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DPChallenge Forums >> Tips, Tricks, and Q&A >> Learning Thread — Landscape Photography
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04/03/2006 12:47:12 PM · #26
Originally posted by error99:

Here you go. I wasn't quite clear about rake, but, I think it's ok.


Yah, you got it figured out. Your raking light is accurate enough, but there's not enough texture on the surface being raked for it to make much of a difference, is all.

Robt.
04/03/2006 12:49:55 PM · #27
Originally posted by elru21:

OK, here's mine...


This is a good example also, generally. It's worth noting that your "flat" example isn't flat at all: it's actually another example of "raking" light, with the rake coming from the vertical angle of the light basically. With truly flat light you'd see no difference between the two faces of the object, as in the first of error99's shots.

Robt.
04/03/2006 12:53:57 PM · #28
Originally posted by Bear_Music:

Originally posted by elru21:

OK, here's mine...


This is a good example also, generally. It's worth noting that your "flat" example isn't flat at all: it's actually another example of "raking" light, with the rake coming from the vertical angle of the light basically. With truly flat light you'd see no difference between the two faces of the object, as in the first of error99's shots.

Robt.


Interesting about the vertical raking. I purposely picked a block that had different textures on the two faces. I did have the most trouble getting the "flat" look, and I thought that would be easiest. (Also, the two sides of the block weren't exactly the same color/brightness. The cut off end was definitely lighter.)

Thanks for the response.

Liza

Message edited by author 2006-04-03 12:55:11.
04/03/2006 12:56:48 PM · #29
Originally posted by elru21:



Interesting about the vertical raking. I purposely picked a block that had different textures on the two faces. I did have the most trouble getting the "flat" look, and I thought that would be easiest.

Thanks for the response.

Liza


You should have no trouble getting that "flat" light if you shoot in mid-to-late afternoon with the light directly behind you :-) You shot these more towards midday I'd guess, and when the light's high in the sky it will be useful for raking vertical surfaces. This is something we'll explore later on in more detail, out IN the landscape.

Robt.
04/03/2006 01:05:12 PM · #30
Originally posted by Bear_Music:

...useful for raking vertical surfaces...


OK, that worked. Understand raking light now.
04/03/2006 01:12:38 PM · #31
Originally posted by error99:

Originally posted by Bear_Music:

...useful for raking vertical surfaces...


OK, that worked. Understand raking light now.


Yah, it's almost as if the "raking" part is a modifier, like an adjective or an adverb in the written language; it helps define or express surfaces, and to some extent or another it's pretty much possible to have "raking light" as a component of any of the other types of light.

This exercise is focusing only on the horizontal component, for the sake of simplicity. We'll tie the vertical component in later. Speaking in very general terms, the bulk of landscape photography is best accomplished at low light angles (i.e. with the sun low in the sky). We'll be exploring why this is true later. But you'll rarely see me at work outdoors between the hours of, say, 9:30 AM and 3:30 PM...

Robt.
04/03/2006 01:24:20 PM · #32
Robt , thank you very much for your so kind help !
It's really nice to have those lessons.
As soon as I can go out I'll try !
04/03/2006 08:42:33 PM · #33
Hmm, I'm not sure I get the difference between shaping light and raking light. Anyone?
04/03/2006 08:49:57 PM · #34
Originally posted by justin_hewlett:

Hmm, I'm not sure I get the difference between shaping light and raking light. Anyone?

I think mostly a matter of degree (pun intended) -- raking is at a more severe angle; shaping is between that and flat front-lighting.
04/04/2006 12:14:57 AM · #35
Okay, here's my go at it. I've been taking shots of different items to try and get shaping and raking seperated in my head.

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Do I have it right?
04/04/2006 08:25:46 AM · #36
Originally posted by justin_hewlett:

Hmm, I'm not sure I get the difference between shaping light and raking light. Anyone?


As I said at the beginning, "we have three basic “types” of light: “flat light”, “shaping light”, and “backlight”. We also have a subset of “shaping light” called “raking light”, so we have four types of light to explore."

And a little later: "it's almost as if the "raking" part is a modifier, like an adjective or an adverb in the written language; it helps define or express surfaces, and to some extent or another it's pretty much possible to have "raking light" as a component of any of the other types of light."

*************

The key issue we're dealing with here is that we have basically three goals with light; one is to express form, another is to express texture. Those are what we are working on now, establishing a vocabulary so to speak. The third "goal" is to express mood, and that's a topic for another lesson.

We are doing this lesson so people can become familiar with the way the direction of the light affects objects in the image, and so we can establish a common vocabulary for critique ("The light in this image is very strong, it shapes the rocks well, but it lacks a raking component to establish texture...").

Robt.
04/04/2006 08:29:33 AM · #37
Originally posted by Cyndane:

Okay, here's my go at it. I've been taking shots of different items to try and get shaping and raking seperated in my head.

