Previous news story    Next news story

Behind the Shot: Lost in Space

By dpreview staff on Sep 20, 2013 at 11:00 GMT

In this article, nature photographer Erez Marom takes us through the complicated process he used to achieve his image 'Lost in Space'. As well as equipment choice and location, Erez also explains in detail exactly how he went about adjusting and manipulating multiple images in software to create the final result. Click the links below to read the full article. 

Comments

Total comments: 88
jrsjs
By jrsjs (7 months ago)

It's wonderful and it is art.

3 upvotes
MangeMD
By MangeMD (7 months ago)

I think it looks awesome.

2 upvotes
jxmcg
By jxmcg (7 months ago)

Thank you for your image and for taking the time to write and post the accompanying explanation. It shows a generosity of spirit that is much appreciated. Thank you also to other posters sharing their knowledge.

2 upvotes
dgeugene1
By dgeugene1 (7 months ago)

This looks like a pile of sand on a piece of black Plexi.

0 upvotes
LukeDuciel
By LukeDuciel (7 months ago)

Thank you for this tutorial. Really really really helpful.

1 upvote
GeorgeP71
By GeorgeP71 (7 months ago)

Great PHOTO, Great guy to teach us a few new ways to enhance our images and take us with him to see what he saw with his eyes. Any negative comments posted should be deleted.

2 upvotes
newmikey
By newmikey (7 months ago)

I don't get it! None of the negative posters "saw" the shot conceptually to begin with, much less going out in a challenging environment actually mastering equipment which tends to function less, break down faster and be difficult to set up or control. (think gloves, polar suits, limited range of movement etc.).

Yet lots of people seem to "know it all" when it comes to differentiating between "art" and "photography" (if there were ever a need to do that) and those same people know instinctively what was wrong with the processing steps, the software used or the tweaks performed.

Yet here we have a stunning image with a complete narrative of how it was created, provided free and open for all to learn from. Maybe nobody will go out to that particular mountain in that particular country to shoot those particular panorama shots - yet we all get to pick what we want to learn from this.

For some, the answer seems to be "we do not wish to learn anything", sad.

I have learned a lot!

Sad.

2 upvotes
thx1138
By thx1138 (7 months ago)

Hopefully we won't see the level of inane and hateful comments we did with Ezra's waterfall topic.

Simply wonderful image and it's a shame I didn't see the stars once when I was in Iceland, as I had ideas for night sky over a wonderful glacial lagoon full of bergs. Well you show me what could have been (not as good of course).

1 upvote
wansai
By wansai (7 months ago)

this is an absolutely beautiful image but I'm really quite torn on it. The level of manipulation here is so extensive I'd put this into clear digital art territory; and indeed I had originally thought this was almost entirely a digital painting.

Don't take that to mean I can't appreciate the artistry and skill placed in the piece - it's clearly excellent art piece - it's just I have a hard time categorizing it.

3 upvotes
Erez Marom
By Erez Marom (7 months ago)

I disagree. I think it's simply a panorama with some extra contrast :)

5 upvotes
peterstuckings
By peterstuckings (7 months ago)

I agree with Erez. Manipulating tone and colour and contrast is what we call 'optimisation' - i.e. making the best of what's IN the picture. Since cameras are flawed half-arsed man-made devices anyway, it's kind of weak to take what comes out of the camera as "truth", and anything but raw material to be worked up into something pleasing or useful. Thanks Erez - beautiful image as always!

3 upvotes
Becksvart
By Becksvart (6 months ago)

I mostly agree, though I must say the blue of the finished version makes my eyes sting a little. I really like it before it becomes so very drastically blue.

0 upvotes
SRT3lkt
By SRT3lkt (7 months ago)

Samyang 35/1.4?

