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Question of the Month

November 2017

Is it worth it?

We just finished our Yellowstone Fall Photo Tour, one of our favorite domestic trips. Although the tour tries to concentrate on wildlife, you're missing the boat if you ignore the multiple photo opportunities Yellowstone offers, that are not wildilfe subjects. To do so, though, requires taking the time, expending the energy, and actively looking for the less obvious (meaning, not animals) subjects.

So, I'd say 'Definitely yes!' And to illustrate, let me show you a couple of images that simple Photoshop techniques made into more effective composites, that told the story best.

Here's the first example. I used a 24-105 for the image on the left and, if you zoomed in to 100% in RAW, you'd see that the aspen leaves in the middle and upper left section of the picture are not critically sharp. The aperture was f22, but at 58mm, the focal length needed for this composition, depth of field simply didn't carry the entire length of the shot.

So, I did some thinking. My 16-35mm would give me greater depth of field, albeit with a smaller image size, but, if I cropped the image, I could produce essentially the same image as that made with the 24-105, but with sharpness that extended throughout the image. As it turned out, that shot was made at 24mm, so I could have simply zoomed out to 24 with my 24-105mm and never changed lenses!

The important point here is that cropping a smaller image size image produced better depth of field in the finished image.

Here's another example:

For this shot, I exposed for the water, metering and over-exposing about 1 - 1.3 stops, which made the white water bright and with some detail, but the rocks are too dark. So ...
I over-exposed my next shot by about 1.7 - 2 stops, which resulted in more color and detail in the rocks, but I lost some of the detail in the water.

With those two images, I opened the two (I converted the shots to jpg first, although that wasn't necessary) in Bridge, with Tools>Photoshop>Load Files in Photoshop Layers.
I then created a mask, and with my Paintbrush I painted in the water, masking out the light water from the top image so the darker water of the bottom image was visible.

Here's the two layers with the top image hiding the correctly exposed rapids
of the bottom image. So ... let's add a mask.
Here's the mask, and I painted into the mask with black, revealing the bottom layer's water.
Here's the final image, flattened as a jpg.

One more ...

Although the sky was interesting, there was too great an exposure range between the sky and the foreground and bison. Because we shoot on manual mode, I could see that one shot wouldn't work before I even took a shot. On a programmed mode I'd have to shoot first, then maybe bracket, and find that it still didn't work. Using the same technique as I did for the rocks, I opened the two in Photoshop as Layers and added a mask, revealing the blue sky while keeping the correctly exposed bison.


So, is it worth it? Is it worth thinking about the final result as you're taking the shots, is it worth taking the time to solve an exposure problem, knowing the answer will be in the final processing?

I'd say Yes!

In our Digital Complete Nature Photo Course we teach manual mode for setting exposures, and we teach basic Photoshop techniques -- namely, Layers and Masks, the key to Photoshop!

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