into video posts with small amounts of intro text 🙂
Things are going to get interesting folks, about to drop the nitro into the engine, smoke in the mirrors very soon.

ISO/ShutterSpeed/Aperture…

To make a proper exposure, you need a good understanding of the three main camera settings. I’ll quickly run through them and review each setting and it’s general purpose. Plus we will talk about the pitfalls of using certain setting combinations. There are many different setting combinations… but for specifically taking landscape, all you really need to change is the shutter speed 😉 You’ll see why…

ISO
Film Speed (sensitivity to light).
Setting Range = (ISO 100/200/400/800…)

Pitfall = Higher ISO (higher sensitivity like 800 and up) introduces noise into your photo and reduces image quality. As photographers, we usually want max quality for all our images, so only look to use a low iso like 100/200.

Shutter speed
Camera’s speed in which it captures light.
Setting Range = (1 sec, 1/2 sec, 1/30 sec, 1/60 sec…)

Pitfalls = Generally you want everything in sharp focus, if there is wind, you are going to need a fast shutter speed like 1/30 of a sec. Other things like moving water, birds etc. try to opt for faster shutter speeds.

*Sometimes having blurred grass or even clouds can add a nice effect, so don’t be afraid to experiment, just be aware your whole image doesn’t turn out blurry in the areas that you want max sharpness.

2nd Pitfall is camera shake. If you’re using shutter speeds slower than 1/30 and your not using a tripod, say good bye to clean details. Treat your camera as a sniper, any form of shaking will make you miss your clean shot, get a pair of legs and a good trigger for the shutter.

*Use a tripod! and avoid this pitfall. A tripod that is made to hold the weight of your camera. For Focus Stacking and HDR(High Dynamic Range) blending, a tripod is required, and it is not an option! Some of my favorite images I’ve made, have been with a pair of legs.

3rd Pitfall is noise (a grainy like texture that is usually unwanted in most cases. I’ll go into grain later, some cool techniques of adding noise to an image to increase detail.) Noise is introduced into the image by a long shutter speed, long story short, pixels are heating up on your sensor because it’s being used for an extended time, and in return you get hot pixels… Keep shutter speeds fast, the time it takes for it to overheat is based on the camera sensor.

Aperture – Controls depth of field in an image (DOF = how much will be in sharp focus from front to back) – Setting Range = (F/4, F/8 , F16…)

Pitfalls = Diffraction(how sharp the details can be using a certain aperture, do some research on this.) For most camera lenses, the sharpest aperture will be F8, it will give you the sharpest details and decent depth of field.

2nd Pitfall is shallow DOF distance. In order to get everything in focus you will have to use a higher aperture, also know as a larger F# (there are some camera techniques you can use to get around this pitfall , focus stacking is my 1st choice, usually. We will talk about focus stacking later…) If you tried to shoot a scene using an aperture setting that is away from F8, you are sacrificing image quality. This is some what counter intuitive, more on that later though.

So each of these settings are used to control how much light is coming into the camera and hitting the sensor. With ISO’s -generally you want the best image quality so what I do is leave my camera’s ISO setting to 200 to get a clean image free of noise but still having a good sensitivity for light to enter the camera.

Next, I leave my aperture at F8 to make sure I get the best sharpness out of my lens, I get pretty good depth of field with F8 with my 24mm lens so I try to stay close to that setting at all times. For scenes that require a larger depth of field, I’ll shoot additional images focused on the other parts of the scene to get all the sharp details, than blend all those shots together (I’ll show you guys how I go about doing that, some what an advanced technique, will most likely make a video for it.)

Lastly is the Shutter Speed, This is the only setting I adjust for letting light into the sensor. The only time I will consider adjusting other settings is when I have to make a sacrifice to get sharp foliage, in case the wind is blowing. It can be difficult when your camera needs a slow shutter speed to let the proper amount of light, into your light buckets.

Based on what we talked about with light buckets, each camera setting increment is usually increased/decreased by 1 stop, although some cameras offer the ability to get half a stop or even a third. I’ll stop there before I sound like everyone else though… I don’t care about stops and shutter speeds and Fstops, The only real setting I care about is shutter speed.

The only time you should care about other settings is when you have to drop a setting by 1 stop to let in more light… to than push back 1 stop with the setting you need.

Example.
Proper exposure for imaginary scene = ISO 200/ Aperture = F8 / Shutter Speed = 1/30th of a sec

*1sec shutter speed is blurring windy grass*
*raise ISO to 400(1stop increase) to increase film sensitivity to light*
*now speed up shutter speed to 1/15th of a second (1stop decrease) to reduce light from entering camera*

New exposure combination = ISO 400/ Aperture = F8 / Shutter Speed = 1/15th of a sec

*no more windy grass* victory!

