Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Palm Tree Crowns hdr

Another from the park behind the Greek Parliament building...

Emphasising the height

This shot demonstrates one way of not making the obvious capture.

The thing that attracted me to the palm trees in the first place was their great height and the fact that they were nearly all trunk, capped by a small crown of leaves. Well, looking small because of the distance.

Palm Tree Crowns

Make a feature of it

I've heard from the field of interior decoration that, when you have something in the structure of the room which interferes with your plans, you make a feature out of it.

And that's what I've done here. You can see that I've got right up close to the trunk and pointed the camera skywards to emphasise the height and the smallness of the crowns.

Challenges

So what challenges does this sort of shot present?

Well, firstly you've got to be fairly flexible, what with all that crouching and twisting to get the shot—or to not care about lying on your back, head up against the trunk.

And then there's the camera settings...

You need a big depth of field so that you capture the texture of the bark while keeping the crown in focus.

I don't think you need worry too much about total bottom-to-top sharpness. As a matter of fact, having the bottom quite soft / out of focus provides an appealing lead-in to the image. This works well because there's nothing there to hold the eye's attention, so the eye has no real option but to move up and into the picture proper.

You also have to be careful with the exposure so that you keep detail in the clouds and don't get any blown highlights.

So how do you meet these challenges?

Depth of field

For control over dof you need to set your camera to AV-mode (AV=apeture value). In this mode, you set the aperture and the camera automatically chooses the right shutter speed for the lighting conditions.

For a really deep depth of field you need to use quite a small aperture, I used f14 in this shot. To take the shot, you need to choose the centre of the area that will be in focus, and a good rule of thumb for this is to focus-lock around two thirds of the way into the scene.

For most cameras, you achieve focus lock by pressing your camera's shutter release button halfway, holding it there and then recomposing the shot before pressing it all the way to take the shot.

Exposure

By default, the exposure is set by the camera at the same time you set the focus lock, using the light values at the focus-lock point.

For this shot, which includes a bright sky, when I set the focus lock point I made sure I chose a really bright area of the bark and this resulted in a shutter speed of 1/100th of a second at my chosen aperture of f14.

(Actually, I couldn't get a fast enough shutter speed at f14 using my default setting of ISO100, so I had to up the ISO to 400. If I'd stuck with ISO100, the shutter speed would have been so slow that I'd be bound to get camera shake.)

Your friend here is the camera's histogram display—after taking the shot, I checked the histogram to make sure that it wasn't bunched up against the right hand side, which would have indicated bad overexposure and thus blown highlights. Some cameras will flash any areas on the lcd display that are overexposed, so if you don't have a histogram display, check this instead.

If you do end up with overexposure, use your camera's EV compensation (EV=exposure value) and drop it down by a stop or two. Then take the shot again, doing exaclty what you did before. In this shot I got lucky and the first one I took was nicely exposed.

So, what do you think—do you like the shot? Is my explanation clear and helpful? Don't be shy, I'd love to hear your comments...

comments / critique / feedback always welcome :)
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