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Mastering Dramatic Light: How to Make Great Photographs of High-Contrast Scenes
Class in recess
Instructor: Glenn Randall                                                  Duration: 4 Weeks            Cost: US$169

Our eyes can see a range of light intensities, from brightest highlight to darkest shadow, of about 10,000 to 1, but a print can only exhibit a range of about 50 to 1. This course will teach landscape photographers a variety of ways to compress the very broad range of tones we typically observe in the real world into a range that can be reproduced in a beautiful and believable print.

Many of the most dramatic landscape photographs are taken in "high-voltage" light, with sunrise or sunset light stabbing through clouds and brilliantly spotlighting a distant peak or sandstone tower, leaving the equally important foreground in deep shadow. Capturing a full range of tones in such high-contrast situations, and reproducing them in a way our visual system considers natural, has challenged landscape photographers ever since photography was invented over 150 years ago.

This course will teach photographers how our complex visual system analyzes high-contrast scenes, how our visual system differs from a camera's sensor, and how to use that knowledge to create spectacular landscape photographs in even the most difficult lighting situations.To photograph high-contrast scenes successfully, a photographer needs two pieces of information. First, what is the dynamic range of the scene, that is, what is the difference, in stops, between the brightest important highlight and darkest important shadow? And second, what is the dynamic range of the camera sensor, that is, how broad a range can the sensor capture?

This course will teach photographers how to answer both questions, and how to use that information to make the best possible photographs of high-contrast scenes. We will cover a variety of techniques for handling high-contrast situations, starting with ways to maximize the quality of a single capture, and continuing with ways to combine two or more exposures of a scene to extend the range of tones that can be reproduced in the print. The methods of combining two or more images include the Rembrandt Solution, a technique first employed by the master painter that is still relevant today, and Nik Software's HDR Efex Pro, the most sophisticated and easy-to-use HDR package currently available. After this course, photographers will be armed with a full arsenal of techniques for turning dramatic light into equally dramatic photographs.

Course Outline:

Lesson 1
  1. How to recognize "exposure danger zones" without taking a single meter reading.
  2. How to measure the dynamic range of a scene.
  3. How to measure the dynamic range of your sensor.
  4. How to combine a measurement of the dynamic range of the scene with knowledge of the dynamic range of the sensor to make the best possible single capture of that scene.
Lesson 2
  1. Live-view and captured-image histogram tricks for when you can't or don't want to spot-meter the scene.
  2. How to use physical graduated-neutral density filters.
  3. How to create the digital equivalent of a graduated-neutral density filter using Lightroom or Photoshop and a single capture.
Lesson 3
  1. How graduated neutral-density filters, whether physical or digital, create the illusion of greater dynamic range in a print than actually exists by using "countershading," a technique pioneered by 17th century master painter Rembrandt that is still useful in the digital era.
  2. How a knowledge of how our visual system processes high-contrast scenes gives us insight into how to craft photographs of such scenes that look both believable and beautiful.
  3. How to use the "Rembrandt Solution" within Photoshop to merge two separate exposures of a scene, one exposed for highlights, one exposed for shadows.
Lesson 4
  1. How to use Nik Software's HDR Efex Pro in high-contrast situations where the Rembrandt Solution cannot be used.
  2. How to use Photoshop CS5 and HDR Efex Pro to stitch together and process ultra-wide panoramas when the dynamic range of the scene exceeds the ability of the sensor to record adequate detail in highlights and shadows.

Course Requirement:
A digital or film camera with full manual exposure mode. Tripod is optional but preferred

Instructor: Glenn Randall

Glenn RandallSince 1979, Glenn Randall has combined his love of wilderness with a passion for photography. His intimate knowledge of atmospheric optics, weather and the landscapes he photographs allows him to find the intersections of magical light and stunning subject matter that produce exceptional images. His work has been published in Audubon, Avalanche, Barnes & Noble, Brown Trout, Sierra Club, Nature Conservancy and Runner's World calendars and in Audubon, GEO, Outdoor Photographer, Outside, SKI, Los Angeles Times Magazine, National Geographic Adventure, New York Times Magazine, and many others. Prints of his fine-art landscape photographs can be found in several Colorado galleries, including Art Mart in Boulder, The Canyon Gallery in Montrose and Grizzly Creek Gallery in Georgetown. His photographs have also been used in books published by Falcon Press, Lyons & Burford, New Readers Press, Reader's Digest General Books and Scribner's. His corporate clients include Avago Technologies, Sun Microsystems, Colorado Outward Bound, Cobe Laboratories (owner of over 100 prints) and many outdoor-equipment companies. At age 54, he has accumulated over 1,000 photo credits, including 67 covers, and sold over 10,000 prints. He was the sole photographer for two books of landscape photographs, Rocky Mountain National Park Impressions and Colorado Wild & Beautiful, both published by Farcountry Press.

Glenn's favorite areas to photograph are Rocky Mountain National Park, the Indian Peaks Wilderness, the Maroon Bells/Snowmass Wilderness, the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness and the San Juan Mountains of southwest Colorado. He finds that he produces his strongest images in areas he knows intimately and returns to visit again and again. On average, it takes Glenn about 10 days in the field to produce one truly compelling image. To create some images, he went to the same location as many as six times. For 15 years, he shot his fine-art landscape photographs primarily with Zone VI and Ebony SW45 4x5 field cameras. Recent advances in digital technology have enabled him to begin shooting with state-of-the-art digital equipment. Camping in Rocky Mountain National Park and the Indian Peaks Wilderness is restricted to protect the pristine landscape, so Glenn does many of his photo shoots in a one-day blitz from his home in Boulder, which usually entails getting up at 1 or 2 a.m. in order to photograph sunrise at a remote backcountry site several miles from the trailhead. His motto for these shoots is simple: "Sleep is for photographers who don't drink enough coffee." His favorite images include Windom Peak Panorama, Sunrise Aspen and Columbine Along the Trail to Arapaho Pass.

In addition to his photographic credentials, Glenn is an accomplished writer who has authored nine books and more than 200 magazine articles. He considers himself a semi-native Coloradoan, since he moved to Boulder in 1975. His wife Cora is a professor of atmospheric science at CU. They have two children, 17-year-old Emily and 15-year-old Audrey.
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