High key forest images

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This should be a relatively easy question out there for the 'senior' photographers in the crowd.

I've been looking at a lot of forest images by various photographers, and it seems that a great many of them are fairly high key. I very much like these images, and I'd like to try some of my own. Can someone enlighten me as to how this is done?

I'm guessing that if the forest has a lot of green (as opposed to lighter colors in the Winter - no leaves), you would perhaps expose the shadows around zone IV, and use a green filter to lighten the green areas. I don't think that extra exposure alone was used, since the darker areas (such as the tree trunks) look somewhat realistic.

The one problem I have is that I don't have a plain green filter - I have a tri-color #58, which I don't think would be appropriate. Or would it?

Opinions, please.


-- Ken Miller (andawyr@hotmail.com), January 15, 2002


Yor're on the right track. Just watch where your high values fall when you place the forest shadows on Zone IV. If they fall much above VIII control them with reduced development. The green filter will help seperate the leaves from other non-green tones of similar value.

-- r (ricardospanks1@yahoo.com), January 16, 2002.

Generally speaking, the technique you're interested in involves moving the darkest areas up to Zone IV, or even Zone V. This of course would place the highlights well beyond Zone X if the shot is done under reasonably sunny conditions, which is essential for the type image you're after. This necessitates compensation development to bring the highlights down to a level within the film's range. I highly recommend compensation as opposed to pulling to achieve this effect.

As for filtration, the #58 should work well, assuming we're talking about predominately green foliage. If, however, you had an important tree trunk that was reddish brown, you should anticipate it appearing darker. In that case, you might want a lighter green filter or no filter at all. Keep in mind, too, that you will be compressing tones, so you will probably see less tonal separation between the various leave colors.

-- Ted Kaufman (writercrmp@aol.com), January 16, 2002.

If you shoot in overcast you can move shadows up a lot, to Zone 6 if you want. Watch the highlights come up in the developer & you can control the negative well. Don't rule out painting shadow areas of the negative with selenium toner to get more density & keep the dark print areas more acceptable. Dense negatives won't hurt here at all. Try a couple by doing 3 or 4 exposures of the same shot, bracketing & then hone in on which works for you and you will be well on the way to fine tuning it to match your vision. If you are using roll film, try a big bracket (making notes both of exposure & which you think at the time will give you which results... helps later when you try to remember as you view the contacts or prints). You might see some surprises this way especially as you shoot both with and without a filter when doing a direct comparison.

-- Dan Smith (shooter@brigham.net), January 16, 2002.

Have a look at this


This picture was made in a snow-covered forest towards an open field on which there was a cloudy sun. I used a tree to determine the shutter speed, went up 0.5 stop and then aimed in the direction of the sun. No filters used.

Key is to find a bright background or element (e.g. water, snow) in your photo and expiriment with stops.

-- ReinierV (rvlaam@xs4all.nl), January 17, 2002.

Why not shooting Infrared ? make a test with Kodak High Speed Infrared and a deep red filter and you shall most probably be satisfied with the results.

-- George Papantoniou (papanton@hol.gr), January 17, 2002.

This question depends a lot on what format film you are using. If you are using roll film then development schemes such as pulling the development may not be appropriate depending on what other scenes you have on that roll of film. Remember that whatever development scheme you use is for the entire roll so you may not want to do this to the entire roll. But film is cheap so in order to do this properly you may shoot the scene and then rewind the film and only develope that roll as high key. If you are using sheet film, then if you calibrated the exposure and development properly, it is a straight forward exercize in zone system control. Place the shadow values at zone 5 and give 30% more exposure to compensate for the shortened development time. Then develope for your highlights at zone 7 or 8 depending on where you want your high values to fall in the print. Film can hold about 15 stops of information but the problem lays in the paper which can hold 5 stops only. Azo can hold more but it is a contact printing paper so with smaller film formats this is not an option. Neither is selenium toning the neg which will just increase the contrast in the neg which you don't want in a high key image. And that brings up another question. When you refer to high key (zone 5-7 or 8) are you actually referring to high key or are you referring to scenes that are full tonal range scenes? A high key subject normally refers to a subject with a contrast range which starts at zone 5 or 6 and extends 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 zones higher. This usually entails great effort to ensure that the highlight values have good separation and are at or near the highlight separation limits of the paper you are using. Hope this makes it clear. Any other questions feel free to email me. James

-- bigmac (james_mickelson@hotmail.com), January 22, 2002.

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