0 upvotes
Karroly
By Karroly (7 months ago)

It is a great picture. It is an example of how post processing can circumvent gear limitation.
To you who think the reflections of some stars on the lake look brighter than their counterparts in the sky, and conclude it is not natural, you did not look carefully. The reflections are blue, never white, when many stars in the sky are white. So the reflections are not brighter, but bigger only. This is what happens when a light spot is reflected by a convex mirror (the top of a wave), plus the 15-sec exposure that combines each moving reflection into a larger spot. It is only your brain that concludes bigger equals brighter... Moreover, the kind of unpolished, matt surface of the lake acts as a strong AA filter, reflecting the bigger and brighter stars, filtering out the small and dim ones : just look at the small details of the mountain that are no longer there in the reflection.

6 upvotes
Jim Radcliffe
By Jim Radcliffe (7 months ago)

Karroly, thanks for taking the time to explain what I did not in an earlier post. I felt it would be in vain. I have taken similar photos with the same result (stars on the water). You went the mile further in your explanation.. now if the GearHeads can comprehend (or want to believe) what you have written is another thing.

1 upvote
Frederik Paul
By Frederik Paul (7 months ago)

It's not "gear limitation", how do you come to this conclusion?
It's photo manipulation, nothing else. By that, I don't want to say something against it.

0 upvotes
Fincho57
By Fincho57 (7 months ago)

Another great tutorial Erez. Thank you for taking the time to explain your art. Have seen similar views in Tromso and wish I had your skill and talent to capture them and then display them the way I remember them. Photographs like this remind me what a beautiful world it can be.

Keep up the submissions.

3 upvotes
Mark Evans Kent
By Mark Evans Kent (7 months ago)

I also love these kinds of articles, really widening the knowledge base!

3 upvotes
cmj1
By cmj1 (7 months ago)

In fact, I really hate people "making" scenery photos. While slightly adjusting the exposure seems just fine. Creating a master piece by distorting the image, adding something that wasn't there is totally unforgivable... Ask yourself why you are not at the right place at the right time.

Forgive me, but in Iceland, she has a very very favorable environment for shooting the stars.

Comment edited 3 minutes after posting
3 upvotes
TheDman
By TheDman (7 months ago)

What was added that wasn't really there?

2 upvotes
cmj1
By cmj1 (7 months ago)

a clear milky way and a star track reflection over water. don't think they co-exist.

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
0 upvotes
Erez Marom
By Erez Marom (7 months ago)

I still don't follow, sorry - where in the complete process shown in the article did I 'add' anything that 'wasn't there'?

1 upvote
cmj1
By cmj1 (7 months ago)

Can you shoot a photo of the same bird, running and flying, on the same photo.

Happy photoshop-ing!!

0 upvotes
Erez Marom
By Erez Marom (7 months ago)

I give up...

0 upvotes
TheDman
By TheDman (7 months ago)

What makes you think it's a star track reflection? I don't think the stars all move vertically. Looks more like rippling water to me. And you still haven't mentioned anything that wasn't really there.

0 upvotes
cmj1
By cmj1 (7 months ago)

A clear milky way cannot be capture when the lower photo was taken, and you won't get the reflection (if you insist that is not from the stars, what are they?) when you try to shot a clear milky. if merging does not equivalent to "adding", I am speechless.

I also give up. enjoy photo-shopping. :-)

0 upvotes
Erez Marom
By Erez Marom (7 months ago)

Let me get this straight - you claim that the different shots could not have been taken one right after the other?
And you also claim that any panorama should not be shot since it's 'merging'?

0 upvotes
TheDman
By TheDman (7 months ago)

It's stars reflected in rippling water. I'm not sure what's so hard to understand about that. If you think there should be a perfect reflection of the milky way in the water, then you're not grasping the effect rippling water has on reflections.

0 upvotes
ConanFuji
By ConanFuji (7 months ago)

I love reading these types of articles...
Nice to have knowledge sharing.

3 upvotes
joe6pack
By joe6pack (7 months ago)

"All four shots were 15 second exposures, at f/1.4, ISO 3200. This long exposure, high ISO setting is what does the magic when it comes to night photography, as can be seen by the amazing number of stars visible in the image."

I am not a Pro. Maybe someone can explain to me why the above combination is better than, say, 60s exposure, at ISO 800? Or 4 minutes at ISO 200?

