Thursday, August 16, 2007

Clouds over my head.

Most of us like bright sunny days. The sunshine seems to put one and all in a good mood. There are even statistics that say that people living in an above average rainy area are more prone to depression and that the suicide rate is higher in those places. Facts or fiction, the point is that sunshine is a good thing…except for many photographs.
When there are no clouds and the sky is blue throughout, lighting on photographic subjects is, in most cases, too harsh. The disparity between the shadowy and sunny areas is either too bright or too dark. When taking photographs of people, they are squinting or in an area too dark for proper exposure. Of course, you can use spot metering, but the bright portion of the picture will likely be overexposed. You can use fill-in flash and that works great for people pictures or close-to-the-camera pictures. What about nature photos, commonly labeled as landscape photography? Do you like a nice foreground such as a beach, meadow, buildings, people, animals, etc, with a perfect blue sky? Personally, in some cases, it’s okay but it is kind of bland.

On the other hand, most of us don’t venture out in the rain or when a storm is brewing. In this day and age, we have wonderful tools to help making our pictures accurately reflect what we see or what we would have liked to see. Many consider image manipulation as false photography. I agree that when a photograph is “photo shopped” to the point that all elements in the picture are false, that is, in my opinion, too much. It becomes like a painting, everything is overlaid to match your creative impulse. It is then a “painting” instead of a photograph.

Back to the blue sky, surely you have taken some picture that were good except that the sky wasn’t what you wanted or what you had seen the day before when you didn’t have your camera with you. With PhotoShop or any other digital imaging software, you can change a bland sky to one that fits the scene or mood. You can insert a sky background similar to the one you saw when you didn’t have your camera.
When I’m out and about with my camera, I have taken the habit of shooting the sky. Sometimes the sky has big puffy clouds, sometimes it has black rain clouds, other times it has a nice colorful sunset type appearance, sometimes a storm is brewing, etc. I keep these images in a dedicated folder on my computer. When I shoot a scene and I am not completely satisfied with the sky, I change it. I have rescued many pictures that way. I don’t think it’s “cheating”, because the sky was probably similar at one time or another. When, and if, you make a collection of sky images, save them as taken. Do not manipulate them until you insert them in a photograph. It will be easier to match the foreground that way.

I am assuming that you already know how to work with your digital imaging software. I suggest that you always use layers.

If you live in a city like New York or Los Angeles, you can always get rid of the polluted sky and replace it with a clean one. It won’t do much for the environment, but it will make you feel good…perhaps.

Try to do something everyday to reduce the pollution on our little planet. Your children and grandchildren will inherit what we make of it.

Read OK1000 Pentax Blog's post on going green with digital photography. It is very well done and will make you think. Kudos to Michael Gaudet.

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