Sunset By The Humber

Sunset By The HumberSunset By The Humber
CameraSony DSC-F828
Exposure Modeauto
Focal Length7.1mm
Exposure1/100 sec.
ISO Speed64
In an early post on this blog I talked about the problem of correctly exposing landscape shots so that both the land and sky retained their detail. In this photo though I deliberately wanted to expose the photo for the sky only which causes all the detail of the land to be lost.

Sunset By The HumberWhen taking sunset photos you often don't want to see any (or certainly not much) detail of the land. What you are interested in is the sky and possibly any interesting silhouettes that will add to the composition. Unfortunately the auto settings on your camera are quite likely to let you down. The image on the left was the first photo I took of the sunset and shows what happens when you leave the camera on auto. I've actually picked up lots of sky detail and some detail on the land. Unfortunately because of the long exposure time (1/20 sec) the colours of the sunset have been washed out and muted from what I saw with my own eyes. The trick is to set a much faster shutter time and under expose the scene. Changing the exposure changes the way colours are recorded. Some colours change dramatically as you under expose (yellows move towards brown) while others stay relatively unchanged (blues for instance). The trick is to choose an exposure that makes the most of the scene in front of you

Sunset By The HumberThe problem is that the LCD screen on most digital cameras isn't of the highest quality and so it is often difficult to know what exposure settings to use to capture the perfect sunset photo. With sunsets I often take lots and lots of photos at varying exposure settings to ensure that I end up with some that are "just right". This means that I end up with some that are over exposed (like the photo you've already seen) and some where I've recorded so little light that I've lost detail or changed the colouring too dramatically. For example, the photo on the left was taken with an exposure time of 1/200sec and the sky detail has been lost.

So the final image was captured with an exposure time of 1/100 sec and works really quite well -- lots of detail and colour in the sky without distracting details in the land portion of the image. The only work I did to the photo was to remove a few window lights from the building at the bottom left which I couldn't do anything about when I took the photo, but the colours are exactly as they came out of the camera.

For comparison here is the same photo after some work in Paint Shop Pro where I duplicated the photo to create two layers. The bottom layer held the original photo and the top layer was then adjusted to recover the land. I then deleted the sky portion of the top layer to allow the original sky to show through. This is similar to the first attempt to rescue the Ingelborough photo.

Sunset By The Humber

Why am I showing you this? Well I think it shows quite nicely that the foreground is distracting and doesn't add anything to this photo (unlike in the photo of Ingelborough). So using a fast exposure allowed me to capture more detail in the sky and to ignore the landscape resulting in what I think is a better picture. This version also shows just how much detail can be rescued from apparently black sections of a photo. I don't fully understand why but if colours are blown all the way to white in the photo there is almost no chance of recovering any detail. If, on the other hand, you expose for detail in the light areas of a scene you will find that there is always detail you can rescue from the dark areas. I haven't yet found a good use for this knowledge but I'm sure if/when I do there will be a post about it!


GB said...

That is very informative. I suspect that it's the sort of situation I could find myself in. Like you I have very many sunset/sunrise photos where the land would be superfluous but on the other hand at least I can deal with the eventuality that I do need the land.

Post a Comment