0 upvotes
tarakanchik
By tarakanchik (7 months ago)

I was thinking that too. I would at least do 30-second exposures but then again 5dIII can handle high ISO with ease. I would definitely avoid the 4-minute exposure though as you would then start seeing star trails which wouldn't look good here.

0 upvotes
SMPhoto
By SMPhoto (7 months ago)

Because 60s is WAY to long. Even 30s too. 15-20 is about all you can go before the stars start to elongate noticeably due to the earths rotation. The only way around this is a star tracking tripod head, which is what most people into Astrophotography use.

9 upvotes
Erez Marom
By Erez Marom (7 months ago)

Dear Mr. 6Pack,
It's currently impossible to produce a single 40MP, 12mm, f/1.4 image. I'd love to get a hold of that equipment. Making the exposure longer is out of the question due to startrailing.

1 upvote
Random Asian Guy
By Random Asian Guy (7 months ago)

I think most people trying to take a good photo of the milky way uses the 500 rules (some people use 600). which is 500 / your focal length is the longest exposure you can have to avoid startrails. So in this case. 500/24mm would be 20 seconds. I also think that the less star trails the easier it is for stitching

1 upvote
jjwan
By jjwan (7 months ago)

Stars are so dim. Very little light reaches the camera, So in theory you should use the longest exposure as possible, but there are problems and limitation with long exposure.
First, since the sky is moving (or I should say, our Earth is rotating), so if you have long exposure, the stars will move, depends on your focal length, 10, 15,is the max. 30sec if you are using a ultra-wide lens, then the stars will stretch out into curved streaks or star trails. Secondly, your sensor will also pick up stray radio signals, cosmic rays and thermal vibrations from the atmosphere. All of those will degrade your image. So having multiple images instead of one long exposure will fix all those problems. This is a very normal way to do astrophotography call stacking.

0 upvotes
Dougbm_2
By Dougbm_2 (7 months ago)

Maybe the photographer doesn't know that you can rotate the camera and take a portrait shot! Just saying!

Actually I don't understand why photographers go to so much trouble with multiple shots unless they plan to print extra large. Also the reflection in the water seems to not actually reflect the night sky.

4 upvotes
tripodfan
By tripodfan (7 months ago)

How would this shot work as a single portrait shot? The edges of the mountain would not be in frame if it were shot in portrait and not landscape.

The final effect, with 4 landscape shots stacked and aligned, is much like shooting a 12mm lens in a portrait orientation. Maybe the photographer didn't have a 12mm lens? Maybe he needed the wide aperture his 24mm to keep the exposures short enough so that star trails didn't blur?

3 upvotes
jubilatu
By jubilatu (7 months ago)

Because the photo is not for his facebook page. Just thinking...

5 upvotes
JKSelama
By JKSelama (7 months ago)

Check out this site, you will then know why.

http://gigapan.com/

0 upvotes
Erez Marom
By Erez Marom (7 months ago)

Last time I checked I was aware of the poirtait option :)
If you have the equipment for a 40MP, 12mm, f/1.4 shot, please let me know if you're selling!

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 6 minutes after posting
5 upvotes
JohnyP
By JohnyP (7 months ago)

This is stunning work, but not something i would call a photograph.

And I do agree with the rest - the PP is done to a level where if I had seen this elsewhere - i would simply think it was painted in photoshop.

Non the less - good work.

5 upvotes
Plastek
By Plastek (7 months ago)

Well, it's a composite image, not really a photograph, but.. well.... most of the astrophotography is done with composites these days. You rarely can make a single exposure astrophotograph. Even for a sole reason of noise levels.

2 upvotes
John Szeto
By John Szeto (7 months ago)

Because of the long exposure and extreme post processing this is fictional image, not what the eye would see. However, it is still a very beautiful and great piece of digital art....congratulations.

