Getting your exposure right:  stop blowing out highlights!

Getting your exposure right: stop blowing out highlights!

    The photos below all share one common trait:  They couldn’t be taken shooting in Aperture Priority mode. Why is that?  Both photos were taken 2.5 stops under what the camera’s light meter indicated was “proper” exposure.  That’s because while the photo’s subject is well lit, the majority of the frame is dark.  Getting the subject to come out “right” requires the user to tweak the exposure properly.  In this case, that means setting the exposure to get the rocks/yellow trees (shown above) perfect. Using the camera’s Aperture Priority mode, even if bracketing (1 stop over/under), you’d have over exposed the photo & blown the opportunity.  The dark areas in the photo would have been gray and the rock highlights/yellow trees would be white and unrecoverable. So how do you get the exposure right every time?   How to stop losing great photos?  Simple, shoot in manual mode!  Here’s how. Step 1:  Set your DSLR to “manual exposure” mode and the metering to “center weighted average”.   Prepare to take a “test photo”. Step 2: Look through the viewfinder.  If it’s an overcast day or you don’t have a bright sky in your photo, just frame the picture normally.   If you have a bright sky, however, you’re going to point the camera up to the sky for purposes of adjusting the exposure manually. Step 3:  Now that you’re pointing the camera in the right direction it’s time to adjust the exposure.  You’ll see a scale inside the viewfinder indicating if you’re over or under exposed and the aperture/shutter speed settings.  Adjust aperture or shutter speed till the meter indicator...
High Dynamic Range Photography Advanced Tutorial

High Dynamic Range Photography Advanced Tutorial

There’s a revolution underway allowing cameras to record the world as we see it with expanded dynamic range. So what is dynamic range (DR) anyway?  DR refers to the variation of light and dark values in a photograph.  The wider the range, the bigger the objective difference between darkest and brightest areas of your image. While you can easily see people’s features at a beach sunset, until recently, most cameras couldn’t.  Shots like the one below have been the norm, rendering the subjects features in silhouette. You have great eye sight!!!  Most people can resolve between 18-20 stops of light. A huge “Dynamic Range”. We can typically see two objects; where one is up to 500,000 times brighter (each F-Stop a doubling of light). This remarkable range involves three components: 1. your optic nerve, 2. The ability of your eye to rapidly change aperture/field of view and 3. the brain’s internal HDR processing. Even if your optic nerve can’t resolve an image, the brain will often render it perfectly based on previous experience with similar objects. The three photos below, taken at Zion National Park, illustrate how cameras often struggle to provide enough dynamic range to render an entire scene properly.  The underexposed photo renders a perfect sky, but little else.  Overexposing, in subsequently photos, provide the needed foreground detail, but sadly leaves the sky “blown out”.  Our 2009 circa Canon 7D is unable to render all of the 14-15 stops of light required to resolve the image properly. As you can see above, Cameras have more limited dynamic range then the human eye.  The good news:  camera technology is...
Becoming a “Water Ninja”…how to shoot the wet stuff!

Becoming a “Water Ninja”…how to shoot the wet stuff!

Typical Beach Shot Ex.: Nice to look at, but the water isn’t “adding” anything to the shot. Let’s explore some tools to make water “work” for you! Blurring water the “Old School Way”.  Many different types of water features can be presented better using long exposure photography.  The three composition variables that impact the proper length of exposure:  1.  speed of water flow  2.  vertical decent (how far/fast is water dropping)  3.  what features exist at the bottom of these drops, how do they shape water flow. Slow, medium & fast moving water (can require different shutter speeds to properly blur). Tripod provides stability for long exposure (w remote shutter release). Remember to turn image stabilization off (note some new lenses allow)! Your shooting in RAW…right! Always shoot in RAW! Water shoes can come in handy for certain strategic camera locations…puts you in the “thick of things”. Mirror lock up engaged for SLRs. Nikon has electronic shutter option (even better)! Polarizer benefits: 2 stop ND filter Allows removal of leafy reflections/glare Dial water reflection “on” or “off” to show bottom features or not. Typically shooting on cloudy day/dusk/dawn…crop out sky (which is often “blown out”). Goldilocks: Too much blur, too little…Just Right! Aperture Priority (start with test shot at lowest ISO, F18). ISO: Lowest setting helps slow shutter speed. Canon that’s 100 (option to cut to 50), Nikon 100 or some 64 (option to cut to 32). Review test shot to see if exposure compensation (+ or -) is required. Use LED image, histogram and “blinkies” as tools. Typically camera adjusted auto exposure is ok (in diffuse light…easy for...
In-camera Multiple Exposure (to blur water)

