My take on gear seems to be a bit controversial when you’re listening to the hordes of photographers who try to tell you that gear doesn’t matter. So here’s a real world example why new gear is better than old gear. Because accidents happen!
After I found a somewhat useful composition at this spot I attached my 6-stop filter to the lens to slow down the water movement. It was past sunset and looking at the meter reading from the camera I knew that it couldn’t be right: 5 seconds at f/11 and ISO100 after sunset, WITH a 6-stop filter? Something got the camera confused but what the heck, I released the shutter anyway. Here’s the result, straight out of Lightroom after importing:
Well, that is clearly a little bit underexposed, is it? So I did some quick adjustments, mostly in Lightroom’s Basic Panel, illustrated in the screenshot on the right. You can see that I increased the Exposure by five friggin’ stops, then pulled down the Highlights and increased the Shadows. Those are the edits that had the most impact.
After that I used the Adjustment Brush in the foreground (making parts of the rocks brighter, aka dodging) and used a Radial Filter over the sky just above the horizon to reduce Exposure, Contrast and Clarity, and bump the Saturation a little bit – all with one Radial Filter of course, and positioned precisely where I wanted it.
I do a lot of local adjustments in Lightroom nowadays. The combination of the Adjustment Brush, Radial Filter and Graduated Filter is incredibly powerful. For quite some images, it’s possible to dodge and burn so nicely that the results come close to the effect of Luminance Masks in Photoshop – without the hassle of going into Photoshop and creating huge TIFF files.
Most of my editing is done in Lightroom and I have one single and – relatively – small DNG file that contains all the editing steps, reversible and non-destructive. I can go back to an old image from 2008, click Reset and start all over – without having to find the backup of the 2008 raw files first. 🙂
Now have a look at the resulting image:
The power of the tools we have at our disposal is bedazzling sometimes. In all fairness though: yes, the image is noisy. Think about it: ISO100 bumped by five stops in post – that equals an ISO3200 image. (and that’s before using the Shadows control to pull up the dark areas even more – the shadows are probably closer to ISO6400 here.) And the noise? Is not visible in the web version. Or do you see noise? 🙂
I’ll show you the noise, all right… but with a twist. 🙂 The D800 is a 36 megapixel camera. And yes, I think more is better. Why? I apply some noise reduction in Lightroom (only a bit of Luminance noise reduction, but a lot of Color noise reduction actually), and then I export at 13.5 megapixels, with 4500 pixels on the long side*. And here’s a 100% crop of that, from the image center.
Last not least, for a quick before-after comparison, here are the two images again as a gallery: click on one to open and you can switch back and forth between the two with your mouse or the cursor keys.
But, needless to say, I simply repeated the exercise with the correct exposure time. 😉
*) I do this with high ISO photos made during events and portrait sessions all the time. 13.5 megapixels is plenty, and that way the ISO6400 low light photos probably look better than what many compact cameras produce at ISO400. 🙂