Do I have it right?


Pretty much, yes, except that your "raking light" isn't quite raking...

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Look closely at the shadow on the ground, and you'll see that the darker face is actually not receiving any direct light at all. Look at the upper left corner of the carton, where it's bent enough that there's actually some light on it; THAT little corner has raking light.

Robt.
04/04/2006 08:42:54 AM · #38
To reiterate:

"Raking light" happens when the light is parallel, or nearly parallel, to a given surface, and it works to fully express the texture of that surface.

"Raking light" is ALWAYS a fleeting phenomenon; now you have it, 5 minutes later it is gone. It occurs at moments of angular transition, when the light first reaches a partcular plane, or just before the light leaves that plane.

It can have horizontal and vertical components. On a north-facing wall in the northern hemisphere, the light will never even reach that surface for much of the year, because the sun rises south of east and sets south of west. When we talk about the horizontal component, we refer to how the light is raking across a surface; the vertical component is about how it rakes down a surface.

In landscape photography, we tend to be concerned with the vertical component more than the horizontal; rarely do we shoot landscapes that have sheer walls of stone, say, that we wish to have the light raking across from left-to-right (unless we're lucky enough to be living in the American southwest), but we are OFTEN dealing with large expanses of foreground that we'd wish to express the texture of. So, as landscape photographers we love early morning and late afternoon light, when the sun is low enough in the sky that it "rakes" across horizontal surfaces and models them beautifully: see the following example of early-morning raking light at the Chatham Bars:

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Robt.
04/04/2006 09:38:06 AM · #39
Now that we’ve discussed the “types” of natural light we work with, it’s time to have a brief overview on the topic of exposure.

Lesson 2 — Basics of Exposure

One thing that’s clear from following DPC forums is that many people don’t “understand” exposure; they’re unclear on what’s actually happening when a light meter reads a scene and calculates an exposure. They trust their camera to “do the right thing”, and most of the time it does. They hear phrases like “overexpose bright scenes” and “underexpose dark scenes” and think they know what that means, but they don’t really. So for all of you who’ve never received instruction on the topic, here are the basics of exposure, as they apply to in-camera metering systems.

1st principle: the camera doesn’t KNOW what you are pointing it at. It reads the light reflected off the scene, the light you’re using to take the picture; it meters the actual light that reaches the sensor, but it has no way of “knowing” if this light is a scene in a dark forest or a scene in a snowy field.

2nd principle: for the above reason, meters are “calibrated” on the assumption that what they are metering is an average-gray tonality.

Consider the following gray-scale chart, which you view every time you vote on a picture in a DPC Challenge:

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The middle tone in that chart is what we call a “zone 5 gray”. Zone 1 would be absolute black, Zone 10 would be absolute white. Meters are calibrated to zone 5 gray. This means the meter “assumes” that it is reading light reflected off an average-gray surface, and it calculates an exposure to “render” that surface as an average gray. In practice, we are rarely metering a completely smooth, single-tone scene; so what the camera does, metaphorically speaking, is measure all of the luminance of the scene and mix it up and assume the result is an average gray.

It’s as if you poured all the whites and all the blacks and everything in between into a bucket and stirred it up to mix it. The camera is calculating its exposure from that stirred-up, averaged-out tonality. The issue is complicated somewhat by different metering modes (averaging mode, matrix mode, spot mode, etc) but the underlying principle is always the same; the camera sets an exposure to render whatever it has metered as an average, zone 5 gray.

Here’s an exercise for you: get a large sheet of white paper and a large sheet of black paper and pin them to a wall. Set the camera on a tripod in auto-exposure mode and shoot in jpg. Fill the frame with the white paper and shoot at the camera’s recommended setting. Now fill the frame with the black paper, and shoot that at the camera’s recommended setting. Finally, fill the frame with half black, half white and shoot that. Now download the images and look at them.

In theory, the first and second shots will be identical and the third shot, the mixed one, will show both black and white in a reasonably accurate rendering. In each case, the camera has made the same assumption, “I’m pointed at a zone 5 gray”, and it has calculated an exposure to produce a gray result. It has overexposed the black frame, it has underexposed the white frame, and it has properly exposed the mixed frame.

And here’s the kicker; the exposure given to the mixed frame is the proper exposure for all 3 frames.

So, as a photographer, you need to learn to override your automatic metering and dial in exposure compensation according to the relative brightness of your scene. If you’re shooting in the snow, you need to add exposure. If you’re shooting a scene with a lot of deep, shadow areas you need to subtract exposure. There are two ways you can do this; by shooting in full-manual mode or by using the “exposure compensation” feature of your camera. I prefer the full manual mode, but I tend to work on static scenes from a tripod. If you’re working hand-held and moving around a lot, exposure compensation may be preferable for you; just remember that you need to change that exposure compensation value as the scene itself changes.