In-camera Multiple Exposure (to blur water)

Most new SLRs have the ability to create “in camera” multiple exposures.  Ergo, that taking multiple shots and stacking one atop of the other in one image file.  The image below is an example.  Previously the only way to create this effective digitally was to combine imagines outside the camera in a photo editing program (Photoshop for example).   Now it’s easy…your camera does all the work! We can use this new “in camera technology” to create the illusion of blurred water.  Essentially recreating the look of a “long exposure” photograph while providing additional details (shows water droplets frozen in time). Here’s the workflow to create a multiple exposure photograph. Step One:  Place your camera on a tripod and hook up your remote shutter release. Set your drive mode to high speed. Step Two: Take a test shot using the camera’s manual mode to determine the correct exposure.  You’ll want to select 1/400th as your shutter speed and an aperture of F8 (for good depth of field).  Try setting your ISO to 200 and use the light meter to fine adjust ISO as need for proper exposure.  Once you get the “right” exposure your ready to activate the camera “multiple exposure”.  Nikon example given below. Step Three:  Go into the shooting menu, scroll down and select multiple exposure. You’ll have the opportunity to activate this mode. Select “On (series)”:  The camera will stay in multiple exposure mode until you turn this feature off. Once you select “on (series), you’ll be directed back to the previous menu. Then Set the number of exposure to 10. Set the Autogain to off....
Digital Focus Stacking (Getting Macro pics tack sharp)

Digital Focus Stacking (Getting Macro pics tack sharp)

Digital Focus Stacking is a technique that allows you to get tack sharp images of close up (ergo Macro Photography) objects.  The image below illustrates the problem most shooters encounter while trying to capture “close in” objects. I’ve taken great care to get critical focus.  My camera is mounted on a tripod with a remote shutter release. I’ve turned my Macro lens to manual focus and used live view to get a better look.  I additionally use the “zoom in” option for live view all the way up to 10x, which makes manual focusing easy! I also remember to use my camera’s mirror lock up option as it’s a slow exposure, to avoid excess vibration ruining the sharpness.  Even shooting at F16, while the front of my BBQ’s knob is in focus the rear is very fuzzy. Using a digital focus program called Helicon Focus, can solve this problem and get you great results. Next step: I’m going to take three additional photos of this knob, each time turning my focus knob to shift the focus point back, until my last photo has the back of the knob in critical focus.  One way to get a good feel for how much to turn your manual focus dial, is to look at the depth of field gauge on your lens. My second shot above has shifted the center focus area slightly away(back).   With my third shot above, the front of the knob is getting pretty “out of focus” and the markings on the back are starting to look more legible. My final photo.  The rear of the knob is...
Celestial Photography Advanced Tutorial

Celestial Photography Advanced Tutorial

Photos, like the one shown above, combine two disciplines executed during a single exposure: Photographing stars as fixed objects Lighting an interesting foreground element using the moon or light painting techniques. Step #1: Where/When to go Stars are obscured by the surface illumination of urban and suburban areas. Places like Southern Utah (Arches National Park, Bryce Canyon), South Texas (Big Bend National Park), Nevada (great op to shoot ghost towns…) or portions of Northern Michigan all offer clean, dark night skies. The locations also offer interesting foreground subject matter to make your photos more memorable. Is the moon your friend? Generally not. You’re typically trying to shoot into a jet black sky. Even a modest crescent moon overhead can ruin an otherwise great night sky. The Photographers Ephemeris is a great tool to find the days each month, at a specific location, which will provide either a new moon, or a time when the moon isn’t visible during the evening hours. Most people can actually see the Milky Way Galaxy (a great source target for your photo) once their eyes acclimate to the night sky. If you can’t, PhotoPills is another application that help locate the Milky Way for you. http://photoephemeris.com/ http://www.photopills.com/ Moon occasionally your friend? A 5-15% crescent moon, low in the horizon is a good source to illuminate foreground objects providing your shooting away from it (moon). Great for very large objects (mountains….). Will usually lower the required ISO by 500-1000. Time of year? Many different opinions. My take: You’ll be out for 3-4 hours (it’s fun/addictive). Go late winter/early Spring or late fall. It gets dark...
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