We saw on Facebook, a very interesting picture by Debraj Chakraborty. For the benefit of our readers, we requested him to write to us and explain how he went about capturing such a beautiful image, and Debraj happily agreed. This picture reminds us what Ansel Adams once said, “You don’t take a photograph, you make it”. Thank you Debraj for sharing your creativity. Here’s what he had to say about his image…
“I love to shoot water and it’s a key element in most of my landscape shots. As I belong to North East of India, I am blessed with lots of waterfalls, lakes and rivers nestled in-between its hilly terrain. Often, while shooting these water sources, I like to experiment with shutter speeds that depict the different characters of water. Likewise seascapes also attract me a lot but staying faraway from our coastline doesn’t give me enough opportunity to photograph seascapes. But this November I zeroed into some parts of our west coast – the Karnataka and Konkan coastline – which presented some exciting places to shoot with its rugged rocky beaches and islands.
The photograph you see here is from an island called St. Mary’s Island, just off the Malpe coast near to Udupi. This was on my list for a long time for its amazing hexagonal basalt rock columns which are unique of its kind in India. With a new set of filter system that I received from Nisi India and especially the 10- stop Neutral Density filter, it became even more exciting to shoot those rock formations while blurring out the details of the sea which gives a surreal touch to the image.
A 10-stop ND filter reduces the amount of light hitting the camera’s sensor by about 1000 times. To balance the exposure while using this filter, we need to use a longer shutter speed (balance the exposure by using a shutter speed 10 stops slower). The longer shutter speed causes motion blur in moving elements within the image, even in full sunlight, making it look surreal. So talking about the techniques used behind this scene, I was using a Nikon D810 camera with a Nikon 16-35mm ultra-wide-angle lens set at an aperture of f/11 at 16mm. The camera was mounted on a tripod and a trigger release was used to fire the shutter. The first thing I did was to find a suitable composition as I would for any shot. I wanted to achieve the misty-water look. So I found some rocks with water splashing over them and composed my shot without the ND filter, as it is not possible to see the subject once a 10-stop ND filter is attached to the lens. It’s vital to use a sturdy tripod with such shots due to the long exposures. Once I had the shot composed, the next step was to correctly focus and lock it there (typically, manual focus is the best option). At this point I took a test shot without the ND filter (camera on Aperture Priority mode) and then multiplied the shutter speed by 1000. As an example, if at ISO 100 and f/11, the shutter speed is 1/100, then the required shutter speed with the 10- stop ND filter would be 10 seconds with the camera set to manual mode (1/100 sec = 0.01 sec x 10000 = 10 sec). Based upon the calculation done on the settings without filters, my settings for this particular shot were f/11, and 25 seconds at ISO 64. Focal length was 16mm. There are also exposure charts available for 10-stop ND filters on the internet. I downloaded one and printed it on a small card and laminated it for ready reference in the field, which saves me a lot of time. If the shutter speed goes beyond 30 seconds, I use the Bulb setting in Manual exposure mode on my camera and use the stop-watch feature on my smartphone or a wristwatch to end the exposure at the correct calculated time. Using the camera’s mirror lock-up or exposure delay or the electronic front curtain (if available on your camera) can yield sharper images by avoiding the minor vibrations during the exposure.
Technique alone cannot make a shot standout or stunning; some sense of aesthetics together with subtly-done post processing will definitely improve the shot. Here in this image I kept the sky part less, as the sky was not as interesting as the land was with those bizarre rock formations. I looked for a good foreground element as it leads the viewer’s eye into the scene and also give a sense of being in that place. The light falling on the distant columnar rock face and a lone crow sitting on it, also added to the image. The surreal misty-looking water which resulted from using a strong ND filter, adds to the image by not dragging too much attention and making those rocky structure stand out.
A decent amount of work has also gone in post processing as I wanted to make it a gray-scale image. The foreground textures were accentuated a bit more then those distant objects to give depth to the image. Subtle adjustment has been done while converting the RAW file in Adobe Lightroom and later in Photoshop to adjust the tonalities in some isolated parts of the image. This was done using custom-made luminosity masks and applying the adjustment through those masks, which makes the adjustments not look obvious. As this is a black and white image, the blacks and whites in the image have to look really rich; which means the darkest black part to be true black and brightest white part to be true white but it has got a thin line where parts of the image is not over or underexposed in the process.
Lots have been discussed regarding this picture here but I feel that there is no perfect recipe for a better picture. Experimentation is the key and one has to try new things without fear of failure. Some of my very useful learning’s were from my failure and also the learning curve has to stay with one at all times.” |SP