Inspirational Light

022_SantaClaraLightedOneThere are many kinds of light and lighting to explore in the great diversity of light we find at night.

One of the most dramatic is seen as streaks of light breaking through the atmosphere, usually caught by fog, mist, dust or smoke.

Often this style of lighting depicts a more spiritual or ethereal aspect of a subject, and can be thought of as inspirational light.

It adds significance and strength to an otherwise average subject, creating something greater than the subject itself.

The light energizes the subject, brings it to life, and makes it more compelling.

In the daytime, this unique light is commonly seen as shafts of sunlight streaming out of the clouds, shining down on us from above, as if the sky is opening up and speaking to us.

At night, this evocative light is seen as beams from veiled light sources stretching upward toward the heavens, or reaching out into the world from some dark corner.

Shafts of light create an interesting visual paradox. As the beams pull our eye away from the subject, the light actually draws more attention to the subject, giving it greater import.

IMAGE : Lighted One, Santa Clara, CA

This statue of ”Our Lady, Queen of Peace” stands 32 feet tall, and is lit from below by a bright spotlight. It is part of the Roman Catholic parish of the Diocese of San Jose.

returned to this scene many times in search of a shot that would portray the essence of this religious symbol. I finally captured the sense of spiritual light I was hoping for in heavy fog. The figure was made of a metal mesh that added a sense of light shining from within.

This image was a 30 second exposure shot at f16 with TMAX 3200 film.

IMAGE TINT : GallerySelenium

Selenium toning creates a cool purplish hue in the darker tones and cools the highlights. The toning was used to strengthen the tonal separation in the statue and streaks of light.

This B&W image was toned in Adobe Photoshop with an ICC Profile I generated from my Mac App SuiteProfiler. The Profile was derived from the “GallerySelenium” Color Map created in SuiteProfiler.

Click these buttons to download the ICC Profile and SuiteProfiler Color Map:

EXERCISE : Inspirational Light

Look for beams from a single light source caught by some atmospheric effect, like rain, fog or smoke. Compose an image to capture the inspirational light.

Be sure to review the Safety & Precautions page.

FEEDBACK : Inspirational Light

Leave comments on this post to share your ideas and experience, or ask questions.

NEXT TIME : “Supplemental Lighting”

 


Don’t miss my future posts! 

Subscribe to The Art of Night Photography by Email.


Support The Art of Night Photography.

Thank you! 




Why Bracketing?

YosemiteAhwahneeSo how do we get that one ideal exposure in night photography?

The answer is … there isn’t one. That is, there isn’t just one.

Maybe the question oughta be, how do we capture an expressive image at night?

Getting a technically accurate exposure is not always the same as finding an expressive one. The former is commonly treated as purely objective, and can be analyzed to death. The latter is more subjective, and rests solely on what we see and how we see.

Unlike daytime photography, there is a lot less conventional wisdom about how nighttime images should look. Getting an expressive exposure is not just about matching what we see with our naked eye. Bracketing gives us the freedom to explore the possibilities.

One of the great benefits of bracketing long exposures is that we end up finding more than we are looking for. After all we are not just trying to take pictures. We are striving to make expressive images that reflect our own personal style and vision.

The more image variations we capture, the more options we have to choose from, and the greater the opportunities to discover, or rediscover, our ideal of the light we see at night.

Under exposure can produce an extremely low key, minimalistic style image that is dark and mysterious with very few details.

Over exposure can create a high key, impressionistic image with a strong sense of light, or a gentle glow reminiscent of soft focus lenses used early in the 20th century.

The result of over exposure is not the same as changing the luminance curve during image editing. The subtleties due to light spread create a unique look that cannot be duplicated through image editing alone.

Not all exposures of a given scene are necessarily desirable, or meet our aesthetic criteria, but we don’t really know until we actually witness the possibilities.

We expose ourselves to the possibilities by exposing our camera to the unexpected. And in the process, we learn to see how our camera sees, and embrace the unexpected.

IMAGE : The Ahwahnee, Yosemite, CA

  • Mouse over the image above to view the scene from an average exposure. If mouse over does not work, go to Why Bracketing? on my blog.

