Friday, September 12, 2014

Photo for 9/11

Every year on the eve of 9/11 I take a photo in honor of 9/11, usually of the ceremonial lights. This year I branch out with a different subject but still on the same theme.

The Empire State Building was lit up in red, white, and blue for the event and for a very fleeting moment at dusk the clouds and sunset formed a magnificent compositional arrangement with the building. When I saw it, I knew I had very little time to capture the the scene for the light was fading fast. As it turned out, I had about 1 minute. Problem was at the time I was indoors and had to shoot through a window, a dirty window at that. Later I thought others might be interested in the techniques I use for shooting in these circumstances in which, for some reason, I constantly find myself.

Sometimes for a scene like this where the building and clouds align themselves in a perfect composition you just have to be lucky -- but you also have to also be prepared to capture it.

I had the Fuji X-T1 with me fit with the new 18-135mm zoom. This lens has a 5-stop vibration reduction feature so I knew that would help with the slow aperture. 

I removed the lens hood so that I could press the front of the lens as close as possible to the window. With my left hand I formed a seal between the front of the lens and the window so that none of the interior light could reflect into the window and back into the camera. I set the lens to its widest aperture to minimize the focus on the window. Next, I braced myself as best I could -- I had no tripod at this point -- pressing the lens against the window and my body and arms against the wall to steady myself. With the camera set to motor drive, I would press and hold the shutter through several exposures. From experience I know that the first press would be the one to blur the shot, but after that the pressing finger is idle and the camera is not moving so the second or third exposure will usually be blur free.

In situations like these I bracket like crazy against any motion that will ruin the shot. Better to have an excess of exposures than an image with motion blur. I repeated these bursts about a dozen times. The sky light and color was fading very fast. As it turned out, I had the aperture wide open, shutter speed at a comfortable 1/60 second, and an ISO of 1250.  If I were doing it again, I would lower the shutter speed to 1/30 and the ISO to 640.

The next problem I had was adjusting the image in post processing to what my eye saw, not what the camera recorded.

The image below was what the camera actually recorded in the fading light. My eye saw it with more brilliant colors and brighter, but the scene was fading very fast. After bringing it into Photoshop with some corrections in Adobe ACR I next switched the color mode to LAB. LAB is a very extended color profile and also non-destructive. I never boost colors by using saturation in post-processing because it is asking for trouble by posterizing the image. LAB on the other hand can punch the colors without adding artifacts to the image.

This is the original photo before applying corrections.

The first thing I had to do was color correct the image. It was much too yellow. The middle lighting on the building was white, as in "red, white, and blue". The camera pushed the scene to much warmer tones. I brought the white light back to white reflected off of a yellow building. Some fun. After that, I needed to retouch out some of the color reflections as a result of shooting through glass. You can see some of them next to the tower in the above photo. After that, it was into LAB to increase the color to what I actually saw, add the typical "S" contrast curve, eliminate the noise with Neat Image, and done -- until next year.

No comments :

Post a Comment