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on Jan 28, 2010 in Camera Tech, Wildlife Photography, Yellowstone Life

Light & Exposure, light & dark

When I blogged about my minor discovery of how Vivid in Picture Control helped with contrast in a flat lighting situation, all sorts of emails, tweets and wallpostings came in. Then when I blogged about Exp Comp, even more showed up. Understandably, there is a lot of confusion in these regards stemming I think from a “Post Fix Generation” and general lack of understanding light. If you don’t understand light, you’re behind the eight ball at the camera and in post since light is what photography is all about.

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The blog and it’s limited space only affords me so much in the way of help, but here’s something that I hope you can easily see on your monitor and it has to do with light and back engineering images to learn from them. When shooting in snow, as I’ve written about in the last few weeks, you have this magical, giant white reflector that bounces light everywhere. That’s if, you have light to bounce. Looking at the Bison photo above, you can see with the gorgeous filtered light the Bison’s great brown coat. To me, this is near perfect Bison light because you can see so many shades of brown. And with the white nearly a perfect white value, the exposure is about as good as it gets, technically.

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Now look at this photo of a Bison, one from the series I posted from Vivid. Do you see any brown on the Bison? Do you see any white in the snow? No, the Bison is black and the snow is gray which indicates the total lack of light. The lesson photographers need to grasp. While both images were shot in overcast light, a must for Bison, the top photo is a very slight overcast and the bottom one, it’s snowing dood, there ain’t no light value sneaking in. The top image, the snow has light to bounce, the bottom image, the snow if yuck. In that scenario, the image will be dark because there is NO light. And light is everything!

Could either image be brightened up? You bet, you could use Exp Comp (if you’re shooting in Manual, this won’t work. But that begs the question, why are you shooting like it’s the ’60s?). Exp Comp on the Plus side would brighten up the scene. Should you do that? That’s your call, it’s YOUR photograph and YOUR story to tell. Do you need to technically? Who the %^#*# cares about technical, I sure don’t! Exposure = Emotion, plain and simple. You dial in Exp Comp to express the emotion you feel and want to communicate! And that’s the real problem for most photographers, they just don’t understand how to connect the emotion they feel looking through the viewfinder to the image they share.

Hummm…someone should write a book about that :)

Photo captured by D3s, 200-400VR (handheld) / D3x, 600VR on Lexar UDMA digital film