My Shooting Guide

My family always grumble at how long it takes me to take a picture. Is it any wonder when there is so much to take into consideration. This guide is a work in progress designed to reinforce in my mind, all of the steps I need to consider when setting up - the alternative would be to just point and click with fully automatic settings. Not altogether unthinkable - automatic settings just keep getting better and better and it would make my family happier.

Shooting Guide:

  • Adjust Depth of Field (DoF): use aperture between f8 & f16. Maximum image quality is achieved between f8 - f16. Image sharpness suffers at very small apertures due to diffraction. Use the DoF Preview button to manually focus at apertures between F8 - F16

    Increasing DoF- If the light is such that good exposure speed is not possible at F16 then, subject to noise issues, increase ISO, (use Auto ISO if noise is unlikely to be a problem).

    Reducing DoF- If DoF is too wide, increase aperture (i.e. from F8 to F5.6). Then if still too wide at the maximum aperture stand further back from the object and increase focal length or be resigned to correction in Photoshop.

    Hyperfocal distance calculators and articles are available at http://www.dofmaster.com/ , however, my advice is to understand the physics, but don't get drawn in to using overly complex procedures unless you have to - if you paid for a DoF preview button on your camera , use it.


  • Noise: Consider a radio subject to a constant level of static. The static will be bearable to the listener if the station signal strength is strong, i.e. there is a high Signal to Noise Ratio (SNR). However if the signal is poor (remember Radio Luxemburg) the static will spoil the listening experience, i.e. there is a low SNR. The same is true of a photographic image, but the signal strength is determined by the number of photons hitting a photosite on the sensor.

    It follows that Noise will be more apparent in shadow areas where the signal strength is low.

    Given that SNR improves the more light a photosite recieves (for a fixed level of 'background' noise), then by increasing ISO we require less light to form an effective exposure and we automatically reduce the SNR. (ISO noise isn't really apparent below ISO 400 on the Nikon D80).

    During exposure the sensor heats up causing electrons to escape and cause noise. This type of noise is minimal for exposures less than 8secs.

    So we can minimise noise by:
    keeping exposure speeds high (to stop the sensor heating up) and the ISO low (to reduce sensor amplification).

    Note: by exposing for highlights we reduce noise in highlights, but risk noise (reduce SNR) in the shadows. By exposing for shadows we reduce noise (increase SNR) in shadow detail but risk overloading the capacity of the photosites exposed to highlights (i.e. blown highlights).


  • Dynamic Range (DR): - the extent to which the sensor is able to record detail. The Nikon D80 has a DR of 8 stops. This compares with the human vision of 14 stops, and a typical outdoor sunlit scene of between 9 & 11 stops.

    Clearly some compromise is needed when taking a photograph - either clip highlights and retain detail in the shadows, clip shadows and retain detail in the highlights, or, clibp both highlights and shadows.

    The camera histogram and Highlight screens are both useful reference tools. However I find the Highlight screen slightly more useful by enabling you to 'expose for highlights' and provided you dont go too far still be able to 'post process' for shadows.


  • Exposure: Personally I find blown highlights are more unsightly than blown shadows, and because the D80 matrix metering algorithm tends to overexpose in high contrast scenes (consistently clipping highlights)I've taken to compensating my exposures by -1ev in order to retain those highlights.

    I use the Aperture Priority exposure mode (with aperture set to achieve the required DoF). ISO is set to 100 (to minimise noise) with Auto ISO enabled to increase ISO up to a maximum of 400 whenever exposure requires a speed of less than 1/30 sec.



Saddleworth Edges


Location: The Saddleworth Edges must rank as one of the best in northern Peakland, if not the whole of the Peak District.

Unlike most edge walks this is literally on the edge for the whole of the walk. The views are consistently dramatic, with deep valleys rimmed with craggy edges all around, and three blue sheets of water as a backdrop - an advantage to the photographer when the skies are a featureless blue or grey.

Even the last mile of the walk, on the Chew Road, has its moments - when you look up to the towering Wilderness Edge and Wimberry Rocks you could be in a remote Scottish Glen.

The trail can be inspected and downloaded to GPS from http://www.wikiloc.com/wikiloc/view.do?&id=366101 alternatively go to the EveryTrail site at the bottom of this post.

Although there are many good shots:


Raven Stones Brow


The Trinnacle over Greenfield
Reservoir

I've focussed here on the waterfall in Birchen Clough.


Waterfall High in Birchen
Clough

Unprocessed


Camera Work: RAW(12bit), ISO 100, Focal Length 70mm, Exposure: 1/30sec at F8
UV & Polarizing Filter

Technique: The unprocessed version of the photo above clearly illustrates the difficult lighting conditions. The sun was very bright and shining down the Clough. The water on the rocks and the waterfall itself was clearly going to give blown highlights if I wasn't careful. I could have exposed for the highlights but then I would have lost detail in all shadows - and there are lots of them! Every photo I've seen of this fall has been dark and gloomy - not at all what it was like. This was anything but gloomy it was a cheerful place, an ideal spot for a picnic!

I took the one shot using the matrix metering. Just point and shoot. I should have taken bracketed exposures but didn't and thanks to RAW capture I got away with it (being able to reduce exposure post capture). I was lucky again! I know it went through my mind but for some reason I dismissed the idea - why?

The same with White Balance - I relied on the Auto setting which is rarely wrong.


Post Capture: in Capture NX2 to overcome the over exposure and flatness of the original image, i.e.

Camera Settings: Adjust Picture Control - enhance
saturation and set sharpening to High

Quick Fix:

exposure compensation - 0.97ev
highlight protection - 100%
shadow protection - 45%
slight tweak to curves to bring out the midtones

Adjustments:
set Black & White control points

Inspiration: As a general rule I don't like waterfall pictures. The fashion for blurring the water is over used; fine if you want to give a picture a fairy tale quality, but not in a place like this!

The whole area was bathed in warm sunlight and the rocks were warm and inviting - a good place to sit and reflect on how good life is. But at the same time the valley sides were very steep and I was going to have problems climbing out and over the waterfall safely. (There was no-one around and I could easily slip and break something).

I wanted to create an image that evoked those two opposing thoughts - inviting vs threatening - I think I've done it.

Style: Organised Landscape

Saddleworth Edges at EveryTrail

Map created by EveryTrail:GPS Geotagging

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