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!