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Picture of the Week

July 20, 2010
Cowboy in diner

Duane Nelson, left, talks rodeo as diners enjoy a meal during the Kickoff Auction Benefit at the Auction Sales Yard in The Dalles Tuesday night. Copyright Mark B. Gibson/The Dalles Chronicle

Cowboys sure know how to dress. I loved the orange boots with the blue jeans, and the green chairs of the diner. There are saddles and all sorts of things on the walls, and a lot of people going in and out to get their meal.

A silent auction, with tables of stuff and people milling about looking at them, is pretty boring to shoot, and I wasn’t sure how to pull something out of the event. The diner was much more interesting, and after hanging out a bit I started shooting people as they left with their plates to eat outside, taking advantage of the light shining through the open door. Then this big cowboy settled himself on the other side of the door, and I knew I had a picture. I had barely managed to adjust the exposure (the doorway was very “hot” compared to the inside tables) when he was joined by his wife… who was wearing a flowery shirt that totally didn’t suit the picture.

My journalism instincts are a bit at odds with this picture… Where is his face? You really don’t know who he is or much about him. He becomes, in effect, the classic stereotypical Cowboy. But the event, which kicked off the rodeo, was a “classic stereotypical event” so I think it all works.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. clytie permalink
    July 20, 2010 21:21

    Ah, gotta love those boots!!! I think my favorite personality here is the little old lady at the end of the table who borrowed her husband’s hat for the day! She’s adorable!

  2. July 21, 2010 06:06

    LOVE those boots!!! How cool is that! I would be really interested in how you were able to tone down the “hot” areas of your photo. I am having troubles figuring out how to do that. I’m thinking I need some kind of solution one of these days.

    That photo is just perfect. His stance, those boots–the entire scenerio–well, it all just fills my eyes, which is the greatest compliment I can give.

    • July 24, 2010 22:03

      First off, I try to bracket some shots. This means I adjust the settings to give more and less light. Some cameras can do it automatically, with others you can use the +/_ feature, or in manual you can shift the aperature or shutter speed up or down. Monitor your results: Some cameras have a “highlight” warning on the LCD playback, the highlights will flash if they are “clipped” or over exposed. On the histogram, this clipping should show as a stack of pixels on the far right side of the graph, but even extensive clipping can result in a pretty thin line that is hard to spot.

      Reducing your exposure is the best in camera solution, maybe adding some fill flash to fill in the shadows that are also going to be darker. It will be easier to pull up the shadows later then fix the highlights: A clipped highlight has no detail, the information just isn’t there.

      I also shoot in a “raw” format most of the time. With Nikon these are NEF files, CR2 with Canon. Some cameras don’t offer this option. In the raw editor (I use Adobe Raw) you can adjust the “recovery” slider. This compiles highlight information from all the channels, and dampens the highlights down without turning them grey. If the problem is severe, sliding down the “exposure” can help.

      Of course sometimes the highlights clip, and if you are shooting JPEG it is very hard to fix. You can burn in shadows and midtones to a degree in GIMP or Photoshop or any other photo processing program. It generally doesn’t work to burn in the actual highlights, they just turn grey, remember that there is no information there. In GIMP or Photoshop that isn’t “elements,” you can use a “curves” adjustment to reduce the highlight glare to some degree.

      In this photo, I pulled the best highlights I could out of the Raw editor, then adjusted the midtones with the “levels” command. I then burned in the doorway midtones and shadows and his shirt. There was a certain amount of highlight clipping in the shirt, but it was a small enough area to work around.

      I then dodged the highlights in his boots, to make them “pop” a little. I always dodge highlights and burn midtones or shadows. You can really make a face stand out this way… or a pair of boots, if its rodeo week.

      • July 31, 2010 07:18

        I liked this very much. Thank you–I’m still such a novice at camera work, not to mention photoshop!

        This helped me a lot.

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