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Friday, December 03, 2004


Early Morning Drama

Annapolis from Eastport
If you've been following this blog, you know I'm fascinated by reflections in water. And I'm finding, once again, that early morning (or late afternoon/early evening) is the time to catch the most dramatic reflections.

I think it's because the low angle of the sun acts like a spotlight on the horizontal surfaces of the buildings and boats, which then have plenty of light on them to reflect back onto the water. Whatever the reason, get up early or hang out late if you want to catch the good light.

I took this photo at 7:30 AM yesterday morning from Eastport, across Spa Creek from Annapolis. Full disclosure forces me to admit that this exposure was a mistake, as I didn't notice that my camera was still set for an exposure compensation of minus 1-1/3 stops. I saw the error of my ways right away on the LCD, set my camera back to "neutral", and took several more "normal" exposures.

Back home last night in my digital darkroom, I decided to open the "bad" file in Photoshop Elements and see what I could do with it. All it took was to lighten up the high values with the Levels dialog to brighten up the buildings and reflections. This left the dark values in the sky and the water pretty much as they were and resulted, I think, in an image that has more dramatic impact than the original scene.

To us old-timers, there's nothing too surprising about this - we all know about how underexposing transparency film can sometimes increase saturation and contrast to produce a more dramatic version of what we see with our eyes. There's no free ride, though. In the old days, this technique could result in noticibly increased grain in the dark areas, like the sky in this photo. In the digital world, the equivalent of grain is noise. When I magnify todays' photo on my computer screen, I can see the noise in the dark areas.

On the other hand, the photo prints really nicely as a 10-inch wide print. The noise isn't noticible at this size, but I wonder how it would look enlarged to 20 or 30 inches?

One thing I can say for sure is that this image as a 10-inch print passed a critical test.

My wife likes it!

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