*************

It gets much more complex than this, of course; different metering modes make different assumptions, weigh certain parts of the scene more than others in their calculations. Different manufacturers use different algorithms to do exposure calculations. The actual gray that is calibrated to changes from manufacturer to manufacturer and even from model to model among cameras. In point ‘n shoot cameras the different “scene modes” use different metering algorithms. And so forth and so on. But the basic principle as outlined above still obtains; you just have to practice with your own camera and get a feel for how it “reads” the light, and take that into consideration as you override it when necessary.

Other considerations include such things as the “expose to the right side of the histogram” principle and intentionally under- or overexposing for mood, but we won’t get into that for now, if even at all in this particular thread. My main concern is that you understand how your camera meters the light, and that you learn to compensate as required to get “correct” exposure in varying scenes. For the most part exposure in landscape photography is not difficult; meters are specifically calibrated to expose the “average” landscape scene correctly. Shooting sunrises and sunsets requires careful attention to exposure, however, as does shooting landscapes with a lot of sky filled with luminous clouds.

Robt.

04/04/2006 09:45:52 AM · #40
So does it work just the way you are saying it? ie: if you hit the button and the camera say -0.3 are you subtracting exposure? I'm asking because so many things seem to work the opposite way in photography. Also, it seems on my camera anyway I've only got a certain latitude, that is 0.3, 0.7, 1.0, 1.3, 1.7, 2.0. That's in both directions. How do you know how far to go?

edit: I'm sure knowing this could have helped my Water entry but which way would I have gone with this?
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Message edited by author 2006-04-04 09:48:50.
04/04/2006 09:47:45 AM · #41
Originally posted by Bear_Music:



Pretty much, yes, except that your "raking light" isn't quite raking...

Look closely at the shadow on the ground, and you'll see that the darker face is actually not receiving any direct light at all. Look at the upper left corner of the carton, where it's bent enough that there's actually some light on it; THAT little corner has raking light.

Robt.

I think I've got it.
How's this:
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04/04/2006 09:50:30 AM · #42
Originally posted by Cyndane:


I think I've got it.


You do!

Robt.
04/04/2006 09:59:02 AM · #43
Originally posted by kdsprog:

So does it work just the way you are saying it? ie: if you hit the button and the camera say -0.3 are you subtracting exposure? I'm asking because so many things seem to work the opposite way in photography. Also, it seems on my camera anyway I've only got a certain latitude, that is 0.3, 0.7, 1.0, 1.3, 1.7, 2.0. That's in both directions. How do you know how far to go?

edit: I'm sure knowing this could have helped my Water entry but which way would I have gone with this?
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Those numbers represent "stops of exposure"; a third of a stop, three fourths of a stop, a full stop, etc up to 2 stops, roughly speaking (.7 is a tad less than three-fourths, .3 isn't quite a full third). Plus-2 means "plus two stops of exposure", Minus-2 means the opposite.

Your water shot is dominated by bright sky and specular reflections, which are very bright indeed. The camera will have "underexposed" this scene in an attempt to gray down the brightness, basically. I'd guess it would have been worth a plus-1 exposure, but I don't know how much processing you did.

Basically, our "useable zones" range from zone 3 to zone 7, with zone 5 in the middle. In the white paper example, giving plus-2 exposure would have moved the paper from zone 5 to zone 7, and in the black paper example minus-2 would have moved it from zone 5 to zone 3. You have to experiment with this to get a feel for it.

It's generally better, in digital, to err on the side of overexposure for a number of reasons, but you need to be careful not to overexpose so much that you drive the bright areas right off the right side of the histogram ("blow them out") to the point where they have no detail at all.

Robt.
04/04/2006 10:06:37 AM · #44
Thanks! I'm learning so much from this thread. You're a great guy to take the time with this.
04/04/2006 05:24:23 PM · #45
Interesting.

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04/04/2006 08:25:44 PM · #46
Originally posted by error99:

Interesting.


Ain't it, though? :-)

R.
04/04/2006 09:36:41 PM · #47
Hello! Interesting subject. I'm with ya too. Whats next? How do I find the next lesson?
04/04/2006 10:23:08 PM · #48
Originally posted by Bear_Music:

Originally posted by error99:

Interesting.


Ain't it, though? :-)


wow, I never knew!
Great stuff to learn here, thanks Robt!
04/04/2006 10:29:53 PM · #49
Just finished shooting lesson one. Short on bricks so I used a box. Since there are already some posted that look a lot like mine, I won't post mine too. But, mission accomplished. And the black/white exercise, that was neat to see.
I'm on board, waitin' for the next one.

And thank you, Robert. Learning landscapes from you is as good as it gets!
04/04/2006 10:41:52 PM · #50
Thank you for these lessons!
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