Ginkgo Sunrise

A bit of a departure from norm of the last few months.  It’s appropriate for not just the cool weather that we’re experiencing here (first frost of the season was just yesterday), but the cold weather that those of you out east are experiencing.

Ginkgo Sunrise

I really wanted to capture and share the structure and shape of the ginkgo leaves.  It could have been done with the available light, but not this way, as that really is the sun in the upper left corner.  The sun was an element that I wanted in the image, but not something that I wanted to overpower the image.

So that meant that I had to crush the sunlight while lighting the subject.  The only way to do that is to use a very fast shutter speed to underexpose the entire scene, then use flash to light the subject.

Some of you may recall my most expensive, but most worthwhile, piece of photography equipment, my VALS.  I couldn’t have taken this shot at that time without my VALS, as I had left my light stands at home.  If you have access to a VALS, at least one that is as patient as mine, then I cannot recommend one enough.  Of course, your mileage may vary.

To summarize:  Shooting into the sun, fast shutter speed, single flash off-camera to the right.

For you geeks out there, it’s like this:  ISO 200, 200/2.8L @2.8, 1/6400 sec; off-camera flash 4′ to the right, shot at 1/128 power, diffused.

Post-processing geekery:

Again, a departure.  The background leaves are more than a few stops underexposed thanks to the fast shutter speed, so they came out more of a muddy brownish color, which was fine, but didn’t convey the coolness of the image that I wanted.  So I decided to cool down the background.

Two layers of the same image.  The foreground is the correct daylight white balance (i.e., 5600°K), then masked to show the background.  The background is approximately tungsten white balance (2850°K) to give that cooler feel.  If you aren’t aware, shooting with your camera set to tungsten will give you very cool images; changing it in post-processing will do the same.  It could be considered a mistake, but several photographers use it to their advantage.

In this case, so did I.



GEEKERY NOTE: I could have, and should have, done this in camera, but I didn’t have my gels with me to color correct the flash output.  If I did, I would have put a full “Color Temperature Orange (CTO)” gel over the flash head, then set the camera white balance to tungsten.  The angle that my VALS held the flash head would have kept any flash from bleeding onto the background, keeping the separation between the subject and the background.


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