High Contrast Theme

I have an attraction for sunny photos that are in high contrast. Above is the result of editing such type of photo. Of course I am not happy with it, so I started questioning my self what went wrong and why I do not like the output.

Here are the facts:
1. I only took one shoot of the landscape.
Just hopped out of the car, set camera to: f8 – 1/250 – ISO 100, took some different perspective photos and left. I was concentrating more on getting a sharp picture and not considering metering of the scene. One of my quick judgments has relayed on the metering that my camera showed to me at that time. The meter showed half past the center point. So I thought it was just right, not to blow the highlights and get more out of the shadows. Turns out it was acceptable.
2. My camera gear is not great but I would say is decent for my needs.(Nikon d3400). All I need to do is to work a bit harder to get out of it the perfect picture. And in this case I could have opted for HDR technique.
This would have implied a second picture with a slower shutter speed or an increased ISO. And because I was hand holding the camera, the best would have been to increase the ISO. Of course it would have to be the exact same scene.

Below is marked with red the lost highlights. There is a lot of lost information in the highlights that indicate that I have already did a good job in getting out more information from the shadows.

Here are marked the pixels with lost shadows and, from my perspective, it looks decent. The lost information involves only some trees and sitting benches for which I only care for the contour. So, from the shadow perspective I would say it looks great.

Right now, after this analysis, I can say I have all the information of light to edit the photo in such a way to increase a bit the right side of the photo.

I try to move away from Adobe products, so I came up with the following method: first I do a RAW edit using the default software Nikon Capture NX-D and then Darkroom. If I want a more detail editing, using masks to separate different zones, I go with GIMP. The main idea behind using this approach is that I use free software !

Now, after couple of tries, I came up with the following result for which I used Capture NX-D, exported TIFF and then GIMP and edit different zones of interest.

When editing, I have tried to bring more depth by increasing the blues of the sky and green for the water. The most challenging was to brighten the forest in the right, which is directly in contrast with the Sun that is positioned just above it and behind the trees and the clouds.

As it is, the forest is still dark. If trying to brighten more, the noise is taking over. The noise is increasing for areas that are especially dark, but for bushes, trees, leaves I believe is even more noticeable. Probably here I could have seen an improvement if using a camera with a better sensor.

If you imagine the process of taking beautiful photos just by accidentally bumping into a scene, taking one snapshot, fast editing and show it to the world….then at least have a good gear with you.

It is important to know what to expect from your image. Mine I wished it was clear, in focus and also bright enough to even make a print out of it. But I also wanted to use my D3400 as a point and shoot camera, which turned up is not meting up with my first requirement.

So, how should I have taken a better photo from this scene ?
Here are some options:

  • wait for better light conditions (different cloud position, different time of the day)
  • HDR technique using a tripod
  • different perspective/ change position

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