SX50--an example of working around tough lighting

Started Aug 29, 2014 | Discussions thread
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Don_Campbell Senior Member • Posts: 2,735
SX50--an example of working around tough lighting

This morning I was killing some time waiting for the fog to lift out at the edge of the ocean. At our house it was sunny and nice and the web cams told me that 1000 yds west at the ocean's edge it was all socked in with dense fog.

Cloudy and socked in are not so rare on the coast in Oregon in the summer. Even when it is mostly sunny or moderately overcast, the steepness of the cliffs and the direction of the sun often combine to make lighting tricky at best. Even the folks with DSLRs complain about the light a whole lot. I thought I'd show an example of using pp to work around some tough lighting and the limitations imposed by Canon on using HQBurst mode.

Difficult light: dark shadows and dark rocks behind a starkly lit falcon. Compounding the issue is that HQBurst mode was used to get the action of the bird taking off. In turn, HQBurst forces JPG-only and automated ISO and the camera's choice trading off shutter speed, ISO and the with wide open aperture. If one allows the ISO to get to 400 or above the camera's jpeg engine applies so much noise reduction that detail suffers.

My only control on exposure is the "+/-" I "exposure compensation" which I set at -2 2/3 EV. That biases the exposure partly because metering was totally overwhelmed by the dark background of the rocks in shadows and partly to avoid high ISO.


I processed the image first in RawTherapee. I chose an option for doing manually manipulated contrast control. I created two versions of the image in RawTherapee--one bright enough to lighten the background and one darker that did not burn the highlights on the bird. In addition to lightening the original, RT was also used for minor contrast adjustment and modest noise reduction.

Light image from RT:

Somewhat darker image:

These two images were put into two layers in GIMP (light on top) and a layer mask added to the top layer to allow me to use the air brush tool to "paint" the areas in the layer mask to be partially or fully transparent to allow the darker image of the bird to appear. For those not familiar with the technique a little reading in the GIMP manual might shed some light.

The combined image--light for the background--darker for the peregrine was sharpened slightly and then cropped--all in GIMP:

I don't hold this out as an ideal photo but a photo that side-stepped the SX50's limitations with a brief bit of pp. It took me longer to explain the steps than to do them.

A note: RawTherapee and GIMP are available for Linux, Windows and Mac and are open source freeware. They are both powerful, sophisticated and free of charge.

Thanks for looking.


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