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  1. #1
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    Shooting in shade + sunny spots?



    Most of my MTB photography is on the fly so I can't pick a time of day when the light is ideal. I basically have to ride ahead and only have a moment or two to setup a shot. Since moving to BC I've gotten my head around shooting in low light conditions in the trees well enough for my needs.

    However what is still a problem is dealing with the frequent situation where I have partial shade and partial bright sunlight in the same shot - like shown above and below.

    My last trip featured a lot of that. [Feel free to critique anything else you think I could do better given my time/equipment limitations]

    I'd love any suggestions that you might have how to take better photos under these circumstances. My only caveat is I need to be able to get off the bike and shoot a few pictures then get back to riding fast so I can't do anything uber elaborate.

    Safe riding,

    Vik
    www.vikapproved.com

  2. #2
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    Shooting SLR? Use of fill-flash is the answer. Enough to brighten the shadows but not overexpose the whole shot.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by TonyB. View Post
    Shooting SLR? Use of fill-flash is the answer. Enough to brighten the shadows but not overexpose the whole shot.
    The camera I use on bikepacking trips is a Canon S95 due the size/ease of use vs. performance. It has a flash which I don't use regularly, but I can give that a try.

    For my MTB day rides I use a DSLR Canon T2i which has a built in flash. Is that what you are talking about or should I be looking at a external flash?

    For day rides I can get a bit more elaborate with gear and technique since there is less space/weight limitations and the ride goals aren't as demanding - usually.
    Safe riding,

    Vik
    www.vikapproved.com

  4. #4
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    You could try using the built-in flash. It may not be powerful enough but that will depend on how far away the subjects are. I shoot with Canon DSLR's and use 550 and 580EX shoe mount flash units. There are a few different ways to do it. Check out Youtube for "eos fill flash".

  5. #5
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    As others have said, use of flash outdoors can be helpful, but often even external (not the little built in / pop up) "hot shoe" type flashes are not powerful enough when you have very high contrast situations. Still, every little bit helps. You may need to move into "manual mode" for the best / better results. Ideally you would expose to get the highlights into an acceptable range, and then add the flash to help with the shadows.

    Something to explore, if you have access to Photoshop (many other image editing applications also have this type of tool), is the "highlight - shadow" tool. (Image / Adjustments / Shadows - Highlights...) Still using even the smallest flash to make the initial exposure, again every little bit helps. As long as there is some "meat" in your file, this tool is not going to recover something that is not there at all, you can open up the shadows, and to a lesser degree pull back some detail in blown out highlights. Just use this, or other tools like it, with a light hand, over doing it looks poor.

    BTW, you have some fantastic shots! Great use of limited depth of field here.
    .
    "...when your ride is nearly over, it seems to have lasted but an instant..."


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  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by El Salt View Post
    BTW, you have some fantastic shots! Great use of limited depth of field here.
    Thanks guys. I'll start using the built in flash and see what happens. Most of my tour photos are on the fly so setting up any equipment is hard, but I can work an external flash for my day ride MTB photography. I may pick up an external flash for my DSLR and start playing with it.

    BTW - that photo you linked to was taken by my friend Doug using his Olympus. My Canon S95 won't achieve DOF like that.
    Safe riding,

    Vik
    www.vikapproved.com

  7. #7
    Kathleen in AZ
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    Quote Originally Posted by El Salt View Post
    As others have said, use of flash outdoors can be helpful, but often even external (not the little built in / pop up) "hot shoe" type flashes are not powerful enough when you have very high contrast situations. Still, every little bit helps. You may need to move into "manual mode" for the best / better results. Ideally you would expose to get the highlights into an acceptable range, and then add the flash to help with the shadows.

    Something to explore, if you have access to Photoshop (many other image editing applications also have this type of tool), is the "highlight - shadow" tool. (Image / Adjustments / Shadows - Highlights...)
    I'll second what El Salt said about post-processing... first, shoot RAW with that little S95 so you save as much info as possible. I really dislike the shadows cast from on-camera flashes and off-camera flash is too much to haul around for on-the-trail pictures, so I pretty much never use a flash. In the light and dark situaations, expose so that you are not blowing out the brights, and then you should be able to pull out detail in the shadows in post processing. I use Lightroom and am continuously amazed at what can be salvaged from sub-par photos. Not that I ever take sub-par photos...

  8. #8
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    If someone already mentioned it, I apologize, but when shooting with fill flash, although you certainly can just select one of the automatic modes, I'd recommend using manual mode and meter for the sunny area. Fortunately, the dirt is probably pretty close to 18% grey in terms of tone, so you can just switch into manual with spot mode metering, center on a sunlit patch of dirt and adjust the shutter speed and/or ISO until the exposure needle is centered. Then pop the flash up and fire away. The flash's ETTL metering will properly expose your shadows, and the camera's shutter speed, aperture and ISO have been set up to properly expose the highlights. This method will generally blend the light from the sun and the flash in such a way that the photograph still looks natural. Also, since the flash is just having to punch a little bit of light into the shadows, you'd can get some pretty good range out of even a very small flash.

