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What A Difference The Light Makes  
User currently offlinePsych From United Kingdom, joined Nov 2004, 3064 posts, RR: 58
Posted (4 years 9 months 2 weeks 4 days 4 hours ago) and read 4165 times:
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Just thought I would post this, in case it may be of interest to any photographers starting out:

I had the opportunity to get out with the camera for the first time in what feels like an age this morning. One of those famous Manchester cloudless days   , so the airport beckoned.

Some of the conversation this morning revolved around the quality of the light. Just looking through some shots here and it struck me that I took a photo of a Delta 767 arriving soon after I got there, and also departing just as I left, and a couple of the frames are almost exactly at the same point. The thing I noticed most was how very different the two images are - all due to the angle of the sun. Exactly the same camera settings, and I purposely edited them exactly the same. But for me the quality is different in many respects - the white of the aircraft; the 'hue' of the light overall; the colour of the foreground grass and more. Worth bearing in mind that it is still early March, so the sun is relatively low even in the middle of the day.

Arriving at 8-30am


Departing at 10-45am


People here often discuss issues around quality, settings, editing techniques etc, but for me this was a very good exemplar that actually nature plays a massive part in the final result. Seasoned photographers of course know this all too well, but it really is a lesson worth learning when you are very new to photography. There's only so much you can do to make a photo (and an edit) look good. In the end it is all about the light!

All the best.

Paul

22 replies: All unread, jump to last
 
User currently offlineSilver1SWA From United States of America, joined Mar 2004, 4859 posts, RR: 25
Reply 1, posted (4 years 9 months 2 weeks 4 days 3 hours ago) and read 4152 times:
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Great post Paul. I know this all too well. Yes I live in sunny San Diego California but the air quality here plays a HUGE role in the quality of the light. Most days are absolute crap for photography even though the sun is out. There is often a haze around the airport from the onshore flow from the ocean. It creates a nasty hue that makes editing very difficult at times. I'm all about getting the color right. I see images from other parts of the country, especially the pacific northwest and I'm always envious of the crisp clarity and pop in the images taken from other photographers. It took me a long time to realize it wasn't anything I was doing wrong. It's just the differences in light.

Last week I was blessed with three consecutive days of perfectly clear air...something that only happens a handful of days out of the year. The shots from last week are amazing compared to my typical shots from this same place.



ALL views, opinions expressed are mine ONLY and are NOT representative of those shared by Southwest Airlines Co.
User currently offlinedl767captain From United States of America, joined Mar 2007, 2539 posts, RR: 0
Reply 2, posted (4 years 9 months 2 weeks 4 days 2 hours ago) and read 4101 times:

Quoting Silver1SWA (Reply 1):

I noticed how important time of day was when I was there the other day in the late afternoon instead of around middle of the day which was the only time i could really get down there.


User currently offlinedlowwa From Canada, joined Apr 2005, 7328 posts, RR: 30
Reply 3, posted (4 years 9 months 2 weeks 4 days ago) and read 4068 times:

Check out Royal's (Clickhappy) two replies in this thread (replies 1 & 6).

Useful Weather Site (by JohnJ Oct 8 2009 in Aviation Photography)

Excellent info to consider when thinking about the angle of the light/sun, and planning for the best time of day to shoot.

Dana


User currently offlinedvincent From United States of America, joined Jan 2007, 1753 posts, RR: 11
Reply 4, posted (4 years 9 months 2 weeks 4 days ago) and read 4063 times:
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I have to say that, fortunately, BOS and New England in general have nice days when it's sunny, even in the summertime. But the best time to really go out is the winter, as it gets nice and cold. Spring and fall are also good. Time of the day matters everywhere.

The trouble is getting nice days to begin with. Our weather is unpredictable. You know the saying... if you don't like the weather in Boston, move! I could go weeks without doing anything if it's not nice on the weekends.



From the Mind of Minolta
User currently onlineJohnJ From United States of America, joined Jun 2000, 1687 posts, RR: 2
Reply 5, posted (4 years 9 months 2 weeks 3 days 22 hours ago) and read 4031 times:

The worst airports are the ones like ATL with 9/27 runways in the summer. It's very hard to get good light any time of day with that alignment in the summer months; luckily things are better in the winter. However, having spent a lot of time at ATL over the past few weeks, things are getting worse every day and during the sweet light period now there just isn't enough light on the side of the aircraft to please me.

Like Dan said, New England can have great lighting - but Dan, I find Boston to be tough in the winter if the 4/22s are in use (same at JFK on the 22s) since the sun never quite works its way around in the afternoon to properly light the aircraft. Give me a good BDL Runway 33 day in the winter!

