Tuesday, May 5, 2009
Create The Old Masters Look With Modern Gear
Using the latest in software, techniques and hardware can provide you with imagery that will rival the masterpieces of nature photography
That said, the potential of the LCD preview (and Live View in some cameras) can’t be understated. It took the Masters years of shooting to be able to effectively previsualize what the image would look like on film. We can see that almost instantaneously. Proper exposures used to have to be determined by the Zone System pioneered by Ansel Adams, but now histogram modes allow you to tweak settings for perfect exposures immediately after capture.
By using your camera’s histogram, you can analyze the amount of dark tones (on the left), bright tones (on the right) and all of the midtones in between. By adjusting exposure to ensure there’s a good dynamic range, with tones spread evenly from blacks to brights, you’re able to get an image that isn’t blown out and still maintains details in shadow areas. For the Masters, a good dynamic range meant hours in the darkroom dodging and burning. For us, proper use of the histogram provides an optimum exposure on the spot.
Compositionally, the Masters invented and improved upon the qualities of an image that eventually became the tried-and-true guidelines of nature photography. By using the contrast between light and dark objects in a frame, for instance, photographers can play with framing and depth to create images with defined foregrounds and backgrounds. This method, called chiaroscuro, says that a dark foreground will bring the eye to a brighter background, and darker or lighter objects can be used to frame objects on the opposite end of the tonal scale.
Perspective Control And Lens Choices
Playing with perspective provides excellent results, as well. Smaller objects in the foreground can create scale when positioned in a frame against large background subjects like mountains or dynamic skies. Conversely, using perspective to present smaller foreground objects like brightly colored flowers or textured fields as the principal subject in an image can be more interesting than trying to focus on an expansive landscape. Remember, too, that skies themselves often can be even more impressive than the terrestrial scenes beneath them, so be sure to involve them in your shots. As the Masters knew, the entire frame makes the image, so use it all.
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