    Hopefully, that makes sense. If the sun's not darting in and out of clouds, you can even set up your camera at the beginning of the ride and it's good to go. Otherwise, if you don't have the time to set a manual exposure, just throw it into AV, enable the flash and fire away. The problem with AV, TV or full auto is depending on your metering mode, you can't be sure the camera will expose for the correct part of the scene, so you could end up with an over/underexposed shot, or too much flash and an unnatural looking photo.

  9. #9
    That Waters Guy
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    Quote Originally Posted by DurtGurl View Post
    I use Lightroom and am continuously amazed at what can be salvaged from sub-par photos. Not that I ever take sub-par photos...
    I take sub-par photos all the time and I'm amazed at what Lightroom can do with them. Simply amazed. And I can only do a tiny fraction of what LR can do, I need to work on the spot and area contrast tools next.

    For images shot raw such as yours, the fix is very straightforward and LR 5 is pretty dang cheap on a bang-for-the-bug basis.
    Rolland

  10. #10
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    Thanks for the tips. I've been getting some better results.
    Safe riding,

    Vik
    www.vikapproved.com

  11. #11
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    Shoot raw, then use something like Lightroom (or any other raw converter) to bring out the detail in the shadows.

    Fill from the on-camera flash can work, but it's pretty weak, so will work best when you are pretty close (though not too close because the coverage is fairly small as well). It's also directional so can make the subject more flat and to me is a bit too "obvious" as a technique.

    The bigger speedlights have more power so are more flexible. The best option would be to pick a location carefully and then use the speedlights off-camera (on stands) and use them to fill in specific areas or as key lights (by under exposing the ambient), but this is more time consuming.

  12. #12
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    I'm a pro photographer (I run a wedding photography business and was a former teacher of wedding photography at a local college and have been shooting for 20+ years) - shooting outdoors is very challenging with digital sensors especially when shooting in jpeg mode as opposed to RAW typically jpeg can only support 1-2 stops of dynamic range in an exposure this means that all of the light values cannot exceed +/- 1-2 range exposure in the image without having areas under and over exposed, as seen in your first image the rider is over exposed, and the shadows are underexposed with little or no detail.

    Fill flash in these situations are typically not effective because the flashes are generally not powerful enough given shooting distances and shutter speed required to freeze motion, that said a good speedlite may work in some situations. Also if you're riding with an SLR and speedlite attached that may be a PIA to quickly stop setup and shoot.

    If you're shooting action shots your SLR would be the best choice in terms of fast image capture rather than a point and shoot.

    I would practice shooting in manual mode with your camera, and compensating for differences in your foreground and background exposures. For example a situation where you have a dark subject in front of a bright/light background the camera will tend to underexpose the image as a large amount of light is reflecting off of the light surface for example a biker riding in the foreground of a limestone cliff the rider in auto mode your camera will likely underexpose the background and the foreground this is a situation where in manual mode or using exposure compensation you may wish to overexpose by 1-2 stops.

    The opposite would hold true for a light subject against a dark background for example your first image background underexposed and foreground (subject) over exposed you may wish to underexpose by 1-2 stops.

    Keep in mind also that as you over expose and under expose areas of your image not everything will be perfectly exposed, I would focus on exposing the most important areas of the images accurately and dealing with the others in post production (i.e. photoshop lightroom etc).

    Your camera may also have a digital lighting adjustment that will automatically compensate for dynamic range try the highest setting to see if that helps as well, typically increasing this setting uses image processing power and images will take longer to save to your memory cards, this typically is not an issue unless your shooting in rapid succession.

    Good Luck, that's probably a lot of geeky photospeak so if you have any questions fire away.

    Cheers,
    James

  13. #13
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    The shadow tool in iPhoto will clean a bunch of that up.

  14. #14
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    S95 is a great camera! Fill flash is great idea, but not for small camera flashes and small camera batteries on several hour rides...I use the RX1 P&S full frame and there is no comparison in Dynamic Range (Still keeping S95!)…larger sensor is the only sure way to deal with shadows and sunlight combined…simple HDR programs do work as well...
    This…
    Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX1 Full Frame Compact DigitalDSCRX1/B B&H

    You could also use the Sony RX100 which has a much larger sensor and is comparative in size to the S95 for much better DR….and it does have Bracketing as well for even better HDR shots…
    If you do go this route buy the older RX100 not the RX100 II as the older model has much better low ISO IQ which is what most folks shoot at anyway low ISO's in decent lighting…(Don't believe all the hype about the newer sensor)…
    Great prices as well:
    Amazon.com: Sony DSC-RX100 20.2 MP Exmor CMOS Sensor Digital Camera with 3.6x Zoom: SONY: Camera & Photo


    or this…shoot three shots and stack or bracket if you like…simple HDR combining is easy and efficient with Photomatix Pro...

