1 September 2014
'Tis the season for 'cross and racing in Northern California begins soon. The region does suffer, particularly during the early season, from dry and dusty conditions. The dust may provide a sense of motion but otherwise can contribute to bland photographs.
Taking some learning from another discipline, mountain bike racing provides a great opportunity for photography with similar short camera-subject distances. However, courses are equally dry and dusty during the summer and this can affect close-in photographs. In the vein of using few adjustments to an image captured in-camera, a quick correction to a dusty scene is an adjustment in levels. A larger change to the shadow levels is key.
The photograph of Vee Bhopla was captured in RAW format and processed using Canon RAW defaults; processing employs neither sharpening nor noise reduction. There is a final down-resolution to 128ppi to display in this post.
The image on the left is without any changes to levels and illustrates a typical bland RAW photograph.
The middle image has small adjustments to shadow and midtone levels, consistent with changes applied to similar images (time, location, composition) captured with less dust in the air. The middle image still suffers from fine dust with less dynamic range.
The image on the right uses twice the change to shadow levels than the middle image. A modest adjustment to mid-tone and highlight levels compensates for a "darker" appearing image. Apart from noise reduction (37% luminance, 59% luminance detail) the image on the right contains all the changes I feel needed for the photograph.
The middle image can be acceptable except the dust fails to add to the image - it has fine particles in the air not a distinct cloud of dust. My preferred image on the right still shows some dust, trailing behind Bhopla's rear wheel, but the improved dynamic range has darker dark areas and the photograph stands out amongst the three.