Grizzlies in RRBL (Really, REALLY Bad Light)
That's what I was hoping for, anyway. Instead I ended up having to deal with RRBL (Really, REALLY Bad Light). Without good light, even the best equipment might mean mediocre results. Could I manage to bring home sellable shots in such poor conditions?
My wife and I were on a road trip, starting in California and driving straight North through the Pacific Northwest. We stopped in Seattle for a few days to be tourists, give a talk at the Rainier Hills Photo Club, and conduct a Friedman Archives High-Impact Photography Seminar (which went very well!). (Click on any image to view a larger version).
|A panorama of the Seattle Seminar. Everyone had a great time!|
|On a rare clear night, downtown Seattle from the top of the Space Needle. (I try to get compositions that nobody else has...) This shot was made with the RX-100 Mark II, which I'm never without.|
From Seattle we traveled North to Campbell River in British Columbia, Canada. Then we took a single-engine plane to a floating lodge called Knight Inlet, to observe nature from a boat and from a safe observation platform.
|Da Plane! Da Plane!|
It rained just about every day. And my camera and lens got plenty drenched. This would be an acid test of the marketing department's claim of "weather sealing". :-)
Low light usually means slow shutter speeds (blurry animals) and/or high ISO (noisy images). So what did I do to maximize my chances of getting a usable shot?
First, knowing that my exposure meter was going to get it wrong, I underexposed by about -1.3 stops. Exposure meters assume you're shooting an average subject and average subjects reflect back about 18% of the light that hits it. The dark bears and the dark water surface reflected back much less than that. I dialed it down until my live view (and live histogram) looked right to me. Below is an example of a bear shot in Auto Exposure and corrected, with histograms below.
I also shot RAW and took out most of the noise in Lightroom later, but this didn't improve the images nearly as much as underexposing did.
I also post-processed to improve the contrast, but I had to do it by playing with the curves in order for it to look "just right". I had to darken some of the blacks but not the deepest ones. Below is an example:
So here's the good news... when you downsize images (and sharpen slightly to restore the sharpness that downsizing erodes), these images look great, even when printed at 11x14. Shrinking even further and posting to Facebook resulted in universal praise. So most people don't pixel peep. But was I able to attain my original goal, of getting pictures so perfect that you could enlarge them to wall-size and scrutinize? I don't think so. Could I license these? Possibly - it depends on the customer's needs. For 8x10 printed work they're actually pretty good.
So, after a lot of anguish and almost 200 GB of images (!), I am reminded of the essential ingredients of happiness I learned long ago: Have a goal, do everything you can to achieve that goal, and then LET GO OF THE OUTCOME. You got what you got. Show off your best results and move on.
[More bear pictures after the next section.]
Three new ebooks are in the works:
- The awesome Sony A7/A7r
- The impressive Fujifilm X100s
- The Trend-setting Olympus E-M1 (you know I'm just making up these adjectives, right?)
Yes, I'm expanding into other brands. All should be available in the first quarter of 2014. If you'd like to be notified when they're ready, just fire off an email to Gary at Friedman Archives dot com.
No seminars are actively being planned, as we prepare for the arrival of our 4th grandchild in April. However, if you're a photoclub you can fly me out there and I'll give you a seminar that will keep your club buzzing for months!
In next month's blog I'll talk about how I finally tackled Sony's new Flash Exposure algorithms and got my A99 to produce the results I used to get with my A900 on Auto:
|Doesn't look like I used a flash, yet the light is just perfect and balanced with ambient. Older Minolta and Sony cameras did this automatically. Not anymore. Next month I'll explain the secret.|
I leave you now with some of my favorite images from the Bear trip, dressed up by my friend DR Rawson:
Until next time...
Yours Truly, Gary Friedman