Harvey Stearn

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    Topic: Photo Chats – Hugh Brownstone Video Recording Read 0 Times
  • in reply to: Serendipity #57130
    Harvey Stearn
    Harvey Stearn
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    Posts: 14
    Serendipity
    on: July 10, 2022 at 11:43 am

    Erik, I just returned from Colorado. So, I apologize for the delay in responding. Thanks much for your complement. Now that I think of it, what I attempted to do in these three articles is evaluate my current position and determine if any mid-course corrections are needed. This is something that many people should do no matter what career they have chosen. But, it is often something that we photographers don’t think about, probably because of our passions for this pastime.

    I learned a lot from this exercise, and it has reinvigorated my approach to photography. I am glad that you are inspired to review your own work, and you are right: it doesn’t matter what camera you used  or how skilled you were in earlier times. I am sure that you will draw a number of useful conclusions regarding how to move forward. If you have any “Aha!” moments please feel free to share them with me.

    Best,

    Harvey

    AZfotopro

    Harvey Stearn
    Harvey Stearn
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    Posts: 14
    Re: Why ETTR May Be More Important Than Ever
    Reply #1 on: April 1, 2022 at 1:53 pm

    This is about the last I have to say on this subject, as it seems to be pretty well covered. I don’t disagree with what Andrew is saying, but for the record wish to clarify where I’m coming from. First, I know quite well that ISO and exposure are independent variables, though low light levels often force use of higher ISO’s to keep exposure times at levels the photographer may require. The reason I check my settings at ISO’s of 400 and over is to see how much noise may be building up which might require more exposure to raise the signal to noise level in the darker tones. I’ve been doing photography for 71 years and have an MIT engineering degree with more math than I could ever use. I don’t have a problem reading technical papers and understanding relationships between variables. If automatic exposure does decrease exposure in some cases, then that’s all the more reason to compensate with additional exposure as set forth with ETTR principles. I still believe – based on my own experiments and observations that ETTR is a valuable tool for outdoor photographers, and that adding a moderate amount of exposure will in many cases add quality to the image while requiring little set-up time. This is an important consideration for field photographers who often have to move quickly to achieve optimal capture. Also, I have no problem stating that there is little in photography that hasn’t changed to some degree as a result of evolving direct capture technology (not to mention advances in optical formulations and glass compositions).

    AZfotopro

    Harvey Stearn
    Harvey Stearn
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    Posts: 14
    Re: Why ETTR May Be More Important Than Ever
    Reply #2 on: April 1, 2022 at 11:34 am

    It seems as if my article on ETTR has fanned the flames of a long-smoldering debate on optimizing exposure. Part of the problem is that optimization means different things to different people. It is not the same thing as maximizing. Optimizing means achieving the best overall solution even though some elements may be substantially below maximum value. Each photographer must decide which elements of the target image are most important and how much time and effort should be devoted to capturing a specific scene or event. 

    For some professionals, precision in measuring complex lighting is a necessity 100% of the time. For the high number of photo enthusiasts faced with limited time and resources in photographing outdoor scenes it is often a matter of achieving best results while constrained by limited time and resources. My article was directed to those who seek simple ways to improve their output without restraining spontaneity and the flexibility to capture short-lived special moments.

    During my film years I calibrated my camera and lenses and routinely took multiple exposure readings with a one-degree spot meter. Setup time wasn’t overly long. But color photography is more complex and can be more time-consuming to determine accurate exposure. After I went full digital in 2002 I sought a simple but consistent exposure method that would produce good balanced results for most prevailing lighting conditions, as I often shoot all times of day in many types of weather. But, sensor and camera technology seems to have developed that reliability in the last four or five years.

    For the record, I always shoot in RAW and pay attention to histograms, particularly when increasing ISOs beyond 400. When photographing outdoor scenes, I rely on aperture-preferred mode. I don’t subscribe to the viewpoint that camera exposure data is de facto unreliable, and therefore adding exposure time to the camera’s readings is therefore pointless. Reviews of my image inventory suggests quite the opposite.

