Dodging & Burning with Livetime

pdk42

One of the "Eh?" team
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Leamington Spa, UK
Back in the days of the darkroom, it was common to use "dodging" and "burning" to hold back or increase the exposure of parts of the paper during enlargement. The idea was to make a small cardboard cut-out that you mounted to a thin metal wire, and which you then waggled between the enlarger and the paper during print exposure. That way, you could increase or reduce the exposure of certain parts of the image so as balance the DR on the final print. It was very common as a technique to bring up the foreground to better match the sky on landscape shots. There is a Wikipedia write-up of it here:

Dodging and burning - Wikipedia

Using the Livetime feature on Olympus cameras you can achieve the same effect at capture time. I used the technique on the shot below:

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Sprague Lake by Paul Kaye, on Flickr

The sky was quite bright and the lake was dark. I wanted to get the exposure on the lake up. I could have done it with stacking, but I wanted a long exposure to smooth the lake's surface and stacking long exposure shots take A LOT of time. I could have perhaps lifted the shadows in PP, but then you're fighting noise and of course there's a limit to what's possible anyhow. So, this is what I did:
  • I installed a big-stop ND filter on the camera (10-stop in this case). The camera was on a tripod of course.

  • Set exposure to livetime with a 2 second increment on the setting. A day-time exposure with a 10-stop ND and f5.6 or f8 is usually around 20-30s so with 2s you'll get about 10-15 updates.

  • Before starting the exposure, I held a black mask (in this case the black fabric wallet for the filters !) just in front on the lens so that it was obscuring the sky.

  • I started the exposure (remote release from my phone).

  • I wiggled the filter wallet around to prevent a hard line and watched the image build on the screen. At this point, it was only the lake that was building.

  • By observing the building image, I could adjust the position of the mask to allow the lake surface to build its exposure. I would occasionally move the mask away briefly to let some of the sky come in so that I could judge the balance better.

  • When the lake was nicely exposed, I took the mask away entirely and waited until the sky was cooked. The histogram helps to prevent it going too far.
It takes a bit of practice to get the technique right, but it's not hard and definitely well worth it. The shape of the mask I use is usually just straight, but you could obviously make it more sophisticated by cutting something that matches better the scene. Personally I don't go to this level of complexity, but it would increase the technique's power.

Voila! I use it quite a lot. Here are some other examples:

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Winter Light in Bruges by Paul Kaye, on Flickr


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Seaweed & Castles by Paul Kaye, on Flickr


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The Weir in Winter by Paul Kaye, on Flickr


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The House Beyond the Quay by Paul Kaye, on Flickr


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Bow Bridge, Central Park III by Paul Kaye, on Flickr
 
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kwido

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Mar 28, 2016
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Bratislava , Slovakia
Very nice and inspiring. One can get similar result with full ND1000 + grad ND filter. But your aproche is more flexible and you have better control. I have to try it. Thanks a lot for explanation and beutiful examples.
 

alan1972

Mu-43 Top Veteran
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Jun 23, 2012
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Malaga, Spain
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Alan Grant
Just adding my thanks for the explanation. I have done something similar with Live Composite to mask an unavoidable bright static light within the frame (e.g. when trying to capture the light of moving cars and one car comes to a stop with headlights pointing at the camera!), but I hadn't thought through how it could be applied to Live Time. The point about moving the mask to avoid hard lines makes perfect sense now that you say it, but I'm not sure I would have thought of it.
 

M.V.

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Jan 16, 2017
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Slovenia, Europe
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Marko
Amazing technique, many thanks for sharing this!!
BTW, your Bruges photos (displayed also in other threads here) look like the paintings of old Dutch masters. Respect!!!!
 

denniscloutier

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Dec 24, 2011
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North Saanich, B.C.
Very cool. A technique that is old school and high tech at the same time.

You mentioned brightening areas by stacking. I think I might understand what you're talking about but could you explain this a bit?

Thanks,
Dennis
 
Joined
Aug 29, 2018
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Somerset UK
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Steve
That is a great technique you've mastered, and the final images are wonderful.

Edit: just had a look at the manual, couldn't find Livetime in the search, but could find it using 2 words 'live time' - just thought that might help anyone else looking for the details of how to use it, matching the manual to your examples made better sense to the mechanics of your shots, technique and scenic skill is another matter altogether :)
 
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