Photographic Decisions

This article discusses some of the photographic decisions we made at Belleek Castle during our trip to Ireland in 2019. It also provides some image comparisons in terms of out-of-camera jpegs and finished images produced from corresponding RAW files.

Belleek Castle was one of our ‘must do’ planned stops during our photography tour of Ireland in April 2019. My wife and I participated in a guided tour. This meant that we had very limited time to capture our images as we needed to keep up with the rest of the folks on the tour.

As the tour of Belleek Castle progressed we went down into some lower levels which were extremely dark. I had two 1 Nikkor zoom lenses with me… the 6.7-13 mm f/3.5-5.6 zoom and the 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 zoom.

One of the first photographic decisions I made was to switch lenses and use the 6.7-13 mm zoom. I did this for three reasons.

  1. The 6.7-13 mm zoom would provide a bit more light when shot wide open.
  2. At the wide end of the zoom I would get more depth-of-field shooting with the 6.7-13 mm zoom than I would with the 10-100 mm zoom.
  3. I knew from experience that I could shoot handheld at a slower shutter speed with the 6.7-13 mm zoom than with the 10-100 mm zoom.

My next photographic decisions addressed how I would use my Nikon 1 J5 and 1 Nikkor 6.7-13 mm zoom in the dark conditions. These included:

  1. Shooting at the widest possible focal length for maximum depth-of-field.
  2. Using an aperture of f/3.5 to give me the best chance for a decent exposure.
  3. Setting my camera to ISO-3200 to keep noise to a tolerable level and give me a chance to ‘rescue’ the images in post production if necessary.
  4. Composing my images to allow for potential perspective control adjustments in post.
  5. Limiting my slowest shutter speed to 1/10 to help ensure image sharpness.

There were also some photographic decisions to be made about post production.

  1. Given the very dark conditions, I anticipated that I would need to be aggressive with the DxO Smart Lighting Spot Weighted tool.
  2. It was also very likely that I would need to use the Pro Contrast tool in Color Efex Pro 4. This is one of the functions in the Nik Collection.

Let’s look at 10 pairs of images. The original files were captured handheld at Belleek Castle. Each image comparison starts with an out-of-camera jpeg. A finished image produced from the corresponding RAW file then follows.

Belleek Castle Ireland, Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 6.7-13 mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 6.7 mm, efov 18 mm, f/3.5, 1/50, ISO-3200, out of camera jpeg
Belleek Castle Ireland, Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 6.7-13 mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 6.7 mm, efov 18 mm, f/3.5, 1/50, ISO-3200, jpeg produced from RAW file

In all cases I used my standard process. RAW files were run through DxO PhotoLab 2. A custom present was applied, as well as PRIME noise reduction. As noted earlier, the DxO Smart Lighting Spot Weighted tool was used on all images.

Belleek Castle Ireland, Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 6.7-13 mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 6.7 mm, efov 18 mm, f/3.5, 1/25, ISO-3200, out of camera jpeg

Some spot burning was done to the right hand side of the following image.

Belleek Castle Ireland, Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 6.7-13 mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 6.7 mm, efov 18 mm, f/3.5, 1/25, ISO-3200, jpeg produced from RAW file

After using DxO PhotoLab 2 I exported a DNG file into CS6. Basic slider adjustments were made, as well as tweaks to Levels if needed. Images were then finished with the Nik Collection. In the case of this selection of images that included the Pro Contrast function in Color Efex 4 or some tweaks using Viveza 2.

Belleek Castle Ireland, Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 6.7-13 mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 6.7 mm, efov 18 mm, f/3.5, 1/30, ISO-3200, out of camera jpeg
Belleek Castle Ireland, Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 6.7-13 mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 6.7 mm, efov 18 mm, f/3.5, 1/30, ISO-3200, jpeg produced from RAW file

As you can see, the above image required a very aggressive perspective control adjustment. My creative intent with this photograph was to make the ornate, carved ceiling the ‘hero’ of the composition.

Belleek Castle Ireland, Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 6.7-13 mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 6.7 mm, efov 18 mm, f/3.5, 1/15, ISO-3200, out of camera jpeg
Belleek Castle Ireland, Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 6.7-13 mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 6.7 mm, efov 18 mm, f/3.5, 1/15, ISO-3200, jpeg produced from RAW file

You can see in the EXIF data that a fairly slow handheld shutter speed of 1/15 was used in the photograph above. The next image utilized an even slower handheld shutter speed of 1/10.

Belleek Castle Ireland, Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 6.7-13 mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 6.7 mm, efov 18 mm, f/3.5, 1/10, ISO-3200, out of camera jpeg
Belleek Castle Ireland, Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 6.7-13 mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 6.7 mm, efov 18 mm, f/3.5, 1/10, ISO-3200, jpeg produced from RAW file

Here’s another photograph captured handheld at 1/15.

Belleek Castle Ireland, Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 6.7-13 mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 6.7 mm, efov 18 mm, f/3.5, 1/15, ISO-3200, out of camera jpeg
Belleek Castle Ireland, Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 6.7-13 mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 6.7 mm, efov 18 mm, f/3.5, 1/15, ISO-3200, jpeg produced from RAW file

I used the V-shape of the two tables butted up together in the next image to draw a viewer’s eye into the composition. This is another image captured handheld at 1/10.

Belleek Castle Ireland, Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 6.7-13 mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 6.7 mm, efov 18 mm, f/3.5, 1/10, ISO-3200, out of camera jpeg
Belleek Castle Ireland, Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 6.7-13 mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 6.7 mm, efov 18 mm, f/3.5, 1/10, ISO-3200, jpeg produced from RAW file

The next composition utilizes one of the tables as a strong leading line entering from the bottom left corner.

Belleek Castle Ireland, Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 6.7-13 mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 6.7 mm, efov 18 mm, f/3.5, 1/15, ISO-3200, out of camera jpeg
Belleek Castle Ireland, Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 6.7-13 mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 6.7 mm, efov 18 mm, f/3.5, 1/15, ISO-3200, jpeg produced from RAW file

Our next sample image used a slightly different focal length and aperture. You’ll see how I used perspective control adjustments to line up the handles of the drawers, as well as create a nice leading line in the bottom left corner. These changes give the photograph better balance and eye flow.

Belleek Castle Ireland, Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 6.7-13 mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 7.5 mm, efov 20.3 mm, f/3.8, 1/20, ISO-3200, out of camera jpeg
Belleek Castle Ireland, Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 6.7-13 mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 7.5 mm, efov 20.3 mm, f/3.8, 1/20, ISO-3200, jpeg produced from RAW file

Our last pair of images is based on another vertical composition.

Belleek Castle Ireland, Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 6.7-13 mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 6.7 mm, efov 18 mm, f/3.5, 1/40, ISO-3200, out of camera jpeg
Belleek Castle Ireland, Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 6.7-13 mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 6.7 mm, efov 18 mm, f/3.5, 1/40, ISO-3200, jpeg produced from RAW file

When facing dark, challenging conditions make photographic decisions that best utilize your gear, your handheld skill level, and also considers what you can do in post. The combination of these three factors can help you effectively deal with poor lighting conditions.

Never accept what people on the internet say is the limit of your gear. Experiment with your camera equipment and post processing software to see what you can make possible. You may surprise yourself and prove the internet trolls wrong!

If you enjoyed the photographs in this article that were captured with the Nikon 1 system, you may find our eBook, The Little Camera That Could, of interest. This eBook is available for purchase and download. It is priced at $9.99 Canadian. Readers interested in purchasing a copy can use the link below.

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Technical Note:
Photographs were captured hand-held using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. All images were produced from RAW files using my standard process.

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