Am Schafberg

This photo should not exist at all. Because someone said that only idiots shoot straight into the sun. And what about ugly side effects like lens flare, chromatic aberrations and reduced contrast?

As ridiculous as all these reservations might be, and as easy the last photo was to print, as – no, not as hard, but a little harder this one turned out. I remember that I used an external light meter, but I am not sure where I metered; probably I already knew exposure from before. The only thing that is sure is that I completely excluded the sun from exposure considerations.

Am Schafberg Am Schafberg

So, having a nicely exposed negative is one thing, scanning it is a different beast. With the Epson V700, dense highlights (opaque on the negative) can be frustrating, but here it worked. The sun doesn’t blow out in an ugly manner, and there is enough shadow detail. (On a side note about scanning: I will soon be able to tell more about “scanning” with macro-bellows, a 5D MKII and Zuiko 50 macro lens).

The water slide was quite straight-forward, it just needs enough local contrast to separate from the sky. Then the corners needed a little darkening and the leaves towards the center a little contrast. The sun must not be burned in, which would lead to an ugly greyish veil in the print (on the screen it might not matter).

What gave a little headache here was the foreground. On the screen it is easy, again: the version above would be a no-brainer for me, with a the right amount of pop around the waste bins. This “pop” you can get by lightening the darker mid-tones or the lighter shadows resp. You cannot just lighten the whole area, because this would wash out the shadows and lead to a flat appearance.

But when viewing this print in really good light (e.g. light from a north-facing window), it appeared a little over-done to me. I had a second version (which was actually the original first version) that I rejected at first, but started to like under this viewing conditions:

Am Schafberg Am Schafberg – Original Version

Depending on your screen, you might see something completely different, but take my word: this original version with a darker foreground looked better in good light, the other version with a snappier foreground looked better in lower artificial light (typical room light at home), and on the screen it might be a draw, because the backlit nature of the medium screen compensates for darker areas.

A lot can be learned here – not only from theory, but from a real example. When printing, one has to deal with (intended) viewing conditions and the reflective nature of the medium paper. First, you should evaluate your print under similar conditions under which it will be at display, and second you should pay attention to the darker areas below the mid-tones. Hint: the latter can be a bit pre-visualized by switching the background-color between black and light-grey in Photoshop or Lightroom. With each switch, your perception has to accommodate and this will show you the “true” nature of the dark tones.

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