Reveals How He Coped With Dull And Then Harsh Light Conditions To Get The Perfect Exposure Of Beech Trees In A Bright Field Of Buttercups And Daisies

Photographing the early summer landscape is hard work. At this time of year, a country drive has most of us firmly convinced we live in the right country for once, as the hedgerows, fields and woodlands are bursting with life. As May begins its slow fade into June, it's important to get out and about in the landscape with your camera as much as possible to make the most of those vibrant colours. Soon the heat will turn the pigment in leaf cells a darker shade of green and everything will start to feel slightly less inspiring. Seize every opportunity to capture Britain at its absolute best this month.

In my quest for striking imagery, I am always inspired by simplicity. Although 'lone tree' syndrome is becoming a little questionable and somewhat rife in landscape photography, trees make very compelling subjects nonetheless. In Devon and Cornwall they tend to be twisted and far less photogenic, growing awkwardly as they battle the elements, so I was highly excited to find this row of beeches aloft a windy hilltop exuding so much character. With roots looking like an army on manoeuvre, the strong winds were shaking the branches as layers of low cloud flew overhead. It was the summer flowers, though, that turned this landscape into something very special.

As landscape photographers, we are always looking for critical sharpness from foreground to infinity, yet the eye never sees the world in this two-dimensional way.

GG Looking through the lens, the summer flowers became an ocean of soft yellow and white orbs

Stopping the lens down can actually misinterpret the scene, and as I lay in the summer flowers this became something of a revelation. Looking at those marvellous trees through the lens, the buttercups and daisies became an ocean of soft yellow and white orbs. There was no need for large depth of field - the image would actually be worse for it. I could convey the bliss of a lazy summer meadow, translating the scents and sentiments into an intimate and stnking portrayal of early summer

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With my 24-105mm f/4 L lens attached to my Canon EOS 5D and a Heliopan slim polariser to enrich the greens even further, I chose an aperture of f/8. This would prove to be a good compromise between image sharpness and depth of field. Exposing for a shot like this in harsh sunlight is slightly complicated. The greens in the trees are a midtone, for sure, but the bright buttercups and clouds will cause the camera to underexpose significantly. Match that with erratic light levels as the cloud passes overhead, and some problems begin to arise. I took test shots, and made adjustments between ISO and shutter speed to produce a healthy graph. Then it was simply a matter of shooting wide and picking my moment

So I waited and waited, shot a few frames and didn't like what I saw. The clouds were messy - one minute there was too much cloud, then not enough. Finally, a huge raft of grey swallowed the mood and I sat there thinking I should pack up and come back later. So I cleaned a filter or two, found that missing spirit bubble level and lay around thinking photo gibberish Then the 'raft' towed the blue skies back into play. With the white and grey giving a wonderful contrast to those marching trunks, and blue skies breaking overhead, I shot frame after frame, checking the histogram to get the exposures consistent as I searched for that magical cloud and light combination.

Back at the lab I was disappointed, as there was literally nothing to do! The pictures were vibrant and colourful thanks to the polariser and the fact that I kept an eye on the histogram. The best shots were wide, shot at 24mm, with an ISO of 400 at f/8. The colourful bands of yellow, green and blue were one thing, but the comical queue of trees had me firmly convinced that the hippies were right all along. There is spirit in all things, but it's up to us to search for it. AP

To see more pictures bv David Clapp visit www.daviddapp.co.uk

you start

Software

Adobe Photoshop, Photoshop Elements or similar software

System requirements Windows PC or Mac

Skill required ••• Time to complete 15 minutes

THE terms dodging and burning refer to a darkroom technique where the exposure for different parts of an image can be altered by blocking the light falling on to a piece of photographic paper This can be done in two ways. Dodging a part of an image is usually done by using a tool made from a length of wire with a piece of circular-shaped card stuck to one end. By holding the wire so that the card blocks some of the light falling on to the piece of paper, it lightens specific parts of the image. The tool can be used almost like a shadow puppet to hold back the exposure where the image needs brightening.

