Ships In The Night – 160/365

This afternoon Lizzy and I set off for the woods, me with my camera bag and tripod, Izzy rattling along on her scooter.

The plan was to take a short stroll through the woods, capture some photographs of anything cool we saw, then back home for Sunday dinner.

I asked Izzy to keep an eye out for some pretty flowers, a task she heartily accepted.

We didn’t spot an awful lot of flowers, not in bloom at least anyway. It’s amazing how much the woodland floor has changed and grown since we last went over.

The low lying vegetation is now a few feet tall, which cuts out light for the shorter growing plants, and it seemed the plants that are now doing well aren’t carrying flowers, or aren’t the flowering type’s.

I grabbed a really nice image on the path leading through the woods though, and a bit more on that later.

Then “look!” came the excited screech, “what is it Izzy, have you found a flower?”, I asked, “no” she replied, “it’s a ladybird!”.

Brilliant, and actually she’d found a little group of three ladybirds, just slightly too far apart to get a shot of them all together, but I grabbed an image of the closest one to us.

As we walked on, the woods were alive with ladybirds, and Izzy and I had great fun spotting, and then photographing them.

(She thought the tripod was hilarious when I had it set really low, the first time she saw it, it was at full extension, so I guess that’s how she expects it to look now!)

Now, the following image I probably spent longer taking than any single shot I’ve taken before. I’ve taken loads of images of a scene from various angles of course, but for this one I settled on the composition I wanted, set my tripod up, then spent a good time refining all the settings to capture the image I wanted.

There are two here, that look almost identical, save for a few differences in the tone, try and put that to one side for now; because the first is one I exposed as I would normally, and for the second one I used my cameras exposure bracketing feature to expose.

That is to say, this feature captures three images at once, one at your chosen exposure, and two more at your chosen stops “away” from your set exposure, one down (darker) one up (brighter).

The result is, you have three images of your scene, one capturing the blacks and shadows, one capturing the mid tones, and another capturing the highlights and whites.

Then when you edit your Raw files, you can merge them together and you have a really full dynamic range, way beyond what you can normally capture in one image. You may have heard of HDR, well this is basically what it is!

You of course need a tripod to utilise this function, to capture three identical images, and now I have one, I gave it a go!

Normally exposed shot:

Because I really like my deep and moody shadows, when I set my exposure to capture the detail in the shadows, it means I cannot capture detail in the whites and highlights, and that really becomes noticeable when I want a detailed sky on a bright day, for example.

I thought this might be a way for me to squeeze more detail into my landscape shots, and I certainly did capture more detail in the shot below, maybe too much.

Exposure bracketing shot:

You see, what happened was that I had a massive battle on my hands when I started to edit the image. Merging them was easy, they were perfectly overlaid and sharp, thanks to the tripod and a 2sec shutter delay, and I set the focal point about a third of the way into the shot with a fairly narrow aperture.

It seemed that there was almost too much information in the image for me to process in my head, it was totally alien to me, and I struggled to get my “style” to run through it, hence the finial result doesn’t look like most of my images do. I didn’t push it too far, because I could see it wasn’t happening and I didn’t want to make a mess of it, so I kept it relatively faithful to the scene.

Thinking about it now, I guess that shouldn’t be a surprise, because I exposed the image in a totally different way to how I would normally.

The main difference I could see, was that bracketing the exposure certainly did help me capture way more detail, across the whole dynamic range, and it was also evident that the whites and blacks were less “blown out”.

Interestingly, the histogram went from being pretty full right the way across (no surprise from merging the three images) and ended up looking pretty similar for both images, but that was, I guess, down to me processing the images to my style and taste.

If you can zoom in on the two shots, please do, I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on any differences you notice between the two images.

Lastly, we did spot a couple of flowers right at the end of our little walk.

I didn’t strictly need to, but again I set my camera on my tripod to see if I could capture a sharper image using it, rather than taking the shot handheld.

I’m pretty sure you’ll agree, these are nice sharp shots, and I’m really pleased with the results.

I should probably have dropped more magenta out of the image below, but it was an experiment in sharpness more than anything, and the edges of the petals and the stigma details are really nice and sharp; I’m super pleased with it.

Learnings – Though Izzy thought my £25 tripod was hilarious when it was set low down, I am blown away with the change it’s made to my photography.

Not only does it eliminate camera shake, but also it has another huge benefit. It slows you down, and gives you time to look deeper and think more about your shot and how best to capture it.

I can now set the composition, then stand back and look at it, in detail. Today I watched as the dappled light moved across the woodland floor, and I saw things I wouldn’t have normally had I been peering through the view finder constantly.

I’m really pleased with how my photography learning is coming along in general, and actually the area I’m struggling with the most at the moment is my editing.

I’m starting to capture the images I want to, but I am just about 10/15% off editing them to the point I’m completely happy with them.

Still, that’s great progress, and I know I am my most harsh critic; which is as it should be, I just have to be mindful not to beat myself up too much!

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