Dealing with Over-Exposure Pt 3: Surprise!

So, as I mentioned in my previous post, the shots I initially worked on were staged and were taken at a higher exposure. But it didn’t take long to take an overly-bright shot completely by accident.
I was taking a walk around the village when a woman from another town approached me on the same road carrying her crop of barley. I made way for her to pass, and snapped this shot before heading down the path.
I didn’t have much hope for this picture, honestly. The sky was so bright I wasn’t sure if I could draw any color out of it, and if I tired my black and white method I wasn’t sure if I would lose shade tones would look too similar to be be interesting.
(Of course, this is all my own likes and dislikes of B&W photos.)
It only took a few minutes on Photoshop, adjusting color and black points to see that there was much more potential here than I thought. I even saved a edited color version where the I shortened the green scale, and added a soft gradient layer around the edge for fun, like in the lomo photos.
The first picture is the original.
The second is my first color shift.
The last one was made by applyingthe B&W method I posted earlier.
I’m really enjoying this. It’s like a puzzle, and it’s only finished when I say “There. I like that.”
Try it out.

Dealing with Over-Exposure Pt 2: Method

Most of my overexposed shots are taken on sunny days, when the light is hard. Even on cloudy days sunlight is not always diffused well and the cameras automatic shutter speed settings are set too slow.

Luckily for this challenge, this whole week has been that kind of weather, so I was able to deliberately take some overexposed pictures to demonstrate my method of editing them.
Here are the methods, the original shots, and the altered shots as examples.

1. My first step in altering these shots was to open them into adobe Photoshop (I use CS4) though I’m sure other programs will have the same basic features used here.

2. I went to the adjustments menu for exposure and set a new black point and white points, (telling the program what true black or white should look like). I had to play around with the points a bit, but my aim was to makes the blacks darker (by setting a very dark black point), and the whites a little softer (by setting a slightly gray white point).

3. I also made slight adjustments to the contrast, but found that too much adjustment made the whites look too gray or too strong so that they began to wash out the black. Thus I only made slight adjustments to the contrast and left most of the changes to setting the black and white points.

4. At this point I had the contrast I wanted, but the colors looked so washed, that I didn’t think I could save them without a few hours of color adjustment. So I converted the images to gray-scale and changed them to B&W. It may be a cop out to adjusting the whole image including color, but I’m just making simple adjustments so that I’m satisfied with the image.

5. I repeated steps 2 and 3 again to make sure the blacks and whites were hat I wanted, and hit ‘save as’. I wanted to keep the originals to remind me not to toss images with potential, no matter how much editing they may take.

(I also want to say a quick thanks to my friends M and S who humored me during this experiment.)

Dealing with Over-Exposure Pt 1: Intro

How often is it that the subject is smiling, the focus is set, the setting if vibrant and full of color, and the camera takes a photo which turns out almost completely white? It happens, and when taking photos with the sun directly overhead, it happen quite often.
As I understand it, over exposure depends on how much hard light is in an area, how wide open the aperture is, the ISO setting, and the shutter speed. It’s a lot to keep track of.

I generally keep my ISO at its lowest setting, 100, to avoid the ‘noise’ which comes with a higher setting. I enjoy a wide open aperture because of the speed. So most of the time it comes down to my shutter speed. If the speed is too fast, the photo looks like it was taken with a dark filter over the lens, and the photo still has hard contrast of light. If the speed is set to slow, the photo is predominantly white, leaving out all the beautiful color.

I don’t typically try to shoot over exposed photos, but I do have some personal methods for making them look nicer so that they don’t go in my delete folder.This weeks photography challenge has a lot of content, so I may end up breaking it into a few posts over a few days.

The Weather Report Pt 2: Get Off the Roof

Finally, after a week of false weather forecasts the lightning storms have returned, which means that I, am outside waiting for the lightning, and experimenting with methods of shooting. I immediately realized there were a a few points I needed to figure out.

1. Lightning is unpredictable.

2. Lightning is bright, but not bright enough to be caught easily during the day.

3. When lightning strikes multiple times during one long exposure the light from the different strikes dull the sharpness of the image, giving the the bolts in the image a washed out look.

To address these points I used a small tripod, a book (any small book will do), and some specific lens setting.

First I set my camera on a tripod and pointed it in the general direction where the lighting was most common.

Then I manually adjusted my focal length to infinity (the farthest distance the lens would focus) which to my surprise was not just turning the focus dial all the way in one direction.

My aperture had to be wide open to let in as much light as I could in the dark, and my expire time was set for 30 seconds.

I finished my camera settings, then pressed the shutter button. I heard the shutter open and waited. The moment I saw a lightning flash which looked large enough to make a good picture, I placed a book in front of the lens to block out all other light for the remainder of the 30 seconds. I had mixed feeling about this at first since sometimes, the moment I held the book in front of the lens, a larger even more twisted bolt of light flashed right after the one I had just seen. I missed those shots, but keeping the book in front of the lens made the images I had much sharper.

All the shots came out with a purple tinge. I don’t generally think of lightning as purple, but who am I to judge. Still I tweaked the contrast afterwards to accentuate the lightning bolts, and made a sepia copy for fun.


