Category Archives: Post-processing Workflow

Trees, Granite Slabs, Morning Light

Trees, Granite Slabs, Morning Light
Trees, Granite Slabs, Morning Light

Trees, Granite Slabs, Morning Light. Yosemite National Park, California. September 4, 2014. © Copyright 2014 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Trees scattered along granite slabs are backlit by morning light, Yosemite National Park

I am a complete sucker for scenes with scattered trees, separated enough to allow light to pass, that are backlit by morning or evening sun. Among my photographs, they are a bit of a theme, or so I’ve been told, but they are also almost an icon of the Sierra for me. When I think of the term “range of light,” it is most often this light that comes to mind. I know that I’ve always been intrigued by light that makes the atmosphere glow, is so bright that it is hard to look into it.

Early on this morning I began by making a bee line for this rounded granite ridge at the top of a large system of sloping slabs above the lake where we were camped. Initially I was thinking of the location as a place from which to photograph distant subjects in a different direction, but once at this high point, with the sun spilling brilliant light my direction after having just topped the farther ridge, I turned my attention to these trees and rocks, backed by luminous haze and more granite, tree-covered slopes leading toward a higher ridge.

G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist whose subjects include the Pacific coast, redwood forests, central California oak/grasslands, the Sierra Nevada, California deserts, urban landscapes, night photography, and more.
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Text, photographs, and other media are © Copyright G Dan Mitchell (or others when indicated) and are not in the public domain and may not be used on websites, blogs, or in other media without advance permission from G Dan Mitchell.

Post-Processing: A Shadow Recovery Example

(In another forum someone asked a question – actually, more like posed a challenge – related to how much usable detail and quality could be extracted from a raw file that contained areas of very low luminosity, as could happen with a badly underexposed image or with an image of a scene with a very large dynamic range. Since I went to the work of responding and illustrating my response, I figured that I might as well share it here, too. With minor revisions, here it is.)

First, I actually have a “real” version of this photograph in which highlights were slightly blown, but which I preferred to use since I could bring them back in post and get a bit more shadow detail to start with. (It looks a bit bright to me as an on-screen jpg, but it makes a fine print.) That photograph ended up looking like this:

Kolob Canyon, Morning - Morning light slants over the top of sandstone cliffs above early autumn foliage in Kolob Canyon, Zion National Park
Morning light slants over the top of sandstone cliffs above early autumn foliage in Kolob Canyon, Zion National Park

This photograph and the other I’ll move to below were both shot from a tripod with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II at ISO 100 using the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS at f/16. While the “keeper” used for the photograph above had a 1/4 second exposure, the example I’ll use below was shot at 1/30 second.

The exposure challenge in this scene was the very large dynamic range between the bright spot of sky at the head of the canyon and the much darker colorful foliage in relatively deep shadow in the foreground. Exposing for optimal quality in the foreground would completely blow out the sky, while exposing for the sky would necessarily grossly underexpose the foreground.

I originally thought that I might like to have four bracketed exposures in case that would let me produce a better final image via layer blending, but it turned out to be unnecessary and the final image (as shown above) has a single source file with no blending. However, this means that I still happen to have one very badly underexposed (by three stops) version at 1/30 second which I’ll use here as the starting point for what I plan to illustrate in this post. Follow along with me and see what I can do with the very underexposed version of the file… Continue reading Post-Processing: A Shadow Recovery Example