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Thread: Defining Sun Rays

  1. #1
    Dragonking's Avatar
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    Defining Sun Rays

    I have a few photographs which have sun rays playing on the sea. I feel I could improve the photographs but have failed in Photoshop so should I have taken them differently? I feel I am doing something wrong and would appreciate everyones advice. To begin with, should I give it up as a bad job? I am sure that there are instances when you are just wasting your time.
    Regarding the photograph, it was taken approximately 18 months ago.
    It was the end of a long hike over moorland. It was cold, windy and seemed to be heading for a storm which never materialised. The camera was a Panasonic FZ50 - a bridge camera. I realised that the scene would not be present for long so I placed the camera in auto (Aperture priority) and took the handheld shots as the clouds moved and altered the display. The shot was taken at 1/125sec, at f11, ISO 100, sharpness "Soft" ( I didn't realise this when I took the photo), white balance, Auto. The focal length of the lens at time of taking was 35mm, though I had a wide angle converter lens attached at the time which gave it a 24mm equivalent lens.
    I took the shot whilst I was standing on the side of a steep hill, not the ideal situation considering. I have just realised that there is a sloping horizon. I know how to fix that.
    The first photograph is of the full frame. The second is a cropped version in an attempt to improve the shot. I have the RAW images to work on if this would be better.

    Defining Sun Rays

    Original Shot.


    Defining Sun Rays


    Cropped Shot.
    Last edited by Dragonking; 4th February 2012 at 04:38 PM.

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    Re: Defining Sun Rays

    Bob I think you have something there, like the crop as it takes the blowen out sun through the clouds out. Would love to play with the raw files. Here is what I think and this is only me. love the sun on the water, had something similar. what if you can lighten up the forground, increase your contrast go a little overboard, now go to B&W and work it there. I see the image as B&W as opposed to colour more drama.

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    Re: Defining Sun Rays

    The cropped version works fine, Bob.

    If you shot Raw it doesn't matter what the camera sharpness setting was. On the few occasions when I shoot Jpeg, I always disable all the camera 'enhancements' then start again during editing and adjust everything to suit each individual shot.

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    Re: Defining Sun Rays

    Thanks Alan. I have tried to lighten the foreground but it just comes up green and looks sort of messy. Its just grass and doesn't seem to be blowing in the wind to give an "active" appearance to go with the dramatic effect of the lighting. I'll have another go though and see if it works this time.
    Going to black and white didn't seem to make much difference, but I didn't try going overboard. Worth a try! I'll post an image if get anything worthwhile.
    I am not very good with photoshop yet, even though I,ve read the tutorials. I'm hoping time will let it all sink in. It generally does at my age.

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    Dragonking's Avatar
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    Re: Defining Sun Rays

    Quote Originally Posted by Geoff F View Post
    The cropped version works fine, Bob.

    If you shot Raw it doesn't matter what the camera sharpness setting was. On the few occasions when I shoot Jpeg, I always disable all the camera 'enhancements' then start again during editing and adjust everything to suit each individual shot.

    Thanks Geoff I'll try that.
    I really wanted to bring out the sunrays in photoshop if possible. I've seen brilliant shots on this site which really emphasise them, but I don't know how to do it and my experiments only bring a grainy result with no affect on the sunrays. Any ideas?
    When I was younger I met an old man (I should talk) who won competitions with his dramatic black and white landscapes. He said he always overexposed and underdeveloped the negative. Is this technique transferable to the digital medium??

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    Re: Defining Sun Rays

    Quote Originally Posted by Dragonking View Post
    When I was younger I met an old man (I should talk) who won competitions with his dramatic black and white landscapes. He said he always overexposed and underdeveloped the negative. Is this technique transferable to the digital medium??
    I don't think so. The response curve of emulsions (film) to light is not linear, so when the incoming light level gets higher, the emulsion becomes less sensitive. The response of a digital sensor is linear. When you push the exposure in digital, it blows out very easily on one or more of the RGB channels. And what is blown out is gone.

