Focusing in Landscape

Discussion in 'Canon EOS' started by subhra_das|1, Jan 26, 2010.

  1. Hi All,
    I have noticed a problem the way I capture my Images, no matter what I do, I am struggling to get a clear and crisp image. The problem basically is in landscape photograph or any scene which contains land and sky or water or sky. I usually focus at the point where the land any sky meet together but after I click I get a image where the land are is too dark and the sky is perfect. Doesn’t help me either with shooting in RAW.
    I make sure the light meter is at the middle
    If I shoot in overcast day I get a white sky. And If I shoot in golden hours I get a perfect sky but the land is dark.
    I am using 500D along with wide lens.
    Please put some suggestions for me.
  2. what metering method are you using? i.e. spot, evaluative etc...
  3. I am using the evaluative metering and I am using the in build camera light meter
  4. You are exceeding the cameras dynamic range and it has nothing to do with focusing and everything to do with exposure. The humman eye can see in very dark and very bright light at the same time and still make out detail. The difference between white and black for the human eye can be around 20 stops. A typical digital is limited to brightness difference between white amd black of about 8 stops. If you expose for the sky the hill will be back. If you expose for the hill the sky will be white instead of blue (the sky is over exposed but hill is correct).
    To resolve this situation you can make several exposures of different exposures and combine them in the computer to increase the dynamic range (a process called HDR for High Dynamic Range). Or you can use a graduated nuetral density filter that is dark on one side and clear on the other. When properly placed in front of the lens it will darken the bright portion of the image while not affecting the exposure of the dark area. A third option would be to accept that you cannot get it all and allow a portion of the picture to go dark, or comback later when the lighting is different hoping the problem will go away.
    In the upper right of there is a search box. There are a lot of useful articles in If you search for words like HDR, exposure, and filters you will find more information.
  5. I know what a HDR is. Any way thanks.
    But I hate making HDR images. I hate the way they look
  6. Steven's advice is good, but I agree with you about HDR, which I only use as a last resort (and I'm never happy with the results). I think your best options are the graduated neutral density filters, which come in various exposure factor gradations for different lighting situations. Another option is a circular polarizer, but those only work well when you're shooting 90-degrees from the sun's direction.
  7. f72


    ND filters are the best for your problem,hear is a link to give an idea
  8. david_henderson


    Just a few points
    • The problem you have here is exposure not focussing. It doesn't have much to do with focus, it has to do with the fact that sometimes you want to take photographs where the brightness range of the subject is greater than the ability of the film or sensor to record it accurately
    • You can use grads that don't cost more than a fraction of what Singh Ray charge.
    • Whatever brand of grads you choose - if you go that way- be careful to examine them and make sure they are neutral , otherwise you'll get strange colours in the sl=kies. Return them if you're not happy
    • You can use HDR techniques without tone-mapping, and other masking techniques to combine images without the pictures looking unnatural.
    • I'd rather put it that polarisers work most stronly at 90 degrees to the sun. They don't have to be at exactly 90 to polarise somewhat.
    • If the foreground close to you is too dark then you can use fill flash to increase exposure there so you can reduce exposure for the sky and background.
    • When skies are too bright sometimes you can wait till the sun is partly veiled behind thin cloud before taking your picture.
  9. HDR is only one solution to this, and probably not the cleanest one. GND filters are, and have been for decades, the fastest, simplest, and cleanest way to achieve balance between your dark landscapes and bright skies.
    Alternatively, you can plan your widescape photographs for early morning or late afternoon, when the brightness of the sky will not yet exceed the brightness of the ground by more than 1 or 2 stops. Nature supplies this solution every morning and night for about 15 minutes to help landscape photographers.
  10. Will it make any vast difference if I make the ND filter job in Photoshop RAW or Lightroom.
  11. Either wait for better lighting or HDR it. You can muck around with graduated ND filters (I know I do from time to time) but all they are is a primitive (and limited) form of HDR. There is no reason that an HDR has to look any more or less unnatural than a shot with grad NDs. It comes down to user taste (some seem to favor the unnatural look) or user inexperience (some seem to unable to avoid the unnatural look).
  12. The Grad ND works well in LR. Here is part of my response to another post about grad ND filters. This guy wants to get a grad ND for the same problem you have:

