In Tokyo there are shots I always try again or try and improve on whenever I get the chance. This is one of them: shooting 'the smoke thing' at Sensoji Temple. I call it the smoke thing cos I am not sure of the exact word in Japanese. Maybe 'mi-yo-ke'. Not sure. It's where you buy and then burn insence, to take away bad luck or give you good health. You waft the smoke over yourself before entering the temple.
It's situation is such that you have a great view of the temple gate behind. But that's where the sun is coming from on a bright day.. and a bright day is the best time to get the smoke accented because backlight always helps you see smoke in a photo.
That leaves us the faces and the inside of 'the smoke thing': dark. Very much darker than the background.
So, HDR? Maybe but I don't honestly like HDR very much and bracketing is obviously a no-no with moving subjects. So getting a decent picture of this place [with background and foreground well exposed] is therefore either about flash [too intrusive for me] or just getting a well exposed enough RAW file which has highlights not TOO overexposed and shadows not TOO under-exposed.
The next stage is about bringing data back from particularly the highlights.
I used to do this with Silver Efex Pro's 'Pull Process' filter, modified to not include the grain which the default filter adds in.
It did a good job.
But having just gone with Adobe's Creative Cloud, upgrading to CS6 and the newer Silver Efex Pro2, I have been playing with the 'Low Key 2' filter and adding control points where I don't need the effect.
The Low Key 2 filter is doing a great job of bringing back highlight data... like the skies and the temple in the background.
The only criticism of this file is the strong white line along the edge of the wooden roof, at top left. I could solve that if I spent more time on the shot....
The smoke across the guy's face looks a little like he has a skin problem. Not great but once you figure out it's smoke then I guess that isn't so bad. :-)
All in all pretty happy with this shot. I grew up in a time where you really had the choice of going with the bright stuff or the dark stuff [especially if you were shooting transparencies]. A well pitched exposure, good developing and the darkroom, with the right grade of paper, gave you good flexibility with making a fairly broad dynamic range come out in a print. It's just nice to be able to do it all now with the lights on and without getting dermatitis from all the chems! :-)
Gear and tech-specs?
Shot in monochrome
Processed with Photoshop CS6 and Nik Silver Efex Pro2's 'Low Key 2' filter.
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