Sunday, August 05, 2007

Cornfield sunset

The eye is a remarkable instrument. Even more so because it is connected to the brain, where a continuous input of images is interpreted and assembled. The human eye can detect about ten thousand levels of light between pure black and pure white. The camera can only "see" less than half that. Which explains why we're often disappointed with how a picture came out that looked perfectly fine when we pressed the shutter button. What our eyes and brains see are far beyond the limits of film and digital sensors.

The photo above was one of those situations. The difference in exposure between the bright colors of the sunset sky and the cornfield was about six stops - well beyond the ability of the film in my camera to accurately render the scene. So I doubled up - shooting two exposures of the scene - one metered for the sky and one metered for the corn in the foreground - then blended the two on a computer.

The result is a scene which reveals the depth of color and tone of both areas, and comes a little closer to achieving what we've been able to do for a long time.

More details on how a camera "sees" and the limitations of film and sensors can be found on my photo advice blog.

Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2007 James Jordan.

11 comments:

Wanda said...

Well James, thats just the most clever camera work I've ever seen. You are an amazing photographer....I stand amazed at that beauty, those rich colors.
Love it...thanks for telling us how you accomplished it.

Michael said...

Beautiful

Take Care
Michael

lissa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
lissa said...

Sorry I misstype and deleted the comment. You can deleted that comment.

Here it is again:

I'm amazed by all your photographs. I like how you manage to put such lovely colors in all your photos.

This one's gorgeous!

Steve said...

Very nice. Love those waving cornstalks in late summer. The big question is: were you tempted to grab a couple of ears on your way out?

jayfish said...

nice dramatic colors but too bad about the black edge between the sky and cornfield. i guess that's the main problem with trying to blend different exposures...

Sheila said...

I was up your way this weekend and the cornfields were lovely. Didn't happen to catch the sunset, though.

James said...

Thanks, everyone for the comments.

Because I'm visualizing the scene in my mind's eye while adjusting the exposure settings and camera position between shots, the process can literally be a shot in the dark (or two shots in this case).

No corn stalks were harmed in the making of this picture and I wasn't terribly tempted to grab an ear or two - it's field corn, which is nowhere near as good as sweet corn. I also learned after packing up and driving off that the road was marked "private." If I had to, I could explain the honest mistake of missing the sign at the road's entrance (it was pretty small), but I'm not sure how I'd explain the ears of corn on the car seat (they followed me in?).

jayfish, good observation. Because of the thin stalks and tassels above the horizon, I was left with two choices - have a sharply contrasting, hard edge on the cornstalks, which I thought would screm "fake" louder than the darker transition area, which to me is very similar to the look of using graduated neutral density filters, which is another technique for shooting in this type of situation. I've also seen computer-generated high density range shots, but I'm not a big fan of that look, either.

jayfish said...

aah, i'm fairly new to photography so haven't come across those filters. i'll have to check around and play.

i'm not a fan of the HDR stuff myself. too much all over grey for my liking.

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Kim said...

This is a beautiful shot - very well done James!