    The generally accepted approach for digital is to expose to the right (ETTR), so that the brightest channel is just below clipping. In practice this is very difficult to achieve as the camera's RGB histogram is created from a JPEG (it doesn't matter whether the camera is set for RAW or JPEG, the RGB histogram is a JPEG image). On my camera, I set the contrast to minus 2 which helps to get the LCD histogram closer to the reality of RAW (which I prefer to use). If I find a slight clipping in one channel of the histogram, I generally can recover enough detail in PP.

    The tutorial I found most useful in understanding ETTR and why to use it:
    http://www.luminous-landscape.com/tu...se-right.shtml

    Shooting light reflecting off water is particularly challenging because of the so-called specular highlights which blow out very easily leaving no detail. Googling the term specular will yield some useful information if one is not familiar with the term.

    Glenn

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    Re: Defining Sun Rays

    Unfortunately, with such a shot as this, if you want defined rays in thi sexposure range, something has to give. In this case it is the light. Without the original file, it is hard to make any suggestive editing, but perhaps this will help.

    Defining Sun Rays

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    Re: Defining Sun Rays

    Chris,
    Thats exactly the effect I'm after, but I don't know how to do it. How did you create this effect?

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    Re: Defining Sun Rays

    Thanks Glenn. I think in a sort of way the ETTR method is similar in some respects in that exposure is pushed to the limits and then recovered by some other means. I know this is a broad generalisation. Thanks for the link I'll try ETTR to see how it compares to my normal method and I'll definately switch on the clipping hi-lighting mode on my camera now that I know how to use it.

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    Re: Defining Sun Rays

    Bob: I had a go at a B&W edition of your image, not to bad for me with the copy of your image.

    Allan

    Defining Sun Rays

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    Re: Defining Sun Rays

    Quote Originally Posted by Polar01 View Post
    Bob: I had a go at a B&W edition of your image, not to bad for me with the copy of your image.

    Allan

    Defining Sun Rays
    I tried to go B&W and ran into the same thing you did - too much noise in the middle grays. For my edit, I worked both the levels and curves adjustment tools pretty hard with several runs on each changing the opacity or raising the contrast. I used the built in masks to control the depth of the color. Toward the end of the edit, i did three gradient fills: one white from the bottom to just above the horizon with an opacity around 25-30%, one white from the top left to about midpoint on a diagonal at 15% and one black from the top right on a diagonal at 35%, erasing all the unwanted areas at an opacity of 35-50%. I did do one B&W layer with a luminosity blend at 35% just to reset the middle grays.

  12. #12

    Re: Defining Sun Rays

    Bob, I took a stab at this, snagging your original image this is my result:

    Defining Sun Rays

    Here is a snap of my photoshop layers:

    Defining Sun Rays

    Basically started work flow as if it was my own, leveled out, copied to new layer then surface blur, despeckle, then sharpen, went BW on layer, dropped layer mask for forground. Made another copy of orig. on new layer, radial blur, went to channels grabbed red made a copy loaded to mask, masked and leveled. Hind sight I would do less surface blur to retain more detail.

    Ryo

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    Re: Defining Sun Rays

    Quote Originally Posted by Dragonking View Post
    Thanks Glenn. I think in a sort of way the ETTR method is similar in some respects in that exposure is pushed to the limits and then recovered by some other means. I know this is a broad generalization. Thanks for the link I'll try ETTR to see how it compares to my normal method and I'll definitely switch on the clipping hi-lighting mode on my camera now that I know how to use it.
    Bob:

    After I re-read your post and the others, I realized that I hadn't addressed your concerns directly. My apologies for the poor reading comprehension on my part.

    The important thing about ETTR (as explained in the LL blurb) is that ETTR maximizes the information that a digital sensor can pick up. As he says, the brightest f/stop contains twice as much image information as does the next f/stop, and so on.

    By underexposing the image (which may look good on the camera LCD - dangerous to judge images this way) we not only get more noise, we lose many bits of information (detail). Since detail is very important for parts of the image that aren't strong in the first place (light rays coming through the clouds), it's my thinking that ETTR is particularly important in this case.