The longest exposure, or should I say the most over exposed shot from my bracketing session, produced a high key image. Lens flare haze contributed to the strong sense of light, giving the scene a more evocative look than an average exposure.

Most of my nighttime images are low key in nature. I chose the high key interpretation, over the less exposed renditions, to portray the setting in saturated light. This bathed the scene with a softer, more romantic atmosphere.

This high key image is the result of bracketing then selecting the 2 minute exposure shot at f8 with TMAX 3200 film. The average image is a blend of 15, 30 and 60 second exposures.

IMAGE TINT : GalleryCoolGray

The cool tint was chosen to convey the sense of light infusing the cold winter night.

This B&W image was tinted in Adobe Photoshop with an ICC Profile I generated from my Mac App SuiteProfiler. The Profile was derived from the “GalleryCoolGray” Color Map created in SuiteProfiler.

Click these buttons to download the ICC Profile and SuiteProfiler Color Map:

EXERCISE : Why Bracketing?

Find a night scene with a full range of highlights and shadows. Perform a bracketing session making sure you capture plenty of under and over exposed images.

Afterwards identify the exposure that matches what you observed at the scene. Compare this to the less and more exposed images to see if any of the “unrealistic” versions have a stronger impact on you than the expected shot.

Be sure to review the Safety & Precautions page.

FEEDBACK : Why Bracketing?

Leave comments on this post to share your ideas and experience, or ask questions.

NEXT TIME : “Inspirational Light”

 


Don’t miss my future posts! 

Subscribe to The Art of Night Photography by Email.


Support The Art of Night Photography.

Thank you! 




Light Intensity

020_JemezLightShadowIt is the change in light intensity that gives the night its dramatic edge.

The intensity of light from any source is not fixed. It diminishes as it travels outward from its origin.

In the daytime, sunlight is spread evenly across the surface of the earth, because the sun is essentially the same distance from every point on our planet.

As a result, we do not witness a change in light intensity at any given moment.

Not so at night. Once the sun sets, we are dealing with lighting from sources at much shorter distances than our solar neighbor.

The intensity of light falling on our subject is determined by the distance from its origin. So changes in light intensity from nearby light sources are fairly obvious, especially from single isolated light sources.

There is a simple explanation for this phenomenon, namely the Inverse Square Law, one of the fundamental laws of physics that pertains to light.

OK, that can sound a bit ominous. But in practice the concept is pretty straightforward. Mathematically it describes how light intensity decreases exponentially as the distance from a light source increases.

EQUATION : Inverse Square Law

∆ (light intensity) = 1 / ∆ (distance) ^ 2

The Delta symbol ∆ stands for change.

In words, it is the inverse of the change in distance squared that determines the change in light intensity.

The equation is not an absolute measure of intensity. Instead it describes how a change in distance effects a change in light intensity.

For example, the light intensity at 10 feet from a light source is 4 times as strong as it is at 20 feet. Put another way, the intensity is 1/4 as strong at twice the distance. Likewise, the intensity at 30 feet, three times the distance, is 1/9 as strong.

“So why do I care?”, you might ask.

The Inverse Square Law has several implications and applications in night photography.

We will take advantage of this law when we explore alternative lighting techniques in upcoming posts. For example, we will learn how to calibrate a flash or flashlight for supplemental lighting purposes.

As photographers, we are naturally drawn to uncommon lighting. Even though variations in nocturnal lighting can seem obvious, it is good practice to consciously seek out varying light intensities in our quest for more evocative image making.

IMAGE : Light & Shadow, Jemez Springs, NM

I hid the light source behind the tree branch to showcase the dancing trees, the spreading shadows, and the gradation of light on the snow without distraction.

I also wanted to avoid any lens flare or aperture starring that might draw attention away from the more subtle elements in the final image.

This image is the result of bracketing then selecting the 1 minute exposure shot with a wide angle lens at f11 on TMAX 3200 film.

IMAGE TINT : GallerySilverLite

The silvery tint was used to highlight the look of the cold textures in the snow, and support the overall look of the cold winter night.

