Monday, June 1, 2015

Don't Be Afraid Of The Blinkies

Click on image to enlarge.
Today's image is another shot from the little tour we did of the New York Botanical Gardens the last week.  Every photographer should pay attention to their highlights when shooting.  I say "pay attention" because, just like instructions from a GPS, it's only a suggestion.  A lot of people ask me, when we're on a photo walk I'm leading, about shooting modes.  Should I shoot in Aperture Preferred, Shutter Preferred, Program, Auto or one of the "scene" modes a camera might have.  My thought or counsel is that it really doesn't matter as long as the person is making the decisions.  A friend told me, on one of the walks, that she's only shot in Manual for the past couple of years.  It's not like her camera consists of a shoebox with a digital back attached.  She uses top of the line Canon equipment.  I asked her why she'd pay for an expense "computer" (modern cameras are single purpose computers to which you can attach lenses) and use it as though it was an abacus.  To get my take on using a camera and my thoughts on exposure, hit the "Read More".

Cameras are tools.  You can use a cheap tool and struggle to make something (anything).  A better tool will probably help you make the same thing easier.  A good machinist can take an old Bridgeport milling machine and accurately make some sort of widget.  Someone who doesn't know how to turn an manual milling machine can stand in front of a modern automated (properly set up) milling machine and come up with a better (more accurate) widget.  Why?  Did the machine decide it was going to make that widget?  No!  All the machine did was do the math based on the decisions made by the human.  It's the same with a camera. 

Today's cameras are incredible.  Set the shutter delay to two seconds.  Wait one second.  Throw the camera as high in the air as you can.  (Make sure you'll be able to catch it when it comes down.)  It'll take a properly exposed image in almost any shooting mode you've put it in (except manual). 

There's three controls (and a cheat) you have available on a digital camera.  F-stop, shutter speed and sensitivity (ISO).  If you're in any mode except Manual and full Auto the camera will use the third setting to make the right exposure.  Will it be the exposure you want?  Maybe, maybe not.  That's where you (and the cheat) come in.  Decide what you want in the final image and set the two controls to get the image that's in your head.  Like the camera do the math to get the exposure. 

Today's image:  There's "basically" a flat plan.  So, Depth of Field (DoF) should not be a big problem.  Therefore I can set a large "ish" F-stop.  The focal length I was shooting at was about 300mm on a cropped sensor camera.  Background blur at F 5.6 shouldn't be a problem.  There was a slight breeze so the leaves were bouncing around a little.  Because the sun was in and out of the clouds I raised the sensitivity (ISO) up to 400 (two stops above the "normal" 100 ISO.  That gave me a shutter speed (in Aperture Priority mode) of 1/xxxx.  Anything over one thousandth of a second (heck, anything over about a two fiftieth of a second) will "freeze the action" of a fluttering leave.  Therefore, I picked the Aperture,  I picked (over picked) the ISO and let the camera figure out what the Shutter Speed should be.  The fourth control (the cheat) that was used was the Exposure Value (EV) adjustment.  Rather than take what the camera suggested I knew what I wanted and cranked the EV by about two stops. 

When I looked at either the histograms or (if your camera has it) the highlight warning indicator (the blinkies) I would see that most of the exposure was blown (or nearly blown) out.  Yea!  Most of the image is near white.  That's what you'd expect.  That's the image I was looking for.

Doris (my wife) lives and breaths with the highlight warning indicator.  If she sees any "blinkies" she wants them gone.  She'll ask "what do I have to do to get rid of the blinkies"?  Why they're there doesn't matter.  She just wants them gone.  Sometimes that's a good thing.  Sometimes, not so much. 

The trick is for you to make the decisions and let the camera do the math.  That's what you paid the big bucks for.