art, culture, photo-of-the-day, photography

Lens-Artists Photo Challange 134: ” From Forgettable to Favorite”

…. or the benefits of raw!

Fortunately, the subject for this week’s Lens-Artists Photo Challenge was published ahead. So, I had enough time to prepare this post. Each photographer struggles sometimes over the limitations of the photographic gear and gets images (far) away from the expected result. Fortunately, nowadays in digital photography, you have the option to increase the image in the digital darkroom. As our host this week, Tina asks to show such images as examples.

developed from RAW

You know, I’m taking my photographs in raw format instead of getting the JPGs processed automatically straight from the camera. Although this takes additional time and work, I’m usually getting better images. The link above directs you to a post I wrote a couple of years ago. Despite the abilities of the sensors increased over time, I still don’t want to throw away quality.

Usually, I don’t do much post-processing. I only sharpen my images and balance the exposure by subtly brightening the darks and shading the lights a bit, if necessary. So, the additional effort is very small and I can use batch-processing quite often.

But, every now and then I have images demanding a bit more work, just like the image I’m showing you today.

This image is taken on Helgoland in January 2016. My idea was to capture the light beam of the lighthouse. So I went out during the blue hour because I wanted to have a slight dark-blue sky instead of a black sky. The slight snow and rain that night didn’t disturb much. When I arrived at the planned location, I noticed a family walking towards the lighthouse. So, a quite short exposure was necessary to get a sharp family and get nice light beams. The exposure was set to fit the lights of the window: full-frame, ISO 2000, f4, 1/25, handheld (no time for setting up the tripod because of the family).

out-of-camera JPG

As expected from that scene, the captured image was very dark. Thanks to the raw format, this wasn’t a loss! These steps were taken to get the final image:

  1. increased exposure compensation in my raw developing software by +2
  2. decreased the lights a little bit
  3. increased the darks a little bit further
  4. un-sharp mask
  5. export to JPG

In the other image, I integrated the OoC for comparison. Click on the image to enlarge it. It’s also taken on Helgoland in January 2016. It shows the remains of an old pier.

This long exposure is also taken in raw and the exposure is aligned to the bright areas to avoid burnt-out areas. Besides a tripod, I used a gray-filter and a graduated gray filter.

full-frame, 24mm, ISO 50, f16, 10 seconds

Developing steps:

  1. remove dust spots in the sky
  2. balancing the horizon
  3. lighten the darks
  4. increased the warm tones in the clouds from the setting sun
  5. slightly cropped
  6. un-sharp mask
  7. export to JPG

These dust spots are almost always in your images when using a camera with interchangeable lenses because they are in the air and when changing the lens they can come into your camera. The same is true when you using nun-sealed lenses. When dust is inside your camera, it’s easy for the particles to settle on the sensor. You can recognize them as dark mostly round spots in the image. Most easily you can see them in a bright sky or on homogeneous areas in your image. The other possible source for the spots the lens itself. Either you might have spots on the back lens of your interchangeable lens or on your front lens. And, although the front lens is quite easy to keep clean, spots will appear. When now taking your final image in JPG format to do the corrections, you’re losing quality because the image will always be compressed with a lossy algorithm when storing it. So, it’s much better to do all the necessary work on top of a raw file and export the finished image. I’m recommending reading the post, I linked further up in this article.

For the next 2 images, I also embedded the original image into the final one.

  1. lighten the darks in the face to reveal the eyes a bit
  2. slightly cropped
  3. un-sharp mask
  4. coverted to monochrome by using software that emulates monochrome film instead of desaturating the colors
  5. adding a subtle dark vignette
  6. export to JPG

This is a wildlife image. Despite using a 400mm lens, I was too far away from the seals for my planned composition. You know, gray seals are raptors and you have to stay at least 30 meters away from them. They are much faster as you might think. So, you better respect the recommended distance.

  1. lighten the darks
  2. increased the warm tones a little bit
  3. slightly cropped
  4. un-sharp mask
  5. export to JPG

Take care!

9 thoughts on “Lens-Artists Photo Challange 134: ” From Forgettable to Favorite””

  1. Your opening image is a perfect example of how editing can rescue a wonderful image made during nearly impossible conditions Andre. Your seals show perfectly how a forced distance can also be overcome. Well done as always.

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