This is the part of photography that everyone chokes up on, I choked up on it the first time I learned it, it takes a little bit of time, but once you get it… you will see how simple the system really is. Here is a small chart explaining the full stop steps… you gotta let light in, than let less light in with another setting. Your changing settings but maintaining the same amount of light that is entering your buckets 😉

Shutterspeed_full stops

If you can get past the pitfalls of each setting, naturally your images will look great! but there is more to be done…the post-processing! We didn’t get to talk about any of that yet, I was hoping to not explain these camera basics, but I want everyone on the same page before we blast off to the advanced stuff.

See you in the next one.

Dreamwalk

Foundation: Light Buckets

Welcome back!
So to begin in photography, you need a firm understanding of how light is being captured and how image data is being stored in their digital home. When ever you take a picture, the digital data that represents the light values of each pixel, are stored in one of the many file formats. The light values stored in these files can be viewed numericly or visually by pixels on your screen, more on this later, but first –  let’s get the file types out of the way.

DigitalSLR – RAW file – stores the most light data without tampering with the information (hence the word RAW…)

Standard digital camera’s – JPEG – stores a decent amount of data but has been tampered with and contains file compression (loss of data, remember… data = light, light = details).

I wont go into much about film here, but you should do some study on film cameras or more specifically the capabilities of film, surprisingly film has amazing potential over digital cameras…  it’s advantage over digital is how much light you can capture in one shot. But more on that in later posts.

Most digital cameras now a days have the capability of capturing 6 stops of light. What are stops!?!? Stops are a term used by photographers to help reference how much light is entering the camera. Think of a bucket of water as a stop, and – refer to the water as light… each camera has 6 buckets of light in which it can fill. There is a bucket to fill for the darkest dark tones or, areas of an image which is giving off small amounts of reflective light. Than a bucket for the shadow darks, than a bucket for the shadows, than another bucket for the highlights – a bucket for the bright highlights than lastly a bucket for the brightest highlights.

Now what’s interesting is not all these buckets necessarily have to be filled and sometimes your buckets will overflow. The amount of water in each bucket is determined by the scene in front of you. If you’re starring into the sun with your camera, your going to have massive amounts of water in your highlight bucket, what happens if that bucket overflows? Your highlight water will seep into the adjacent buckets used for highlights(bright light). But what if those buckets are already full? You lose the light quality because all your buckets are overflowing. Highlight detail doesn’t belong in the shadow buckets(remember that detail is considered light based on the idea that detail is made up of bright/dark pixels resting next to each other). Trying to keep this short and sweet but – the idea I’m trying to get across here, is the fact that there will be scenes which you wont be able to capture because digital camera’s are simply not advanced enough to capture all the light in one exposure.

So what do you do?!?!? You have many choices: A.)Make the sacrifice and capture the detail in the highlights B.) Capture the detail in the shadows and lose the highlight detail C.) OR! Apply a plethora of camera techniques to get all the light! HDR Blending, Gradient filters in front of the glass(lens),push/pull processing in lightroom/photoshop etc.

What I revealed is a big big secret to how some of the big dogs in the photo community manage to make absolutely breath taking images but… I merely hinted at some key points, Now this alone is just a stepping stone of understanding but a very crucial step needed to be taken in the right direction. What comes next is huge, light can be manipulated once it is captured! You can take what’s in your buckets and properly organize your water types into their correct value’d buckets.(some downsides to this, more on that later.)

This image below shows what kind of light is stored in each bucket, It also shows where in the image. In order to capture and re-create the scene you saw in person you must understand where the light values in your scene should go in your camera… If you are ultra-fledgling and this is over your head already, understand that, -before you can capture realistic images, you need to be able to recognize values in the scene in front of you. You must be able to relate them to this 6stop gradient below before you hit the shutter. If done incorrectly, you wont be able to get all the details to  re-create that realistic image, or exact representation of what you saw in person.

light_bucket_example

So what does this light look like numerically? Here is the data values of each pixel and it’s brightness levels of each pixel below. The little graph below is displayed on the back of your camera while using most cameras… its 2016 people, if you don’t utilize the histogram, your shooting yourself in the foot and gambling with your exposure. More on this in later posts, remember photography is subjective so don’t get caught up on understanding this concept fully. It will all make sense later.

Histogram1

To better explain this histogram, let me label it.

Histogram2

Light = L, again light = detail. This white hilly graph is representing how much detail is contained within each light ‘Value’. Dark values are to the left of the graph, Bright values are to the right. Mid-tones are found in the middle of the graph, values that are bright but not to dark. At the top I’ve labeled the histogram to better represent the stops in which light is registered into the camera.

As you can see, looking at the photograph above, it’s relatively dark in the bottom portion of the image, more so than it is bright. So looking back at the histogram again, you can see how the light data is represented on the graph. There is a bigger hill to the left than the right. Each image will have a different looking graph but essentially the idea is to have the proper water qualities in there corresponding light bucket. If you go against this rule, you will stray away from what looks proper and realistic to fantasy land. Art is subject and fantasy land is okay, as long as you don’t over do it. Strive for realistic light!