Aperature f1.8

I found my first photography challenge on the DPS website, who also assign various challenges.
Attaching my fixed 50mm, f1.8 Canon lens, I spent the whole week taking shots with my aperture fully open.
Immediately I started to have second opinions about how to best employ shots.
Initially all my f1.8 shots were at close range, photographing insects or flowers, and sometimes close portrait shots. I’m using a Canon Rebel t1i so my scaled down sensor crops the image a bit and magnifies the image.
But having to shoot everything with one focal length and aperture forced me out of that habit. I took shots from close up, far back, and some from very far away, just to see what happened.
Here are the results.
Ladybug: Shot up close into a plant directly downwards, 1/320sec. This is how I usually think of using wide open aperture.

Paraglider/Village Women: These shots were taken from over 20ft away. The paraglider has very little behind him, so the effect of the open aperture was lost more than the women who appear more clearly than the rock behind them.

Dog: Here I discovered how much I enjoy a focus sandwich. In other words a clearly defined subject, in between an unfocused foreground, and background.

I shot this same alley when the sky was less overcast. The contrast of the shadows and light made me realize that diffused light would be necessary to make this sandwiched effect. Also, my shutter speed needed to be set to something over 1/1,000sec to prevent over exposure and to keep a sharp focus.
My conclusion for a focus sandwich recipe.
1. Diffused light
2. Fast shutter speed.
3. Wide open aperture.
4. A foreground and background to contrast the focus with.
Try it out.
For next week, my challenge is over exposure, shooting and in post production.
Feel free to suggest new challenges you would like to see on the blog.

Here’s to Progress

After a few years of consistently taking photographs, I feel as if I am getting an idea of how I like to approach photography.
Mostly when I travel, there are themes and techniques which I prefer using over others, for instance:
1. Since I often travel to Indian pilgrimage sites I have lot of photos of pilgrims and monks.
2. Because I am generally moving from one place to another, most of my shots of people are at eye level, or shooting down from a high place.
At the same time I constantly question various methods and themes which I don’t normally try.
There is room for improvement, thus I want to challenge myself and take a wider variety of photos which focus on various technical elements and themes.
So here is my challenge. Every week, I will try to utilize a different shooting method, post production technique, or explore a new theme to improve my understanding of photography, and widen my view.

Butter Lamp

Here I have a shot of a butter lamp inside a butter lamp offering house in Bodhgaya.
On my last trip, a friend of mine, Martha, brought a candle with her from the US to offer on behalf of her community.
She asked me to take a picture of it to show to her friends that it had made it all the way.
It turned out so nicely too.

Kitchen Fun Kimchi

Last week I was inspired to do a kitchen experiment and recruited some friends to make kimchi.
It was a straight forward recipe, so I didn’t feel the need to keep notes on how much I used, but I can still share the method.

What I used was:
Daikon radish
Chili powder

I chopped up the cabbage, radish and onion.
Next I diced the garlic, and ginger.
I mixed everything in a large pot adding a little sugar (maybe 3tbs), and lots of salt and chili powder. Then I mixed everything again.
At the end, all the vegetables were coated in a little salt, and a decent amount of chili powder.
I let everything sit for 10 minutes, letting the salt draw out the liquid of the cabbage and radish. The I sealed the contents of the pot into 7 clean jars and left them in a cool space on my counter.
Over the next few days, the natural enzymes of the cabbage caused the inside of the jar to pickle with all the spices, releasing natural sugars and macrobiotics.
When we next opened the jars we had our kimchi, which then vanished after a few days. It’s was delicious.

In the spirit of my last post, and because I see this kind of shot on some of my favorite cooking blogs, I added the lomo effect to all the pictures.

The Lomo Effect

I’ve been taking photos for a long time, but I haven’t done much post production editing with colors and so on. I did a few for fun, but the vast majority of my shots are un-edited. I figured, this is how the place where I took the picture looked at the time when I took it. So I didn’t buy much into making my pictures look too different.

Then I start seeing retro-looking photos everywhere. On blogs, on Facebook profiles, and even on photography sites of people I know. I can understand why it’s attractive. It has a look of a time before digital color enhancement, the kind of look which makes people say “Classic!”

The effect which I saw the most was the Lomo effect. I hear this name comes from an old Russian camera, the Lomo LC-A which was a knockoff of some other camera. The pictures it took didn’t develop well and distorted colors. Then, sometime in the 90’s, the stylized look of the Lomo Camera developed into a cultural fad, popularizing the Lomo style of film development. The Lomo style camera itself also became a popular item. I’ve seen a few on the shelves of chic clothing and novelty shops.

Not wanting to buy a Lomo camera myself, I became curious how I could emulate the same effects. Even if I don’t use the processing methods, learning about post production is always a good skill for photographers. I found two good websites with give step by step instructions which I have linked below

The first link comes from the DPS (Digital Photography School) website, which you may need to subscribe to.

The second link looked better to me because it was only a few steps and used adobe Photoshop which I am familiar with.

Here are a few shots I experimented with.