Ammersee at night (PP advice???)

sarasphotossarasphotos Major grinsAugsburg, GermanyPosts: 2,386Registered Users Major grins

Last Saturday I was at a birthday party at the restaurant adjacent to this location. At 11:15 I wandered outside with my camera, having had a glass or two of wine, and decided I had to capture the view. I had no tripod with me but a large cement post provided a steady base for the camera. I took several exposures of varying length but this one seemed to be the most successful. Here are the camera settings:

The first picture is the original, unedited exposure which is extremell light. I was shocked to see the bottom of the lake through the water, which I certainly couldn't see as I was standing there! Could it be that the long exposure picked up the ambient outdoor lighting that was behind me?

Original, unedited

What I am wondering about is the color of the sky - does this work? I can't seem to get the sky to that blue-black color. What am I doing wrong?

Thanks for any comments and cc.

Comments

  • ziggy53ziggy53 Still learnin'still lovin Posts: 21,465Super Moderators moderator
    edited February 11, 2020

    First, congratulations on your using the cement post as an improvised camera support! A 15 second time exposure is never a sure thing.

    You don't mention but it doesn't look like the moon was visible. (According to my sources the moon should have risen early in the morning on the 8th, and not in the sky by 23:16.40.)
    With no solar or lunar illumination, yes, the city and harbour lights would be your only source of illumination. That means "Mixed Lighting" Ambient conditions.
    Your best bet is pretty much what you appear to have done; adjust by eyeballing the screen during post-processing. I would generally suggest finding a reflective surface with as color neutral surface as possible in the scene, from which to determine white balance, tempered by both recollection and artistic intent.

    Since you would like to further darken the darkest portion of the skies, a custom curve is indicated, specifically to pull down the darkest shades/tones. Additionally, you may wish to use individual RGB curves against the scene, to achieve a neutral black.

    You may also need to develop a mask to protect the shoreline, pier/dock and decking, and city detail.

    I can demonstrate, if you wish?

    ziggy53
    Moderator of the Cameras and Accessories forums
  • sarasphotossarasphotos Major grins Augsburg, GermanyPosts: 2,386Registered Users Major grins

    @ziggy53 I'd be honored if you'd demonstrate. Thanks for the detailed comments!

  • sarasphotossarasphotos Major grins Augsburg, GermanyPosts: 2,386Registered Users Major grins

    @ziggy53 , you got me thinking. Here's another version - with a couple of more edits (in Lightroom). Per your suggestion, using the linear point curve I decreased the Darks and Shadows that really helped with the blue color. I also slightly decreased the luminance of the blue and slightly decreased the clarity of the wood on the dock (using a radial color filter to select it). I had already used the radial filter on the dock to decrease the highlights and shadows.

  • ziggy53ziggy53 Still learnin'still lovin Posts: 21,465Super Moderators moderator
    edited February 11, 2020

    OK, I'm on it.

    Not sure what you use for post-processing, but I'll be using Photoshop, particularly for layers capability.

    First, I'll admit that it will be multi-layered in Photoshop, cheating a bit by assuming that you are pretty satisfied with most of the scene, but wanting to transition to a black sky at the darkest, with white stars. By using a base layer of your post-processing (image 2), Photoshop will be used to reprocess the sky in the original image. Since the darkest portion of the sky should turn to black, the top layer will be converted to B&W first, allowing the stars to remain white.

    ziggy53
    Moderator of the Cameras and Accessories forums
  • ziggy53ziggy53 Still learnin'still lovin Posts: 21,465Super Moderators moderator

    ... and we cross-posted. Yes, I think that you're on the right track for using Lightroom. Let's see what PS can do in layers, just because it's a different methodology.

    ziggy53
    Moderator of the Cameras and Accessories forums
  • sarasphotossarasphotos Major grins Augsburg, GermanyPosts: 2,386Registered Users Major grins

    PS, in regards to the moon, don't forget that I'm in Europe, so the moonrise, etc. is later. It was interesting to look up the moon-data for the day (what would we do without the Internet!). The camera is pointing south-southeast at at this time the moon was 99.7% full with a vertical angle of 59 deg and horizontal angle of 153deg. According to the moon-map I looked at it should have been just above the end of the lake, out of range of my picture.

