Twilight in the Woods

Posted on February 26th, 2012 by

The Long Good Sunset

I attended a going away celebration this weekend for a work colleague who was leaving our team for greener pastures. The party was held outside of town in what I might well call the woods. I was told before-hand to bring my camera as the location was atop a small hill that gave a good vista of the surrounding countryside. I arrived about a half an hour after sunset and I thought all might be lost as I prefer the overly dramatic nature of just before sunset. The positive was the low light pollution gave me some great starry night sky. This is my first attempt at catching stars with my 16-35 f2.8 and I am afraid I caught a bit too much of the Earth’s rotation, but it came out an interesting shot none the less. It was amazing how long the color stayed around on the horizon.

A Rant on Gear

As happens when I get around people with my camera in hand, I get asked lots of camera questions. Someone inevitably wants to purchase the awesome power of the DSLR and I am always a bit hesitant with the advice. Most people will see a shot like this and believe (thanks marketing) it was the camera. WOW! If I only had that $4000 setup like you, I could take pictures like that too! Well, not quite. Full disclosure, I spent 3 hours post processing this image.

My workflow went a bit like this:

  1. Lightroom – Import and initial color correction.
  2. Photomatix – HDR bracket combination and pre-work processing. This images was re-imported to Lightroom.
  3. Photoshop – I removed unwanted elements, blended the HDR and normal exposures with layer masks, reduced the impact of some green colored lights, etc.
  4. Nik Define – Noise Reduction (this step was probably unneeded).
  5. OneOne Perfect Effects – Autumn and Golden Hour Enhancer – Color enhancement and mild glow.
  6. Photoshop – Blending of the OnOne layers (I prefer layers in PS sorry OnOne).
  7. Nic Sharpener Pro – Sharpening for screen display.
  8. This was all re-imported to Lightroom for some final cropping and distribution to online sources.

All of this takes quite a bit of work. For YEARS, I would take pictures, import them onto my computer and be immediately discouraged. They were dull in color, not sharp, boring, poorly composed or cropped. This would lead to me putting my camera away for months at a time. In 2009 I literally took 44 photos. 44! What the hell! I LOVE photography…why did I take only 44 photos?

I had often heard from other photographers that gear doesn’t matter. Get out there and use the camera you have! I understand this truth now. The extension of this, that I missed for years…the thing that kept me for really pursuing photography is a simple realization that I would like to share with you now. Great works start with the click of the shutter. They don’t end there. The click is the first step in a huge process…great images come for blood, sweat and computer time. Today’s image isn’t an illustration of greatness, but its good and I learned ten new things I will take with me to the next image. I will grow…I will get better.

The same goes for you! If you want better images, start learning the techniques that help you create the images you see in your mind. Practice, learn, absorb, try new things. Perhaps someday you will want to spend $4,000 on a camera. Great! Welcome to the club! Know though, that an expensive camera doesn’t create good images. Only you can do that.

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  • Roman Betík

    I totally agree with you on this!

  • Jodi

    This is amazing!  I’m just starting out and can totally relate to what you said about frustration.  I am realizing that so much of a good image happens in postprocessing, but I’m still working on getting the interesting composition first.  I believe you about the gear, but I have a question.  I am not getting very sharp, clear images (I have a Nikon D3100 and use a Nikkor 35mm 1.8 and Tamron 17-270mm).  Would a better lens make a big difference?  Or what plugin, etc would help the most with this?

    • http://www.batteredluggage.com/ IPBrian

      Thanks for the compliment!  Honestly I am not terribly familiar with Nikon lenses but Ken Rockwell seems to think the 35 is pretty solid (see link below).  If you have Photoshop using unsharp mask will make a big difference, but is an overall application…you can always layer mask unwanted parts out.  I usually use Nik softwares Sharpener Pro and think it does a pretty good job…they have a trial if you want to play with it.  Sharpening, like anything can be taken too far and start to bring problems into your image. 

      http://www.kenrockwell.com/nikon/35mm-f18.htm#sharp