Into the Sun at Lake Geneva—a nuts and bolts photographic exercise.

Here’s one solution to a difficult lighting problem: A few days ago when I was photographing along the shore of Lake Geneve at St. Saphorin, Switzerland I had a nice clean over-the-shoulder sun lit view for eastward trains, but was looking directly into the blazing morning sun for westward trains.

The scenery was too good to let the photographic opportunity pass.

So what did I do? I changed lenses. Specifically, I opted to use my Zeiss 12mm Touit on FujiFilm X-T1, and then stop all the way down.

What do I mean by ‘stop down’? This is a traditional photographic term that means to close the aperture by a full-stop increment. Say from f4 to f5.6. (Each one-stop change doubles or halves the amount of light reaching the film/sensor. Opening up a stop doubles the light, closing down halves it.) To ‘stop all the way down’ is to close the lens to its smallest aperture. In the case of my Zeiss lens, this is f22.

With the 12mm Tuoit, at f22 the tiny hole with the very wide-angle focal length combine to allow for a sun-burst effect. To take advantage of this sun-effect with a moving train, I had to increase the ISO to 1250, (because f22 lets in much less light to the sensor than I normally would during daylight.)

The secondary difficulty with this image is the narrow exposure latitude of the digital media. By exposing for the sun, I’ve had to seriously underexpose for the front of the locomotive.

This is the unaltered camera-produced JPG, which doesn’t make full advantage of the information captured in the RAW file. Under normal lighting conditions the camera JPG is usual adequate for presentation, but in this circumstance it results in a loss of detail in the shadow areas, specifically at the front of the locomotive.

To compensate for this, I manipulated the RAW camera file in post-processing (after exposure) using Lightroom, which allowed me to brighten the shadow areas and control the highlights.

Unaltered camera-RAW file except for scaling.
Here’s my interpretation of the RAW file, which has been scaled for internet. I’ve lightened shadow areas, removed a few spots caused by shadows of dirt on the front element, and controlled highlights. The flare is an effect of pointing directly at the sun. While the extreme wide-angle  using a flat-field lens design  results in some linear distortion at the edges, most noticeable on the locomotive.

I’ve included a screenshot of the Lightroom work panel that reveals how I’ve adjusted the slider controls on this specific file.

Lightroom work panel showing the positions of slider controls.

Significantly, Lightroom makes a working overlay file and DOES NOT alter the original RAW image. Working on the RAW directly would damage the original file. I advise against working directly with the original. Always make a copy.

Tracking the Light Posts Every Day.

3 thoughts on “Into the Sun at Lake Geneva—a nuts and bolts photographic exercise.”

  1. „Working on the RAW directly would damage the original file. “

    Hi, as far as I know you cannot ruin the RAW file, because it is a RAW file. Ever tried to save a RAW file as RAW file. It won’t work

  2. A gradient ND filter would also work but would burn the gradient into the original.

Comments are closed.