4 upvotes
SMPhoto
By SMPhoto (7 months ago)

This isn't so much directed at the PP in this particular image, but rather this particular attitude towards PP techniques such as HDR, stitching, etc. in general. I've been photographing various subjects for over 25 years professionally, and have seen this perception grow as photography has moved from the film to digital medium. Ppl want to consider themselves "purists", ie, if it didn't come out of the camera in a single shot looking that way, it isn't "real', it's cheating, or at best, it's "art", without always thinking it through. Can images be overcooked in PS, sure. Cross the line from photos to graphic art, sure, but it's not like great images haven't been manipulated since the beginnings. Really, what's the difference in HDR or exposure manipulation in PS vs the water bath development techniques Adams and Weston used? Techniques like HDR and stitching, when used well, can serve to make an image capture a scene MORE like the eye, not as limited in DR or field of view, sees it.

4 upvotes
Marcus Beard
By Marcus Beard (7 months ago)

I really like this article - can't understand all the hate. Would be much easier to create such an image with a tilt shift lens (using the shift then stitching undistorted panoramas). In fact it's inspired me to try

4 upvotes
LWW
By LWW (7 months ago)

Consider a telephoto lens perspective with a wide angle view, I use it often.

0 upvotes
SMPhoto
By SMPhoto (7 months ago)

The biggest issue would have been aperture. The Canon TSE 24 is a 3.5 lens. That's 2 1/2 stops slower. He would have needed to shoot at 15000 ISO and image would have been ruined by noise, or stretch the exposure to over a minute and trailed the stars. Star trails can be cool in really long exposures, but 1 minute stars just look wrong.

1 upvote
Erez Marom
By Erez Marom (7 months ago)

Indeed, the limiting factor would be the aperture. I brought the 17mm TS-E to this trip but it wouldn't have given the same result.

1 upvote
groucher
By groucher (7 months ago)

Impressive result but why suffer for your art? The stitching could have been done in about 2 minutes in PTGUI (or similar) and the local adjustments would have been far easier in NX2. Photo$hop has its good points (e.g. lettering, free transformation and canvas sizing) but the type of work required for this example isn't exactly its forte.

0 upvotes
TheDman
By TheDman (7 months ago)

Can you select a midtone range in NX2?

0 upvotes
Dennis Linden
By Dennis Linden (7 months ago)

yes you can

0 upvotes
TheDman
By TheDman (7 months ago)

When I look at this page, it doesn't seem to indicate that such selections are possible:
http://www.nphotomag.com/2013/01/11/nikon-capture-nx2-tutorial-how-to-use-selections-and-masks/

0 upvotes
groucher
By groucher (7 months ago)

Thedrman: NX2 has a selection brush that allows you to accurately select a region (or multiple regions) of an image by brushing over them with a suitably sized brush. It's then possible to apply any adjustment, effect or filter to the selection(s). NX2 automatically blends the result into the surrounding w.r.t. the brush size. The section brush can also be used in -ve mode to correct or remove any adjustment that has been overdone, saving the need to re-do the whole edit. Having completed an edit, you then click 'Next Step' to create a new layer. Layers can be turned on or off as in Photoshop.

This is an incredibly precise and powerful tool. Dodge/burn, flare removal and the sort of adjustments demonstrated in this article are very easy to perform.

1 upvote
TheDman
By TheDman (7 months ago)

A selection brush wouldn't make nearly as precise a selection as the luminosity selections done in this article. I have a feeling the people who think NX2 could do the job aren't fully grasping what is being done here in Photoshop.

3 upvotes
CortoPA
By CortoPA (7 months ago)

Terrific Post Work and a great technical article.

However for my personal taste it's a little too much "Velvet Elvis".

Seeing this as a large print in a gallery might change all that tho.

2 upvotes
jcmarfilph
By jcmarfilph (7 months ago)

It's a great capture but the PP is overdone.

2 upvotes
InTheMist
By InTheMist (7 months ago)

Wow, that's way more skill than I have in photoshop!

Feeling a bit overwhelmed, to be honest.

3 upvotes
EGouws
By EGouws (7 months ago)

I can't see how this picture deserves a "how to" article. Really...

0 upvotes
Crimguy
By Crimguy (7 months ago)

Right, because everything he did is so self-evident . . .

