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Dark Subject/Light Sky
MadQDog.

I've worked with film cameras x 40 years and digital x 6 and feel foolish for asking this question, so rightfully place it in the Beginners' forum:.

I live at altitude in the mountains/conifers where the "subject" in a landscape is frequently dark. Even on a cloudy/partly cloudy day, the sky here at altitude is quite bright. Definition and subtelty of clouds adds greatly to the quality of the shot, but I can't seem to capture cloud definition by either adjusting WB or stopping-down the shutter incrementally. I am not using a dSLR but a Panasonic Fz8 and Fuji s9000. Any (and all) tips would be most welcome. Many thanks...

Comments (13)

Try a gradient neutral density filter to darken up the sky a bit..

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Comment #1

MadQDog wrote:.

Sky here at altitude is quite bright. Definition and subtelty ofclouds adds greatly to the quality of the shot, but I can't seem tocapture cloud definition by either adjusting WB or stopping-down theshutter incrementally. I am not using a dSLR but a Panasonic Fz8 andFuji s9000. Any (and all) tips would be most welcome. Many thanks..

You are exceeding the dynamic range of your camera. You will need to use something to tone down the sky to preserve detail.......as the previous poster said, you need to use a graudated neutral density filter..

You can meter on the sky to get the proper exposure for the clouds/sky, but your landscape will be underexposed and dark, but you may be able to get some detail in the landscapes by post processing the image in Photoshop or a similiar editor..

JohnPentax *ist-D, K100D, Fuji F20/31fd, Oly Stylushttp://www.pbase.com/jglover..

Comment #2

Both the Fuji and Panasonic models can shoot RAW, so if you're not already doing so do this..

Now if you meter against the sky and shoot in RAW you can recover the landscape from RAW. I've actually done this ( expose for bright sky and recover very dark landscape resulting ) and you'd be surprised just how effective this can be..

Incidentally you can do this with JPEGs although the results will be less effective. The key is loading the image and converting it to 16-bit and being extremely careful manipulating light curves..

Something like LightZone (software) is particularly suited to this post-processing, as you can avoid using curves altogether..

A free application called cinepaint might be useful if you do not have 16-bit image processing software..

When shooting in RAW with either camera use something like NeatImage to help with noise in the resulting image. For example I would save a 16-bit tiff from LightZone and generate the JPEG from NeatImage. Leave sharpening to AFTER noise reduction - I do this in NeatImage myself..

The expose to the right rule is very important here. You do want to avoid overexposure, however on a non-DSLR the sensor is quite noisy and the further right you expose the less noise will be apparent in processed result..

An ND filter will just reduce the amount of light at all levels and may actually compromise your landscape detail. I have not used an ND filter myself so perhaps I'm missing something, but that's my understanding..

I'd favour using the S9000 myself as it's sensor is less noisy and it should give better results ( less noisy ones ) when you enhance the dark landscape ( which is the part likely to show up noise ! )..

Perhaps a UV filter might be useful. Normally these are said to be less effective on digital cameras ( which already have some UV filtering, we are told ), but at altitude this may help..

StephenG.

Pentax K100DFuji S5200Fuji E900PCLinuxOS..

Comment #3

Why not just take two pictures and merge them? One for the sky, and one for the landscape?..

Comment #4

I would recommend to get the Nikon D300. Its active-d lighting feature should solve that problem. Hope this helps....

JC...

Comment #5

Sjgcit wrote:.

An ND filter will just reduce the amount of light at all levels andmay actually compromise your landscape detail. I have not used an NDfilter myself so perhaps I'm missing something, but that's myunderstanding..

The other posters were suggesting a grad ND filter. It is half clear and half dark, and gradually transitions in the middle. The problem with this is of course, it requires you to have your horizon in middle, and assumes everything above the horizon needs to be darkened, which is not always the case...

Comment #6

Johnc5 wrote:.

I would recommend to get the Nikon D300. Its active-d lightingfeature should solve that problem. Hope this helps....

I'm not sure that suggesting to someone who is using a P&S camera to buy a $1800 that is not even available yet (it is supposed to ship November) is very helpful...

Comment #7

MadQDogI live at altitude in the mountains/conifers where the "subject" in alandscape is frequently dark. Even on a cloudy/partly cloudy day, thesky here at altitude is quite bright. Definition and subtelty ofclouds adds greatly to the quality of the shot, but I can't seem tocapture cloud definition by either adjusting WB or stopping-down theshutter incrementally. I am not using a dSLR but a Panasonic Fz8 andFuji s9000. Any (and all) tips would be most welcome. Many thanks..

It looks like you have exceeded the dynamic range of your camera. You have a couple of options, all of them require compromises..

1) Get a grad ND filter. Not sure which ones your cameras take, though. Cons - The transition between dark and light will hinder creative framing..

2) Shoot RAW (if available) and create two different exposures (one for the sky and one for the dark foreground) and merge them. Cons - This requires that the dynamic range of the scene does not exceed the camera's dynamic range in RAW, which may not always be the case..