This B&W image was tinted in Adobe Photoshop with an ICC Profile I generated from my Mac App SuiteProfiler. The Profile was derived from the “GallerySilverLite” Color Map created in SuiteProfiler.

Click these buttons to download the ICC Profile and SuiteProfiler Color Map:

EXERCISE : Light Intensity

Find a night scene lit by a single light source. Compose a shot to catch as many variations in light intensity as possible.

Bracket for a variety of exposures to make sure you capture the full range of light cast by the light source.

Be sure to review the Safety & Precautions page.

FEEDBACK : Light Intensity

Leave comments on this post to share your ideas and experience, or ask questions.

NEXT TIME : “Why Bracketing?”

 


Don’t miss my future posts! 

Subscribe to The Art of Night Photography by Email.


Support The Art of Night Photography.

Thank you! 




Selective Exposure

PointArenaLighthouseFogPhotographing at night means taking long exposures and capturing all our camera sees.

But we don’t have to take it any longer!

Wait, let me rephrase that. That doesn’t mean we don’t need to take long exposures to capture our expanded moments.

It just means we don’t have to accept everything the world happens to throw at us while our shutter remains open.

If we don’t want to record intermittent interference from extraneous light sources, we don’t have to. If we don’t want to capture the interplay of light trails streaming through our image, we don’t have to. And if we don’t want to include momentary lens flaring that comes our way, we don’t have to.

During a lengthy exposure, we can actually pick and choose from what we are given to design the expanded moment we desire.

We can anticipate the expected, or respond spontaneously to the unexpected. In either case, we must remain vigilant to exclude the wrong moments at the right time.

Selective editing gives us the opportunity to create a more distinct image of finer quality, something unseen in continuous time by our naked eye.

Editing during image capture is not the same as altering an image after the fact. It expands our potential for capturing images that cannot be created through image editing alone.

HOW TO : Selective Exposure

The goal is to shield our camera from unwanted repetitive or one-time intrusions of light by simply blocking and unblocking our lens during a long exposure.

  • block your lens with a black card or clothe as needed
  • make sure no light is shining on the card, or your camera will record that as well
  • stay attentive to react quickly when the undesirable moments occur
  • remember: effective exposure = total exposure – lens blocking time

IMAGE : Point Arena Lighthouse, Point Arena, CA

  • Mouse over the image above to view the scene without selective editing. If mouse over does not work, go to Selective Exposure on my blog.

The fog caught the light beam as it circled the lighthouse. I had to climb over two fences to reach my ideal vantage point near the edge of the cliffs overlooking the ocean below.

While I watched and waited during 1, 2, 4 and 8 minute exposures, I was blinded by the light beam every time it circled then faced me and my camera.

I decided to try one last exposure as a first time experiment. I visualized an image of the beam shining only out to sea, to the left. So I blocked the lens with a black card while the beam was shining at me and to the right. Success demanded my undivided attention.

The altered image was shot at f8 with TMAX 3200 film. The effective exposure was about two minutes, captured during a total exposure of around 6 minutes.

The unedited exposure was 2 minutes, also shot at f8 with TMAX 3200 film.

IMAGE TINT : GallerySeleniumGoldToner

In the darkroom, Selenium toning combined with Gold toning creates a purplish hue in the darker tones and a cool bluish gray tint in the highlights. The toning effect was selected to enhance the look of the light beam caught in the foggy night air.

This B&W image was toned in Adobe Photoshop with an ICC Profile I generated from my Mac App SuiteProfiler. The Profile was derived from the “GallerySeleniumGoldToner” Color Map created in SuiteProfiler.

Click these buttons to download the ICC Profile and SuiteProfiler Color Map:

EXERCISE : Selective Exposure

Find a nighttime scene affected by occasional, and undesirable, lighting changes.

Practice blocking the lens during an exposure to remove any unwanted lighting effects. Don’t forget to subtract the lens blocking time from your total exposure. That is, make sure your effective exposure does not include the time you spend blocking the lens.