But yes, lighting is everything.


User currently onlineJohnJ From United States of America, joined Jun 2000, 1687 posts, RR: 2
Reply 6, posted (4 years 9 months 2 weeks 3 days 22 hours ago) and read 4030 times:

Quoting dlowwa (Reply 3):
Excellent info to consider when thinking about the angle of the light/sun, and planning for the best time of day to shoot

I've gotten loads of use out of the site in that thread since Clickhappy posted it. Very useful and very accurate information, and when coupled with the sky cover forecast site that's also in that thread, lighting surprises should be at a minimum.


User currently offlineSilver1SWA From United States of America, joined Mar 2004, 4859 posts, RR: 25
Reply 7, posted (4 years 9 months 2 weeks 3 days 21 hours ago) and read 4013 times:
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Quoting JohnJ (Reply 5):
The worst airports are the ones like ATL with 9/27 runways

Yup, that's exactly SAN. We are approaching the horrible lighting of spring and summer where the sun sets almost directly down the runway. September until March is when SAN is nice...IF you can find a day with good air quality.



ALL views, opinions expressed are mine ONLY and are NOT representative of those shared by Southwest Airlines Co.
User currently offlinedvincent From United States of America, joined Jan 2007, 1753 posts, RR: 11
Reply 8, posted (4 years 9 months 2 weeks 3 days 14 hours ago) and read 3934 times:
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Quoting JohnJ (Reply 5):
but Dan, I find Boston to be tough in the winter if the 4/22s are in use (same at JFK on the 22s) since the sun never quite works its way around in the afternoon to properly light the aircraft.

Well, the 4s aren't used very often in the winter, but even then, it's fine in the morning. The afternoon isn't as nice until very late in the day. Since the wintertime tends to have strong westerly winds, we get runway 27 approaches. So it tends to work out in the end.



From the Mind of Minolta
User currently offlineZakHH From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 9, posted (4 years 9 months 2 weeks 3 days 13 hours ago) and read 3894 times:

Excellent post, Paul. I was just reminded of the importance of great light myself. On friday, we got plenty of snow here in HAM (again...    ), and over the weekend, the sun came out.

The reflections from the ground created a light that came close to studio conditions. It allowed me to capture shots like these:

http://www.gebenus.com/storage/100307_d-ahft_IMG_9944.jpg

http://www.gebenus.com/storage/100307_cs-tnl_IMG_9965.jpg

http://www.gebenus.com/storage/100307_a6-ebw_IMG_0005_2.jpg

These were easily the best light conditions I ever encountered at HAM, along with a similar day some 3 weeks ago.


User currently offlineJakTrax From United Kingdom, joined Jun 2005, 4936 posts, RR: 7
Reply 10, posted (4 years 9 months 2 weeks 2 days 14 hours ago) and read 3719 times:

If you're staring out it's worth noting that there is usually a lot more red in the light early morning, with the hue leaning generally towards blue as it gets towards mid-day. Light is of course a spectrum and various colours can be more dominant at different times of day. A camera can't distinguish and is sometimes fooled, hence colour casts we often see. White balance is the key to countering these hues.

Karl


User currently offlinePsych From United Kingdom, joined Nov 2004, 3064 posts, RR: 58
Reply 11, posted (4 years 9 months 2 weeks 2 days 12 hours ago) and read 3699 times:
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Now we are getting technical Karl, and this will need someone more knowledgable than me.

But, in my head, there is a difference between a 'colour cast' and the 'hue' influenced by lighting conditions. My camera (Canon) is rather good at picking up the red quality of the low sunlight, in part because it seems to have a tendency to record a slight reddish colour cast on photos, particularly in certain lighting conditions. I recall (from other people's photos) some early Nikon digitals produced a notable greeny cast (to my eye).

Anyone up for giving us the low down on this issue? Maybe it is purely a technical difference and not worth considering.

Either way - lighting makes a difference!

Cheers.

Paul


User currently offlineJakTrax From United Kingdom, joined Jun 2005, 4936 posts, RR: 7
Reply 12, posted (4 years 9 months 2 weeks 2 days 12 hours ago) and read 3696 times:

I'm not entirely sure myself Paul but if there is a lot of red light in the air (which there tends to be early doors) then Canons will pick up on it. I find that every Canon I've owned produces a red cast mainly in strong early-morning light - come lunchtime and early afternoon the colours are more neutral and balanced. Similarly, I notice that the cast becomes very yellow-orange in evening light.

