C David Tobie: Capture and Processing Techniques Example
Feb 2013 07

At 6AM this morning, the marine fog layer was thicker than usual in the California Central Coast. There was a diffused glow hinting at a sunrise to come, or that might never come, given the fog layer. So the tripod and camera at hand were grabbed immediately, as sunrise shots can fade quickly. This was shot using a Canon 5D Mark lll, with the L-series 24-105 f:4 lens.

Stepping out onto the balcony, the palmetto tree in the image was the best choice of foreground subjects, so the camera was set up to capture that, plus the sky to one side of it. A five second exposure at f:4 and ISO 200 seemed to offer a good balance, but five seconds was long enough to let the lightest of breezes blur all the palm frond tips. The camera was set to “two squeeze mode” where pressing the shutter the first time raises the mirror, eliminating mirror shake in the actual exposure, and the shot does not occur until the second time the shutter is squeezed. A remote trigger tool would have been appropriate, but there was not one available, so a light touch was used, along with many exposures. The multiple exposures were also shot in an attempt to catch a frame between breaths of wind. Of all the frames taken, there was one where nearly all the tips were still.

The sunrise gradient is from rather unusual lighting circumstances. The lights from the town are below where this shot was taken. The gradient is caused by the sunrise colors diffused through the fog above, with the town lights glowing below, and adding a yellow tint. There is no “sky” involved anywhere, its all gradated colored mist. To the naked eye, the scene was a black silhouetted palmetto with no detail, against a dim tinted mist.

The capture was processed in Lightroom 4, which offers significantly improved functionality for adjusting dynamic range in the various elements of an image over earlier versions. The global saturation was increased considerably, but the hues were not changed, and no type of artificial gradient was applied to the image.

This shot was a challenge for the 24-105 lens on a full frame sensor, given the very diffuse, even light field involved, which made the darkening at the corners of the frame very apparent. Even after applying Lightroom’s lens corrections for the lens, and increasing the vignette removal amount, it was still necessary to clone the very corners, just slightly, to keep them from being dark. It required very subtle work, with reduced opacity, heavy feathering, and just a tiny move, to keep from showing further out. Corner correction was the only localized adjustment performed; all other adjustments were global LR4 corrections.

Final Image, with 100% Scale Detail Inset

C. DAVID TOBIE has been involved in color management and digital imaging from their early development. David has worked to see affordable solutions put in place for graphic design, prepress, photography and digital imaging, and then taught users how best to utilize them. He has consulted internationally for a wide range of color-related companies, and is best known by photographers for his writing and technical editing of texts and periodicals for the photo industry such as Mastering Digital Printing, and Professional Photographer magazine, and his seminars on color and imaging at photographic workshop around the globe. David is currently Global Product Technology Manager at Datacolor, where he develops new products and features for their Spyder line of calibration tools. His work has received a long line of digital imaging product awards including the coveted TIPA award, and a nomination for the Spyder line of calibration tools. Much of David’s recent writing can be found at his photography blog: cdtobie.wordpress.com, and his samples of his photography can be seen at: cdtobie.com.