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Egret in Black II

egret-breakdown

Since I first released this photograph, I have fielded quite a few requests for information on how I created this image. Is it heavily photoshoped? Did I add the background? How on Earth did you set your exposure to make your photograph to look like this?

To create an image like this you have to understand light. That isSince I first released this photograph, I have fielded quite a few requests for information on how I created this image. Is it heavily photoshoped? Did I add the background? How on Earth did you set your exposure to make your photograph to look like this?

To create an image like this you have to understand light. That is what makes this image. Sure, I brought this in to Photoshop to sharpen and hit the saturation levels. I also put a vignette on it in Lightroom so as to help with the visual flow – specifically at the bottom of the photograph. But what makes this image unique, posture and the like aside, is the white bird against the black background. And this part was done 100% in the field by exploiting the type of light that I had to work with.

If you note the direction of the light, you will see that it is coming in from a strong angle. This angled or side lighting, illuminated the bird but dropped the background into light shadows.

Now, given the fact that this is a great egret with brilliantly white plumage, I knew that those feathers were reflecting significantly more light than the rest of the elements that my eye could see in the composition. Color is a function light. White objects are reflecting all waves of light back at you and absorbing none (as opposed to red feathers for instance which are absorbing all waves of light and only reflecting red). So this means that white feathers are going to be significantly brighter than any other object in a composition. And, the more incident light (ambient), the more reflective light ( what your camera meters) you have to contend with in your exposure.

This photograph was made at about 10am. This is Florida. So this means there was a lot of bright light to contend with.

When we switch over to spot metering from matrix / evaluative, we tell our cameras that we only want one small spot, about the size of a focus point in the viewfinder, to be read instead of the entire composition. So where ever you place your focus point (the little rectangle that lights up in your viewfinder) will be the only thing your camera meters for. Move the camera around and you will watch as the meter in your viewfinder jumps all over the place. This is because that “spot” is different in its tonality of light.

Make since?

So by spot metering off of the brightest area of the bird, I was saying that this spot is the most important part of the exposure equation.

Your cameras meter is still based upon the concept of 18% gray. This means that when spot metering, if you zero adjust your exposure so as to zero out the meter reading in your viewfinder, that tone of light that you spot metered off of will be rendered 18% gray. In other words, it will be made a perfect midtone.

So if I had metered off this bird and shot with an exposure reading that I was given by the camera, this white bird would have been an 18% gray bird. If I had done the same off of a black bear, the results would have been an 18% gray bear.

You see, the meter reading that you get from your camera is not a suggestion. Its literally a statement that at this exposure setting you will render the dominant tone being metered as 18% gray. That’s it. Nothing fancy. Nothing else. Its a fact. Its a declaration.

So, if the dominant tone is going to be rendered 18% gray at that exposure setting, and since I’m spot metering off the bird, this means the brightest light on the bird will be rendered 18% gray. And if i do not want a gray bird, then I know that I must ADD LIGHT to make this bird white.

With this knowledge in mind, I increased my exposure by 1.3 stops of light. This was enough to render white feathers white with ought over exposing those whites. This,is situation dependent of course.

Now, because there was so much light reflecting off of those white feathers to begin with, even though I increased my exposure to render the whites properly, the contrast between those whites and the shadowed background was so great, the background rendered completely black. And the result was beautiful.

To sum this up, the light created extreme contrast between my subject and the background. All I did was properly expose for the brightest part of the composition. This recorded whites as white, and the background faded to black.

Exposing for the highlights or brightest part of a composition is what we are always doing regardless of the situation. So really there is nothing unique here. Sure I used spot metering, but that was because there was so much contrast between the bright areas and the far more dominant shadowed areas. I simply needed my camera to ignore all the shadows.

What ultimately made this photograph was the light in which I was photographing this bird in. Understanding how my camera meters and how to exploit the contrast that was being created was what allowed for this photograph.