3) Bracket your shots and merge the photos. Expose one photo for the sky and one for the dark foreground. Cons - This requires a steady tripod and a static scene. Even a windy day blowing the leaves on a tree will make this not practical..

By the way, if you don't know what a grad ND filter looks like, here is a link to a site that sells them (first site shown on Google - never bought from them or even heard of them):http://www.singh-ray.com/grndgrads.html.

If you want to know how to merge photos (for option 2 & 3):http://www.luminous-landscape.com/tutorials/digital-blending.shtml.

Hope this helps...

Comment #8

MadQ.

If it helps, here are some pics of mine, experimenting with my Hoya Graduated ND filter (screw-in style)..

1st pic, metered for sky:.

Image control:Zoom outZoom 100%Zoom inExpand AllOpen in new window.

2nd pic, metered for ground:.

Image control:Zoom outZoom 100%Zoom inExpand AllOpen in new window.

3rd pic, with Grad ND filter. I believe I metered towards the ground on this shot, but the grey top-half of the filter reduces the amount of light reaching the sensor, without affecting color balance..

Image control:Zoom outZoom 100%Zoom inExpand AllOpen in new window.

Not the best shots, just wanted to show an example with the G-ND filter. For now I am happy with the screw-in style, but this is limiting, as the transition between grey and clear is dead-center on the filter, so therefore your horizon will always have to be dead-center on your shot. I am just starting to research the Cokin P system, where you can slide the filter up and down, depending on where the horizon is on your shot..

Here is a link to a typical screw-in style G-ND filter:.

Http://www.bhphotovideo.com/...en_55CGND6_55mm_Graduated_Neutral_Density.html.

And here is link to Cokin's page on B&H Photo:http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/category/9308/Cokin.html.

And here is a link I found helpful when first researching filters:http://bythom.com/filters.htm.

Hope this helps, along with the other useful info posted here.JTP850http://picasaweb.google.com/JTYooper..

Comment #9

Dave_s93 wrote:.

3) Bracket your shots and merge the photos. Expose one photo for thesky and one for the dark foreground. Cons - This requires a steadytripod and a static scene. Even a windy day blowing the leaves on atree will make this not practical..

Hmmm..... I think you have made this superb double exposure technique sound more difficult than it is..

In truth, it is not necessary to get a pixel perfect blend at the transition... any more than a graduated ND would be able to cut off precisely along any one line of conifer trees meeting the sky !!.

The trick is to feather like the grad ND, making sure that all the transition takes place in the 'sky' zone. This looks perfectly natural, because skies DO lighten towards the horizon, and it is easy to draw the rough line very quickly.. and 'rough' is all that's needed as long as you stay in the sky..

And you don't even need to have the sky from the same shot!! Like a lot of photographers, I keep a stock of "nice" skies that I paste into dull day shots..

Note: If you choose to do the same, make sure that the bulk of your sky library consists of 'mild mannered wispy ones' without too much drama in them. Trust me. In my experience, those are the ones you will find most useful !! Regards,Baz..

Comment #10

Barrie Davis wrote:.

Dave_s93 wrote:.

3) Bracket your shots and merge the photos. Expose one photo for thesky and one for the dark foreground. Cons - This requires a steadytripod and a static scene. Even a windy day blowing the leaves on atree will make this not practical..

Hmmm..... I think you have made this superb double exposure techniquesound more difficult than it is..

In truth, it is not necessary to get a pixel perfect blend at thetransition... any more than a graduated ND would be able to cut offprecisely along any one line of conifer trees meeting the sky !!.

The trick is to feather like the grad ND, making sure that all thetransition takes place in the 'sky' zone. This looks perfectlynatural, because skies DO lighten towards the horizon, and it is easyto draw the rough line very quickly.. and 'rough' is all that'sneeded as long as you stay in the sky..

Yes, but that requires more than just feathering. It requires you to manually use the brush to edit the mask in PS. It is a lot more complicated to merge photos that are not exactly the same (not necessarily hard, but more time consuming), especially for a beginner. If you have the same exact scene, you can use the "layer mask" technique shown in the link below:.

Http://www.luminous-landscape.com/tutorials/digital-blending.shtml.

It just consists of.

1) coping the dark photo on a layer on top of the light photo,.

2) then copying the light photo and pasting it on the mask of the dark photo, and3) blurring the mask..

Then you are done. If you have slightly different photos, you will need to manually fix your mask or use the move tool to align your photos...

Comment #11

Dave_s93 wrote:.

Snipped.

Then you are done. If you have slightly different photos, you willneed to manually fix your mask or use the move tool to align yourphotos..

Well.. Okay but... (shrugs) I do think you are arguing the difference between 'easy' and 'very easy indeed'... [??]Regards,Baz..

Comment #12

Lots of good answers already posted, just to let you know about this great and easy tutorial for GIMP (freeware)..

Http://www.gimpguru.org/Tutorials/BlendingExposures/.

It'll should give you some detailed hints as to what to do.Good luck..

Perry.

__________________________.

Http://hellabella.de__________________________..

Comment #13

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