by Di Hall
TECHNICAL: JPG image provided. Significantly underexposed as evidenced by the histogram. A large number of small dark spots (S) contaminate the left third. These are sea spray droplets on the lens brought into 'focus' by the small f20 aperture.
Di, thanks for the email you sent after the workshop. I'd like to deal with an issue you raised...
"There may be a bit of confusion with exposure. Fay, Janette and I discussed this. We have been told to shoot dark so as not to lose detail which can never be retrieved...the darks can always be reclaimed in Lightroom. Maybe you can throw a bit of light on this."
During my opening remarks at the workshop, I explained the technique of shooting to the right of the histogram in order to record as much data as possible...whilst avoiding overexposure that clips the highlights. I stand by that technical strategy. It preserves as much detail as possible in the highlights...and the shadows!
The strategy you've outlined, "shooting dark so as not to lose detail (in the highlights)" does so at the expense of detail in the shadows. If you shoot too "dark" you run the risk of severely clipping the shadows and no amount of tweaking in Lightroom will bring back clean detail from pure black. Yes, you may bring up some shadow detail in post-processing but you will also drag out some ugly noise with that detail.
Shooting to the right, when done properly, will give you the maximum amount of information to play with when processing your image. Simply shooting dark is a blunt instrument and won't give you the best file your camera is capable of delivering.
My advice is "Shoot to the right, with all of your might...but don't go too far!" <END OF RANT :-)>
CRITIQUE: Di, you sent me a number of images from which to choose one to critique and process. Notwithstanding the fact that the image I have chosen has some significant technical issues, it's a standout in your crop, in my opinion.
I was so pleased to see it because it's an image where you have probed beyond the standard, predictable photograph and seen and captured something that speaks of the drama and power of the sea at The Backwash when the weather is rough. Rather than capture the big documentary picture you've drilled into it with a telephoto lens and extracted an emphatic statement that says "awesome". In this case, a part speaks volumes more than the whole. Keep shooting that way and your imagery will flourish. You said...
"...yes it was a challenging afternoon. I was actually mesmerised by the whole wave, rain and wind thing—not used to that environment at all. I think we all had trouble keeping the lens clean, well all those that got down on the water front. Maybe I got too close. It was pretty exciting stuff. I could have just sat there and watched the afternoon fly by."
Tell me about it! ;-)
INTERPRETATION by Rob in Lightroom: Squint at the original image. It becomes an almost homogeneous rectangle of grey. It's extremely low in contrast. As such it becomes a good candidate for aggressive processing as a monochrome or toned image. My processing has taken the image down that path.
Converted it to B&W and used the spot removal tool to hide the worst of the spots. There were heaps!
Increased global exposure by +2 stops. Darkened shadows and blacks and boosted whites. This has stretched the histogram across the range, increasing contrast. Added clarity.
Pulled the tone curve down to further darken sky (midtones) and enhance the seaspray against it.
Using the local adjustments brush, painted +0.7 stops exposure onto some of the highlight lines in the wave, and -0.5 stops exposure into some of the shadow lines in the wave.
Added a -0.2 stops linear gradient from top down to further increase the contrast between dark sky and seaspray.
Cropped some off the right side and the bottom to avoid some darker shapes that were close to the edges. I felt that they complicated the composition.
Added split-toning—yellow for hightlights and blue for shadows—and tweaked the balance slider until I was happy with the appearance.
This image required more work than some others, Di. I hope you agree that a toned monochrome rendition has made something of it. ®