Lee ND Grad Filters colour accuracy

OnLandscape magazine has had a series on neutral density graduated filters, with one part on colour accuracy. Tim Parkin, editor and author, happens to mention that his very old Lee resin filters had changed colour over the years and now had a strong colour cast. I had suspected this myself with my own set of Lee resin filters. A quick test confirms this. Here are some shots I took, the captions tell the story. Continue reading

Prehistoric woods

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

There is a geologic period called the Devonian. One characteristic of it was the formation of extensive forests, with ferns being one of the early forms of vegetation. If you wander round the woods of Exmoor on the north Devon coast you can imagine that time.

This particular shot caught my eye partly because of the play of light and the slender zig-zagging sapling in the centre of the scene. However, I think it is only fully successful when you see it in a large reproduction. The version above is down-sized but I’ve included a full-size version below that you can click on. I didn’t want to include it in-line because of the size (over 9Mb).

Here is the full size version

Carrying on the sharpness theme of recent posts I discovered many years ago how adding an amount of blur can (paradoxically) add an impression of sharpness. The processing software I used (PictureWindow Pro) had an Unsharp Mask tool for sharpening. I found I could get a very nice result by using a small amount of gaussian blur in addition (I think I added the blur after the sharpening but don’t quote me – it’s been a while since I’ve done it that way). My theory is that the impression of sharpness comes from having smooth tonal gradations. Too much sharpening and contrast can make the picture harsh and the blur softens it again. In this shot I’ve used Lightroom’s usual Sharpen settings but also taken the Clarity slider down to -43. I think it’s had the same effect of smoothing the tonal gradations to reduce harshness. I think it is best seen in the full size version in the ferns at the bottom of the scene.

In addition, the contrast (in tone, colour and texture) between the foliage and the tree trunks creates another source of perceived sharpness and three-dimensionality, helped by the lighting.

Triptych

Triptych

These three shots are not new but I’ve revisited the processing for two of them. I wrote a few weeks ago about how I found how effective it can be to stretch the whites and blacks sliders in Lightroom. Since then it’s been part of my standard workflow. This has prompted me to take a fresh look at some older pictures and that’s what I’ve tried with the two left hand shots above. I’ve shown them with the shot on the right because I think they make a great triptych.

To carry on with the theme of sharpness I’ve had for the last few posts this is another angle on that subject. An effect we want to achieve is a sense of depth and three dimensionality to our pictures. Having a wide range of tones from dark to bright is one way to help that. It’s not enough just to have the range. You’ll get that from a bright sunny day of high contrast. It’s how you position the tones to emphasise parts of the shot and downplay others. In these shots I’ve lightened the parts of the shot I want to bring to the foreground and used vignetting or radial filters to darken the surround. This makes parts of the shot advance or recede and adds to the sense of depth and this is part of the whole perception of what we simply call sharpness.

Borrowdale and Derwentwater

_IGP5122

Visiting the northern Lake District I’d intended to walk round the bottom end of Derwentwater but the lake had other ideas. Heavy rain had raised the level and the paths and fields were now under water. So I tried the other way and walked to the top of the classic climbing crag of Shepherd’s Crag. There I found both fantastic views and beautifully photogenic birch trees. Continue reading