    If others have a different take on this or think that I'm off base or just plain wrong, please chime in.

    When you look at the image on the camera LCD or on the computer screen, it may look washed out, but this is easy to fix with the brightness control. I suspect that many people use the camera LCD to judge their images (I actually know this for a fact because there is a lengthy thread on another forum on which this became apparent - the photog was accustomed to showing his friends his images on the LCD, and wanted them to "look good" - I don't think he realized that he was potentially losing important information).

    I use the clipping highlight mode (the twinklies), but make much more use of the RGB (three colour) histogram. There was a thread on CiC recently about clipping in the red channel when photographing red flowers (a common problem). The RGB histogram is particularly useful in this case.

    Glenn

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    Re: Defining Sun Rays

    Allan,
    Wow, Better than I've managed. I had the same problem as this rendition though. See how the graininess appears as the light rays get more defined? Look at other replies, I believe we will get the answer eventually. Thanks for the reply.

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    Re: Defining Sun Rays

    Quote Originally Posted by MiniChris View Post
    I tried to go B&W and ran into the same thing you did - too much noise in the middle grays.
    Chris,
    Thanks for taking the time. I will follow your guide and obviously learn more about image processing than I already know. You mention words like opacity, masks and gradient fills. I haven't used these tools much but I think I should. Another look through the tutorials for me as a refresher and actually following your plan, I will be able to recreate your image and with time - a lot of time-even improve it. I'll post it somewhere on the site if I manage it.
    Thanks again
    Last edited by Dragonking; 5th February 2012 at 10:32 AM.

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    Re: Defining Sun Rays

    One suggestion for this sort of shot, Bob, is the simple method of making a duplicate layer then sharpening that to suit the areas which need better wow factor. Add a mask and edit it so the effect only applies to the selected area.

    Possibly this method may run into difficulties where you have problems with noise, like here. But it should be possible to add some noise reduction as well. Which is basically part of what Ryo did.

  17. #17
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    Re: Defining Sun Rays

    Ryo, Thanks. Another brilliant rendition. A different technique again! Your method has reduced the grain effect. I assume that was with despeckle - right?
    I'm going to be kept busy now that I know something can be done with the shot. Perhaps a blending of methods is called for to see what results.

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    Re: Defining Sun Rays

    Quote Originally Posted by Glenn NK View Post
    Bob:

    The important thing about ETTR (as explained in the LL blurb) is that ETTR maximizes the information that a digital sensor can pick up.
    Glenn

    Glenn,
    I think I see where your coming from. The sun in the original shot has taken up too much of the recordable data space and thus compressed all of the other details. Am I right?
    When I was taking the shot I thought that keeping the sun in frame would improve the composition. In fact what it did was to give anything below its brightness less space to record detail. Would I have been better off if I'd kept the sun out of the frame altogether? The shots did look good on the LCD screen. The camera was in auto when I took the shot. My camera is capable of showing clipping on the LCD screen. If I adjust the exposure until the indication just disappears would this be the start of the ETTR process?
    Ill try that in my everyday photography to see if it improves it. I don't know when I'll be in a position to take such dramatic shots again.
    Thanks for taking the time to explain and also giving me another interesting link to a site I did not know existed.

  19. #19
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    Re: Defining Sun Rays

    Geoff,
    Thanks, I'll give it a go. I must admit I'll have to gen up on some of the proceedures to do this but it can only be to my advantage.
    I'll be busy trying out all the suggestions

  20. #20
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    Re: Defining Sun Rays

    Defining Sun Rays

    Apart from levels I have only used the dodge tool set to 10% highlights.

    A bit hard to do on my screen.

    I adjust gamma using levels by creating two duplicate layers, the first set to normal and the top set to color.
    Between these I create a levels adjustment layer with Pin Light blend and move the middle needle after auto adjustment because auto spreads the light across the whole histogram.
    Last edited by arith; 5th February 2012 at 02:47 PM. Reason: addendumdum

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