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I went to the zoo today with Little One and took some pictures. I'll link to a few on .Mac's HomePage as soon as HomePage ceases to experience problems…

Almost all of the pictures turned out about as well as I expected, and there are some pretty nifty ones. I was shorted a little bit with the 28-135 lens. I think the 75-300/4.0-5.6 IS would be ideal for the zoo ($415), but I'm also considering the 100-400/4.5-5.6L IS as well ($1415) because I'm going to need to take some pictures at a golf tournament or two in late May/early June (discussion here).

Most of the shots at the zoo, as I said, came out as expected, and had a really nice tonal range. A few of the duck pictures, though, are quite concentrated in the midtone region.


I cropped a little out of this shot, but it was mostly more murky water.

10 Responses to "Midtones"

  1. Other pictures can be found here.

  2. That little girl is a cute as a button! Too bad you don't have a Nikon!

  3. For those of us learning more about photography by reading your blog entries about this new camera, can you say a little more about whether having things concentrated in the midtone region is a good thing and why or why not?

  4. I wouldn't say it is necessarily a good or bad thing, it all depends what kind of image you originally photographed, and what kind of image you are after. Having said that however, it is generally better to have a histogram that has "spikes" spanning from the left most side (the darks, or shadows) across to the right side (the lights, or highlights). The reason for this is because you usually want to maximize the tonal range (from left most to right most part of the histogram) in your photograph. If you have it all bunched up in the middle like Erik's shows, you wind up with a dull image with no real highlights or deep shadows to speak of. I should clarify, it appears that Erik does indeed have some bright highlights and dark shadows, but he just doesn't have a lot of either, thus the bunching up in the middle (showing predominantly midtones). The vertical spikes in the histogram indicate how much of the image is found at a particular brightness level. There are of course exceptions, such as very foggy scenes. These scenes will usually have bunched up middle areas of the histogram which can be desirable if you are after a moody image. As I stated, it's not necessarily a good or bad thing. It is what it is. Erik mentioned cropping this image, but said there was more "murky" water in it. This makes sense as to why the histogram looks the way it does. The camera saw all this midtone "murkiness" and exposed for it. So the camera thinks the majority of the scene was greyish and exposed accordingly. A lot of what your histogram looks like is directly related to what your capturing looks like. If there are many midtones, as in Erik's shot, the histogram will simply reflect that. I hope I described that in a way that makes sense. If not let me know, and I can clarify. Thanks

  5. Todd,

    You are flat out wrong that a histogram with spikes spanning your whole histogram is a generally desirable trait. There's absolutely nothing wrong with a histogram where you have a distribution centered on the middle with no strong peaks in the highlights/shadows. For instance, when you take a shot of a bird against a sky (or water), you often end up with a histogram like that. Keep in mind that histograms are pixel counts. If most of the image is a middle color, such as the middle colors of the water and bird, then it simply means that your count will be higher there.

    Erik, when I look at your shot, the first thing that comes to mind is to use your flash to throw a bit of catch light into the duck's eye. You'd also want to wait for the duck to look at you or do something more interesting. I'd also put more room ahead of the duck than behind so that he has room to move. However, your tonal range is fine. It's a medium-toned image with no strong contrast, no strong dark areas, and no strong light areas. There's nothing wrong with it.

  6. Josh, in the original picture the duck has more room in front. And this is just for Little One's picture book, so I wasn't too worried about taking a good picture of a duck - just taking pictures of different things. That being said, I hear you about the flash.

  7. josh anon, in retrospect I agree with you. However, I also did explain that a histogram is neither good or bad, it simply is what it is, showing you how much of the image is found at a particular brightness level. While the histogram is simply a reflection of the image you photographed, that does not mean you can't change it in an image editing program later either. As a footnote, let me say that for ME personally, having spikes on both ends of the histogram is generally desirable, as I tend to prefer images with a little punch and contrast to them.

  8. I think you guys are kinda missing the forest for the trees here. The whole midtones discussion seems a bit much...

    Worry more about composition first....let the camera worry about the tones.

    for some of my images, look here

    Them's are just my dos centavos, I don't mean to dis anyone.

    P.S. The fill flash to bring out the detail in duck's head is a good idea. In the RAW mode, you should be able to bring up the Exposure Compensation +1, that might get it.

  9. The raw pictures out of my Canon 10D are dismally flat. First thing I do is pull the levels in from the two ends to where the left and right sides of the peak start. Then I'd up the contrast a bit on this one. If I'm working in Photoshop, then I adjust the R, G and B levels separately. I've put before and after pictures here.

  10. Kids are so much fun and so photogenic. My girl is three now and she flat out loves the zoo.