Perhaps Nikons suffer the green/blue cast more at mid-day, when there is more of those colours filtering through? From my own experience Nikons appear to be more neutral early in the day then progressively develop that green/blue bias as the day wears on.

Finally, yes, there is a difference between the cast a camera produces and hue - not sure about specifics but you know what I meant.....  

Good to see you posting again by the way!

Karl


User currently offlinedvincent From United States of America, joined Jan 2007, 1753 posts, RR: 11
Reply 13, posted (4 years 9 months 2 weeks 2 days 11 hours ago) and read 3691 times:
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It all depends on the bayer array and how strong/weak the color filter array is. It also depends on whether or not you use RAW or JPEG, what preset white balance you use, etc.

Nikons don't necessarily have a green cast, but the engine that makes white balance decisions in auto mode might bias more towards the green side. You have to remember that this color information is all interpolated, the computer is making decisions and you need to direct the computer (either in the camera on or your desk) to make the right decisions.

Canon might be more biased towards red, for instance, but that could be more of a case of just being biased towards red and nothing more. The lens used and its coatings also affects color transmission as well.

Something all shooters on this site should be worried about are the compromises manufacturers are making in low ISO performance to chase high ISO numbers. Using stronger color filters and signal processing biased towards low light can have an impact on your color fidelity on the low end. There is no free lunch.



From the Mind of Minolta
User currently offlinep2philip From Austria, joined Jan 2005, 99 posts, RR: 2
Reply 14, posted (4 years 9 months 2 weeks 2 days 11 hours ago) and read 3674 times:

Nice topic. Light is indeed one of the most important factors in aviation photography and photography in general.
See one of my recent examples below. In both shots the aircraft is heading in the same direction the angle is similar and the shots were taken less than one hour apart. In the first one the sun was shining through a thin layer of clouds and in the second picture nothing was in the way of the sunlight. I was already happy with the first shot, till I got the second one.

So yes, its all about light and when I look at the HAM shots in the above post I know why I love winter spotting.




User currently offlineJakTrax From United Kingdom, joined Jun 2005, 4936 posts, RR: 7
Reply 15, posted (4 years 9 months 2 weeks 2 days 11 hours ago) and read 3674 times:

Quoting dvincent (Reply 13):
Nikons don't necessarily have a green cast, but the engine that makes white balance decisions in auto mode might bias more towards the green side

Indeed Dan. Think that's what we actually meant to say, however you just can't think how exactly to put it until someone hits the nail right on the head! Bingo!

Karl


User currently offlinep2philip From Austria, joined Jan 2005, 99 posts, RR: 2
Reply 16, posted (4 years 9 months 2 weeks 2 days 11 hours ago) and read 3673 times:

Quoting JakTrax (Reply 12):
I find that every Canon I've owned produces a red cast...

Also, it depends on the lens. I came to the conclusion that Sigma lenses tend to create a warmer color impression than Canons.


User currently offlinedvincent From United States of America, joined Jan 2007, 1753 posts, RR: 11
Reply 17, posted (4 years 9 months 2 weeks 2 days 10 hours ago) and read 3666 times:
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Quoting JakTrax (Reply 15):
Indeed Dan. Think that's what we actually meant to say, however you just can't think how exactly to put it until someone hits the nail right on the head! Bingo!
Quoting JakTrax (Reply 15):
Also, it depends on the lens. I came to the conclusion that Sigma lenses tend to create a warmer color impression than Canons.

This is actually something I've been dealing with recently - my new Sony 70-400 G lens has a more neutral balance to its colors than the Sigma 50-500, which tended to fall more towards the yellow side of things. It just means I have to tweak all of my white balance presets to account for it!

The color response so far has been well ahead of the Sigma as well, but I think it's mostly because the flare performance has kept contrast reduction to a minimum, bringing out better colors.



From the Mind of Minolta
User currently offlineJakTrax From United Kingdom, joined Jun 2005, 4936 posts, RR: 7
Reply 18, posted (4 years 9 months 2 weeks 2 days 10 hours ago) and read 3665 times:

Yes, lens is also a factor, but I think the brunt of the cast 'decision' is made by the camera and it's WB setting. Incidently I have just bought a Sigma EX lens and the colour it produces seem different - much 'cooler' colours than my Canon lenses, if you know what I mean.

Karl


User currently offlinecpd From Australia, joined Jun 2008, 4881 posts, RR: 37
Reply 19, posted (4 years 9 months 2 weeks 2 days ago) and read 3578 times:

Quoting dvincent (Reply 17):

The color response so far has been well ahead of the Sigma as well, but I think it's mostly because the flare performance has kept contrast reduction to a minimum, bringing out better colors.