    Have you tried HDR? Some people don't like it and consider it cheating, but in my opinion, its the best possible way to represent in a single photo exactly what the human eye sees. Go to This is the Photomatix website where you can download a free trial of the software. Research how to bracket shots and to use HDR and play with this for a few days before you buy a grad ND; this may be the solution.
    Here is a good article on HDR from Outdoor Photographer Magazine.
    Go to the 2nd page and read the part about Rob Sheppard in Yosemite.
    HDR takes numerous images, usually 3-5 that are exposed from one end of the spectrum to the other in a scene. One photo gets the brightest sky, one gets the darkest land, and others get everything in between. You stack them using the software to produce one image that has everything exposed perfectly.
  13. The problem you describe isn't a focus problem, it is an exposure problem.
    The simplest and most reliable solution in most cases is to rely on the histogram display to judge your exposure. Using the "expose to the right" approach, in general you want the right "point" of the histogram curve to closely approach or just barely touch the right side of the histogram display and you want to avoid a curve the crunches up against this right side producing tall spikes here. These indicate that you have blown out highlights, and blown highlights are difficult or impossible to recover. (This is a generalized description - there is a bit more to it than this.)
    Use manual exposure controls.
    Ideally the left (or dark) end of the histogram will not produce a spike at the left edge either. In the best cases the entire curve should typically be contained within the boundaries of the display without peaks at either end. If one end needs to be clipped slightly, better the left (dark) end in most cases than the right (bright) end. Especially if you shoot RAW mode you'll be able to recover some shadow detail in post in most cases.
    If you encounter an extremely wide dynamic range scene in which you cannot avoid serious peaks in the histogram at both ends you may have to resort to one of several approaches:
    1. Reconcile yourself to either blown highlights (usually a poor idea) or blocked shadows (not a great idea but in some cases might be better tolerated than blown highlights). I don't recommend either of these in general.
    2. Control the wide dynamic range by using a graduated neutral density filter of one sort or another. The specifics are beyond the scope of my response here.
    3. Use exposure blending. For example, make one exposure for good shadows and a second from good highlights, with the camera on a tripod and by using shutter speed variations to get the different exposures. Then blend the better parts of the two images in Photoshop using one or more of several available techniques.
  14. david_henderson


    Will it make any vast difference if I make the ND filter job in Photoshop RAW or Lightroom?​
    It depends whether you've managed to capture all available detail in the lightest and darkest parts of the scene in which you want to hold detail. You can add as much grad as you want in post, but if you've blown the sky it won't look nice. Sometimes you might need more than one exposure to get all that- though hold on , thats getting close to HDR; isn't that where we were before?
    ND filters at the scene, as well as other "at the scene" measures give you the best chance of compressing the scene brightness range in a single exposure. An exception might occur with cameras such as rangefinders where its difficult to position ND grads well.
    So the answer is "sometimes".
  15. You metioned you hate HDR images. I don't care for the over done ones but you can get normal results using HDR like the one posted below.
  16. If I may add —
    The reason Robert’s excellent example doesn’t have the “HDR” look to it is that he never remaps the basic tone curve. The shadows are still darker than the midtones and the highlights are still brighter than the midtones. All he’s done is use multiple exposures to capture detail in the shadows and highlights, while still retaining their relative brightnesses.
    A tiny Web preview such as the one above certainly doesn’t do it justice. I’m sure that, on a decent-sized well-made print, the roof would be full of lots of fine detail.
    It’s also worth noting that painters have, for centuries, used techniques that are essentially identical to what we today call “HDR.” Not only does it make for more dramatic images, it also mimics the way the eye / brain combination works. Used well, it’s a very effective tool. Overused, and it’s like a chef with too heavy a hand with the spices.
  17. david_henderson