    It is likely that camera manufacturers deliberately lower the point at which overexposure takes place. Understandably, they have different objective than do their customers. Passionate outdoor photographers continually push limits in search of unique and more vibrant renditions of their subjects. However, prudent camera manufacturers must always consider the downside and provide margins of safety to avoid customer complaints. They seek to minimize chances of overexposure and blown highlights particularly since high dynamic ranges allow acceptable exposures at one or two EV’s below optimum level. So, photographers should run series of exposures for varying light intensities and light qualities to find where those optimums are. In other words, calibrate your camera. By doing so, you will get better exposures by consistently adding back the margins that the manufacturers take away out of self-interest (though they won’t admit it and will offer other explanations). 

    Developing such a procedure still leaves exceptions at least 25% of the time. This is where experience in recognizing higher contrast lighting and more reflective elements in the scene should ring warning bells. Those conditions require exposure bracketing or at least returning the exposure compensation dial to neutral as a starting point. 

    Three days ago, a rare lighting condition occurred in Sedona which I had seen before. Following two days of intermittent rain, this extensive weather front began to dissipate. The air was saturated with moisture and fine droplets, and the sun strongly illuminated major rock formations while shadows took on an inky cast. Over-exposure of the light colored rock in direct sunlight was more likely. I doubted that my +1.0 EV starting point would hold up under those conditions, and therefore bracketed my exposures. 

    I was surprised though. The best look for the image occurred at +0.7 EV, even though the final image allowed some dense black areas in several foreground trees. This could have been moderated by adding light to the shadow areas in post edit, but at the expense of producing a more dramatic image with more mood. I am attaching a copy of the image to illustrate how experience and judgement adequately covered the bases, though artistic objectives made the final decision. Yes, good images are made. But the challenge is to massage the variables to reach an optimal solution according to one’s objectives. 

    AZfotopro

    Harvey Stearn
    Harvey Stearn
    Silver Member
    Posts: 14
    Re: Why ETTR May Be More Important Than Ever
    Reply #3 on: March 19, 2022 at 2:58 pm

    Thanks Erik. I appreciate the kind words. Of course everyone has their own way of doing things and are free to choose whatever they feel most comfortable with, or what makes sense for him or her. I did want to share this with the photographer community because – in my opinion – the improvements were so dramatic.

    ETTR has been around for a relatively long time. However, it isn’t quite as productive to just pick an arbitrary exposure compensation value and add it in as equipment and individual photographer procedure and preferences can affect the outcome. This is why I advocate making individual field tests varying the amounts of “overexposure” with your equipment for a few different lighting conditions to see where the optimum setting would be. On my Sony A-1 that optimum was one full stop of “over-exposure” above the camera’s default position. But, small variations around that number were still excellent choices. The results with other cameras (and lenses) may vary from that, though after reviewing older images with other cameras not as much as I previously thought. Also, my recommendations are based on landscapes with natural light. Studio work as one example is a whole new ballgame although in principle there should be commensurate benefits there too.

    So, do a little experiment to find your best setting for the exp-comp dial and then make a number of varied exposures with it to see if there is one particular setting that consistently produces the best results which should include improved vibrancy and fine detail in all of the tones. By all means bracket when the image is too important to risk losing. But, the point is that what I advocate does not in any way slow the photographer down. Quite the contrary once you have a reliable exp-comp setting and use it as your default camera setup.

    I will be very interested to see how this works out for you. So, please share your thoughts and a few JPEG’s with me after you’ve made your trial runs.

    Enjoy!