For example, perform selective editing to remove lighting due to passing car headlights. Block your exposure before the car headlights shine on the scene. Unblock the lens once the car has passed.

Be sure to review the Safety & Precautions page.

FEEDBACK : Selective Exposure

Leave comments on this post to share your ideas and experience, or ask questions.

NEXT TIME : “Light Intensity”

 


Don’t miss my future posts! 

Subscribe to The Art of Night Photography by Email.


Support The Art of Night Photography.

Thank you! 




Light Trails

EurekaPassingBoatSpeaking in practical terms, our camera sees and records moving objects differently than our eyes perceive them, especially during long exposures.

The camera, like the human eye, sees light, and only light. That’s it, pure and simple. But in night photography that is where the similarity ends.

During an expanded moment the camera and the human eye register light differently in two significant ways.

First, the human eye is sensitive to a much greater variation in light intensity, aka dynamic range. Unlike our eyes, our camera can only capture a narrow range of light.

Secondly, our eyes perceive motion as distinct momentary snapshots. But our camera accumulates change as a single continuous event through an open shutter.

You see it here,
You see it there,
Your camera sees it everywhere.

Traveling light sources leave a wake of light trails behind them, written across the image. Reflected light from objects appears as fleeting flickers along the path of movement.

“So how come no dark trails?” you might ask.

Well, moving dark sources, that is low lit objects, pass undetected, invisible to the camera, even if seen with the naked eye. Any dark trails will just be gaps between the light trails.

We can witness both the light and the dark elements of passing objects, but the camera can only capture the most obvious light from objects in motion.

For example, during a long exposure, people can walk in front of us in the dark and remain unseen by our camera, unless they are carrying a light source like a flashlight.

In simple terms, moving light is seen, and moving dark is unseen.

Be sure to use the suggested aperture setting to capture light trails.

IMAGE : Dock & Passing Boat, Eureka, CA

  • Mouse over the image above to view the scene without the passing boat. If mouse over does not work, go to Light Trails on my blog.

Long story short. I was on this dock with my camera and tripod looking for some photo opportunities. I had to step gingerly past holes in the decking, then climb back around the “no trespassing” fence extending over the water, to get back to shore. I set up this shot and opened the shutter just as the fishing trawler entered the scene. Whew!

The site was very dark, much darker than it appears in the image, lit only by some distant street lights behind me.

I left the shutter open for several minutes after the boat passed to guarantee a decent exposure of the dock to go along with the light trails. I then bracketed a series of shots afterward to capture the scene without the boat lights.

The overall exposure for this image is 4 minutes shot at f16 with TMAX 3200 film. The light trails are thin due to the small aperture. The boat crossed the frame in 15 to 20 seconds.

Even with the long exposure, the resulting negative was very thin, i.e. under exposed.

IMAGE TINT : GalleryCool

A cool tint was applied to the image to match the look and feel of the cold ocean air.

This B&W image was tinted in Adobe Photoshop with an ICC Profile generated from my Mac App SuiteProfiler. The Profile was derived from the “GalleryCool” Color Map created in SuiteProfiler.

Click these buttons to download the ICC Profile and SuiteProfiler Color Map:

EXERCISE : Light Trails

Find a night scene with moving cars, boats, trains or airplanes. Compose a shot to capture an expanded moment containing the light trails left by the movement.

Notice the difference in how you observed the movement of light and how your camera captured the light. Also compare how you saw the darker portions of the moving objects versus how your camera handled the lack of light.

Be sure to review the Safety & Precautions page.

FEEDBACK : Light Trails

Leave comments on this post to share your ideas and experience, or ask questions.

NEXT TIME : “Selective Exposure”

 


Don’t miss my future posts! 

Subscribe to The Art of Night Photography by Email.


Support The Art of Night Photography.

Thank you! 




Fireworks

017_CarlsbadFireworksPecosFireworks are a kaleidoscope of sights and sounds that excites and ignites a sense of childlike wonder in most of us.

They are an exhibition of pure light and color, moving in unison with a symphony of booming, whistling and crackling in the night sky.

The word photography literally means “drawing with light”, which is exactly what fireworks do as we watch.

