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12-15-2011, 05:03 AM   #1
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Is it me or my K5? Impossible to shoot red skies!

Greetings,
First of all, I must say that I´m new to digital photography. I used analog SLRs (Olympus>Canon) and all the best fillms (Ilford, Velvia, Provia, Ektachrome, etc) for years and then stopped taking photos about 10 years ago when I was fed up of seeing everybody around me taking photos w/ those crappy little cameras (at the time), checking the poor photos they took, deleting the poorest ones and taking again and again, while me, w/ my "powerful" Canon Elan II, would only be able to check my photos weeks later after a lot of work and waisted time.
Nowadays, when a camera hundreds of times more featured than my old Canons is affordable, I bought a K5 after a LOT of research.
Now, after my first trip w/ the new gear, I don´t know if get happy or if I regret enterering the DSLR world...
Doubts, doubts, doubs... and more doubts! But lets go back to the title complain:
>Why, it is impossible to take red skies w/ the K5??? I took several shoots of wonderful sunsets in Paris but the camera NEVER showed anything even near the real colors of the scenes!
I tried all the WB settings: worthless! The wondefull sunset colors where always turned into casts of blue. And no, I never shoot in the green or even P mode. Always on Av, or M modes, most of the times w/ my trusty Manfrotto ball-head tripod, and playing w/ the metering modes, ISO, exposure compenstion, etc. Useless! My K5 seems to dislike reds... Another example: tried to take photos of the red trails left by cars at Champs Elisees (from the top of Triumph Arch) w/ long expositions: reds turned to orange...
I have so many other complains and doubts that it is impossible to put here.
Oh, btw, I shoot most of the photos in raw+, so maybe I have some hope, this, obviously, if one day I can learn how to start the Pentax Utilities 4... I installed it, opened it and don´t have any tiny clue how to start w/ it... Rsrsrs! Is there any online manual for it?
Thanks in advance
Any tip will be helpfull.


Last edited by Rogertmac; 12-15-2011 at 05:08 AM.
12-15-2011, 05:50 AM   #2
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Hi Roger and welcome to the forums. I don't know what you did wrong, but something obviously isn't right. What you need to do is post some of the worst offending photos with the exif files intact. Then we can see what you did and all of the settings on the camera (that's what the exif file is) one of the benes of shooting digital is that the camera saves all it's settings so it's easy to spot if you did something wrong.

NaCl(it probably is something simple but we need to see the shots)H2O
12-15-2011, 06:31 AM   #3
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From what you describe there could be red channel overexposed. Look at the RGB histogram, that may tell you. K-5 has the best DR of all digital cameras, so use it. If you don't blow any color channel, you can recover extreme amount of detail from the shadows. But if you do it, even RAW can't help.
12-15-2011, 06:47 AM   #4
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Since you shot raw, pull out lightroom and adjust the sky so it looks the way you saw them. Easy...
A camera doesn't really know what the scene is and how it should look like, it's not a human eye. Interpret the captured data so it looks the way it's supposed to look.

Also you might want to show us few examples and even a raw file to play with. Since you are new to digital world, you should start learning about it instead of doubt it.

12-15-2011, 06:50 AM   #5
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White balance caps are your friend.
12-15-2011, 08:15 AM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by JohnBee Quote
White balance caps are your friend.
Thanks to the OP for posting this very helpful and timely thread.

@JohnBee:

Would you mind posting the sequence of setting up the WB using this cap with a Pentax K5/K7 ?

I've seen a couple of videos about it but the photographer was using Canikons only.

JP
12-15-2011, 08:34 AM   #7
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The last thing you would want to do is set WB using that cap at sunset. The camera would try to eliminate it. After all, it doesn't know it's a sunset, it might think it's incandescent light.

You want to set it to daylight or 5600K or there about. Depends how much yellow you want in your picture.

You can set that in post processing your raw files. Then in Lightroom (this is what I use and I highly recommend it) you would have to boost you saturation and vibrance. Contrast, bring out the shadows, use graduation tool to make the sky darker or bring out the detail from landscape. Boost reds if you want to.

By the way, if you have overexposed your sky, you will not be able to bring out much detail. K5 doesn't have much detail there, it's all about shadow. Also the histogram on k5 is useless, since it's only for the jpeg, not raw files.


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12-15-2011, 08:59 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by Nuff Quote
Also the histogram on k5 is useless, since it's only for the jpeg, not raw files.
Not entirely useless. It gives a conservative estimate of the exposure, though it will likely tell you highlights are blown before they actually are, if shooting raw. It follows that the more natural or neutral your jpeg setting is, the more accurate the histogram should be, I think.