    Harvey

    AZfotopro

    Harvey Stearn
    Harvey Stearn
    Silver Member
    Posts: 14
    Re: Why ETTR May Be More Important Than Ever
    Reply #4 on: March 18, 2022 at 4:17 pm

    I want to bring to the reader’s attention an inadvertent mistake I failed to correct when I proofed this article about six or seven times. When referring to maximizing Image Quality by using the best equipment you can afford I meant to refer to highly corrected lenses that largely eliminate Longitudinal Chromatic Aberration (LoCA), but as I was writing fast I put in Lateral Chromatic Aberration (LCA). LCA is relatively minor as flaws go, as lateral dispersion of different colored wavelengths is relatively minor and easily corrected in quality lenses. But, as a matter of geometry the dispersion of wavelengths of different colors associated with different lengths and energy levels is significantly greater as they travel longitudinally through the optical axis of the lens (i.e. the focal length). This results in many waves focusing at different points making sharp focus impossible as seen in color fringing. Correction today involves the use of special partial anomalous dispersion glass elements which slows some wavelengths down and speeds others thereby forcing them to converge at the same point. In particular, APO-chromatic lenses greatly minimize this characteristic. The result is sharper focus which also helps bring out more of the smaller and more subtle transitions in tone and color at fine detail levels. This is a long winded way of explaining micro-contrast which helps make color images of Nature more vibrant and life-like. So, the article was meant to have read LoCA, not LCA.

    AZfotopro

    Harvey Stearn
    Harvey Stearn
    Silver Member
    Posts: 14
    Re: Why ETTR May Be More Important Than Ever
    Reply #5 on: March 18, 2022 at 1:46 pm

    Erik’s comment about setting exposure for landscapes by increasing exposure compensation to the point of “overexposing” the highlights (as signified by small blinking highlight warnings) and then backing off a little is exactly the procedure I most often followed these past twenty years.

    Eventually, I noticed that while I almost never overexposed anything of significance in my images, the mid-tones were a little less vibrant than I remembered in the scene, and the darker tones lacked contrast and detail. In fact, to me they looked “blah”. That’s when I realized that I needed to re-examine ETTR as a possible regular practice for reasons outlined in my article. I also became very much aware that while the overexposure warning blinked and outlined areas of likely blown highlights, that didn’t occur in practice during post edit. Over time I became convinced that the camera and sensor manufacturers were being very conservative.

    Understandably, they take a conservative approach that attaches only small negative value to underexposed shadow areas but considers a blown highlight a fatal flaw. They are right in this assessment. However, their motivation as camera suppliers is different from those of many Nature and art photographers. And it seemed to me that with the prevalence of 15+ dynamic range performances in today’s pro cameras a lot was being left on the table.

    Rather than risk losing valuable images I decided to “calibrate” my camera by running tests at different exposure compensation levels above camera exposure readings for commonly encountered scenes with prevailing lighting that ranged from normal daylight contrast to high contrast. I did this to see if there was a consistent positive exposure compensation value that I could reliably use as a starting point for most of my daytime landscape captures. I found that a range from +0.5 EV to +2.0 EV produced good results while a “sweet spot” occurred at +1.0 EV. I wasn’t surprised by this as my experience over the years suggested that.

    The reason that I made this test is because of unknown variances between different camera brands, models, and production runs. While it appears that those variances are very small compared to those during the film age (based on re-evaluating older images on a variety of pro level cameras) it is still a good idea for photographers to run their own calibration tests before doing what I now do: set my exposure comp dial at +1.0 EV and leave it there. For really important images I still recommend running an exposure compensation auto-bracket from 0.0 to +1.0 EV as a safety measure.

    Using this setting regularly, I have yet to produce any overexposure in any of my landscape exposures for any range of daylight conditions except for when the sun appears through a hole in a dark cloudy sky lights a highly reflective element while everything else is in deep shadow. In those cases, I would set the exposure comp dial at 0.0 EV.

    Happy shooting!

    Harvey

    AZfotopro

    Harvey Stearn
    Harvey Stearn
    Silver Member
    Posts: 14
    Re: Landscape Image Editing – Recreating What You Saw and What You Felt
    Reply #6 on: November 12, 2021 at 2:29 pm

    Thank you Andrew.

