Limits to technology: Light still wins.

I wanted to talk a bit about an image from my refuge trip. Take a look at this one of the Sandhill Cranes dancing:

Sandhill Cranes Dancing, San Luis National Wlidlife Refuge, California

Sandhill Cranes Dancing, San Luis National Wlidlife Refuge, California

It’s a good photo, but not a great one. I love the movement and emotion in the cranes, but the birds come across as grey and muted. Unfortunately, that’s about as good as I can make it, given the light. Here’s the unmodified image out of the camera:

Sandhill Cranes Dancing, San Luis National Wlidlife Refuge, California

Sandhill Cranes Dancing, San Luis National Wlidlife Refuge, California

Yup, those birds were almost perfectly backlit, the sun being about 15 degrees to the right behind them. Unfortunately, wild cranes aren’t very good at following production directions and you take what you get.

And what you get here isn’t a great image, but a salvageable one. But as good as the X-T2 sensor is at recording an image and giving you the detail in shadows to bring out, there are still limits here.

With most older cameras, these images wouldn’t even have been salvageable; the birds would have been black, featureless blobs. You could have tried to push the exposure and blow out the brush to expose for the birds, but even then it’s unlikely you’ll have a usable image.

Because the missing thing here is contrast, and in that direct backlit situation, the shadow detail is there thanks to the X-T2 sensor (which I’m loving) the contrast isn’t; it turns into a detailed grey blob instead of a featureless black blob.

Which is a great reminder to all of us that we need to remember that no matter how good the gear is that we shoot with, the light still matters and you can’t fix bad light in post processing — minimize the damage, maybe, and that ability keeps getting better, but bad light is always going to be bad light.

Now if only the birds had turned in profile…

Sandhill Cranes, San Luis National Wlidlife Refuge, California

Sandhill Cranes, San Luis National Wlidlife Refuge, California