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Old Monday 5th August 2013, 16:45   #1
CalvinFold
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Nikon Coolpix 4500: Overcast and Over-Bright

So I find myself with less-than-ideal lighting conditions lately, which is challenging my Nikon Coolpix 4500. Okay, well challenges me probably more than the camera, since I'm no photography genius.

I'm using the 4500 with a Celestron C90 scope, and aside from changing the AF mode to Center Weighted (which seems to work best on the scope), I'm using these settings:

http://www.digiscoped.com/DigiscopingTechnique.html

They work great...in middle-of-the-day, general sunlit conditions. However:

--In overcast, gloomy, flat/low light conditions the images have very little color. I guess contrast and saturation are what is lacking: everything has a "blah" quality about it. I'm not expecting anything spectacular, just seems like I might be missing a trick to improve these shots and give Photoshop more to work with.

--When the sunlight is too bright on white feathers, the highlights blow-out (or at least leave me little or no wiggle room to adjust photos without complex curve adjustments...and I'm inherently lazy about my photography ).

Maybe there is nothing I can do given my camera, which is fair enough. Figured I could ask on the off chance there are tips to be had.

THANKS!
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Old Wednesday 7th August 2013, 12:59   #2
janvangastel
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Calvin, mine have also that grayish look in darker weather. I make the images better sitting behind my computer, with Paintshop Pro.
As for the problem with the white color blowing out: does your camera have a histogram that can be made visible in the viewfinder or on the screen? If so, you will see that in the situations you describe the curve is high against the right side - is the white side - of the histogram. It is possible to correct that (before taking a photograph) by playing a little with the exposure bias compensation and get the curve a little further to the left side of the histogram.
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Old Saturday 10th August 2013, 20:33   #3
CalvinFold
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Quote:
Originally Posted by janvangastel View Post
Calvin, mine have also that grayish look in darker weather. I make the images better sitting behind my computer, with Paintshop Pro.
I guess I'm innately lazy. I know reasonably well how to pixel-jockey an image with Photoshop, but I don't like to out-and-out edit a photo beyond curves, brightness, contrast, etc. (tonal adjustments). Mostly just to compensate for the bad lighting as much as I can, and a small amount of vignetting with my setup.

Quote:
As for the problem with the white color blowing out: does your camera have a histogram that can be made visible in the viewfinder or on the screen?
Not that advanced. It's a "prosumer" camera from about 10 years ago (Nikon Coolpix 4500). Has alot of manual settings, but nothing like that.

Quote:
If so, you will see that in the situations you describe the curve is high against the right side - is the white side - of the histogram. It is possible to correct that (before taking a photograph) by playing a little with the exposure bias compensation and get the curve a little further to the left side of the histogram.
I might be able to do this blindly, there is an exposure compensation adjustment. Trial-and-error maybe.

It doesn't always completely blow-out the white feathers, mostly just when the sun is glary at the right angles, like side-lit, low angle (sundown). I'm looking at getting a lens hood for the scope because under those conditions I'm getting "veiling" lens flares as well.

Shooting with a (tele)scope is fun and rewarding, but I find it's more finicky and forcing me to learn alot more about photography and lighting and lenses and such. ;-p
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Old Saturday 10th August 2013, 21:04   #4
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Calvin, if the highlights blow out you could try to adjust the exposure settings in the camera try -1/3 or -1/2 stop to see how it goes. If the darker areas are then slightly underexposed you can always bring up the detail in Photoshop or whatever software you have avalailable.
Detail in darker areas of an image can be rescued but when brighter areas are blown out the detail is lost completely.



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Old Wednesday 14th August 2013, 15:15   #5
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Wanted to thank everyone for their advice. I still don't have my dew shield for the C90, but I was out taking photos near sundown last night. I tried three different Contrast settings as well as a couple Exposure settings (-1.0 and -2.0 EV I think is what it said).

On the Coolpix 4500, at any rate, the Exposure controls don't seem to work as well as adjusting the Contrast controls.

The effect of the Exposure controls made the entire photo too dark to the point of plugging-up the shadows, and doesn't improve the highlights in the historgram in any useful way. In sundown conditions this makes the photos tough to "fix" in Photoshop.

There are 4 settings for Contrast on the Coolpix: 1) Auto; 2) None; 3) Darker; and 4) Brighter.

I had been using Auto which generally gives better photos without adjustments, but apparently doesn't handle extremes of lighting well. "None" was better, the histogram being more packed towards the middle and dark tones (the manual says this mode is best if you intend to edit your photos). They look a little flat right of the camera, but clean-up nice with a quick Curves adjustment.

For super bright/contrasty light on a white bird (such as sundown pointing in the general direction of the sun), "Darker" worked best. Straight from the camera they look over-dark, but the histogram shows even more shadow/midtone skew but a preservation of much more highlight data, and cleans-up easily enough with Curves.

(White-tailed kites make nice test subjects, having white, almost-black, and medium-grey feathers. It's like having a density chart in bird form!)

The camera still blows-out some highlights under these extreme conditions (brilliantly white feathers, with contrasty side lighting), but they are alot better than they were.

So thanks for prodding me to go explore my camera settings! Also a special thanks to the white-tailed kite who decided to perch in the perfect place for over an hour so I can shoot, change settings, shoot some more, and so on. (I'd share photos, but Mr. Wind decided to blow gustily at up to 11 kph which gave vibration blur to all the shots...not razor sharp).

WOODY: F-stops and ISO are two concepts I still don't wrap my head around well. I'm using semi-auto mode called "Aperture Priority" and a setting where the zoom level also changes the settings the camera uses. So f-stops and ISO are selected automatically (though in this mode I believe it biases towards ISO 100 whenever possible). Bear in mind just doing what I mentioned above is a huge leap in camera-fiddling for me.

Last edited by CalvinFold : Wednesday 14th August 2013 at 15:19.
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Old Monday 19th August 2013, 22:55   #6
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Calvin, Aperture Priority is my preferred setting. I always use f5.6 or f6.3 for bird pictures as it gives a shallow depth of depth thereby throwing distracting background out of focus. At f5.6 the lens would then be wide open allow in maximum light and a faster shutter speed. F8 or higher will reduce the shutter speed. In Aperture Priority the camera will select a shutter speed depending on the available light. In SLR cameras you can manually select the ISO. The higher ISO 200, 400 or higher will give faster shutter speeds.
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