12-15-2011, 09:46 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by Nuff Quote
The last thing you would want to do is set WB using that cap at sunset. The camera would try to eliminate it. After all, it doesn't know it's a sunset, it might think it's incandescent light.
I'm not sure I fully understand the advice you're offering, but I use these caps exclusively in the field(including sunsets) and they work very well.

QuoteOriginally posted by jpzk Quote
Thanks to the OP for posting this very helpful and timely thread.

@JohnBee:

Would you mind posting the sequence of setting up the WB using this cap with a Pentax K5/K7 ?

I've seen a couple of videos about it but the photographer was using Canikons only.

JP
Sure, its quite simple actually...

As mentioned earlier, I use these on my camera's out in the field as I can't use a color cards most of the time as I do in the studio. And so the procedure is quite simple. All you do is meter your scene and pop on over to the WB section and choose one of the custom modes( there are 3 to choose from). Select ok and the camera will stake a snapshot and ask you to press OK to confirm. The only thing I'd point-out with this is to watch your exposure when taking a reading because the camera has a very low threshold for underexposure(SEE: OPERATION COULD NOT BE COMPLETED). And so it might be necessary to temporarely push your eV setting to compensate

Other than that, its a real snap to use. And extremely valuable for tougher lighting situations such as sunsets as you can point the camera to a specific location to set your basic grey point value.

PS. I might make a visual walkthrough later on but I've been so busy these past few months that I really haven't had any time to do anything other than the bare minimum to survive

Last edited by JohnBee; 12-15-2011 at 09:57 AM.
12-15-2011, 09:50 AM - 1 Like   #10
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Roger it sounds like you have a lot of experience and that is a good start but if it is all film you have some learning to do. Digital is different in many ways, (and exactly the same in others) but there is a learning curve.

As others have said post a RAW file and let someone play with it, I suspect a lot can be recovered. Or at least they can tell you what happened.

But more important than this particular issue, I think you should think about the digital workflow. With film I am sure you had a process for taking, developing and archiving your photos. Maybe you had a favorite processing lab, maybe your slides are in little metal boxes with labels, whatever. With digital there is also a workflow, and you have control over more of the process than most of us did with film. It starts with taking the photo, then it needs developed, then it needs labeled (keyworded) and then it needs archived.

1) Taking the picture I think you have experience at although you need to learn digital. And this is only the first step.
2) Developing is part of the process. You can shoot in jpeg and not do any PP (post processing) but in my opinion that is leaving the job half done. Lightroom was mentioned above and I also recommend you take a look at it. Some might balk at spending money on software, well if you were shooting film you would be spending money on developing. In Lightroom, or the Pentax software if you want to use that, you need to take responsibility for making that image the best it can be. There is a large learning curve but the results are worth it.
3) With digital it is harder to find a particular photo, and conversely much easier since we can keyword them. Again Lightroom is your friend but many other programs can be used. Add keywords to your images so you can find them when you want.
4) Archiving images is important whether film or digital. But with digital a single hard drive failure can cost you everything. Backup and multiple copies are a must. Again Lightroom is your friend but a complete and through backup of your digital assets is required. This is sometimes called DAM for digital asset management.
12-15-2011, 12:39 PM - 3 Likes   #11
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Count your lucky stars that you're joining the digital era *now* Even 2 digital-camera-generations ago, white balance was just a nightmare. I never even bothered with auto-WB on my K-10-d unless I was in bright sun, the K10 was all manual-WB alla time :P

As much as they've improved, one area where digital cameras still have a heck of a time, is transitional light. If you've got competing colored light sources, or the light quality is complex enough that the auto WB might not be able to figure it out, you have to go to manual. Sunset light is a bear that way If you take a set of photos under iffy WB conditions on auto-WB, the camera will turn out a series of hilariously different photos - picking tungsten WB for one shot, and daylight WB for the next, even when they're exactly the same.

On a similar note, the hardest color for digital to handle is red (anyone got good sensor-physics to explain this? I'm sure the reason is known ). Red toned highlights more than any other color can really get burned (meaning lots of digital data wasn't captured, resulting in a mono-colored hotspot) in a non-adjusted shot - one reason I went from the K-x to the K-5, was this issue. Any time I'm going to shoot something that's a pure red, and illuminated, I take care with a tad of under-exposure to be sure I have enough data in the red channel available to edit! If the red gets burned or really color-cast shifted, it's much harder to get red (more than any other color) back in post processing, because the actual digital data for red was never completely captured.

