I had a chance to shoot outdoors last June 19-20 and this opportunity lent me a time to experiment on my landscape camera settings. The landscapes of the Ilocos Region presented me with some fascinating places where i could try such settings that i have in mind like the Bangui Windmills and the nearby Cape Bojeador Lighthouse.
Familiarizing with your camera's controls and settings should be your first priority if you want to improve on your photography. So, i ventured into an experiment where i tried using the D300's Active D-Lighting feature to the hilt in most of my settings. Common sense further dictates that i should try tinkering with the Vivid settings of the Picture Control to get rich and vibrant colors.
Based on what we have read on the manuals, "Active D-Lighting preserves details in highlights and shadows, creating photos with natural contrast. Use for high contrast scenes, for example when photographing brightly lit outdoor scenery through a door or window or taking pictures of shaded subjects on a sunny day." It is an in-camera extension of dynamic range and as distinguished from the previous D-Lighting feature of some models of Nikon DSLRs, Active D-Lighting is activated before taking the photo and not the usual post editing correction tool where you can tweak the highlights and the shadows after the image had already been captured and stored on the memory card.
Since the feature was meant to increase and record a wider range of lights and shadows, it will take the camera a longer time to process and record more information about the image before saving it on the memory card and this is where the faster CF cards should reign supreme over the cheaper brands. I'm only using Ridata and PQI or what you call the lesser brands but i don't find any significant drawback on their writing speeds.
With the Active D-Lighting turned ON, one is supposed to expect a reduction of the blown highlights and a preservation of details on the dark areas. I experimented with the various options available on the Active D-Lighting feature and i found out that on landscapes with extreme contrast on a sunny day, the High setting is the most desirable for my needs. Why? because it makes the blue skies bluer and that was my objective in mind when i ventured into this shoot. Of course, the Vivid setting on the Picture Controls played an important role too in darkening the blue skies but this setting should be tamed a bit if you're taking environmental portraits where you have people on the foreground. A Vivid setting will likely give you a reddish to orange brown skin tone and this is not natural.
With the right camera settings, one can do away on the use of polarizing filters which are meant or designed to make the skies a little bluer than what the eyes can see. I shun away from using filters primarily because it gives the photographer an easier task and the results are somewhat predictable to the trained and experienced eyes thus making you look more like a cheater than a creative photographer. This is aside from the fact that filters are an extra cost and additional bulk to what you might be bringing on your photoshoot trips.
On hindsight, i was also thinking that my Sunny white balance setting contributed a significant role on the overall results that i got from this shoot. The contrast is very much desirable and was further enhanced by the Active D-Lighting on the D300 which i find effective especially when shooting on harsh lighting conditions. If properly used, the Active D-Lighting feature would give you an HDR look image without the vulgar and extremely artificial effect of an overdone HDR. It pays a lot to tinker and play with your camera's controls and settings and if i were you, i would start shooting more than buying or accumulating gears which you don't know how or when to use when the need arises.
The first two photos above were taken at the beaches of Bangui Bay where the fifteen windmills generating the power requirements of the province of Ilocos Norte were presently installed. The rest of the photos were that of Cape Bojeador Lighthouse which is situated atop of a hill in Burgos, Ilocos Norte.
I am very much grateful to Vince Gaspar for tagging me along while he's on a business trip on the northern part of the Philippines.