Thursday, November 26, 2009

let there be light

let there be light

When I traveled in Victoria's High Country during one autumn, I was finally going to have a chance to capture 'mountain light'. In the mountains, the atmosphere is different. There is haze & mist, casting colours & softness in light rays. Peaks are illuminated by the setting & rising sun, while deep shadows are cast in valleys.

When I got at this spot in Mt Buffalo National Park in an early morning, the sun had emerged beyond the barriers of the mountains, contrary to what I had planned. Fortunately or unfortunately, it wasn't a clear morning. There were layers of clouds in the sky, behind which the sun was hidden. While I was indulging in a small disappointment, a different kind of revelation came. Out of the dark cloudscape, some rays of light escaped to the land below, as though there had been a sudden heavenly opening through which the rays had finally been let go for a purpose. The illumination was selective and its path rich with warm colours.

I was pleasantly taken. I looked through the viewfinder and zoomed in a little to fill the frame with the section of the vast landscape in front of me, including the top of the nearest mountain as a foreground. I put the gradual gray ND8 to balance the dynamic range. Selecting an exposure became an agony for me. I knew that the final image would be done with only one shot (not being an ardent fan of HDR), yet some selective parts such as the foreground would be just too dark it I was to maintain the ray distinct. The valleys were to be dark, but not pitch black as they were going to appear.

I only did what I knew how to do, never been quite in this kind of 'spraying of light'. For all my efforts to get a reasonable exposure, a proper post-processing was inevitable. I've heard that in Photoshop, using layers & blending properties would solve this kind of dynamic range issue. I just don't happen to know how to do this. The result of my retouching using Capture NX had to settle with some dark spots, though the ray was saved!

Indeed it was largely a guess-work on my part. I was never sure if I would get anything pleasant to be looked at. If there is at all a grain of artistry in the final output, that would be a day I could always look back as luck being on my side. I must confess though that all the composition & the exposure decisions I made were solely driven by the desire to preserve the ray (almost at any cost). So much so that whether this has cost the various other elements in the frame would remain subjectively debatable. Where I stand on this, should be transparent enough (however technically-naive this may seem to the learned ones).

Location: Mt Buffalo National Park, VIC, Australia
Camera: Nikon D300
Lens: Nikkor 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 VR
ISO: 200
Exposure: 1/20s
Aperture: f/8.0
Focal Length: 40mm
Filter: Gradual ND8
Flash: No
Tripod: Yes

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