    AZfotopro

    Harvey Stearn
    Harvey Stearn
    Silver Member
    Posts: 14
    Re: Sony Alpha 1 A1 Article By Harvey Stearn
    Reply #7 on: November 11, 2021 at 9:43 pm

    Louis and Simon, thank you for your comments. You both raise some interesting comments. So, let me share with you some additional observations that I have. First I have not encountered any issues using the manual focus Zeiss Loxia lenses on the Sony Alpha 1, but admittedly don’t exhaust all the different capture situations that can test the camera’s capability. For the type of photography that I mostly do, I find autofocus actually slows me down because there are too many times when the autofocus will snap in on the wrong part of the image. This doesn’t happen when using focus tracking on fast moving subjects, particularly with long lenses. But, it will happen when using shorter focal lengths (100mm or less) for landscapes or other relatively static scenes. However, the biggest reason why I use these lenses is their ability to provide fine detail and control contrast on a fine level. In my editing, I always use too to favor this type of contrast, and really use the overall contrast slider except possibly to reduce overall contrast.

    Simon, I agree that left to its own devices, the Sony cameras including the Alpha 1 don’t always nail the right color balance. That may be the result of natural variation between individual cameras in any given production run; and Japan historically set wider tolerance ranges for production runs, though I don’t know if that is still the case. However, that really isn’t an issue for me, since I usually use a color meter to set the color temperature of my exposures in order to have an easier time with color balance corrections during post edit, and am also primed to compensate for any consistent biases. Also, blaming color balance deviations solely on the camera may not be fair. Lenses can also contribute to any deviations. That’s another reason I prefer the Zeiss Loxia lenses, as I find their color rendition slightly more accurate and consistent than many other lens lines. I’ve been doing photography for seventy years, and have owned hundreds of lenses. Somehow, I keep coming back to Zeiss lenses, though they’ve had some disappointments as well. However, the Loxia series was specifically developed to fully exploit the capability of Sony sensors in their mirrorless cameras. However, I may well be splitting hairs here. In photography, everything comes down to personal tastes, and perhaps also biases. Well, whatever makes us photographers happy!

    AZfotopro

    Harvey Stearn
    Harvey Stearn
    Silver Member
    Posts: 14
    Re: Landscape Image Editing – Recreating What You Saw and What You Felt
    Reply #8 on: November 11, 2021 at 9:06 pm

    Mark, I apologize for taking so long to reply to your comments of August 28th. I am just now catching up after being gone in September and editing a lot of images in October. I appreciate your taking time to share your thoughts.

    I tend to look at the classical definition of art as implying some degree of skill to capture what the artist (or beginning artist) sees or otherwise experiences for the purpose of communicating said experiences to others, or at least as a reminder of a beautiful or important event. I don’t deny that there is always human subjectivity involved. In fact, it’s impossible for us to be completely objective or anything close to that, even among scientists trained in scientific objectivity. So, I don’t suggest that there are hard and fast rules regarding how to approach one’s art form. Having taught photography during the first fifteen years of my retirement, I always keep in mind people with little direct exposure to relatively untouched Nature, and suggest that photographers get to know their subjects well and present them with reasonable fidelity, or disclose their intents if they substantially alter their images. Either way that does require creativity, skill and integrity. I don’t think that these are merely fine academic distinctions. Neither do I think that an unskilled photographer pointing his or her camera at a subject and pressing the shutter button is automatically creating art, though there certainly can be value in a different way of seeing and composing.

    Probably more to the point is that I feel that Nature is too magnificent to overlook the opportunities to experience it and share it with others. Those of us who do this regularly are really blessed with the joy that we receive.