  • ziggy53ziggy53 Still learnin'still lovin Posts: 21,465Super Moderators moderator

    So it may have contributed? Was it near the horizon?

    ziggy53
    Moderator of the Cameras and Accessories forums
  • ziggy53ziggy53 Still learnin'still lovin Posts: 21,465Super Moderators moderator
    edited February 11, 2020

    Here are my results, based on the original image alone. (The processed images had a crop I could not figure out.)

    This, then, is a treatment of just the sky portion of the scene, with no alterations to the lower part of the scene (except for a hot pixel? cloned out).

    The first thing I did was take the original JPG image and interpolate it larger using Adobe Camera RAW (ACR). This makes for a bit better result when adding operations which add global contrast to the image.

    In Photoshop, I took the original-enlarged image and duplicated the background, intending to work on the sky alone.
    The upper layer was converted to B&W and a strong S-Curve applied to both darken the lowest tones and lighten the lightest tones, mostly stars.

    I tried using a gradient layer to allow the transition between the B&W, darkened sky and the lower and foreground elements in the scene. I quickly realized that didn't look at all natural, so I switched to Erasing the lower portion of the B&W image, leaving only the sky portions I wanted to create a fairly natural transition to black.
    Eraser properties:

    B&W layer after Eraser:

    The final result:

    After/Before comparison:

    ziggy53
    Moderator of the Cameras and Accessories forums
  • sarasphotossarasphotos Major grins Augsburg, GermanyPosts: 2,386Registered Users Major grins
    edited February 12, 2020

    Ziggy, thanks for taking so much time - your example is very helpful. I went back to the drawing board and used a new virtual copy to somewhat recreate your example. Since my Lightroom skills are better than those in Photoshop, I stuck with it and came up with a couple of alternatives, one a bit darker than the other. Instead of layers like in PS, I used several gradient filters to darken the sky. I also used a radial filter on the pier to decrease the clarity and saturation to stop it popping so much. In addition I decreased the yellow and orange luminance which also helped with the popping pier.

    Here were my general settings:

    Revised version 1:

    Revised version 2 (more blacks in the sky):

    I am still not 100% happy with the color of the sky but it seems to be getting closer to the original. This has been a very good learning experience. Lesson learned: don't use automatic exposure on night shots. And perhaps 1 glass less of wine might have made me realise that on my own. (But what the heck, I was at a party!) At least I used manual focus and found a sturdy ersatz-tripod.

  • sarasphotossarasphotos Major grins Augsburg, GermanyPosts: 2,386Registered Users Major grins

    And just to make it interesting, here's another shot at 5 seconds, ISO 800. Although I'm not crazy about the fact that the pier is smack in the middle of the shot I do like that little glimpse of the Alps in the middle right. Amazing - at night they are not visible to the naked eye, but with a longer exposure they pop right out.

  • ziggy53ziggy53 Still learnin'still lovin Posts: 21,465Super Moderators moderator

    Really liking that last image, inclusive of The Alps. It looks like you can create a very nice 1:1 crop from just the right side of the image.
    I don't think that the airplane adds anything to the image, so probably best to clone that away. (It grabs a lot of attention.)

    ziggy53
    Moderator of the Cameras and Accessories forums
  • sarasphotossarasphotos Major grins Augsburg, GermanyPosts: 2,386Registered Users Major grins

    Oh, I like the 1:1 crop idea. And took out that plane heading for landing in Munich.

  • ziggy53ziggy53 Still learnin'still lovin Posts: 21,465Super Moderators moderator
    edited February 13, 2020

    ziggy53
    Moderator of the Cameras and Accessories forums
  • StumblebumStumblebum I shoot, therefore I am San Jose, CAPosts: 7,739Registered Users Major grins

    How is this Sarah?

  • sarasphotossarasphotos Major grins Augsburg, GermanyPosts: 2,386Registered Users Major grins

    Now that's interesting... it looks very painterly. For me the added moon sliver rings slightly false because there is so much light from the moon (that's just to the upper left, out of the picture) shining on the water already. I very much like the dark sky color you got - did you use LR or Photoshop? THanks for taking the time - I really appreciate it and have learning much from this one picture.

  • StumblebumStumblebum I shoot, therefore I am San Jose, CAPosts: 7,739Registered Users Major grins
    edited February 14, 2020

    Sarah, the moon is to make the point that leading line would be good if it actually leads to something...........I used LR and PS. The guiding principle to remember PP's advice: 4 most important things are LIGHT, BACKGROUND, COMP, POSE. So first extracted every ounce of light, however, to sell light you also need darkness. Flat light is of no use. Then focus on BG, not sure where this much BLUE came from so had to figure out how to pull it back and then also darken it some. Also get rid trails and stuff that was making background busy and not adding anything to picture, basically clean it up and use it to enhance main subject. Comp was whatever felt prettiest. No one is posing here, except the MOON! Haha! Cheers!