This is just the tip of the iceberg and hopefully I haven’t lost you in the rabbit hole yet.
Stay tuned for the iron triangle of exposures and a technique known as push/pull processing. We will be getting into the meat and potatoes of photography called “post-processing” the stuff you do after you take an image. I wont go on about how to change camera setting and how to operate a camera because that stuff can easily be learned on the internet. To continue from this point, It is recommended you have a copy of Adobe lightroom and photoshop. If you plan on getting serious with your photography, sign up for adobes photographic software made for artists. If you really don’t want to purchase software to advance your photography than I’d say your crazy! Software for photography is dirt cheap and is better to invest in software than that next 5000$ camera or 1000$ lens…maybe get that 500$ Digital SLR because your going to need one to be able to utilize the next section. 😉

6stops

Going,Going,Gone…

Photography is a fleeting industry where it’s jam packed full of competitors, young and old. You may  not think of them as competitors, and if you do NOT think this way… wonderful! You are one of the few who appreciate photography for what it really is.

It might be a form of escape for you… for most its a hobby… as for the masses, they think of it as an industry that they can take millions from. There is, -where the false reality lies. Too many people come flying in… straight out of high school or off the internet thinking it’s simply a few camera snaps and a website, It’s so much more than that! There’re a lot of people trying to accomplish this. The ones that don’t see a reason to get ahead, are the ones that advance their photography quickly.

This is where it’s a matter of understanding the relationship you want to start with photography. It’s this idea that creates your experience you’re going to have with it. Taking photos can be fun, as long as you let it. If you pride yourself and push yourself to climb mountains, stand in running water or be in the long grass, getting eaten alive by 100’s of mosquitoes(wear mosquito armor obvs.) and your not having fun doing it… get the hell outta dodge!

If you’re properly aligned in front of the light at the right time of day, day of week, month of the year, you can come home with some amazing imagery. Remove the dollar signs in your eyeballs. Instead try to live in the moment and grow an appreciation for the glowing light bathing your sunset/sunrise scene and storing the memory. If you do this, watch how easy it is to grow a passion to get out and shoot that next sunrise/sunset. It will be easy to learn vital techniques cause there is no race to start a business.

What you should have taken from this, is that photography can be a blast as long as you have the right mindset going into it.

Next, will talk about some of the problems of taking an exposure, you’l learn a small portion about histograms… and!!! – implement a few techniques to get a better image in your next exposure.

Sharpened-version_with-adjustmentsharpening

Dry Spell

Its been dull these past couple of days, I’ve been praying for some killer sunsets in areas where I have planned to shoot but have been some what unsuccessful. I didn’t care much about overcast lighting a few years ago but after learning how to harness the data within the raw files, It has become a joy to shoot. A scenes dynamic range can be captured in one frame with ease, encompassing all the details.

shattered-gravels-newfoundland-coast-rock

I’ve been pretty crazy about the gravels lately. The view around there is breath-taking and the interesting rock formations I’ve been finding are what keep me coming back. Weather has been up and down. Last week I felt like I was in a silent hill movie after the three days of consistent fog we had.shattered-2-gravels-newfoundland-coast-rock

Just when you think the light is going to get snuffed out, it does something magical. Powerful blue tones and reflected light captured me instantly in this shot. Taken roughly two hours after the first shot above at the gravels.

If your interested in one of these prints, they are for sale as with all my images. Images can be purchased through the contact page, or through the gallery. Shipping and tax are included.

•Canvas prints are as low as $120.48 @ 12″x 18″
•Un-matted paper prints as low as $93.36 @ 12″ x 18″

For those who have already purchased a print, I thank you again and hope you enjoy my photography of Newfoundland!

Titan

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Titan
The Gravels,Western Newfoundland

Warm light washes the scene during low tide at the gravels trail walk. This scene was very challenging to recreate and work on. Specifically the sun flare that was enhanced from sea spray. Usually I’ll wipe the lens constantly to remedy this but sometimes its really difficult when there’s so much wind. With a handful of Photoshop healing tricks I managed to remove an obnoxious amount of orbs created by the spray. I was so relieved that I was able to fix the errors. Very proud of the capture, after lots of hard work & trial and error I am finally able to express my vision in any kind of natural light.

The Bulwark

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“The Bulwark”
The Gravels, Western Newfoundland

Getting in the oceans face can be a one daunting experience. Here you can see a bombardment of small waves crashing along the coast at the Gravels trail near Port au Port. Being captured by the rock faces and their unique texture. The one rock to the right, having a Swiss cheese like nature to it, I had to capture. I’ve photographed this place many times before, but have been unsatisfied with the results. I wanted to reveal the beauty in this area and I believe with this shot, I done some justice. No sun star this time, comparing the one with the star, and without, It was obvious this one was the winner. I still have another shot from this same shoot that I still need to process, I’ll keep you posted.