5 upvotes
Juck
By Juck (7 months ago)

Listen to all you losers, hating on a shot you lack the talent to create yourself. Pathetic.

14 upvotes
AbrasiveReducer
By AbrasiveReducer (7 months ago)

I absolutely lack the talent to create this. Don't have the time, either. And if I did have the time, I'd prefer not spending it on digital manipulation. Nice photo, though. Sort of daytime and nighttime in the same picture.

3 upvotes
Neal Hood
By Neal Hood (7 months ago)

The capture of the starts is really great. It reminds me of some better astrophotography pictures. Of course the rest of the picture is equally good.

2 upvotes
mpgxsvcd
By mpgxsvcd (7 months ago)

I can't help but think that if this image was entered into a challenge it would get ripped apart for technical flaws. I like the concept and I can appreciate the effort it took to produce it. However, the blurred stars in the water were just too distracting.

I think it would be an excellent image if you just crop the water out all together.

2 upvotes
Cyrille Berger
By Cyrille Berger (7 months ago)

I disagree, I tried, and it looks weird. The picture looks unballanced without the water. Also I like the "reverse" effect, usually when we take a picture of a landscape, we get sharp and detail below, on land, and a fuzzy sky, on this picture it is the other way around, and it is this reverse effect that make the picture special.

5 upvotes
SemperAugustus
By SemperAugustus (7 months ago)

"this image was entered into a challenge it would get ripped apart for technical flaws" ... this is the reason why artists should not submit their works to the opinion of technocrats whose only focus is to evaluate the "technical" aspects of what should be considered art.

14 upvotes
Jim Radcliffe
By Jim Radcliffe (7 months ago)

I agree with SemperAugustus.. we do not create such work with pixel peepers in mind. We create for a far wider audience and this photo is, in fact, what one would call "The Art" of photography.

Only photographers interested in the technical side of a photo would criticize this work.. and they are not the target audience for work of this nature.

7 upvotes
Kim Letkeman
By Kim Letkeman (7 months ago)

@Semper... If an artist were to try to represent this image, you can bet that the reflection would be there. Capturing a single image and pounding it with curves failed to render properly the reflection, which was probably of lower intensity in the water than the original in the sky. You can take the elitist view that art transcends craftsmanship, but in this case it failed on both counts. They are symbiotic concerns, one cannot properly exist without the other.

Comment edited 21 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
Erez Marom
By Erez Marom (7 months ago)

I can''t really see your point. The star reflections are blurred because of water movement. It wasn't really possible to take the shot using a shorter exposure, was it?
@Kim - the shot wasn't 'pounded with curves'. The adjustment was only performed on a very weak mid-level selection, in a way that didn't cause loss of detail. Why not look at the provided raw files and see for yourself?

Comment edited 27 seconds after posting
2 upvotes
SemperAugustus
By SemperAugustus (7 months ago)

Kim,
Nobody can predict the mind of an artist, this is what gave us Van Gogh, Manet, Kandinski or Dali... your assumption that the reflection of Kirkjufell should be in the water is closer to a documenting view of the image than at an artistic one. You are entitled to look at my response as "elitist", but I think too many times photographers allow themselves to be cast into documenting an event or a subject.

0 upvotes
fabiofirenze0104
By fabiofirenze0104 (7 months ago)

It's a really lovely image.
But I'm not sure it is a photograph.

5 upvotes
xlynx9
By xlynx9 (7 months ago)

All the manipulation was only working around technical limitations of the equipment. The end result is what a future camera would produce automatically, so yes, it's a photograph.

1 upvote
Kim Letkeman
By Kim Letkeman (7 months ago)

Lovely image from the mountain upwards ... the water is incongruently devoid of the Milky-Way and filled with blurred and too bright individual stars. Although it was shot legitimately, this is a case where subduing the stars in the water part of the image and perhaps overlaying at least a hint of a reflection of the Milky Way would -- in my opinion at least -- dramatically enhance an already very nice image.

5 upvotes
Gordon W
By Gordon W (7 months ago)

Agree with Kim.

