Welcome to my first blog post which marks the start to a series of future blog articles ranging from tips and techniques to product reviews.
In this first article, I want to share what went into making a recent image I took during the long Easter Weekend while I was visiting my favourite place on earth, the small laid back coastal surfing community of Tofino, on Vancouver Island. During the weekend I was able to make time to scope the wide open local beaches and secluded coves for ideal locations. This image highlights the results of taking photos during the 'blue hour'. This is the period of twilight each morning and evening where there is neither full daylight nor complete darkness. The time is considered special because of the quality of the light.
Behind the camera
To maximize shooting landscapes in the blue hour, you need to scope the location first and ideally get set up long before the sun goes down. This will allow you to lock in your position and compose the image before conditions get too dark to really make the most of the situation, and prevent you from seeing what you’re doing or shooting. Preparing the image composition in good light allows you the benefit to fine tune your focus using the viewfinder or live view. From discussions with other photographers, the advice most give is to use manual focus adjustments when composing landscapes. It is recommended that you shoot RAW in manual mode and use spot or center-weighted average metering, metering off of the darkest point in the scene which in this case would be the rocks. This will allow you to see detail in the darkest points of the composition while still maximizing the blue hour effect without blowing out the highlights. As you can tell, shooting in the blue hour requires long exposure times often ranging above 20 seconds, so to achieve sharp results you must have a sturdy tripod and ballhead. Further improvements in sharpness can be achieved by using a cable or wireless remote together with mirror lockup which you will find in most DLSR camera's custom functions.
Camera Techs | Canon 1D Mark IV | 17mm | F16 | 20sec | ISO100 | Gitzo Tripod | Giottos Ballhead | Vello Remote Shutter Release
In front of the computer
This image is a blend of two optimized files. The first file contained optimized adjustments for the sky and sea and the other for the shadow and rock areas. The RAW file conversion was performed in Lightroom 4 and the images were then imported into Photoshop CS6 as smart objects. Once in PS I was able to combine the two images as a layer mask and use the paint brush to refine the image to my liking. Further adjustments included curves, levels, and contrast tweaks before the image was resized and sharpened for web. Noise was controlled using the Imagenomic plug-in for Photoshop. Please note: Importing images as smart objects allows the photo editor the option of always returning to the RAW file in Adobe Camers RAW (ACR) without having to start all over again.
Be sure to check out the following useful apps which calculate the magic hour at your current location...
Magic Hour (free) and GoldenPic ($3.99 CAD)
Please drop me a line if you have any questions and I wish you all the best of luck in the field.