Then & Now, My Evolution As A Photographer

I’ve been going through my files as I work on lessons for upcoming workshops this fall and I found an image of Bass Harbor Head Light from DLWS Maine 2005 where the exposure range was beyond what the camera (D2X) could handle so I photographed it twice, one exposure for the foreground as metered and one for the sky with exposure compensation dialed to minus three.

_LXL1024
As metered

_LXL1030
Minus three exposure compensation

I knew that I could take the images into Photoshop and blend them to expand the range of exposure into a single image. I hate to admit how long it took me to painstakingly blend the two images together manually using the Brush tool. If you look close you will see that I missed several spots where the sky meets the trees and the darkest shadows still don’t hold any detail. However, blend the two images I did and then finished it off with a couple of Adjustment Layers fine tuning a couple areas. This was like serious magic…digital photography was opening doors to techniques that allowed us to extend our shooting hours and to capture images that held more detail than we would preciously have hoped for. I was pretty darn proud of myself for producing the image below…

_LXL1024-LAB

Fast forward two years to DLWS Maine 2007 and we found ourselves back at Bass Harbor Head Light. Once again the exposure range was beyond what the camera could handle. Only this time, instead of taking two images at varying exposures, I knew that I would need more information to get the most out of the scene so I set up my tripod, composed the image (slightly different from two years before) and captured four exposures, beginning as metered and dialing in minus one stop of exposure with each progressive capture using exposure compensation to darken each image more that the last. While I had an inkling that I could do better than my previous attempt, I didn’t know exactyl how to go about it so, the images were filed away and actually forgotten.

_LXL2859
As metered

_LXL2864-1
Minus one exposure compensation

_LXL2868-1
Minus two exposure compensation

_LXL2874
Minus three exposure compensation

Fast forward two more years and here I am going through my files when I come across the images once again. Knowing what I know now about blending images using dedicated software to do the heavy lifting, I opened the files and went to work. After a few minutes of chugging away, the blended image appeared on my screen. Moving a few sliders and making an adjustment here and there, I ended up with the following image.

_LXL2859_64-1_68-1_74 original blend

Not only have I learned to blend images together using new technology, I have some additional finishing touches up me sleeve these days. Using a couple of my favorite NIK Color Efex Pro 3 filters, I ended up with the final image.

_LXL2859_64-1_68-1_74

Is this the best I can do? I don’t think so. I am really looking forward to revisiting Bass Harbor Head Light as once again DLWS heads to Maine next month. I have a better process for capturing the various exposures that I will need to blend an image together and I learned new finishing techniques. This is one of the many reasons that I love being a photographer in the digital age. My learning process has grown expotentially with the instant feedback, software and knowledge I have at my fingertips.

Where do I learn my techniques? I get out and shoot as often as I can, I attend Photoshop World (I also teach there now), I teach at DLWS where I am constantly learning from my fellow instructors as well as the students and I play…yes, play (what else can you call what I do) both in the field and in the digital darkroom. It’s so incredibly rewarding to live the life I do…traveling to wonderful locations, capturing the beauty of the world, taking those images back to the digital darkroom to finish them and seeing the final result of my vision as the paper feeds through my printer.

Images captured with Nikon D2X, AF-S 12-24mm on Lexar digital media.