Saturday, 2 January 2010

Light Painting a Landscape

In this example I used a combination of added speedlight flash and flashlight - because the scene, this hillside, is so big.

We set the tripods and cameras up on one side of this little stream (you can't see the water as it is so dark!) then secreted a couple of assistants behind two of the largest rocks, top left, 'armed' with two Canon 530EX II speedlights apiece. While some of the workshop group collectively fired off the shutters (in Bulb mode) the remainder illuminated different parts of the scene with a range of torches (flash lights).
It's important to keep the torches moving all the time to prevent hot spots in the frame (see a test shot below). We snapped about ten different frames with varying degrees of success. All in almost total darkness. At the time, everything looked really good on the LCD screens.

So, once I got the frames back home and on to a large monitor, the results seemed a bit less than impressive. Problem with lighting a huge area like this is that you nearly always miss spots unless the event is orchestrated like a fee-paying advertising shoot. Which this wasn't. So I decided to fix the images using Photoshop. The key to this is in having a bunch of shots taken from the same position. As everything was shot using a tripod, every frame sat nicely in register.

So, I chose four of the best images - images with good spots of illumination but in different parts of the frame. It was then a relatively simple process to open all four, then copy and paste three into the fourth - to give a four-layered 'master' document.
What I did then was turn the top two layers OFF, and erased the bits on the third layer that were 'no good'.
I then turned on the third layer (thus totally obscuring the bottom layer and the' bits' of the second layer that I'd not erased) and erased all the rubbish bits off of that layer too.
I then turned the fourth, the top layer 'on' and erased the bits that didn't work off of that layer too.
The result should be a composite image with many more illumination effects and fewer black, non-illuminated spots. This will only work if your four images have complete registration with each other (i.e. they all line up) and if they have different illumination in different parts of the image (see seperate post on how this was done). No point in doing this if all layers have the same lighting because no amount of erasing is going to make the lighting look better if it is exactly the same underneath.

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