Facing up a big contrast

This is a discussion on Facing up a big contrast within the Articles forums, part of the Photography Tips category; This is a repreint from by personal website about handling with a usual contrast problem in winter conditions. Apart from my own experience with which ...

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  1. #1

    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    This is a repreint from by personal website about handling with a usual contrast problem in winter conditions. Apart from my own experience with which I would like to share below, I aim to see your poin of view. So please comment this article and write about your own experience with significant contrast in the scene.

    Winter is not an easy time for photographer in my opinion. You ask why. Well, the thing is in light, to say in detail, in the distribution of light on a scene that you want to photograph. Note, that in typical winter sunny scene there is a lot of snow which reflects a lot of light which then hits directly into your camera. But snow is presumably not one and only object that you want to save on you photography. These objects are usually darker and they may create a big contrast, and in digital photography big contrast could lead to the big trouble and unaesthetic results due to the limited capability of tonal range of your camera. This limitation causes that the colors of the picture you take are distorted. How to overcome this problem? In this short article I will share with you my knowledge about two techniques I use with acceptable results - good winter landscape pictures. Of course, you may use this technique not only in winter, but everywhere, where the big contrasts appears.

    My method to face up successfully with a winter contrasts is to avoid them :-) How to do this? Suppose, you found a beautiful landscape, the sun is shining, the sky is clear and you know that contrasts are big, since after the shot – the sky is over lit or the ground is under lit. Don’t surrender. Just wait. Let the sun shine less – wait for the sunset. Let the beauty of gradient colors appear on the sky.

    The gradients are another advantage, apart from the contrasts drop – just like on below picture.

    Another method of facing up with contrast problem is HDR technique. You can read more about technical details of this method in my article polar ring HDR, here I will focus on composition and elements important to get the good winter photos. Let’s get down to the business. The photo below I made in Switzerland nearby Austrian border on the ski-route of the Palinkopf peak slope.

    I made the depth of field enough big to show all the near and far details sharp and avoided to focus on the sun. As for a composition I focused on three objects: a tree, a rock and a sun trying to place them in accordance with a golden division rule and additionally I intended to preserve a balance between those ob. Then I took standard series of 3 photos with different EV value trying to avoid shaking the camera since I hadn’t got a tripod with me. This was not a problem since the longest time of the series was 1/1000 of sec while the shortest – 1/8000.

    So I directed camera to catch those three curved surfaces in a symmetrical way. Both hdr pictures were made with a canon eos d40 camera and sigma wide 10-22mm lens. Again, the depth of field was big enough to catch distanced details of landscapes.

    Another winter hdr photo was shot in Tatra mountains by the Morskie Oko lake in February 2009.

    The strong separated objects weren’t given here like in a former picture. But I spotted something else: two brighter surfaces – clouded sky and a surface of a lake separated by the darker mountain chain.

    What are your experiences with a big contrast? Are there some other effective techniques than HDR or gradient filters?


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