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Photographing a Sunset: Doing It the Old-Fashioned Way

By  Dec 15, 2009

Topics: Digital Photography

Question: I just finished reading "The Moment It Clicks" and liked the idea of "30 magenta plus full green equals good sunset" as I'm in AZ and the better it gets the better it gets. So I checked how much a 72mm 30 magenta would cost at B&H: $90 + shipping = I couldn't try it now. Not so good.

Then I realized you seem to be (still) in film mode when it comes to CB but with NEF you can set the CB before (to see how it might look) and after (where you can change your mind). So I got out my always willing model, M. Le Ours -- actually a stuffed bear but he won't work unless I call him M. -- and had him watch the sunset and shot one with CB set to Automatic (as always) camera EV-3, Flash EV +3, no gel.


Then gelled the Flash and shot another.


What I got, naturally, is a normal looking sunset in both cases but a green M. on the second. That's what it looked like on the LCD.

When I fed the NEF into the Photoshop:Adobe Camera Raw converter and adjusted the CB so M. looked as usual, the sky went violet pink. To make things easier, I ran a second test where I stuck a small "Killer Flick of White" on M.'s nose and then just made that white when I ran Adobe NEF RAW.

Seemed easy enough and I didn't have to shell out $90 and wait for the filter to show up. But maybe there's some advantage to doing it the old-fashioned way.

Answer: Hi, and the answer is -- as is true photographically so many times -- yes and no. You can make it work (and you did) just as you describe. The fickle world of digital is infinitely adjustable, sort of. Your LCD will look one way and your monitor another. My monitor is different from yours. In Raw, you can change lots and lots of stuff. The point I raise is that I am sorta/kinda unhappy with the digital interpretation of fluorescent white balance. It is hard for me to sort out exactly. So when I want this effect, I go straight up daylight, just like film would have been, and make my magenta and green adjustments from there. Don’t do this all the time, but is it an interesting thing to play with, as you are finding out. So no, you don’t have to do it this way, but I threw it out there for discussion because I do enjoy the certainty of the look, when I start from a straight up daylight white balance. The fluorescent white balance is still something I am playing with, and is a little tougher to manage.

Ask me a question so I can answer it in a future post on this blog.

Thanks, Joe