Monday, 2 September 2013

Shadow Play

Back in 2005, my wife, Marcelle, and I spent 3 weeks in Paris, and at that time, I was using a pair of Epson R-D1 digital rangefinder bodies with Leica and Voigtländer M-mount lenses. It was a great combination of equipment (well before Leica announced the M8), compact, unobtrusive and capable of producing excellent 6MP images.

My typical shooting practice with these (and most) bodies is to dial in -0.7 EV exposure compensation to ensure highlights are not blown. I also meter for the brightest area, lock the expose and then re-compose as this gives me a file that I can best work with to produce a final image.

This practice can lead to some pretty dark images, but the ability to manipulate RAW images has steadily improved and it is amazing what detail can now be gleaned from these dark treasures. As a case in point, we'll have a look at a file I just returned to from the 2005 trip.

When I looked at the thumbnail in Adobe Bridge, I could see the stained glass windows, but not much else.

When I started to pull up the shadows in ACR, I was amazed to find a figure kneeling in the bottom right corner! Obviously I had seen the person when I took the image, the framing makes that abundantly clear (even if my memory isn't), but they had remained hidden in the shadows.

Since the low-light/high-ISO performance of the R-D1 (which used the Nikon D90 sensor) wasn't great, after ACR, I ran the file through Nik's Define to reduce and eliminate any noise. Next, I presharpened the image in Sharpener Pro and then processed it in Color Efex Pro.

Here's the final version:

Cathédrale de Chartres
As a long time believer of "get it right in the camera", used to using graduated NDs and polarizers etc, I have to say that I've started to do much of this type of manipulation in software now. As long as I make sure that I have nailed the exposure, then using Color Efex Pro (and, of course, Silver Efex Pro) for things like graduated filtering and adding warmth etc are much more easily and accurately done using the U-Point (control point) technology.

In another post, I'll showcase some of the other Paris images that I reworked.


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