So how can we, as photographers, resist capturing this spectacle of light raining down from the heavens right in front of our eyes, and our cameras?

The answer is, we can’t … or at least, we mustn’t.

Our visual experience of fireworks is a movement of light. Every burst is a naturally occurring expanded moment of light trails ready for the taking.

What could be more fulfilling than capturing this extravaganza as it captures us?

HOW TO : Photographing Fireworks

The life of a firework begins with a shot into the sky, followed by an explosion and burst of light, then ends with a shower of light, fading as it falls to earth.

Photographing fireworks is one part anticipation, one part recognition and a lot of luck. You must be prepared to recognize what you have not yet seen, then capture the light trails as they streak across the sky.

Each expanded moment is defined by two decisive moments, opening and closing your shutter “at the right time.”

The right exposure is pretty straight forward:

  • aperture determines the thickness and intensity of the light trails
  • the length of the exposure determines the length of the light trails
  • use the suggested aperture described in aperture settings
  • set Auto Exposure (AE) off
  • turn off Noise Reduction to avoid delays between exposures

Timing is everything:

  • initial shots and explosions can over expose and cause hot spots
  • light bursts and showers offer the best image opportunities
  • open and close your shutter manually as you see fit

Framing is not an exact science:

  • point your camera toward the center of the action
  • zoom out a little to capture full bursts, crop your images later

Focusing takes a little work:

  • set Auto Focus (AF) off
  • focus manually on the first few bursts
  • or focus on objects as far away as the fireworks

Aesthetic choices:

  • multiple bursts are more dramatic than single ones
  • include ground level or foreground elements to add context or a sense of place
  • shapes vary, look for ones that please you the most
  • watch for a diversity of color

IMAGE : Fireworks & Pecos River, Carlsbad, NM

As long as I can remember, my hometown has hosted an extraordinary fireworks show every fourth of July over the Pecos River.

I shot an entire exhibition at ISO 400 with my aperture set to f8, one stop down from the suggested setting. I opened and closed the shutter manually, varying the exposures as I witnessed the bursts, pretty much between 1 and 10 seconds each.

This color image is a 6 second exposure shot with a digital camera. It is one of over 100 images shot at the event.

EXERCISE : Fireworks

What more can I say? Go out and photograph fireworks. Every chance you get!

Be sure to review the Safety & Precautions page.

FEEDBACK : Fireworks

Leave comments on this post to share your ideas and experience, or ask questions.

NEXT TIME : “Light Trails”

 


Don’t miss my future posts! 

Subscribe to The Art of Night Photography by Email.


Support The Art of Night Photography.

Thank you! 




Return to the Scene

016_CarlsbadFootbridgeLightStreamExplorers do it, archeologists do it, and they say that even criminals do it.

That is … they all return to the scene.

And of course, photographers do it too.

There are plenty of reasons for this, yet in simple terms, it is our eye for discovery that keeps us coming back for more.

One of the best reasons to revisit a subject is to challenge ourselves to see differently, to search for the hidden gems we missed on previous treks, and grow our vision.

So our goal should be to re-vision a scene, not just re-version the site.

Typically, we photograph the obvious on our first visit. On later trips, we must expect the unexpected, look for the overlooked, and notice the unnoticed to photograph anew.

The trick is to bring the same zeal, and sense of awe, that we brought to our initial visit, and experience a familiar place again for the very first time.

Learning to see differently is an iterative process. We can learn from what our camera saw previously. Returning provides a chance to refine, and re-find, our craft and artistry.

One benefit this exercise provides is the opportunity to compare our earlier perspective to our current vision, and recognize how our sense of aesthetics and style has evolved.

It is essential that we look beyond our past experience to see what has passed us by. This is easier said than done, especially if we have fallen in love with our earlier successes.

HOW TO : Return to the Scene at Night

The practice of returning to the scene is certainly not unique to night photography, but there are some outward challenges that will appear only in a nocturnal setting.

Long exposures give you the opportunity to re-vision a location as an expanded moment you missed on previous journeys, and to see through your mind’s eye in a new way.

