Daily Photo – Dagny at the Edge

The Daily Photo series focuses on the two or three key creative choices, in terms of composition and processing, that go into creating an image.  Specific technical details about the shot have been left out — you won’t hear me talking about tone curve adjustments and whatnot unless it was a key component of the end result.

Dagny tiptoes to the edge of a small stream behind the Austin Music Hall.


  • Shutter:  1/250
  • Aperture:  f/2
  • ISO:  400
  • Camera:  Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III
  • Lens:  Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM

Composition and Processing

  • Between the blue dress, red hair, and green plants in the background, you’d think this would be better as a color shot.  The rest of the scene, however, is extremely monochrome. making the limited areas of color more distracting than beneficial to the shot.  Going to black and white created a more uniform texture in the background and revealed the pattern there.  And instead of separation based on color, it’s now based more on tone and sharpness (the background falls in between Dagny’s dress and light edges of her arms).
  • The lighting conditions were fairly dark due to a low overcast sky and late afternoon sun.  There was also a steady breeze blowing.  Because of Dagny’s long hair, I didn’t feel comfortable dropping below 1/250.  And while this shot would have worked just as well (or better) at f/1.4 or f/1.2, the low contrast conditions were making it difficult to auto-focus (and it was too dark to manually focus and see if the image was sharp in the viewfinder).  So I went with f/2 to give myself a little wiggle room in case the autofocus didn’t nail things just right.  As for ISO, I certainly could have pushed it to 800 or 1600; the tradeoff was between pushing it two stops in Lightroom (revealing the slightly greater shadow noise of the camera) or accepting the added sensor noise in the highlights for the higher ISO.  I suspect it’s a wash either way, but I tend to err on the low ISO side.


April 12 2009 08:10 pm | Photography

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