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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

How To Go Wide

Pointers For Panoramas • The Dark Side Of Wildlife Photography • Presentation Preparation • Filter Essentials

The Dark Side Of Wildlife Photography
Q I recently returned from Yellowstone National Park with a set of disappointing pictures of bison and elk. The animals were positioned in sunlight on light-colored ground or vegetation. If the animals were small in the frame, the surroundings were nicely exposed, but the animals were too dark. If the animals filled the frame, they looked good, but the environment was too bright. I used the auto-exposure mode on my DSLR. Do I need to use manual exposure?
J. Grigsby
Portland, Oregon

A It’s that same old problem of contrast. You have very bright and very dark areas in the same image, and when you choose any of the auto-exposure modes, the metering system on your DSLR will attempt to resolve the problem with a compromise.

Your best solution is to base the exposure on the brightest area of the image (which won’t be the dark animal), either by spot metering it or determining the correct exposure from a similarly lit background and locking it in for your photograph. One more time: Check your histogram to be sure you’re getting the best possible exposure in a difficult situation. If there are pixels piled up on the left side, you have no detail in your dark animals, and if they’re up against the right side, you have burned-out light areas. If your histogram has data against both walls at the same time, chances are that a good representation of the subject isn’t possible with a single capture. (Study up on HDR.) Remember, too, that in any complex exposure situation, you should shoot in RAW format.

If you’ve captured the dark subject and bright background exposed properly for the brightest area, with detail, you’ll be able to work with this image. There are a number of tools that can help you. In Adobe Lightroom, Recovery and Fill Light will restore detail to the bright and dark areas, respectively, if data is there. In Photoshop, you can select the darker subject and lighten it, as well as using Shadows/Highlights for adjustments. In the latest version, CS5, there’s a simple process that will make an HDR from a single image to help control contrast.

If this all sounds way too complicated, remember that in the days of film, we were all stuck with the images you brought home from Yellowstone. If you couldn’t photograph the entire scene with an exposure within a 1⁄2 stop of that required for the subject, you were out of luck. Nothing short of fill-flash on a dark animal would save the day. So don’t despair. Shout “Hooray for digital,” beef up your skills, and get more satisfaction from your photography!

Presentation Preparation
Q I’m making an important presentation of my images on a significant environmental problem using a laptop with PowerPoint and a digital projector. How should I prepare the images for best display?
G. Foot
Moab, Utah

A The basic thing you need to know about projection display versus how an image looks on your LCD monitor is that the projected image will be less sharp, color gamut will be limited, contrast may be emphasized, and some brightness will be lost.

Process the image so that contrast and color look good on your monitor. Be careful of overly saturated colors because they will be emphasized by the projector and could look blown out, or out of gamut, without detail. Reds and yellows are the most vulnerable. Once the image is as good as you can make it, save it in large format so you can keep it for other uses. Make a new file for insertion in your presentation by resizing.


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