To recapture a favorite place in a fresh way at night, look for the following:

  • inclusion or exclusion of light sources
  • changing light due to motion
  • lighting effects like lens flare haze or aperture starring
  • changes in lighting due to weather conditions
  • details hidden in the shadows
  • variations due to longer or shorter exposures
  • unique, one time visual elements
  • addition or subtraction of elements
  • differences in compositions due to camera angles

IMAGE : Footbridge & Light Stream, Carlsbad, NM

I have returned to photograph this floating footbridge many times. The bridge has been repositioned over the years, but the camera placement options have remained limited.

My initial success was captured from the opposite shore in Footbridge & Lights. Since then I’ve revisited this site looking for something unique. It’s been quite the exercise in patience.

On my last visit, the bend in the bridge from the river current added a new element I had never seen before. The footbridge curved to the left catching the stream of reflected light.

This image is the result of bracketing then selecting the 1 minute exposure shot at f16 with TMAX 3200 film.

IMAGE TINT : GallerySelenium

Selenium toning was applied to the image to support a sense of depth to the footbridge.

This B&W image was toned in Adobe Photoshop with an ICC Profile I generated from my Mac App SuiteProfiler. The Profile was derived from the “GallerySelenium” Color Map created in SuiteProfiler.

Click these buttons to download the ICC Profile and SuiteProfiler Color Map:

EXERCISE : Return to the Scene

Go back to one of your favorite spots to photograph at night. Look for other compositions, or expanded moments, that match your current experience of the place.

Compare your previous images to your current vision. Gain an appreciation for changes in your new way of seeing.

Be sure to review the Safety & Precautions page.

FEEDBACK : Return to the Scene

Leave comments on this post to share your ideas and experience, or ask questions.

NEXT TIME : “Fireworks”

 


Don’t miss my future posts! 

Subscribe to The Art of Night Photography by Email.


Support The Art of Night Photography.

Thank you! 




Lens Flare Haze

SalemDryDockOur dance with lens flare consists of many different steps.

And our performance can take place before, during and after image capture.

It is easy to believe that managing artifacts and haze means letting lens flare take the lead, then following with work arounds.

But our assumptions can easily blind us from seeing some artistic potential inherent in lens flaring.

It doesn’t have to be just about repair and recovery work.

Instead of dancing around the effects of flaring, we can take the lead by taking the time to notice the presence, and the presents, of lens flare haze.

Haze gives us the opportunity to add a more dramatic or less common look to an ordinary image, a chance to take advantage of an optical side effect for visual impact sake.

HOW TO : Lens Flare Haze

When a bright light source is outside of the frame, but still shining on the lens, lens flare can appear as haze washing over the image, creating a ghostly appearance.

Capturing this synthetic fog is not an exact science, it varies among lenses. It generally takes some experimentation to see it, and then find what appeals to you most.

Start by composing your image with a single light source right at the edge of the frame. Remove your lens shade to allow the light to strike the lens fully.

Zoom in until haze begins to appear, then fine tune your zooming for maximum hazing.

Depending on the focal length, the light source should be just outside of your line of fire, without encroaching on the image directly. Wide angle lenses catch hazing more readily.

To find the optimal lens-to-light angle, you may also need to reposition your camera backward or forward, then perform zooming again.

Double check there are no lights along the edge of the frame during image capture. You must keep light sources out of the image completely to record haze as purely as possible.

Experiment with multiple light sources outside of the frame for varying results.

IMAGE : Dry Dock, Salem, MA

I was experimenting with different compositions of the Salem Boat Yard on a clear night, when I discovered hazing on my lens from the nearby light sources.

I completed my dance by adjusting the lighting imbalance with luminosity painting in Photoshop, by burning through the “Darks” mask, and dodging through the “Lights” mask.

This image is the result of bracketing then selecting the 15 second exposure shot at f8 with TMAX 3200 film.

  • Mouse over the image above to view the original hazing before luminosity painting. If mouse over does not work, go to Lens Flare Haze on my blog.

