Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Photo of the Day: "Sunset near Thermopolis"

Nikon D80, Nikkor 18-70 (a great lens!), 56mm, f8, 1/500 sec., ISO 400, auto white balance. Aperture priority mode, center-weighted metering with, amazingly, no exposure compensation. Sometimes the D80 got it right, but not usually. Regular image capture mode (i.e. not vivid).

Sometimes it just isn't possible to use fill flash to reduce the dynamic range in a photo. There are simply too many steps of EV (exposure value) between the sun and the dark foreground. In this case, it was made worse by shooting at ISO 400: I could have fired at ISO 100 (the best case with the D80) with the same settings except a shutter speed of 1/125, still easily within the realm of handholding. (I didn't have a good reason for not doing so; I just didn't know better at this point.) Still digital capture, save for a D700 or better FX, probably couldn't have captured what I wanted.

That said... I'm happy with this. Somehow, the D80 managed to get a color-correct capture at blowout, which is a fancy way of saying the sun is the right color, not toasted white-white. The clouds also increase along a color-correct path.

Post processing was thorough but straightforward: color correction and exposure tweaking, mostly. For the technically interested, note the near-total absence of ghosting in this image: the 18-70 DX really is a gem of a lens. It remains priced that way, too, even though it's now six years old — originally the D70 kit lens. Don't let it's lack of features (VR, mostly) dissuade you if you find one for less than $250.

UPDATE: A technical note. The reason the sun blows out to the correct color is because, under most circumstances and with most digital cameras, the red channel tanks first. With a pre-ADR camera (or any Sony, Pentax, Canon or others), try this with either a blue or green blowout, such as the sky: you will likely notice as the bright areas of your image approach toast they take on a weird reddish hue.

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