Letting Go Of The Highlights

Given that it's that horrible winter time of year I have gone with the strategy of actually planning and committing to shoot at least twice a week. Part of my strategy to keep myself out of deep dark depression that shows up every year at this time. Somewhere where I actually have to show up that is farther than my driveway. Tuesday was horribly cold, rainy, dark, just miserable and so was I. I dragged myself out of bed anyway because I had committed to shoot a couple of shots - mostly to field test some of those lighting products that I have been hinting about. I did that but also chucked in a couple of other things as well.

Since a couple of really old brief posts on things you can do with window light are so perennially popular I decided to mix it up a bit and combine a couple of nonintuitive window-y things to - more like what other people might not do with a window. While I was at it I figured I would actually torture the highlights and make them beg for mercy as I have been rambling on a bit about lately. I may have actually broken the histogram on my D600 with these shots.

For this quick sequence instead of using the windows as a key light I used them as back light and rim lights and used the light being reflected back from the rest of the room as the key. Most normal people would use the windows as the key. Heck I do to but there are infinite images to be made from the same setup. Find them by reversing the way you are looking at things - you would be surprised how many times reversing your initial point of view opens up amazing image possibilities.

You wouldn't have believed how dark Tuesday was here in my neck of the woods for this I had to shoot at 1/200 @ f2.8 ISO 3200. For the exposure I wasn't concerned with the highlights in the least. I remember these shots as somewhere around 4 or 5 stops over the matrix-smarty-pants meter recommendation. When I say I wasn't concerned with the highlights I mean I wasn't concerned that they were all smashed up against the right side of the histogram and had ummmm no detail. I was very concerned with the placement of them in the frame and more importantly on the subject. I was also concerned with how they would actually render and was confident they would look fine on the D600 - hence all my StupidCrap™ testing in the last couple of weeks.

Post processing on these was zero - well they do have whatever import VSCO Film preset I had setup for on import but that's it. Of course you could flavor them however you like the VSCO raises the blacks and slaps a curve on it that has no blacks and no white whites - in other words no zero and no two-fifty-five. This sort of exacerbates the flarey-ness of shooting at that wide of an aperture with the light source smashing into the front of you lens. Heck I like the flarey-ness so I left it be. That and I am way too lazy to stick it on a tripod so I can shoot at f5.6 but do what you like.

Here is another image shot in the exact same light coming from the exact same direction but this time I let the shadows go to deep dark and murky and exposed for the highlights. This time I didn't include the light source (windows) in the image frame by blocking it with an old sofa the subject was posing on.

The point I am trying to make in this post is really that in almost any given situation you can not only make very very different images - pretty much infinite but also that there are two completely different ways of looking at a photographic situation in terms of how the camera sees the light. You can either fight the way cameras see light using fill or HDR techniques or post processing or whatever or you can choose to use the way that cameras see light. Personally I love that cameras see light differently than our brains. The whole notion of compressing real life dynamic range into a much much smaller contrast ratio display medium is the nature of photography and using the way cameras see light instead of fighting it has for me been the interesting part of the whole endeavor.

Of course you could fight with the way cameras see light - especially if you need safe shots, or that's what your client wants, or more importantly that's what you want to make in a particular set of circumstances. I do it all the time - usually with reflectors and fill lights and stuff to modify the actual scene vs some sort of post but that's just because I like shooting more than I like playing with images on a computer. Here's some more highlight torture - same church different pew. I took about 30 images of each setup Tuesday - all of them look good to me and I am the worlds worst editor so here is another random one. Again I couldn't care less about what the histogram or matrix meter is telling me I did care a lot about where highlights were placed.

As always - shoot what you like how you like but I wanted to offer some food for thought that I hope sparks some creative ideas for a couple of folks. Next time a post on what I actually went out to do with those lighting gadgets. Just wanted to put this up before I lost my train of thought - happens a lot.

RB

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