I noticed that too comparing say AF Nikkor 300mm F/4.0 IF-ED lens to Sigma 50-500mm - the Nikkor is far superior in both sharpness and overall quality - even despite being quite an old lens. It is staggeringly sharp, as you'd expect and the colours are vibrant. The Sigma seemed to produce a washed out look.

The 200-400mm Zoom-Nikkor is just about equal to the 300mm F/4.0, but behind it if you use teleconverters with the big Zoom-Nikkor. 1.4x is acceptable - but 1.7x shows some slight deterioration in quality.

I actually love taking photos at dusk, in this sort of light:

http://www.airliners.net/addphotos/big/ready/a1267954747.8331dsc_3256-as-smart-object-1.jpg

That was ISO1600 and 1/50sec at F/6.7. It was very dark conditions actually. I love this light because whenever there are any bright lights or objects in the background, they will produce a pleasing motion blur at these low shutter speeds.

And in the tower, you actually see inside it - rather than the window of the tower having mirror like reflections.

This was also quite nice for light:


View Large View Medium
Click here for bigger photo!

Photo © Chris P Denton



Just love photography at sunset (and early morning too). I never really have troubles with auto-white balance as I always set colour temperature manually - instead of letting the camera decide for itself. Although the Nikon D700 is good - it's no match for a real person who knows how to set the white-balance for the conditions.

[Edited 2010-03-09 18:59:17]

User currently offlinedvincent From United States of America, joined Jan 2007, 1753 posts, RR: 11
Reply 20, posted (4 years 9 months 2 weeks 1 day 23 hours ago) and read 3567 times:
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Quoting cpd (Reply 19):
I noticed that too comparing say AF Nikkor 300mm F/4.0 IF-ED lens to Sigma 50-500mm - the Nikkor is far superior in both sharpness and overall quality - even despite being quite an old lens. It is staggeringly sharp, as you'd expect and the colours are vibrant. The Sigma seemed to produce a washed out look.

Well, the Nikkor 300 is a prime lens, so it has that going for it. The optical design is much less demanding than a Superzoom like the Sigma. That has a lot of implications in terms of contrast/flare performance, not just for sharpness.

Dusk is always a great time for photos, of course. You are very lucky that you live in an area where you can get such motion blur shots. I'm pretty sure you use a pretty beefy tripod with your 200-400; I'd be tackled within five minutes of setting up my tripod and a gimbal at any of the spots where that would be possible here at BOS or even at BDL. Doesn't mean we still can't enjoy dusk time, though!


View Large View Medium
Click here for bigger photo!

Photo © Dan Vincent - New England Airports
View Large View Medium
Click here for bigger photo!

Photo © Dan Vincent - New England Airports



[Edited 2010-03-09 19:28:39]


From the Mind of Minolta
User currently offlinecpd From Australia, joined Jun 2008, 4881 posts, RR: 37
Reply 21, posted (4 years 9 months 2 weeks 1 day 22 hours ago) and read 3550 times:

Yes, I do use a very heavy and large tripod and a huge 3 way tilt/panning head. Fortunately the security people (Aust. Federal Police) are very friendly towards us. It's really good - and we are indeed very lucky. I used to do the low shutter speed photos hand-held before that.

The 50-500 was still a great lens for 10x zoom which is a massive amount. It was best between 50-400mm, 500 had a lot of light falloff.

The 300/4 in the Nikkor range (and probably the Canon one too) is a real gem of a lens - light and sharp. If they ever do a 300/4 VR version, I'll replace my old one.

My other favourite lens is the 24-70mm F/2.8 Zoom-Nikkor. What a lens - it is as sharp as any prime lens at any focal length. Superb and worth the enormous cost (it costs more than many semi-pro DSLR cameras do). It is light too, and I just love getting the close range wide angle photos of planes roaring overhead.

[Edited 2010-03-09 20:46:58]

User currently offlineviv From Ireland, joined May 2005, 3142 posts, RR: 28
Reply 22, posted (4 years 9 months 2 weeks 10 hours ago) and read 3416 times:

Quoting cpd (Reply 21):
My other favourite lens is the 24-70mm F/2.8 Zoom-Nikkor.

My favourite also, although the 14-24mm f/2.8 is also wonderful.

To get back on topic, light is of fundamental importance in photography. The difference in shot quality between sunrise/sunset and midday is huge.



Nikon D700, Nikkor 80-400, Fuji X Pro 1, Fujinon 35 f/1.4, Fujinon 18 f/2
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