IMAGE TINT : GallerySilverLite

The light silver toning, applied to the Salem Boat Yard taken the same night, was used again to cool the ghosting effect of the haze.

This B&W image was toned in Adobe Photoshop with an ICC Profile I generated from my Mac App SuiteProfiler. The Profile was derived from the “GallerySilverLite” Color Map created in SuiteProfiler.

Click these buttons to download the ICC Profile and SuiteProfiler Color Map:

EXERCISE : Lens Flare Haze

When photographing a scene with nearby light sources, experiment by positioning your camera to capture the lens flare haze produced by one or more lights outside of the frame.

Balance any uneven lighting afterward by burning and dodging via luminosity painting.

Be sure to review the Safety & Precautions page.

FEEDBACK : Lens Flare Haze

Leave comments on this post to share your ideas and experience, or ask questions.

NEXT TIME : “Return to the Scene”

 


Don’t miss my future posts! 

Subscribe to The Art of Night Photography by Email.


Support The Art of Night Photography.

Thank you! 




Lens Flare Recovery

CarlsbadEngineLightsNot a 12 step program, at least not the kind we usually hear about.

“Hello my name is Dana, and I’m a night photographer.”
<Hi, Dana!>
“I have been lens flare free for more than a month now.”
<applause>
“But now I am ready to get out there and try to control it again.”
<crickets>

OK, OK … lens flare cannot be controlled, but it can be tamed.

Restoring our images to full integrity, in spite of lens flare, is the challenge.

When we find bright lights staring back at us, it is a safe bet there will be lens flare. And we can begin the recovery process during image capture.

  • The Problem: Lens flare artifacts and haze can easily ruin image details, cause color changes, and introduce unwanted visual distractions.
  • The Solution: Make sure we capture all of our subject matter by shooting multiple image variations along the vertical or horizontal axis. By photographing a scene at different angles, we gain the potential for restoring an image 100%.
  • The Secret To Recovery: Rebuild the damaged features by blending two or more varying compositions, replacing the aberrations with authentic image details.
  • Mouse over the image to view the original shot before recovery. If mouse over does not work, go to Lens Flare Recovery on my blog.

HOW TO : Lens Flare Recovery

First capture your image variations:
1. compose your desired image, perform bracketing session
2. alter camera angle, no more than a 35% change from initial frame, to shift flaring
3. perform bracketing session
4. repeat previous two steps for additional exposures at different angles (optional)

Before any image editing, combine two or more image variations in Photoshop:
5. layer your images taken at different angles, all shot at the same exposure
6. select all layers, perform “Edit > Auto-Align Layers” with “Auto” projection
7. zoom in to check that alignment was successful, move layers to align if necessary
8. change the Blend of all but the bottom layer to “Darken”
9. add “Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Levels…” with a ”Clipping Mask” to adjust layers where flare shows through (optional)
10. select and merge all layers
11. perform “Filter > Distort > Lens Correction” to adjust perspective to original
12. crop image to original composition, or as you see fit

There ya go, 12 steps.

This should remove all or most of the lens flare. Depending on your camera angles, you may need to supplement blending with some touch-up work.

IMAGE : Engine Lights, Carlsbad, NM

I set up my camera and tripod as the train engine backed into the railyard at midnight. I first composed the image I wanted, which was not easy.

The lights were extremely bright, almost blinding, especially through my viewfinder. I realized there’d be plenty of lens flare, but I saw what I wanted, and I knew how to get it.

After my initial round of bracketing, I repeated my exposures two more times. First by pointing my camera downward about 30%, then upward to center the flaring circles around the light sources.

I was lucky. The engine lights stayed on during all of my exposures, then off shortly after.

Moving the flare to different areas of the frame gave me plenty to work with. I ended up blending the original image with the downward facing shot, then cropped off the bottom.

Removing the lens flare artifacts puts more attention on the subtle rays of light glowing from the face of the engine.

The final image is the result of blending two 30 second exposures shot at f11 with TMAX 3200 film.

IMAGE TINT : GalleryAshBrown

The grayish brown tint was created to convey the look and feel of the soot filled railyard.

