Old 08-05-2008, 05:04 PM   #1
Slopes09
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Default Backlit B&W

I've always admired the backlit B&W genre quite a lot. However, whenever I attempt to capture it in an RP-worthy manner, I tend to bungle it in one way or another. Recent examples:
http://www.railpictures.net/viewreje...&key=715634621
http://www.railpictures.net/viewreje...&key=145685997
Any advice on shooting backlit B&Ws or on how I could improve these in the future?

Here's one that I really hope gets in, on appeal on the second one right now.
http://www.railpictures.net/viewreje...&key=259198233
http://www.railpictures.net/viewreje...&key=651754979
Any opinions on this one as well?

Thanks a lot!
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Old 08-05-2008, 05:16 PM   #2
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first: the flowers/weeds don't have enough presence to make an element to balance against the train, and you have a foreground of uninteresting dark grass. The scene doesn't support the train in terms of visual interest.

second: the tonality is really boring; you don't have an interesting mix of darks and lights. The area to the left of the train and below the structure is uniform and dark. The train has only a bit of light and you don't have a strong sense of it receding into the distance. The sky is blah and the wires are pretty bad. In general, the lights and darks come in large blocks instead of interestingly intermingled.
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Old 08-05-2008, 05:19 PM   #3
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third/fourth - very nice, very nice! I don't have the best monitor for this, but the sky still looks dark, especially on the left, yet it doesn't look like storm clouds. I suspect you need some sort of selective brightening in specific areas without blowing up the sun.
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Old 08-05-2008, 05:32 PM   #4
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I'd say you're not far off from having some decent some decent photos of the Backlit BW style. I dallied in the style once, and may go back if I ever get bored. Two things I really like to see in a Backlit BW shot are high tonal contrast like J said and that the train really pops from it's surroundings. You shots do one but miss a bit on the other.

First one the train stands out nicely, but I feel the nose should end up a bit darker so that you have more area with an almost black tone to it. Composition is also off on this one as the scene is very disjointed, and what's the point of including those weeds? Just because they're there?

Second one is OK, but a little heavy with wires! Again, going back to the train "popping", my personal preference with these shots is that the nose be almost black and placed agianst a light background, preferably the sky like you did on the first shot. Problem is, on this shot the dark nose is against the train's shadow, so it wouldn't pop anyway. Try shooting this lighting situation at more of a broadside angle to the to free up the nose from shadows. I'll echo what J said on the tonality, lots of mid-tones on this one, and not enough extremes.

Third one is the most interesting, but the fact that the locomotive is so dark makes it blend right in with those trees, and no contrast on the sides either. Bump the contrast on the locomotive quite a bit and see what happens. I like the idea.

By the way, my one and only Backlit BW shot. Not perfect, but follows my rules of the thumb fairly well.

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Old 08-05-2008, 05:35 PM   #5
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I too am a backlit B&W fan. See:

Image © Chris Paulhamus
PhotoID: 133623
Photograph © Chris Paulhamus

Image © Chris Paulhamus
PhotoID: 168918
Photograph © Chris Paulhamus

Image © Chris Paulhamus
PhotoID: 191302
Photograph © Chris Paulhamus

Image © Chris Paulhamus
PhotoID: 169597
Photograph © Chris Paulhamus

Image © Chris Paulhamus
PhotoID: 168808
Photograph © Chris Paulhamus


These were all RAW shots, with nothing special done in the setup. I used the Channel Mixer in PS2 to convert to B&W. Then it's up to your tastes as far as how contrasty you want the images to be...
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Old 08-05-2008, 10:11 PM   #6
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Ween, those are some of my favorite backlit B&Ws.

The weeds in the first shot are there because:
1) I like how they looked backlit, with the kind of soft edges.
2) It was sitting in an open field of nothingness. Pretty uninteresting. An attempt to add interest.

The locomotive you may recall from this shot:
Image © Mike Wnek
PhotoID: 244746
Photograph © Mike Wnek

It was sitting there long enough that I was able to return to get some night shots of it.

The second shot I may retry but from slightly under the bridge (there's a concrete embankment) in an attempt to get rid of those wires and get a little more of a broadside. It may also allow me to get better contrast between the nose and background.

I think I'll end up going back on the third shot (if the screeners still don't like it) and see what I can do selective brightening-wise. As for the contrast, on my monitor I can see a difference between the locomotive and the trees. However, on my monitor at work, it's a lot harder to tell. So, honestly not sure.

Right now, my channel mixer is only OK. I really need to upgrade to Photoshop Elements, in general.

Thanks for all the tips everyone! I've never actually had a good idea what I was doing for these shots, and know I have a far better idea.
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Old 08-06-2008, 10:15 AM   #7
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I Liked this one so I tweaked it in photoshop a bit, and a bit more after that followed by some tweaking again. Arr ok it took a little bit of work but this is what I came up with.



Working from the original should produce a better result.

Cheers,

Christine.
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Old 08-06-2008, 10:24 AM   #8
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What's killing the shot is the sun is to high up ( to bright ) In the last 1/2 hour of light you have 2 stops less light to blow out the high lights.
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Old 08-06-2008, 01:20 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by milwman
What's killing the shot is the sun is to high up ( to bright ) In the last 1/2 hour of light you have 2 stops less light to blow out the high lights.


That's if you were properly exposing the shot, not creatively exposing it.
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Old 08-07-2008, 02:46 AM   #10
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I hope the aforementioned NS shot does get in, even if the sun is a bit high. To me, that's what b&w thrives on - the extreme whites and extreme darks. Can't have a better combo than direct sun and a dirty NS locomotive!

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