Creating Black-lit Magic « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Creating Black-lit Magic


guanaco-levels-orig

This backlit Guanaco image was created with the Gitzo 3532 LS carbon fiber tripod, the Mongoose M3.6 head, the Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM lens, the Canon 1.4x EF Extender III (Teleconverter), and the Canon EOS-1D X. ISO 200. Evaluative metering -1 stop: 1/3200 sec. at f/9 in Av mode.

Central sensor Surround/AI Servo/Rear Focus AF on the rim light and re-compose. Click here to see the latest version of the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Pretty Boring, But Can You See the Potential?

In the field, backlit animal in life looked a bit more dramatic. But it is important to get the right exposure even if doing so results in an image that looks washed out on the rear LCD. With digital, the photographer must learn to realize the potential in their RAW captures.

What is the right exposure in backlit situation? One that yields only a very few blinkies on the rim light. That is exactly what I did with all of the images in today’s post.


guanaco-levels-before

This is the” Before” Photoshop 5 screen capture showing the converted image and the open Levels dialogue box. Click on the image to enlarge it and take a close look at the three Levels sliders.

The RAW Conversion

I do all of my RAW conversions in DPP, Canon’s Digital Photo Professional. First I darkened the image by mowing the Brightness slider to the left and then recovered the remaining few areas shown in red by DPP’s Highlight Alert (Alt M). Next I upped the Color Saturation considerably to enhance the color of the rim light.

Again, enlarge the image and take a close look at the three Levels sliders.

You can learn why and how I use DPP to convert all of of my Canon RAW files by clicking here.
and getting yourself a copy of our DPP RAW Conversion Guide.


gaunaco-levels-after

This is the “After” Photoshop screen capture. Be sure to enlarge the image and take a close look at the three Levels sliders: Shadow on the left, Midtone in the middle of course, and Highlight on the right.

Using A Levels Adjustment to Create Black-lit Magic

Normally, we set the Black point by holding down the ALT key and moving the Shadows slider to the right until the first areas of color appear. Then we back off a bit. Then we’d set the White point by holding down the ALT key and moving the Highlight slider to the left until the first areas of color appear. And then again, we’d back off a bit. Lastly we would adjust the Midtone slider to taste.

But that is not what you do when you wish to create a Black-lit Magic image. First we hold down the ALT key and move the Shadow slider to the right until all of the image except for the rim lighting turns completely black. Doing so will darken the rim lit areas. Next move the Midtone slider to the left so that it is very close to the Shadow slider. Finally move the Highlight slider to the left to brighten the rim light. Lastly you may wish to tweak the position of each slider to get exactly what you want.

All of the above as described in detail in our in Digital Basics File, an instructional PDF that is sent via e-mail. It includes my complete digital workflow, dozens of great Photoshop tips, several different ways to expand canvas, all of my time-saving Keyboard Shortcuts, Quick Masking, Layer Masking, and NIK Color Efex Pro basics, and tons more.


guanaco-backlit-looking-back-_y7o2804-torres-del-paine-national-park-chile

This backlit Guanaco image was created from the original image that opened this log post. I used the Gitzo 3532 LS carbon fiber tripod, the Mongoose M3.6 head, the Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM lens, the Canon 1.4x EF Extender III (Teleconverter), and the Canon EOS-1D X. ISO 200. Evaluative metering -1 stop: 1/3200 sec. at f/9 in Av mode.

Central sensor Surround/AI Servo/Rear Focus AF on the rim light and re-compose. Click here to see the latest version of the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Image #1: Eyelashes

The Optimized Image

The optimized image is a far cry from the look of the original.

Thanks to Andy Rouse for his black-light inspiration. I believe that first learned of the term in his great hardcover book, Concepts of Nature: A Wildlife Photographer’s Art


guanaco-backlit-_y7o2719-torres-del-paine-national-park-chile

This backlit Guanaco image, one that shows the whole animal, was created at Torres del Paine National Park in Chile. I used the Gitzo 3532 LS carbon fiber tripod, the Mongoose M3.6 head, the Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM lens, the Canon 1.4x EF Extender III (Teleconverter), and the Canon EOS-1D X. ISO 400. Evaluative metering -1/3 stop: 1/3200 sec. at f/7.1 in Av mode.