    HDR photography software & plugin for Lightroom, Aperture & Photoshop - Tone Mapping, Exposure Fusion & High Dynamic Range Imaging for photography

  15. #15
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    I don't have the full size files so not a lot to work with…5 minutes with Photomatix Pro…
    Original:



  16. #16
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    Stack the adjusted version over the original in Photoshop and then mask out the areas you don't want to be affected by whatever processing you used to create a blend between the two images. Like with the Photomatix version above where the adjustment looks nice on the background but not on the actual subjects.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by vikb View Post


    Thanks for the tips. I've been getting some better results.
    While I suppose throwing hardware at the problem (flash units, etc.) might be a better solution,
    ten seconds of editing with the Shadow tool in iPhoto generated the result here. Depends on your needs I guess. I previously have used ACDSee Pro (mac or win) that had a similar tool. Easy.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Shooting in shade + sunny spots?-test_2.jpg  


  18. #18
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    Good Call Dirttime. I have iPhoto but never (think) to use it. I'm in PS, IL, and DW all day, so they are my "go to" applications. But... if you're looking for a good solid application, and one that comes with your MAC (assuming you are on that platform), iPhoto is really pretty powerful.
    .
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  19. #19
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    Yeah, that looks good. IIWY I'd also bump up the saturation just a touch and warm up the light by a couple of degrees.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by dirttime View Post
    While I suppose throwing hardware at the problem (flash units, etc.) might be a better solution,
    ten seconds of editing with the Shadow tool in iPhoto generated the result here. Depends on your needs I guess. I previously have used ACDSee Pro (mac or win) that had a similar tool. Easy.
    I use the shadow tool in iPhoto - lightly....I find over use does as much damage as what it fixes.
    Safe riding,

    Vik
    www.vikapproved.com

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by Metamorphic View Post
    Yeah, that looks good. IIWY I'd also bump up the saturation just a touch and warm up the light by a couple of degrees.
    Fair enough. I was just trying to show what can be done by just adjusting a single slider. A lot of folks don't realize that digital cams use all sorts of algorithms to play with the raw data to produce the image they finally make available as a jpg, etc. There's nothing wrong with further manipulating that yourself, it may well be a better solution. This also shows that you are usually better off with slightly dark images than with blown out overexposed ones. Though Highlight tools can help with light areas the way Shadow tools work with dark areas, often there is not much data to work with in the too-bright areas. There is usually a lot of detail buried in those dark areas! For casual photos in less than ideal conditions, post processing is great.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by vikb View Post
    I use the shadow tool in iPhoto - lightly....I find over use does as much damage as what it fixes.
    Also a good point. One thing I liked about ACDSee Pro was that the shadow and highlight tools let you pick some number of sliders for each. I think 8 was the default. So, adjusting the first one would only lighten the darkest 1/8 of the pixels, the next slider the next 1/8 etc. This lets you easily isolate the effect you are having on the overall image, and probably limits the "damage" you mention. It's been a while since I used it so I don't know if this is still the case. BTW, I'm certainly no pro.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by vikb View Post


    Shooting in shade + sunny spots?-kmwamwy.jpg





    Shooting in shade + sunny spots?-uofjsxw.jpg
    You dont need a $2000+ full frame camera. For what your doing you could pick up a reasonably priced Nikon D40 (or similar, slightly newer model depending of budget and availability, Canon is fine, say a 400D) which will shoot in RAW and so give you better ability to edit difficult photos. Get an older slightly cheaper DSLR, if you knock it, sctrach it or ultimatley break it, you wont be so upset and it will be less hastle to replace. Novice level DSLR's are really light and fairly small.
    The kit lens would do you just fine, but as you learn to use a DSLR you'll fine a "faster" lens will help a lot in low light, you could look for something like a Sigma 18-50mm f2.8 EX DC Lens, use f2.8 in low light and for nice blurred backgrounds, use f8 pretty much the rest of the time for nice sharp photos. You can get a copy of Adobe Elements 11 on Amazon really cheap and it will be perfect for editing your photos.

    Photogrpahy is like mtb ... theres a lot to learn and practice makes perfect, however you dont "have" to spend thousands of £'s or $'s to enjoy yourself and get great results
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Shooting in shade + sunny spots?-9409442370_3c88d8aee1_b-edit.jpg  

    Shooting in shade + sunny spots?-9510616982_c573b3da74_b-edit.jpg  


  24. #24
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    If you are going small the RX100 is the way to go...it will rival quite a few of the older DSLRs even with f/2.8 lens...
    Great place to compare different camera images...you can enlarge and download as well...
    Imaging Resource "Comparometer" ™ Digital Camera Image Comparison Page

    Great place to compare camera sizes and you can compare with lens on as well:
    I went ahead and put the RX100 beside the D40 to give an idea of size difference...then you have to add a lens...
    Front View: (You must turn the cameras for a side view by clicking at left side column)
    RX100 vs D40 Body
    Compare camera dimensions side by side
    RX1 vs D40: Front
    Compare camera dimensions side by side
    RX1 vs D40 w/ Sigma 18-50 f/2.8
    Compact Camera Meter
    Last edited by LTZ470; 09-07-2013 at 11:23 PM.

  25. #25
    gearstomorrow
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    Follow the light! That's what photography is all about, isn't it?

    Often the best thing you can do is simplify. Learn how to read the light and shoot accordingly. Even shadow areas can be used as compositional elements. Embrace the situation and try to make the best of it. Adding more equipment and technology to the equation isn't always the best way to go.

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