K-x's burned reds:


So if you've got iffy lighting for WB *and* you're shooting a very red subject, you'll be doing a lot of post processing, because while the K-5 has great adjustability no camera can beat a fully enabled copy of Photoshop or whatever software you're using

You can do a lot of fine tuning of WB in-camera, and then tune even more in the color settings, but frankly I find it really fussy and prefer to shoot in RAW and tune the WB in Photoshop where the controls are much more refined and the screen is huge. For any given sunset, I'll shoot a frame, try out several different WB presets and choose one that gets the closest - and then just ignore WB and concentrate on exposure. Knowing I'll tweak the WB the rest of the way in Photoshop, means I can relax and work on getting a good shot

This pano I was able to quickly grab an auto-WB setting that got very close to the color & pushed it the rest of the way in post. I don't know why the K-5 handled the deep orange so well that day, it's a mystery:


This shot, on the other hand, was an absolute work out - I was only able to get a WB color palette in the same zip code as the actual scene and had to post-process to tweak white balance, remove color cast and do a couple of other things to get there. It was completely eerie light, even wilder than it looks in the finished pic.


This is an area where you'll need to embrace your inner Zen blank-slate of ignorance. You're building an entirely new skill set, accumulating enough data to start being able to intuitively set the camera. Shoot every sunset you can, every illuminated red you can, while adjusting your camera settings and observing. Let the camera show you what settings get you close to what you saw. Pick up a copy of Photoshop Elements (much less overwhelming than the full program, but still powerful & lets you edit in RAW), because you're crippled without good post processing software. Learn all of the tricks of RAW editing - that's going to give you the most dramatic reclaiming of the photo you saw, in the photo you took.

Just as with film, taking the perfect exposure is only half of the process - you need the perfect 'development' in post-processing as well. And here's where we drag out the Ansel Adam's attributed quote "Great photos aren't taken, they're made."

Last edited by Ecaterin; 12-15-2011 at 12:55 PM.
12-15-2011, 02:08 PM   #12
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I had my K-5 set for higher saturation according to Adam's (I think it was his) guide. I didn't like it, the purple flowers particularly looked terrible, so I backed it down again. Of course, in RAW it's irrelevant, but if the jpg is good I will use that as a snapshot image when it's all I need...I'm not the best at RAW manipulation, it takes me forever.

Moving to the more complex DSLRs doesn't guarantee better images, just more choices and flexibility! It would be cool to have a choice menu mimicking various film types, though, I'd think it could be quite interesting.
12-15-2011, 02:42 PM   #13
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I don't have a K-5 so I'm not good on that part... but... 1. shoot Raw.... 2. take advantage of every feature available in post processing, especially Levels and the individual colour levels for contrast and luminance.. And 3. bracket. Using my K20D on difficult scenes like sunsets, I generally start with a 5 step bracket -2, -1, 0, +1, +2. Then I chimp like mad. After doing this for a while my standard procedure now is to start at -1 EV, more than 50% of the time this is a good exposure for a sunset. And I've done it enough now to know from that first exposure where to set the EV if my first exposure isn't good. Shooting Raw, your white balance setting is pretty much irrelevant. I never PP white balance on sunsets or anything else that has unusual light. You destroy the quality that made the shot interesting. If you're shooting jpg.. don't do that.. (Henny Youngman said"( I said to my doctor) "Doc, it hurts when I do this"... my doctor said.. 'don't do that.' ". That's kind of how I feel about jpegs.
12-15-2011, 04:43 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by JohnBee Quote
I'm not sure I fully understand the advice you're offering, but I use these caps exclusively in the field(including sunsets) and they work very well.
The whole point of WB is to *remove* any color cast caused by highly colored lighting. But with sunset, you don't *want* that color cast removed. If you actually do the usual manual WB setting - whether using the cap or any other method - you'll accomplish exactly what manual WB was designed to do: remove color cast. Leaving you with a picture that fails to convey the color of the light.

On the other hand, if you do the manual WB while in the *shade*, you might get a WB that produces reasonable values for the *light*, so maybe thats what you're doing when you say it works well? Because if you're setting manual WB while in the sun and are finding the cmera *not* removing the color cast, your camera is defective!

Me, I'm lazy and just set WB to "flash" in situations where I don't want AWB to "correct" the color for me. Of course, I also shoot RAW, so even if I forget to change WB in camera, I can do so easily enough in PP.
12-16-2011, 02:26 PM - 1 Like   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by Ecaterin Quote
On a similar note, the hardest color for digital to handle is red (anyone got good sensor-physics to explain this? I'm sure the reason is known ).
The Bayer filter on the sensor means half as many red or blue pixels as green ones. Your example is similar to a typical shot, red flower with a background of green foliage. The red pixels are the first to go. If you look at the RGB histogram for these shots, reds are often way to the right of the other colors. The K-7 and K-5 do better because the 77-segment meter is better.
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