|Moon Rise Composite: Canon 5D MK III-Canon 100-400mm|
I well remember posting a photo of a sunrise, in which I was up-front about techniques I had applied to improve the color and drama of the scene, and a reader commented that the photograph looked very good, but I had just as well made a painting of the scene as a photograph should present the subject just as the camera captured it. The major fault with this argument is that it assumes that the camera sensor possesses some magic characteristic that makes its' interpretation of a scene the correct one. In other words you are leaving your creative decisions and interpretation of reality up to the engineers that designed the camera sensor, and exposure control system.
Today's photo is a perfect example of a case where I think extensive post-processing was acceptable. I was watching a remote creek-bottom on the evening of August 1st, in the hope that a bachelor group of whitetail bucks would show up. That didn't happen and the air was so humid that even as the last rays of the sun were hitting the meadow that wisps of fog began to rise from the ground. I left at photographic dark and was driving home, when I noticed the moon rising above the nearby mountain. The distant mountain in the background, the trees in the foreground, and the eerie light of the moon reflected in the swirling fog, all combined to make a dramatic scene that I will never forget.
This is prime example of a case where the contrast range was too great for the camera to capture. At this point you have two basic choices, which are to expose for the moon and lose all detail in the sky and foreground or expose for the foreground and let the detail in the moon be blown out. I began with the 100-400mm lens at 180mm lens to get the basic composition I wanted and set the exposure so that there was about the same amount of detail visible in the photograph that was visible to the eye. Next I zoomed in to 320mm and exposed for the moon.
After downloading to the computer I fine tuned each image in Adobe Bridge CS6 camera raw and then opened each image in CS6. I then dragged the image of the properly exposed moon over the background image, which created a layer. At this point I erased most of the layer containing the moon and then selected transform and scaled the moon to cover the moon in the background photo, but be somewhat larger so that the moon would be more dramatic and the detail in the face of it more visible. At that point I carefully erased all of the layer containing the moon except for the moon itself so there was a natural looking boundary between the moon and the fog in the original background image.
Did this work? I am sure opinions will vary. I do not think it completely captured the essence of the moment--in fact I don't think it is possible for any imaging medium to capture a moment like this in a way to truly do it justice, but it certainly did a much more credible job than any straight out of camera effort could have hoped to accomplish.
Originally posted at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.