0 upvotes
alexisgreat
By alexisgreat (7 months ago)

Very true Kim, not having at least some semblance of a reflection of the milky way in the water is what makes the image look artificial.

1 upvote
star shooter
By star shooter (7 months ago)

Since when is the Milky Way blue???? Come on, get real. Do you ever see the MW this colour???? Nice shot of the iceberg - before or after the Titanic?

0 upvotes
gefrorenezeit
By gefrorenezeit (7 months ago)

Is it allowed to photograph in 'correct' colours only? Would be sad....

0 upvotes
ShelNf
By ShelNf (7 months ago)

You really can't win around here. If he'd used Photoshop to create that effect then it would be labeled a fake.

2 upvotes
Kim Letkeman
By Kim Letkeman (7 months ago)

Worrying about the colours is silly ... the image could be represented warmer or cooler with trivial amounts of effort. Regarding the use of Photoshop ... there are many excellent composite images in astrophotography owing to the use of tracking to get nice clean images of stars. This photograph did not use such technology but instead pounded the image with curves. What that did was to fail to capture what was surely there in real life ... the reflection of the Milky Way. Thus, in fact, the real image is actually the fake and a properly composited image would reflect reality much better. I hope you were able to follow that :-)

Comment edited 37 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
Erez Marom
By Erez Marom (7 months ago)

Sorry to disappoint, the movement of the water didn't allow for the milky way reflection to appear, you can clearly see that in the raw files.

2 upvotes
Kim Letkeman
By Kim Letkeman (7 months ago)

Fair enough ... but the eye expects there to have been a reflection, and not the one that is there with distorted and too bright stars that cannot easily be seen in the sky ... so I maintain that adding a subtle reflection from the sky and dropping the intensity of the real reflection improves the image. It simply feels wrong the way it is because it *looks* like it is meant to be a classic reflection shot without actually delivering.

Edit: I just took another look and there is not much movement at all ... the mountain is hardly distorted at all. So if the Milky Way were that bright in the sky, there would absolutely be a reflection (somewhat smeared) in the water. The lack of any hint of that is what makes the image look completely wrong.

Comment edited 2 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
Erez Marom
By Erez Marom (7 months ago)

There was a small amount of movement blurring the fainter elements in the sky. The reflection of the stars is due to that very movement.
I wouldn't add a reflection, I don't do that in my images.

1 upvote
PowerG9atBlackForest
By PowerG9atBlackForest (7 months ago)

Yes, I agree to what Jamie said.
But, as I wanted to trace back the (more or less isolated but significant) reflections on the water to their origins in the sky - there were none!

4 upvotes
Steve Balcombe
By Steve Balcombe (7 months ago)

I agree, the mismatch between sea and sky is very unsettling.

"It's good, but it's not quite Carling."

1 upvote
Erez Marom
By Erez Marom (7 months ago)

Really? I can see several sources. the ones that are harder to track are probably surrounded by many stars. Why not see the attached raw files for proof that there wasn't any cheating of this kind?

1 upvote
PowerG9atBlackForest
By PowerG9atBlackForest (7 months ago)

Yes, Erez, you are right - following your suggestions I did find the sources.

What on a glance appeared so unsettling was that things in the water do not reflect things in the sky in an optically correct way. I understand that they shouldn't necessarily.

Nota bene: We never spoke about cheating.

1 upvote
CarVac
By CarVac (7 months ago)

The reason you can't easily see them in the sky is because they clip, thus making them less brighter (that SHOULD make sense) than they should be.

0 upvotes
krebss
By krebss (7 months ago)

Not sure what you guys are talking about, I can trace pretty much every single star reflection in the water to it's origin star in the sky without too much effort. They are almost at the same height from the horizon, much fainter though.

But I do agree it's a bit odd looking because they are big and fuzzy compared to their origin star and the brain doesn't agree.

1 upvote
JamieTux
By JamieTux (7 months ago)

Stunning shot, well worth the effort, thanks for sharing!

4 upvotes
Total comments: 88