X100: What is going on here?

Started Dec 30, 2012 | Discussions thread
Jay A
Senior MemberPosts: 1,069
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Re: X100: What is going on here?
In reply to rattymouse, Dec 31, 2012

The biggest key to understanding what happened here is stated in your second sentence. "As soon as I saw it on the screen, I could see clearly that the camera had not even come close to capturing the delicate colors that I was seeing with my eyes." Unfortunately, what too many people do not realize is that NO camera is or has ever been capable of reproducing the dynamic range that the human eye is capable of seeing unless techniques such as HDR photography, or post processing manipulations are applied. What you have here is a scene with just too big a gap between a proper sky exposure and proper building exposure. The dynamic range of the sensor (as good as it is) is just not big enough to record both properly when compared to the dyamic range capabilities of the human eye. If you expose for the sky, the buildings are too dark. If you expose for the buildings, the sky is too light.

In the good old days of film, the accepted procedure was to expose for the shadows (in this case, the buildings) and print for the highlights (in this case the sky). When you brought the negative into the darkroom and printed, you had to burn in the sky (by applying additional exposure in the enlarger to it alone once the buildings already received their proper exposure time) to darken it up and bring it in line with the buildings. This was done by first exposing the entire sheet of paper to the entire image and then applying additional exposure to just the sky by masking off the buildings and preventing them from getting any more exposure. This was usually done by holding a piece of cardboard between the lens and easel where the paper sat so that only the sky would receive more light from the enlarger bulb. Thus you would b 'burning in' the sky.Of course this would apply to negative film that was later enlarged. If you shot with slide film, and this one slide was your final result, you may have been out of luck as is the case here without doing anything in post to make up for the differences in exposure between the buildings and sky. Fortunately, digital photography has given us a lot more tools to work with, such as HDR, post processing in Lightroom, Photoshop etc. and we can fix the shortcomings of lack of in camera dynamic range.

Again though, just remember a very important fact...yes the histogram may indicate that everything is just fine, but that histogram is reporting according to the capabilities of the camera and digital photography in general. It is not reporting in comparison to what the human eye is capable of seeing...not even close. Don't expect it to do so.

rattymouse wrote:

This morning there was a nice sunrise that I wanted to capture. I grabbed my X100 and took the shot. As soon as I saw it on the screen, I could see clearly that the camera had not even come close to capturing the delicate colors that I was seeing with my eyes. It was very early in the sunrise so the camera's dynamic range was not challenged at all. The histogram looked great, no over exposure reported at all. Yet the resulting image looked awful. I am left wondering why?

Here it is:

RAW image, straight out of LR4.

The image looks like it is blown out on the horizon, yet the histogram looks just fine. The colors of the sky looked NOTHING like this.

So, I then processed in LR4. I was able to get much closer to the reality of the situation by removing -1.8 EV of exposure. This turned the whole bottom of the image black so I needed to add +80 to the shadows. Pretty extreme changes. The result is:

After processing image in LR4.

I guess I'm left with the question, why were the colors lost in the original image if the exposure was well within the cameras dynamic range? Is there something else going on that I am not aware of?

Thanks.

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