Burning works in the opposite way by giving the photographic paper extra exposure in some areas. It is often done using a card with a hole cut into it or by using your hands to prevent light falling in certain areas, but allowing it to fall on to a specific parts of the image. The areas that need darkening are burned in using light passing through this hole.

This is why Dodge and Burn tool icons in Adobe Photoshop are represented by a dodging tool and a pair of hands respectively.

The power of the pair of tools lies in their ability to allow you to change the brightness, and also the contrast, of a selected area in an image. This is particularly useful where a global Levels or Curves adjustment will affect the entire image

In the latest in our series on using software to correct your images, Richard Sibley shows how to use the Dodge and Burn tools to adjust specific areas of an image

Technique explained Dodging and burning

5The downside of using the Dodge tool on the Midtone range is that it can decrease the contrast slightly. To regain some detail contrast in the area of ice in the foreground, select the Burn tool. Set the Range of the tool to Shadows and once again keep the exposure to 2%. I have used a smaller brush size of 150. Burn in the shadow and darker midtones details to increase contrast in these areas.

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6Finally, assess the image and apply any further Dodge and Burn adjustments as necessary. The hill and sky should be completely untouched, but the ice should now be brighter and have more contrast, creating a more eyecatching image. By gradually building up a series of slight adjustments, you can reveal detail and add contrast to an image.

How to dodge and bum an image

Learn how to use the Dodge and Burn tools to reveal details and add contrast to an Image

1 The problem with the original image is that the tonal range of the sky is very similar to that of the ice in the foreground. Adjusting the Levels or Curves will affect both areas of the image. I want to retain the subtle shadow detail in the hills and the soft sky, but slightly lighten and reveal details by adding contrast to the ice in the foreground. You can do this by making a series of subtle changes using the Dodge and Burn tools.

2Select the Dodge tool from the Tools palette. Change the Range of the Dodge tool to Highlights and adjust the exposure to just 2%. Select a fairly small brush size to start with. The exact size will depend on the overall size of your image. For this 12-million-pixel image I have selected a brush size of 125 and have set its Hardness to 0%.

Shadows Midtones Highlights

Shadows Midtones Highlights

Shadows, midtones and highlights

The effects of the Dodge and Burn tools can be applied to specific tones in an image. This means only the highlights are affected when the Burn tool is used to darken bright areas in a sky. However, when used in combination with each other you can increase local contrast. For example, you can brighten the highlights and midtones using the Dodge tool, but then use the Burn tool (set to Shadows) to increase the micro-contrast in these areas. This can make an image look sharper and bring out detail.

The images to the left show the effect of using the Dodge and Burn tools when set to the Shadows, Midtones and Highlights. Setting the Dodge tool to Shadows has the strongest effect on dark areas, with little effect on midtones and none on highlights. When set to Highlights, the Dodge tool affects the brightest of the midtones, but none of the shadow areas, while the Midtones setting lightens the midtones, with a slight effect on shadow and highlight areas. With the Burn tool the settings have the opposite effect. For example, when set to Shadows, the Burn tool turns the darkest of the midtones almost black, but the highlight areas are unaffected.

3Use the Dodge tool to bring out detail in the foreground by going over and around existing highlight areas. I have chosen the areas of ice that already have a slight highlight. Brightening these highlights makes them stand out more, giving the image foreground interest. To check to see the changes you have made, use the History Tool palette. Clicking a previous History state allows you to view and revert to that point if necessary.

4 Change the size of the Dodge tool to around 400, keeping the Hardness at 0%. Change the Range to Midtones, but keep the Exposure set to 2%. Using longer and wider sweeps, use the Dodge tool to lighten the ice slightly in the foreground. As well as making the detail in this area more visible, it also helps to blend the Highlight changes that have just been made.

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