One sensor to the right of the central sensor AI Servo Surround/Rear Focus AF on the rim light at the top of the base of the neck active at the moment of exposure. Click here to see the latest version of the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Image #2: Backlit Vegetation

Backlit Vegetation Adds

This was the first image that I created as I set out up the hill to create the images in this series. The knee is doing great thank you very much. The sparkling backlit vegetation adds a lot to the impact.


guanaco-front-quarters-backlit-impr-_y7o2768-torres-del-paine-national-park-chile

This backlit image was also created with the Gitzo 3532 LS carbon fiber tripod, the Mongoose M3.6 head, the Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM lens, the Canon 1.4x EF Extender III (Teleconverter), and the Canon EOS-1D X. ISO 200. Evaluative metering -1 stop: 1/3200 sec. at f/9 in Av mode.

Central sensor AI Servo Surround/Rear Focus AF on the middle of the neck active at the moment of exposure. Click here to see the latest version of the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Image #3: Nice Neck!

Getting Closer

Careful readers will note that all of the images here were created with the same focal length set-up, the 600II, the 1.4X III, and the full frane 1D X: 840mm. I achieved a variety of compositions by moving physically, i.e,. getting closer, aka human zoomin’ and by rotating the lens in the tripod collar to switch from horizontal to vertical format.


guanaco-backlit-head-and-neck-impr-_y7o2845-torres-del-paine-national-park-chile

This, the last image in the series, was of course also created with the Gitzo 3532 LS carbon fiber tripod, the Mongoose M3.6 head, the Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM lens, the Canon 1.4x EF Extender III (Teleconverter), and the Canon EOS-1D X. ISO 200. Evaluative metering -2/3 stop: 1/800 sec. at f/9 in Av mode.

Three sensors up from the central sensor AI Servo Surround/Rear Focus AF on the middle of the Guanacoo’s eye active at the moment of exposure. Click here to see the latest version of the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Image #4: White Rim-light/center>

The End and a Question or Two

There is lots of stuff of interest here and lots more to learn. As the sun was getting lower in the western sky and just cresting the hill in front of me note that light levels were also getting much lower. Note also that for the last two image the active AF sensor was on part of the animal and not on the rim light. With little to no contrast on the animal’s face or body what is the trick to acquiring and maintaining focus in such situations?

Note also that by not raising the color temperature and by not increasing the Saturation that the rim light is pretty much white. Which rim light do you like better? Why?

Your Favorite Image?

Please take a minute to let us know which of the four black-lit Guanaco image is your favorite. And do let us know why.

Insane Deal on One of My Very Favorite Lenses

Right now B&H is offering one of my very favorite lenses, the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens, at the ridiculously low price of only $1899.00 The regular price is $2499.00. They are offering a limited quantity as follows: after clicking on one of the BAA affiliate links here proceed to checkout to receive the $2199.00 price. Follow that up with the mail-in-rebate $300.00. When the smoke clears you will own this great lens for only $1899. The rebate is good only for US purchasers. The $1899 is the lowest ever price anywhere. Get one today and earn a free contest entry.

Note: the rebate is good only for US purchasers. If you missed yesterday’s blog post,” Scenic, Wildlife, & B-roll Versatility” click here. It featured a variety of images created at Torres del Paine with my 70-200 II,

I have this lens with me on every trip. I use it as above for scenics and habitat images. I use it to create bird scapes and images of groups of birds, for flight images of single birds with either TC and often with the 1.4X III TC for flocks in flight and for blast off blurs. It is a great travel and all purpose nature and wildlife lens. It is rare that I am in the field without having the 70-200 II on my shoulder via the Black Rapid S-7 strap.

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5 comments to Creating Black-lit Magic

  • avatar Denny

    Something else to fill those long winter evenings up here in Calgary Artie. It’s already getting dark before 5:00pm. Thanks.

  • Hi,
    Is it Black-lit or back-lit magic? Keep up the great work.

    Don

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks. I start with a backlit image and then create a black-let image in Photoshop. If you were using film, you could go for the same looks with a big underexposure. artie

  • Artie , so sorry not being at the airport , I was at bed with 39º fever. I hope you and Denise spend really good time in Torres del Paine and hope to see you soon .

    The best for both of you .

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      We were looking for you. We had a great time. And we had a nice dinner with Alejandro Furman. We will see you next time. Hope that Spain was great. artie