     

     

    AZfotopro

    Harvey Stearn
    Harvey Stearn
    Silver Member
    Posts: 14
    Re: Sony R7IV File Size, Processing Power, Storage
    Reply #9 on: September 22, 2019 at 11:27 pm

    Kevin, For some reason, I keep thinking about your first shooting experience with your A7rM4. At the risk of being a pest, I think that there may be an even more accurate explanation for the unexpected initial drabness of your farm scene images, even allowing for the extremely flat lighting. I wonder if your “Creative” setting was either on standard or neutral. I think that one of those is the default setting for Sony cameras. My setting was on Landscape, as that gives me a little more punch to start with, and I can more easily tone that down if necessary than I can find the right balance starting from what is usually a very drab image. As you know, a number of camera manufacturers offer a balance that they call “neutral” which has little or no adjustment to the RAW image so that some photographers can initiate editing with minimal pre-determination. The “Standard” setting is a little more punchy, but a lot closer to Neutral than to the Landscape setting. I’ve used them all over the years. But, I find the latter choice a more effective starting point. The landscape setting builds in more vibrancy and contrast, though I find that I often add a little more vibrancy in my editing anyway, depending on subject and lighting. I remember now that when I used the neutral setting, I was often shocked by the way the starting image looked. So, I’m curious, what creative setting did you have on your rM4 during that first shoot? By the way, I tend to use the Landscape setting even on some of my wildlife shots because the outdoor environment is often the same.

    OK, I promise to give other subscribers a chance at this one!
    H.

    AZfotopro

    Harvey Stearn
    Harvey Stearn
    Silver Member
    Posts: 14
    Re: Sony R7IV File Size, Processing Power, Storage
    Reply #10 on: September 22, 2019 at 8:47 pm

    Correction to my comments:By auto-color balance I was of course referring to “auto white-balance”. Also, I haven’t yet figured out how to insert a full-sized image into the PhotoPXL texts as Kevin does. But, the reader can click on the partial thumbnail to see a pop-up of the full image.
    HS

    AZfotopro

    Harvey Stearn
    Harvey Stearn
    Silver Member
    Posts: 14
    Re: Sony R7IV File Size, Processing Power, Storage
    Reply #11 on: September 22, 2019 at 6:39 pm

    Kevin, I used my new Sony A7rM4 for the first time on Wednesday while I was down in Scottsdale, AZ. Butterfly Wonderland was nearby; and the subject matter was a perfect opportunity to test color reproduction and the reported improved focus tracking as well. What I saw through the viewer blew me away, as the color and detail was outstanding. When I downloaded the files, the unedited images still looked good, but admittedly required basic editing to get to what I feel is top notch reproduction. This experience is a little different from the one you described; and there may be two reasons for this.

    First, I bet you had your camera set on auto-color balance. If so, this would create potential for the sensor to mis-interpret the correct color balance, since it has to take a weighted average of the reflected light from different parts of the image. This is something that is effectively corrected in post-edit, but not without some work. I set my camera to the same color temperature as the incident light based on the reading I got from my color meter, an accessory that I now regularly use. The second factor may be that current editing softwares don’t yet develop the most accurate standard previews for the Sony A7rM4 because they were unprepared for Sony’s surprise announcement and were rushing to get a RAW editor in place. Not so sure about this possibility, but it is logical.

    Regarding the “blown” highlights, it is common, even with the latest cameras, to display a histogram that is somewhat inaccurate. I have noticed a consistent tendency to deliberately err on the underexposure side to avoid over-exposure. For this reason unrecoverable highlights rarely occur. And, yours appear to be just fine and readily fine-tuned in post-edit. In, fact, with 15 stops of dynamic range there is probably a fair amount of leeway for ETTR exposure with this camera, except this can only be reliably determined through actual testing in different light conditions.

    The only negative that I encountered in my first outing with the M4 has to do with more noticeable noise in the darker tones when shooting with an ISO higher than 800. I had to use 1600 to give me a high enough shutter speed to reasonably freeze butterfly motion. Complicating this was the fact that I shot with a Sony 135mm f1.8 GM lens for maximum sharpness, but had to use an f11 opening to get a workable depth of field at the short distances I shot with. In most cases, I could tame the noise in Lightroom, and of course do even better with masking in Photoshop. But, I would say that despite Sony claims, the M4 generates more noise at moderately high ISO’s than does the M3. Of course, I have a lot more shooting and teating to do before I have a right to reach hard and fast conclusions. Attached is one of my butterfly images.

    Harvey

    AZfotopro

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