Maine Weather, Am I Right?

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This summer has been… inconsistent. Between bursts of heat, thunderstorms, torrential rain, and more, it has been nearly impossible to predict what the weather will do on any given day. For me, that means less hiking, fewer day trips, and a bit of a gloom that won’t seem to go away.

The photos above are of the same spot, taken twelve hours apart, and seem to be a good example of how the state has been treating us over the last month and a half.

Let’s Get RAW, a Lightroom Post-Processing Explanation: Swans Island Sunset

There are countless articles online espousing the virtues of shooting RAW, so I won’t go into too much detail around why to shoot RAW, but, rather, show one example where it saved my butt.

RAW has one major drawback drawback: each image is much, much larger than a .jpg (RAW out of the a7r ii sits pretty at around 84 MB per image.) The benefits, however, outweigh the cons:

  1. You get a true, lossless image. This means no pixel-binning and no compression, which could leave you with banding.
  2. If your composition is great but the image looks over or underexposed, there is hope with RAW! You get a far greater depth of exposure information.
  3. They are far more flexible, allowing for better grain and sharpness control.

I hope you enjoyed your hyper-abbreviated justification for shooting RAW! Now, onto the image above.

This sunset was captured on Swans Island off the coast of Bar Harbor, and the original image has its charms. I like the crispness of the tree line, the stillness of the water allowed for some pretty dramatic reflections, and the clouds gave a bit more life to the top and bottom of the frame.

However, I wanted a bit more from the image.

First off, the pic was overexposed. It didn’t capture any of the shoreline, which had some great Maine imagery. Second, the colors just did not capture what I was seeing at the time. I made sure to take notes after shooting, just in case this turned out to be true.

So, first things first: let’s fix the exposure. I jumped into Lightroom and the first thing I did was yank back the highlights, leaving the whites untouched. This gave me a more gradual transition from sky to sun.

Next, I pulled some of the shadows back, revealing the island, and giving a bit more definition to the cloud cover. Doing this revealed the houses and fishing boats off the shore, which, upon closer inspection, came out a bit soft. I went in, masked out the shore, and fiddled with the sharpness to get them a bit punchier, and then added grain to the whole image to make both look consistent.

I notched up the clarity a bit to to give everything a bit more punch, and tweaked the vibrance to make the colors pop a bit more.

Then, I went down to the oranges and yellows, and pushed them further toward red and orange, respectively. The Gatorade-yellow light that was captured in the original shot was not at all how it looked in person, so this was an easy creative leap to take.

I then jumped into the greens and bumped up their luminance a bit so that the trees would pop out more from the lake and skyline.

Finally, I added a bit of vignetting, just because I felt like it.

So there! One image saved from mediocrity. Now, go out there, change your camera from high-resolution JPEG to RAW, and save yourself some sunsets!

What Should I Shoot My Feature On: An iPhone 7, or an Arri ALEXA?

Camera choice is a touchy, borderline political, topic in the world of multimedia production. For photographers, it’s the eternal “Nikon vs. Canon” debate. For cinematographers, it’s a little less black and white.

If your life even peripherally orbits the film and video world, you’ve probably heard or seen the opinions on either end of the tech spectrum:

Exhibit A: The “Stories Matter More Than the Camera” Angle

From this person, you’ll likely hear “you can shoot on anything, as long as you’ve got a good story!” They’ll point you to Tangerine, a feature-length narrative film shot exclusively on iPhone.

Exhibit B: The “If You’re Not Shooting ALEXA, You’re Fired” Angle

I won’t mince words: the Arri ALEXA is a top-tier camera, producing insane dynamic range, and whipping other camera’s butts when it comes to skin tones. What I WILL say is that no, you don’t need to shoot on it to create something beautiful.

That said, many directors won’t even hire you unless you drop that alliterative camera’s name.

The video above is basically a gross exaggeration of what cinematographers see when comparing cameras, blown out to the biggest visual disparity possible. If you’ve got a video nerd in your life, the iPhone footage and its flaws are as glaring as the ones they see between even higher end cameras.

That said, it’s a pretty cool look at how big of a differential there is in video quality as you step up from the low end to the high end of cameras.