On NOT blowing out the clouds....

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5th Generation Texian
Been really ticked lately with the blown out clouds. If they blow out, not even RAW can recover them. So today I decided I would try some other ways to keep the detail in the clouds without making the undercarriage too dark.

Today we'll try a bit of Exposure Compensation, -2/3 to be exact. No flashies in the LCD preview.....that's always a good sign. The EC was the trick. Might try -1 next time, just to see how that works.

I did pull up the shadows a smidge in post, just to get a bit of detail back. No CP today, just the 20/1.8. (1/400s, f14, -0.8 EC fwiw)


Outstanding In My Field
I've taken to Automatic Exposure Bracketing at +/- 2/3 stop. Lots of the time the -2/3 exposure is fine with better looking clouds. This also gives me the other exposures to look at later. I have a very hard time using the camera LCD to determine if the exposure is correct.

This is an old thread, but I thought I'd include this advise as newbies may read it. Dynamic range is a challenge for film and digital. I won't get into a discussion as to what medium has the broadest dynamic range, I'll just say the answer is - never enough. Dynamic range is from the darkest dark to the lightest light. Our eyes and brain have a much greater dynamic range than film or digital.

The best way to work with skies is to learn to use "graduate neutral density" filters. A good system for a newbie is the Cokin filter system, get the "P" size. Graduated ND's come in a variety of stops, but I would start with a two stop grad ND to begin with to get feel for them.

Graduated ND's are clear on one half and slowly build up to a darker band across the top. In the Cokin system, you can slide the rectangular grad ND up and down to best match the beginning of the graduate portion to the sky.

You can also combine this system with a polarizing filter, read up on it if you don't understand what a polarizing filter does.

You will discover your skies take on a whole new life, you'll like it.

Adjusting your camera to minus 2/3rd's of a stop works, but only so-so; it helps you get rid of those dreaded blinkies which mean over exposure.


5th Generation Texian
GNDs are fine as long as you control the transition carefully. I found with a full frame in your face train shot they don't help too much since the transition zone isn't uniform.

Selecting 'hitone priority' in your custom functions (Canon) is now my preferred method.
I'm not sure if we are talking about the same thing, but with a graduated filter the transition is impossible to spot until you move further up the rectangle; there are ND's that aren't graduated that can be difficult.

Also if you under expose by -2/3 you can do a transition like filter using photo software, which I will use time to time to accentuate the sky. This technique only works if the sky is "preserved."

The last possibility not mentioned is that to get a good sky, shooting at sunrise and sunset is optimal. And I love shooting in very low light as colours get wonderfully saturated, so much so folks will think you are boosting colours in software, etc.


5th Generation Texian
No I understand perfectly, I have GND that I use for landscape work. But for train shots the fact that the train is for the most part above the horizon (at least in my style of shots) and therefore in the darkened (albeit graduated) area of the GND makes it incompatible. If your subject is mostly below the horizon, then a GND works quite well. For me the need to 'place' the transition (wide tho it be) carefully also limits their use when I need fast reaction and quick movement on my part. Switching rapidly between landscape and portrait also complicates GND use. Again, when I do landscapes (often with a tripod) the GND comes into use much more often. I'm more likely to use the polarizer as an ND as it also has the benefit of punching up the contrast as well. Most polarizers are equal to a 1.5-2 stop ND filter. granted they aren't graduated so the ND effect is all or nothing.

Here's a sample shot, typical of my style, where a GND would be of no use whatsoever to impact the sky without also impacting the subject. See how both subject and the sky are both in the ND area?


as you state, dropping the Ev is a good way to accomplish much the same by preserving the highlights. The issue here is that you can easily underexpose the shadows too much, requiring a noise-inducing brightness boost in post. While not perfect, the Hitone Priority (HTP) option in Canon cameras does a good job of preserving those hilights while not underexposing the shadows. If you have it I very much recommend it.

EDIT: note that if you shoot RAW, technically in-camera settings like HTP do not affect the image. However, the camera does set a flag in the EXIF data (like HTP=Yes) so that almost any viewer that can handle RAW files (including Picasa) will automatically make those adjustments so that you see the results when viewing (you cannot see a RAW file, it has to be converted to be visible and it is during this conversion that HTP, et al can be visualized).
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