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On the Streets: Capitol Hill Clipping

There was some great evening light in Seattle yesterday. It's been cold (really cold for Seattle) and clear this past week, with some incredibly blue skies. Yesterday was different. The sunset bouncing or reflecting off the grey clouds created a soft warm glow that was a little eerie. It seemed more like a fall evening, but colder.

I noticed the light after leaving Bait Shop. I'd ducked in to finish the last few pages of a book, and I wasn't able to resist the temptation of their black bean and squash tacos at happy hour prices. Tasty. I made some progress in the book, but I let myself be distracted by the conversations around me and my phone. It's ok to pay attention to the conversations, that's why I eat out - it's nice being around people. The phone is not ok. These things are killing us. At the very least they're making us dull.

 Bait Shop veggie taco. $3 during happy hour, tough to beat.

Bait Shop veggie taco. $3 during happy hour, tough to beat.

I finished up, walked out, and grabbed my X100T. I stopped briefly to pet the huge Great Dane and black Lab who are Bait Shop regulars. I can never remember if the Great Dane's name is Walden or Walter. I then tried to get a few pictures that would capture what I was seeing with the light. It didn't go very well.

The varying light throughout the frame bested me. I either clipped the highlights, meaning that I blew them out and lost the detail (data), or underexposed the street portions. I'm not sure if that's also called clipping or if there's a separate term for losing data in the shadows. I didn't keep at it all that long, but I took enough pictures to let me have a look at them in Lightroom and think about how I could have tackled things differently.

I think next time I'll try increasing the Dynamic Range (DR). I leave my Fujifilm X Series DR settings at 100%. I used to have the DR on Auto, but I found that my images were consistently coming in underexposed. Working with the RAW images didn't help. This seems to be a topic of debate, but I read online that the DR setting influences the RAW file, too. I'm a believer.

This also would have been a good time to fire off some bracketed shots for High Dynamic Range (HDR) photos. I'm not sure if that term means different things to different people. The Fujifilm X Series cameras, like most cameras these days, let you compose a photo and shoot it at different exposure settings. You can then go into Lightroom and merge the photos to get the optimum results. For example, the camera will fire 3 shots, exposing for shadows, exposing a baseline, and exposing for highlights. It will then combine the results. It can be a useful feature, but sometimes the images look a little strange.

I've included some examples below. (They're not meant to be good pictures.)

 Capitol Hill. ISO 200 / f4 / 1/200th

Capitol Hill. ISO 200 / f4 / 1/200th

 The clipped highlights are shown in red. You can have Lightroom point these areas out to you in the Histogram section of the Develop module.

The clipped highlights are shown in red. You can have Lightroom point these areas out to you in the Histogram section of the Develop module.

 Same image but in RAW. 

Same image but in RAW. 

 Again, the clipped highlights are in red. I was surprised by the difference in clipped highlights between the JPG version and the RAW version.

Again, the clipped highlights are in red. I was surprised by the difference in clipped highlights between the JPG version and the RAW version.

 The street is better exposed here, but it still doesn't convey the vibrancy of that row of businesses. The sky is pretty much entirely clipped. ISO 200 / f2 / 1/170th

The street is better exposed here, but it still doesn't convey the vibrancy of that row of businesses. The sky is pretty much entirely clipped. ISO 200 / f2 / 1/170th

 This image does a better job of capturing what was going on with the light. The Thai restaurant was really underexposed. I got some of that back by adding a graduated filter. ISO 200 / f5 / 1/125th

This image does a better job of capturing what was going on with the light. The Thai restaurant was really underexposed. I got some of that back by adding a graduated filter. ISO 200 / f5 / 1/125th

 This was probably the best of the lot in terms of getting the settings right. RAW, no post-processing. ISO 200 / f4 / 1/140th. The 1/140th makes me think I switched the shutter back to Program mode. I don't remember having done that.

This was probably the best of the lot in terms of getting the settings right. RAW, no post-processing. ISO 200 / f4 / 1/140th. The 1/140th makes me think I switched the shutter back to Program mode. I don't remember having done that.