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Max Moosbrugger

Ah time of day is best to avoid over exposed skies

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One of my biggest issues in my photography and videography is exposing for the skies and the forground at the same time. Many people have told me that it could do me good to get a circular polarizer, but I’m gonna wait till I have a little  more money. Then I thought there might be something I overlooked, does time of day affect this at all. I’m aware of the affect golden hour and magic/blue hour have on color and light, but will either or some different time of day help to balance out the exposure.

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Your best tool will be a small selection of Graduated Neutral Density filters. ND Grads are dark on top and transition to clear on the bottom. Most color landscape photographers and cinematographers use them.

These are rectangular filters that slide into a filter holder on the front of your lens so you can adjust height and angle of the transition line to the horizon. The most common strengths are ND 0.6 (-2 stops) and ND 0.9 (-3 stops). 

High quality glass filters can be very expensive, but if you’re just starting out and don’t have much money to spend, then Cokin makes resin filters that are relatively affordable: https://cokinfilter.com/collections/kits/products/graduated-neutral-density-kit-plus

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Definitely shoot log with a decent camera for starters and set the whites of the clouds to just below the clip point and then decide what you are doing to do to bring up the face.  Yes, if the clouds are above the face, a grad filter will help.
Polas might reduce some haze and increase contrast by darkening the blue parts of the sky but they don't really knock down the hot white areas much, if at all.

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The simple answer is that you need to balance the exposure on the sky and foreground. 

The sky will be brighter in backlit situations since you will be shooting toward the part of the sky with the sun in it. here is an example of that at sunset: Front-Light-vs-Backlight-1080x499.jpg

 

 

At Sunrise/ sunset the brightness of the sun is less intense, but I haven't found this dramatically effects the exposure between the sky and foreground with the exception of just before sunrise or after sunset at magic hour. In general if you shoot front lit or even side lit you can usually get a strong blue sky. The quality of the camera you use does for sure matter - most modern digital cameras with 12+ stops of latitude can easily handle the brightness of the sky - pulling down highlights in post production will also help. 

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Posted (edited)

Thanks for the help, I actually have a friend who’s gonna let me borrow a set of filters for landscape work, other than that I’ll try to play around with front light tomorrow 

Edited by Max Moosbrugger

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be careful panning with polar filters a blue sky.. as you change your angle to the sun, the sky will change too... Im not sure why you have had people advising you to use them for this situation TBH .. but good to know the people not to listen to 🙂 

ND grad will do the job but have to careful where the effect is cutting off.. or onto  .. Ive had quite a few directors now want to do the grad filter in post .. they don't want to burn in the look... tell me to take the filter out ..

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20 hours ago, Robin R Probyn said:

ND grad will do the job but have to careful where the effect is cutting off.. or onto  .. Ive had quite a few directors now want to do the grad filter in post .. they don't want to burn in the look... tell me to take the filter out ..

Fortune favors the bold...

I just re-watched the Caroll Ballard film ‘Wind’ (1992) tonite, gorgeously shot by John Toll. It has a number of subtle grad/attenuator shots that pass right thru the actors heads, so masterfully done that only a cameraperson would notice. The film is on Amazon Prime, if anyone wants to check it out.

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2 hours ago, Satsuki Murashige said:

Fortune favors the bold...

I just re-watched the Caroll Ballard film ‘Wind’ (1992) tonite, gorgeously shot by John Toll. It has a number of subtle grad/attenuator shots that pass right thru the actors heads, so masterfully done that only a cameraperson would notice. The film is on Amazon Prime, if anyone wants to check it out.

True sir .. actually my sister worked on that film .. in Australia and Rhode Island .. as a runner 

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14 hours ago, Robin R Probyn said:

True sir .. actually my sister worked on that film .. in Australia and Rhode Island .. as a runner 

That’s awesome! Such a beautiful looking film. I wonder how many cameras they used on the racing sequences.

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I assume this is predominantly in backlit situations Max? Generally, a scene front-lit by the sun will have a pretty moderate contrast. Backlit situations are a whole different ballgame, and you have to decide where (and how much) you're going to compromise on the exposure.

I find that for most situations, you can generally get away with simply splitting the exposure - take a reading of the direct sun that's backlighting your subject, and a reading of the indirect exposure filling their shadow side, and then literally split your exposure halfway between those two extremes.

This was how I exposed with film, and it still works a treat with digital.

If you want to get more granular with the exposure, you need to decide how many stops of underexposure you're willing to tolerate on the subject. One-stop is pretty subtle, but 1.5-2.5 stops is about as dark as you can go before you'll start losing detail. At five stops under you're pretty much in silhouette.

So you have to balance that decision on exposure with whatever lighting you'll be doing (if any) to control the contrast ratio.

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4 hours ago, Satsuki Murashige said:

That’s awesome! Such a beautiful looking film. I wonder how many cameras they used on the racing sequences.

I was just texting  her  yesterday.. she said the grips really earns their money .. they were mounting cameras off the back from large plates of glass  ? a couple of nasty accidents with one guy losing half of his leg.. ! didn't sound like a happy shoot .. well thats what she said anyway .. the stars were a pain according to her 🙂 

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As a newbie, I'm curious why don't we just put a light/ deflector to compensate? Isn't it what old movies always do? I see actors all the time with a bright face with the sun coming from the behind. Did it fall out of fashion due to the new "realism" thing?

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20 hours ago, Wendy Sanders McDonlad said:

As a newbie, I'm curious why don't we just put a light/ deflector to compensate? Isn't it what old movies always do? I see actors all the time with a bright face with the sun coming from the behind. Did it fall out of fashion due to the new "realism" thing?

The original question was more about how to expose for landscape shots, where the sky is bright and the foreground is dark.

When it comes to photographing people in backlight, yes most people will use a bounce card to softly reflect the light back onto the subject.

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4 hours ago, Satsuki Murashige said:

The original question was more about how to expose for landscape shots, where the sky is bright and the foreground is dark.

When it comes to photographing people in backlight, yes most people will use a bounce card to softly reflect the light back onto the subject.

thank you. I actually went to see the Wind 1992, didn't notice or find the skillful use of gradual filter you were referring to. Could you be more specific?

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I can’t seem to take screen grabs off of Amazon Prime, unfortunately. But take a look at the wide desert scenes, especially when the characters are having dinner outside the aircraft hanger at magic hour. If you look very closely, you’ll notice a subtle graduated filter used in the wide shots. It looks like an attenuator to me, since the there’s no obvious horizon line. It is removed for the close ups.

There’s also a blue grad used in a wide shot in the desert, I think when Jennifer Grey is testing her new sail on a pickup truck. You can see part of the white building on camera left has a blue grad on it.

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11 hours ago, Wendy Sanders McDonlad said:

thank you. I actually went to see the Wind 1992, didn't notice or find the skillful use of gradual filter you were referring to. Could you be more specific?

The fact you didn't notice it ,is the skill..  🙂 

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