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Thread: Any tips on how to improve this?

  1. #1
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    Default Any tips on how to improve this?



    Hello all,

    and thank you in advance for your help.

    I am attaching this night pic of El Morro fort, in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico to clarify my topic.

    I have seen many pics where we have sort of daylight (sunset) sky, night sky and something like a city, a bridge, a whatever, nicely lit.

    In these, stars are clearly visible, some blue sky is usually also visible and the lit object is not overexposed. I tried finding one to better exemplify my point, but to no avail. Well, I expect you will get my troubles easily.

    So you can see my dilemma. If I shoot long enough to record stars, the object gets overexposed. If I shoot earlier when lights are out, I get no stars.

    I tried using a strong graduated filter to screen off the fort for some of the duration but there was a very ugly clearly visible limit between the screened off and the not screened off part of the pic.

    So... any ideas, suggestions? Any example you can share and explain how you got it?

    Again, thanks in advance.

    DSC00639b.jpg
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    Default Re: Any tips on how to improve this?

    You want to use a technique called HDR (High Dynamic Range) photography. It's basically where you take short exposures for the bright elements and then long exposures to get the dim elements. Then you merge the images together so you get both elements to show up in the image without one being too dim and the other being over-exposed.

    Here is a tutorial to get you started. I don't know if it's the best tutorial as HDR imaging isn't something I do a lot of, but it definitely will get you started. You may need to find different software than this guy uses to get the same effect though.
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    Default Re: Any tips on how to improve this?

    In most of the photos you see, the foreground objects are not specifically illuminated. The illumination is incidental light (a.k.a. light pollution) from distant lights elsewhere, making the foreground dim enough to not overexpose when you expose the stars properly.

    In your photo, the fort walls look like they are brightly floodlit, which is way too much light to balance the starlight. While I haven't tried HDR processing myself, I agree that it is probably the best bet for this subject.

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    Default Re: Any tips on how to improve this?

    It's a very cool landscape. I tried playing with it a little by removing a lot of the blue hues, and reducing the brightness of the building, and then increased the stars a little.

    skyline_pch.jpg

    Although it looks different, I'm not sure it looks better than your original though. Although I used the HDR module of StarTools to do most of this this, I'm sure having two separate images merged together would work much better.

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    Default Re: Any tips on how to improve this?

    I know the affect your looking for but still think it's a cool picture the way it is. Best wishes achieving your ultimate goal.
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    Default Re: Any tips on how to improve this?

    There are many different tools in the vanilla photography world that can handle HDR. In that world you are usually trying to capture a scene with higher dynamic range than the camera's sensor can handle "at the same instant". So you typically take 3 shots rapidly, one at 0EV, one at -2EV and one at +2EV allowing you to form images with 4EV more dynamic range than your camera's sensor can capture. In your situation you probably just need simple layers since you are probably capturing the "background" scene during the day and the stars at night and the two will often have a simple demarcation between the frames -- the skyline. In the case of normal HDR your over and under exposed elements w.r.t. the camera's sensor may be scattered all over the images where highlight and shadows fall. So, your problem is generally easier than the general HDR problem. While you certainly could capture the background under moonlight or ambient, you'll probably get a better result capturing the background scene during the day or while there is enough light to have fast enough shutter speeds to not worry about leaves blowing in the wind, etc. In either case, you will have two files to merge -- one correctly exposed for the background scene and one for the stars --- all you need to do is merge them. If you have a program like Photoshop that handles layers, then you load the background in one layer, make a mask that exposes the background and renders the sky transparent. You load the star imaging in another layer and copy and invert the mask, now that layer's image shows the sky and is transparent over your background. Then you adjust the exposure levels of each level to taste and merge and save the final file. There are lots of tools in photoshop to help you make and adjust masks. If you don't have photoshop, then there are probably free or relatively inexpensive (compared with PS) programs available on your platform that can handle layers. In the MAC or Linux world there is the GIMP for the big investment of $0, I'm not familiar with software offerings in PC world. Your sample image is very straight forward to mask in Photoshop, if you have trees with branches and leaves, a person with flowing hair or some other difficult to mask objects in the foreground standing against the sky, then you will want more sophisticated plugin in tools such as remask that have been created to handle tricky masking problems. Of course If your background is not so expansive, say a few trees and rocks in a desert scene you can paint them with a flashlight at night and then nature will pretty much take care of the masking for you since if your foreground is properly exposed, your sky will be mostly black
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  7. #7
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    Default Re: Any tips on how to improve this?

    Hello,

    once again, thanks to you for your helpful tips.

    I do not think hdr will work here as it is not long enough to register the stars. I will try it though next time I can.

    In Bump up Those Stars | StarCircleAcademy.com llc the author describes one way he employs to bump up the stars. However, I cannot follow him whenhe says:

    Hold down the control (windows) or option (Mac) key and click the up or down arrow exactly once

    At least with PS6 I cannot see that 'up/down arrow' he mentions so I am unable to try this method. I left him a comment on the page but I guess he has not yet read it.

    Does anybody here know what I am missing?

    As always, thanks in advance,
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  8. #8
    jpenahevia's Avatar
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    Default Re: Any tips on how to improve this?

    Never mind got it!

    He refers to the keyboard arrow,not any arrow on PS as I thought.

    Anyhow, thanks for reading!
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    Default Re: Any tips on how to improve this?

    web_DSC00818.jpg

    I tried yesterday and I think results are so much better!

    I used a cokin graduated neutral density filter to screen off the flood lights at the fort, and the 'bump up those stars' technique I mentioned ealier. Not perfect by far, but at least to me, good enough.

    In any case, thanks to all for your tips and comments. As always, much appreciated.
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