Capturing an Image and Post-Processing

Posted Aug. 25th, 2011 by Daniel J. Cox

The image below was first run as part of my final post for our Arctic Documentary Project in Svalbard/Spitsbergen, Norway. It’s kind of buried in the main blog so I though I would pull this out for easier reading. The key elements I used to create this image include the Nikon D7000, Nikon SB900 wireless flash, Aperture software and Nik Viveza that was used as a plugin within Aperture.

A skeleton of a Svalbard Reindeer lies relatively undisturbed on the tundra of Spitsbergen, Norway.

Original image with no post processing below

Original image without any post-processing.

The key to making this image a success was to balance the light of the reindeer skeleton in the dark, shadowed foreground with the brighter background of the distant mountainous fjord. To do this I set my D7000 to the Flash/Commander Mode. I then chose to disable the on camera flash, using the setting that only puts out the pre-flash that triggers my off camera SB900 strobe. Within the D7000’s commander setting window I selected a +2 stop increase in the TTL window for the wireless SB900. I set my D7000 to Program Mode and dialed in a -1 Stop Exposure compensation for the overall ambient light. By adding light to the foreground with the flash and reducing the overall ambient exposure, I brought the antlers closer to the tonal range of the brighter background. In post-production I reduced the background light a bit more with the UPoint Technology Tool in Nik Software as well as opened up the shadows of the tundra with the same tool, ever so slightly in the fore and middle ground of the valley. Some photographers may have chosen to use a split neutral density filter to accomplish something similar but I’ve never been a big fan of the Split ND. This scene would have been particularly offensive with the straight line of a ND Graduated filter darkening the left side of the foreground including the white tip of the antler. With Nik software you can selectively choose the area you want to reduce exposure in.

As those who have traveled with me know, I do not believe in manipulating an image when it comes to either subtracting or adding elements that were or were not there. Fine tuning the exposure is a different story. As far as I‘m concerned adjusting an exposure due to limitations of sensor technology is completely acceptable as long as no elements have been added or removed. You’re not changing the story, you’re just adjusting the limitations of current technology to conform more closely to the way a viewer would see it if they were viewing the original scene themselves. Some will agree, some won’t, but in the end the photograph was impossible without today’s new photographic tools.

Visual graphic of changes made in post processing

The final results are all very subtle and some may not be able to easily see all the changes. If that’s the case than the techniques used are successful. Let me know what you think by dropping me a note within the blog if you have any questions or comments.

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There are 2 comments on this post…
  1. Judith ConningOn Aug. 30th, 2011

    So subtle and yet so effective. Thank for sharing this.


  2. Robert QuickOn Aug. 26th, 2011

    Thanks for the tips on composition.
    I love your work! It’s inspirational!


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