Reality doesn't exist – an example

As a follow up to my previous post – here is a practical example of what I mean when I say I use digital post production to make the image reflect the scene as I saw it.

Have a look at this panorama shot from Saturday, it’s Christianshavn Canal in Copenhagen and click the photo to see large size on my web:

Click to see large size on my gallery!

Shot around 2.30pm it’s about an hour before sunset. The sun in Winter is extremely low here in the North and the sunlight is quite weak but also lovely warm and orange on clear Winter days like this. Oh and yes, as you can tell from my position I can walk on water!

Now this is shot straight into the sun basically, the sun is just hiding behind the left building. It’s called “contre-jour” to make it sound arty, it’s just French for “against the light”. It’s a classic situation where any camera falls short. Your eyes can see details in the shadows even when looking against the light. The camera cannot (let’s save the topic of digital HDR for another post). I exposed for the midtones to get a workable compromise and the raw file of this shot has extremely dark shadows, the entire left side is very dark and the highlights are very bright and almost blown out.

But…remember I shoot raw and raw files actually has quite a bit of data that you can’t see but can be dug out! I carefully use the “fill light” and “shadow contrast” features in Rawshooter to lighten the shadows and the left side without overdoing it. I also tone down the highlight contrast a bit. What I’m really doing is trying to compress the too large dynamic range. Not too much I still want that looking-into-the-light feeling but I want details in the shadows too. It’s classic darkroom stuff and Ansel Adams did the same 70 years ago. It’s just a lot easier these days and I think Ansel would have loved working with raw digital files.

The result as seen above is a reflection of how I remember the scene looked and felt when I shot it. I didn’t add or remove content, I simply lightened the shadows a bit and  darkened the highlights. I am satisfied with the result – I got the look I wanted and remember from the scene so mission accomplished!

5 Comments on “Reality doesn't exist – an example”

  1. The details are well retained without the hyperreal appearance of HDR photography (i.e. not digital art) I am tiring of seeing on the net these days- many are seemingly desparate to be original. Its great to read well informed technical commentary against such artistic images, a combination I feel is rare online.

  2. Hi Steve – and thanks! I agree, I don't like the HDR look either at least not when you can easily see it's HDR completely overdone just 'cos HDR is the latest toy on someones PC.
    Hardware, software whatever – it's the artistic end result that counts I feel!

  3. Hej

    Jeg har med stor interresse i et stykke tid nu fulgt dine billeder, som jo er helt unikke. Jeg håber, at jeg selv en dag kan fange lyset sådan.

    Billedet her af Nyhavn, som kan ses fra vinduet på min arbejdsplads er jo altid smuk – og næsten også i al slags vejr.

    Men jeg vil gerne spørge dig om, hvilken raw-shooter du anvender ? Jeg synes ikke selv, at jeg i Canons egen, kan finde muligheden for at ændre på skygge – uden den brænder højlyset mere ud ?

    Jeg har dog elements 5.0 – men den har jeg ikke anvendt særlig meget endnu (raw-conv.) og jeg synes Lightroom, som jeg har haft på prøve, er forfærdelig langsom (skyldes nok min pc)

  4. Hej Gitte,

    Tak for din kommentar, er glad for at du kan lide billederne.

    Jeg bruger produktet Rawshooter Premium fra firmaet Pixmantec. Jeg har prøvet de fleste raw-conversion programmer og Rawshooter er stadig min favorit. Pixmantec og dermd programmet Rawshooter eksisterer dog desværre ikke længere, de blev opkøbt af Adobe og en del af Rawshooter programmet og teamet er brugt til at lave Adobes Lightroom.

    Lightroom kan også producere lækre billeder, men kræver en super hurtig PC – og stadigt synes jeg Rawshooter har langt det bedste og hurtigste raw-workflow, hvor Lightroom er alt for omstændigt.

    I Canons egen raw-converter findes ingen "fill light" mulighed, men den findes i Adobe Camera RAW til Photoshop. Om den er med i Photoshop Elements ved jeg ikke, jeg kender ikke Elements. Kan du åbne RAW filer i Elements? I så fald bør shadow/highlight tool kunne lidt af det samme.

    Det er vigtigt at fill light udføres på en raw fil, så du arbejder med 12-bit data og ikke det meget begrænsede 8-bit (så er der ingen data i skyggerne at grave frem).

  5. Tak for dit hurtige svar.

    Jo, elements 5.0 kan godt åbne rawfiler (jeg har downloadet funktionen som plug-in) – så måske jeg skulle kigge lidt mere på den om fill-light findes i den. Det er en funktion, som jeg ihvertfald godt kunne bruge.

I'd love to hear your comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.