    I do understand that there is a lot more extreme examples of HDR around, but if you think that looks real-----.
    I don't often associate Outdoor Photographer with sublety, and I recognise that this feature and examples doesn't get all the way there but there are a couple of images in this article that might pass for a single edited image.
  18. Consider getting a split ND filter. They can be invaluable when doing landscales. However, to use one to it's maximum value, you should disregard what the camera's meter says and use the split ND in conjunction with a spot meter. Camera meters are for the most part, dumb.
  19. This might be a lot easier than heeding all of the posts above. You have described where you focus and although, as everyone has pointed out, focus is not the problem, your interest in focussing at that point, the junction of the sky and the land, which seems completely unnecessary, is where your problem lies. Instructions for hand held meters often suggest pointing the meter down slightly so as to reduce the influence of the bright sky. An incident meter reading or an in-camera meter reading from the subject of interest and manual settings derived from these might give you a satisfactory result more often than you are getting. Shifting to more manual control of both focus and exposure gives greater control. Admittedly my modest successes with landscape and manual settings is all on film, which has a wider dynamic range, but it's worth a try.
  20. I admit most HDR images look pretty awful, but that has (much) more to do with (poor) taste than the technique as such. I use it very often myself, because I like to photograph near sunset and sunrise, which often gives difficult light situations, and I like to think, in all modesty, I get natural results. There's a good article on the internet about natural HDR, google for 'Erik Reinhard flickr HDR', which describes the problems and possible solutions.
  21. I am slightly confused with the questions you asked, because at the heading you mentioned about 'focusing' and in the body you wrote about 'exposure'
    anyway there are easy solutions for both as already most of the people said.
    1. you are having focussing problem, then use low aperture ( f/16 may be)
    to keep everything on focus.
    If still your photo is not sharp from foreground to background then
    use tripod, cable release , mirror lock whenever possible.

    2. There are lot of ways to get proper exposure all over the scene.
    Grad ND is definitely one of them, but if light condition variation exceeds
    the dynamic range of camera and Grad ND then do a multiple exposure blending.
    hope this helps.
  22. Previous contributers on this subject are right on target.
    Not to overlook the focusing issue, (which could be a contributer to the problem) some points to keep in mind:
    When shooting during the "magic hours" ambient light is diminshed and requires extended shutter opening as well as higher ISOs. Smaller apetures used in many landscape shots to increase DOF also limit light through the lens. Finally, ND and polarizing filters further reduce light to the lens. As a result, longer exposures are necessary. A significant amount of blur under these conditions, can be due to motion blur. If you are not already, be sure to use a good tripod, a tight head and cable release in taking your landscape photos.
    One thing that has struck me (since being obtaining my 50D last year) is how easy motion blur can creep into a landscape shot. To observe this phenomena, set your Live View to 10x magnification then ever so slightly tap the tripod or camera. It actually takes a couple of seconds for the shaking to stop. (Shaking that is otherwise imprectible at normal magnification, yet contributing to subtle motion blur and apparant focusing problem in the final product.
    Another point of note referenced by the previous contributer is setting the focus point in a landscape shot. This is generally a two step process of selecting a focus point about 1/3 way into the image (often selecting a foreground subject) and secondly choosing a small apeture of at least f/8 or above. This process, effectively extends your Depth of Field throughout the entire image all the way to infinity (including your horizon). It is preferable to focus manually, (AF is less accurate) using your Live View at full magnification to confirm your focus.
  23. Very useful information so far . Really appreciate you all.
    I have tried the technique of masking in PS. I have experimented few shots and corrected them. Masking technique looks much much more natural than HDR.
  24. I shoot mostly with black and white film so it's less of a problem. But with a DSLR you should still be OK in many situations, but you can't do magic. I always meter toward the ground, but you may get a less then perfect sky, depending on the light. I advise to look for better lighting, or combine a bit more exposure with a bit of photoshopping to bring up the shadows.
  25. GND's are great for nice flat horizons but in many cases can also cause problems with complex horizon shapes. Although HDR can look horrible, the newer software has improved considerably and you can make very natural looking shots with some practice. Also some shots don't require true HDR shots and a simple 2 exposure shoot, one for shadows/midtones the other for highights/sky can be easily blended in PS for a very natural result.

    I have uploaded a 3 shot HDR image I processed initially in photomatix 3.24 and then some minor work in PS

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