  • sarasphotossarasphotos Major grins Augsburg, GermanyPosts: 2,386Registered Users Major grins

    Yes, you are right about the leading line... but perhaps one could also see it that the leading line (the dock) is leading to that bright spot on the horizon and on the water and in the 2nd picture variation, (the 1:1 crop) to the Alps in the distance. And in my 1:1 crop version I could certainly bring out the highlights on the water a bit more... Basically, it would have been better if I had thought of all of these things as I was taking the picture... and why your and Ziggy's feedback have been so valuable. I will definitely work on that blue some more, and try to get a bit more black into it.
    So the next time I stumble outside at a party after a glass or three of wine and think "oooh, this is very cool, I've got to take a picture", I will have more information to help me consider the guiding principles. Because you know I am not like you - a very purposeful photographer, making strenuous excursions to take specific (fabulous!) pictures. I am a rather "accidental" photographer (you may call it lazy) and try to document the scene that's presented to me at the moment using the tools I happen to have at hand.

  • sarasphotossarasphotos Major grins Augsburg, GermanyPosts: 2,386Registered Users Major grins

    Working on the blue color and the leading lines. And zapped that buoy post in the right horizon.

  • StumblebumStumblebum I shoot, therefore I am San Jose, CAPosts: 7,739Registered Users Major grins
    edited February 14, 2020

    Its very good! Yeah I see the ALPs. The wideangle makes everything tiny. So only solution is to take a zoomed shot and then blend it with the wideangle shot. Lots of work! I like the moonlight glow also very much!

    As for shooting, if possible, always grab multiple frames with higher and higher exposures. Most will blow out. However, benefit is that you can always borrow some info from those frames, or use full frame.
    Usually there is NO PENALTY when you take exposure DOWN.
    However, if enough light is not collected then it is not easy to take exposure UP. Usually noise and graininess show up.
    Just a thought.......

    Keep shooting Sarah! Share more!

    Cheers!

  • JuanoJuano Major grins Brasilia, BrazilPosts: 3,772Registered Users Major grins

    DGrin gone wild! I love it when there is a great discussion like this, keep it going!

  • sarasphotossarasphotos Major grins Augsburg, GermanyPosts: 2,386Registered Users Major grins
    edited February 15, 2020

    @Stumblebum said:
    Yeah I see the ALPs. The wideangle makes everything tiny. So only solution is to take a zoomed shot and then blend it with the wideangle shot. Lots of work! I like the moonlight glow also very much!

    I had to think for a second or two about your "wide angle" comment and realized you probably oversaw the fact that I'm using a M43 camera so the lens is actually a 40mm, so only very slightly wider than normal.
    BTW, here's a shot from the next day (at high noon, directly towards the sun ugh), with another lens, zoomed to 84/168mm. The camera was angled more due south with the pier to my left and you can see the point of the eastern shore where it bumps out into the lake. The largest peak you see is the Zugspitze, Germany's highest mountain.

    @Juano Yes, these are the best discussions - one learns so much!

  • StumblebumStumblebum I shoot, therefore I am San Jose, CAPosts: 7,739Registered Users Major grins

    Sweet! Lovely tones here! How high is that peak?

  • ziggy53ziggy53 Still learnin'still lovin Posts: 21,465Super Moderators moderator

    I show the Zugspitze peak at 2962 meters/9718 feet above sea level. Just a "Welpenberg", ja?.

    ziggy53
    Moderator of the Cameras and Accessories forums
  • sarasphotossarasphotos Major grins Augsburg, GermanyPosts: 2,386Registered Users Major grins

    Ja, it's not extremely high, as you say just a puppy. :-) The western Alps (western Switzerland/France) are higher than the eastern Alps.
    Growing up in central California, the Sierra Nevada were never far away, then in Seattle I had Mount Rainier as a companion and now I feel so fortunate to have the Alps more or less in my back yard.

  • StumblebumStumblebum I shoot, therefore I am San Jose, CAPosts: 7,739Registered Users Major grins

    Germany is flat chested

  • sarasphotossarasphotos Major grins Augsburg, GermanyPosts: 2,386Registered Users Major grins
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