Crepe Myrtle Glow

I walk by these trees every day - I had my dog out for a walk and was carrying my macro lens just in case I encountered anything interesting. I turned around and saw the evening light create a wonderful soft glow from the side of the Crepe Myrtle.

Specific Feedback Requested

I wanted to post this for advice. I feel that this is a cool scene with a bad source image. Realizing the limitations of the macro, if I exposed for an aperture to get the DOF that I needed to get it all in focus, I. was afraid the ISO would need to be too high. I used the slowest shutter speed I could get away with handheld (I’m not very steady). As a result of the aperture needed, some of the tree closest to me and in the “pockets” are soft and out of focus.

Any advice on how to overcome the technical issues in the field that I’m not thinking of?

Any processing ideas to deal with the out of focus areas that I might not be aware of?

I would appreciate any other feedback as well.

Technical Details

Is this a composite: No
Fuji Macro 80mm
SS 1/100
ISO 160

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Posting the uncropped version to show all of the out of focus areas described above. Thanks in advance for any help!


Dan, It’s a great subject and absolutely worthwhile to figure out the technique to achieve your vision.

My first question is did you try higher ISOs? I think we photographers want to use the very lowest ISO we can and for good reason, but we also let that get in the way of us getting the shot we want because we are afraid higher ISOs lead to grainier or otherwise poor quality images - you even described yourself above as afraid of high ISO!

I’ve shot many of my portfolio images at ISOs of 3200 to 6400 because they enable me to fulfill my vision and I have absolutely no issue with the quality. I’ve printed this image, Reflection of Light, which I shot at ISO 4000 and the print looks fantastic. My processing technique includes bumping up the noise reduction a little. And you know what? I’m fine with a little grain anyway.

With images strong in texture like the one posted here, a high ISO should work just fine. It will gain you massive shutter speed and/or aperture advantages.

My overarching advice about high ISOs to my fellow photographers is to experiment. Images are free to take and you’ll learn tons, plus you may get the image you want and you’ll push yourself into new territory creatively.

If you happen to have captured this image with a higher ISO, post it too.

Hi Dan! Nice shot, beautiful colors! You and anyone else can correct me if I’m wrong, because I want to know… But wouldn’t it help with focus and sharpness if you had a smaller aperture? Kind of going along with the higher iso already mentioned. I’m putting myself out on a limb here but because my camera doesn’t do well with high iso I usually try to do the slowest ss first while tightening up my aperture and then start upping the iso as needed. Probably nothing new… Thanks for reading!

This is a lovely image with beautiful colors. I can relate to your wanting everything sharp but in this case I’m not bothered by the softer areas. A round trunk is a very difficult subject for getting everything in focus, especially if it is small, in which case you would be close to it, which reduces DOF. A longer shutter speed and/or higher ISO is the only option. A good tripod helps.

It wasn’t your question, but I would love to see the highlights in the UR brought down. That could give a lovely richness to the warm color there.

@Matt_Lancaster Thanks so much Matt. You are totally right. I got stuck in the “rule” of lowest possible ISO. I didn’t even try something higher, but the good news is that this tree is five minutes from home so hopefully I’ll have another shot. I love the Reflection of Light image. I will definitely give myself latitude to shoot at higher ISO’s moving forward. Do you use any particular program for noise reduction like topaz, etc or do you find LR / PS to be sufficient?

@Vanessa_Hill thanks so much for the kind words. You are absolutely right that using a smaller aperture would give more DOF. That was the issue for sure. I had hamstrung myself by locking in the lowest possible ISO and having to shoot a higher shutter speed because I was handheld and I’m not very steady anyway. The only way I could get enough light for the exposure was a larger aperture. It was backward thinking on the creative problem solving for sure!

@Diane_Miller I appreciate the feedback so much. I see how those highlights have made the image a bit off balance as well. In addition to washing out those colors. Thanks again!

I use a plug-in for NR from Greg Benz for LR that’s adaptive, so it automatically adjusts the amount and characteristics of NR based on the ISO and other factors. So far, so good.

Yes, don’t be afraid to bend, break, make up your own, or work without rules. I find such a practice liberating and expansive.

Would love to see more from you.

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Daniel, the colors an textures of this tree are very attractive, I can see what caught your eye here, and the light isn’t too shabby either :grinning:

Unfortunately the OOF area in the URC, is distracting for me, partly because of it’s brightness and partly due to DOF issues. Since you live near this tree, here are a few thoughts. Maybe I’m old school, but how about using a tripod, which will let you shoot at f16 or f22 and good old ISO 100? No need for noise reduction in that case. Now to be fair, @Diane_Miller is right, the curved surface of a tree trunk sometimes means that even f22 may not get you enough DOF to get everything sharp, but it will get you a lot more than f5.6. And then taking it a step further, shoot from a tripod at f11, and use focus stacking. Bracket multiple shots at the same exposure setting but with different focus points to expand DOF. Some cameras allow focus stacking to be done in-camera, or it can be done in Photoshop, or with the use of a dedicated stacking software like Helicon Focus, which I use. This tree has enough potential that I’d give it another go !!

Dan, this is a good looking shot of this tree. The textures, “flow” and color shifts come together well. I don’t find the oof area in the upper right to be much of a problem. I also think that you can easily fix that by burning-in that area to reduce how much attention it gets. As other’s have said, many modern cameras show very little noise at higher iso. What extra noise they do have is easily corrected in processing. I regularly shoot my 7D2 at iso 4000-6400 and just add a bit of extra noise reduction raw processing, with fine results.

@Ed_McGuirk and @Mark_Seaver thank you both for taking the time to review this and for your thoughts and ideas. I definitely plan to try to capture this again with my tripod! Great idea to use focus stacking to get around the curved tree / DOF issue. I need to try more focus stacking as this technique is something I have only played around with a little bit.

Here’s a rework with the RUC adjusted / burned. I tried to keep it balanced with the LUC. I think because it’s soft and out of focus taking the highlights down too much just made them look grey. This is probably just user error on my part as I’m very much still honing my processing skills. But I think it’s still better than the original. Thanks for the input everyone!