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
While the Masters used large-format cameras with 4x5-inch film planes (or bigger) for the most part, modern digital equipment can provide excellent results, thanks to highly specified lens construction, detailed sensor design and extra features too numerous to go into. Still, to fully maximize the possibilities of a D-SLR in the field, you need to follow certain criteria and practical choices.
The Masters stopped down to apertures like ƒ/32, ƒ/45 and even ƒ/64 to get the sharpness and depth of field they needed. Modern digital sensors have such sophisticated construction that many higher-end D-SLRs can provide amazing depth in an image. Stopping down to the minimum aperture available on your lens is the most important step. The good news? Shooting in the ƒ/16 to ƒ/32 range gives you excellent image sharpness, front to back. The bad news? The smaller the aperture (even though it looks like a bigger number), the more light you need, which means longer exposures. Expect blurring of motion when dealing with rapidly moving elements like streams or waterfalls.
Quality lens design is important to both depth of field and image sharpness. Digital imaging picks up every flaw, and lenses designed for digital have been meticulously constructed for the best results. This is one of the reasons why the small image sensors of most D-SLRs can provide excellent depth of field and sharpness that rivals the results of large-format cameras. Remember, the better the glass, the better the final image will be.
Don’t Forget About Filters
The Masters frequently used filters to enhance areas in the frame and to add or reduce contrast. While Photoshop and various plug-ins can mimic many filters in postprocessing, nothing can fully substitute for using a filter on the lens when you actually make the exposure in the field. Red-yellow and orange filters can boost contrast in a black-and-white scene by darkening dull skies to dramatic, deep grays and blacks. Polarizers cut glare and enhance colors that would otherwise be washed out. Split NDs enable you to control the contrast between foreground and sky. All of these filters were commonly used by the Masters, yet they have been largely discarded by famous digital shooters. Photoshop can do a lot, but nothing can completely make up for a filter on the lens at the time of exposure.
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