This B&W image was tinted in Adobe Photoshop with an ICC Profile I generated from my Mac App SuiteProfiler. The Profile was derived from the “GalleryAshBrown” Color Map created in SuiteProfiler.

Click these buttons to download the ICC Profile and SuiteProfiler Color Map:

EXERCISE : Lens Flare Recovery

Next time you photograph a scene with light sources, experiment with the steps outlined above to recover the image details muddled by lens flare.

Be sure to review the Safety & Precautions page.

FEEDBACK : Lens Flare Recovery

Leave comments on this post to share your ideas and experience, or ask questions.

NEXT TIME : “Lens Flare Haze”

 


Don’t miss my future posts! 

Subscribe to The Art of Night Photography by Email.


Support The Art of Night Photography.

Thank you! 




Lens Flare Repair

SalemBoatYardYes, Virginia, there is lens flare.

Even if we use lenses that reduce the effects of flare, the potential is still out there, waiting to pounce when we least expect it.

And there is nothing we can do about it …

Or is there? Well, Yes and No. Lens flare cannot be stopped, but it can be repaired.

  • Mouse over the before image to view the results of lens flare repair. If mouse over does not work, go to Lens Flare Repair on my blog.

Flaring artifacts vary in size, and can spread across the image. Like aperture starring, their intensity depends on the strength of the light sources, and changes with aperture settings.

The greatest challenge is that flaring haze and artifacts wash out underlying image details, usually accompanied by color shifts.

Traditionally, prints have been repaired manually by applying spotting inks. This takes time and patience, a whole lot of practice, and must be repeated for every print.

Digital editing can be much more exacting, goes straight to the source of the problem, and only needs to be done once per image.

There are plenty of instructional guides and videos on the internet offering various plans of attack in Photoshop. Here is one approach to fixing this inevitable reality:

HOW TO : Lens Flare Touch-Up

The first step is to decide which flaring effects are desirable, then touch-up the rest.

The toughest part of touch-up is removing the flare marks seamlessly. The goal is to break up the patterns to remove the visual distractions.

One method is to use the Clone Tool to return details to washed out areas.

Another means is to burn and dodge flare spots where there is little or no details to restore. The best approach is to perform luminosity painting through a luminosity mask on a Soft Light layer above the image layer.

For complex artifacts, a combination of the two techniques can be most rewarding.

HOW TO : Luminosity Painting

Thanks to Tony Kuyper, who has written many fine tutorials on the subject of Luminosity Masks, a versatile set of tools for image editing.

Start with Luminosity Masks for a general description of the masking techniques.

Read Luminosity Painting for specifics on burning and dodging through luminosity masks.

Go here for an index of masking topics.

IMAGE : Boat Yard, Salem, MA

In 1692, my ancestor Susannah Martin was one of the first women hung at the Salem Witch Trials. I went to Salem to visit the Witch Trials Museum and Memorial. As I drove out of town that night, I came across this boat yard. It was well lit, but still kind of spooky.

The double lights on each side of the boats were very bright, causing extreme starring and flaring, especially with a small aperture. All of this was obvious in the viewfinder.

Trying to touch-up a darkroom print by hand was quite frustrating. Using both luminosity painting and cloning in Photoshop proved to be successful.

This was a 30 second exposure shot at f16 with TMAX 3200 film.

IMAGE TINT : GallerySilverLite

A light silver toning was applied to the image to cool the highlights.

This B&W image was toned in Adobe Photoshop with an ICC Profile I generated from my Mac App SuiteProfiler. The Profile was derived from the “GallerySilverLite” Color Map created in SuiteProfiler.

Click these buttons to download the ICC Profile and SuiteProfiler Color Map:

EXERCISE : Lens Flare Repair

Take night shots of a scene with bright light sources that create lens flare. Clean up the image artifacts by following the guidelines for Luminosity Painting.

This is good practice for any kind of touch-up work.

Be sure to review the Safety & Precautions page.

NEXT TIME : “Lens Flare Recovery”

 


Don’t miss my future posts! 

Subscribe to The Art of Night Photography by Email.


Support The Art of Night Photography.

Thank you!