Understanding light, and all of its nuances here is what allowed me to “see” the possibility of this photograph. This is everything in photography. This actual scene did not exist in the wild. My eye is looking across something like 24 stops of light. This means details existed in both shadows and highlights for me here. But, I know my camera records somewhere between 5 and 8 stops of light. So I instantly recognized the possibility with this situation. Once realized, it was then just a matter of working the composition out and waiting for this egret to do his thing.

what makes this image. Sure, I brought this in to Photoshop to sharpen and hit the saturation levels. I also put a vignette on it in Lightroom so as to help with the visual flow – specifically at the bottom of the photograph. But what makes this image unique, posture and the like aside, is the white bird against the black background. And this part was done 100% in the field by exploiting the type of light that I had to work with.

If you note the direction of the light, you will see that it is coming in from a strong angle. This angled or side lighting, illuminated the bird but dropped the background into light shadows.

Now, given the fact that this is a great egret with brilliantly white plumage, I knew that those feathers were reflecting significantly more light than the rest of the elements that my eye could see in the composition. Color is a function light. White objects are reflecting all waves of light back at you and absorbing none (as opposed to red feathers for instance which are absorbing all waves of light and only reflecting red). So this means that white feathers are going to be significantly brighter than any other object in a composition. And, the more incident light (ambient), the more reflective light ( what your camera meters) you have to contend with in your exposure.

This photograph was made at about 10am. This is Florida. So this means there was a lot of bright light to contend with.

When we switch over to spot metering from matrix / evaluative, we tell our cameras that we only want one small spot, about the size of a focus point in the viewfinder, to be read instead of the entire composition. So where ever you place your focus point (the little rectangle that lights up in your viewfinder) will be the only thing your camera meters for. Move the camera around and you will watch as the meter in your viewfinder jumps all over the place. This is because that “spot” is different in its tonality of light.

Make since?

So by spot metering off of the brightest area of the bird, I was saying that this spot is the most important part of the exposure equation.

Your cameras meter is still based upon the concept of 18% gray. This means that when spot metering, if you zero adjust your exposure so as to zero out the meter reading in your viewfinder, that tone of light that you spot metered off of will be rendered 18% gray. In other words, it will be made a perfect midtone.

So if I had metered off this bird and shot with an exposure reading that I was given by the camera, this white bird would have been an 18% gray bird. If I had done the same off of a black bear, the results would have been an 18% gray bear.

You see, the meter reading that you get from your camera is not a suggestion. Its literally a statement that at this exposure setting you will render the dominant tone being metered as 18% gray. That’s it. Nothing fancy. Nothing else. Its a fact. Its a declaration.

So, if the dominant tone is going to be rendered 18% gray at that exposure setting, and since I’m spot metering off the bird, this means the brightest light on the bird will be rendered 18% gray. And if i do not want a gray bird, then I know that I must ADD LIGHT to make this bird white.

With this knowledge in mind, I increased my exposure by 1.3 stops of light. This was enough to render white feathers white with ought over exposing those whites. This,is situation dependent of course.

Now, because there was so much light reflecting off of those white feathers to begin with, even though I increased my exposure to render the whites properly, the contrast between those whites and the shadowed background was so great, the background rendered completely black. And the result was beautiful.

To sum this up, the light created extreme contrast between my subject and the background. All I did was properly expose for the brightest part of the composition. This recorded whites as white, and the background faded to black.

Exposing for the highlights or brightest part of a composition is what we are always doing regardless of the situation. So really there is nothing unique here. Sure I used spot metering, but that was because there was so much contrast between the bright areas and the far more dominant shadowed areas. I simply needed my camera to ignore all the shadows.

What ultimately made this photograph was the light in which I was photographing this bird in. Understanding how my camera meters and how to exploit the contrast that was being created was what allowed for this photograph.

Understanding light, and all of its nuances here is what allowed me to “see” the possibility of this photograph. This is everything in photography. This actual scene did not exist in the wild. My eye is looking across something like 24 stops of light. This means details existed in both shadows and highlights for me here. But, I know my camera records somewhere between 5 and 8 stops of light. So I instantly recognized the possibility with this situation. Once realized, it was then just a matter of working the composition out and waiting for this egret to do his thing.

This entry was posted in photography in the Springtime, Technical Skills, The Inner Game of Outdoor Photography, Uncategorized, Wildlife Photography and tagged , , , , , .