Exercise: Measuring Exposure

by Suzy Walker-Toye

And now onto section four – which is all about light. The following quotes seem appropriate here:

Light makes photography. Embrace light. Admire it. Love it. But above all, know light. Know it for all you are worth, and you will know the key to photography. – George Eastman

Light meters read; photographers interpret. – Catherine Jo Morgan

That’s what this first exercise (p131) is designed to explore. Interpreting the light and choosing the exposure which best expresses your intent for the photo. Here are a few photos where the exposure is deliberately darker or lighter than average.

For each of these photos I choose to under or over exposure some part of the photos to achieve the look I was going for.  The first four I’m underexposing and the second for I’m over exposing.

Under-exposures:

The lion in the first photo was edge lit (there’s an exercise on p142 coming up about varieties of lighting with a low sun angle) so the actual lion is shown more as an lion-shape because it is underexposed. In the second photo, shot in the cenotes, the focus is on the amazing light beams that shine in through the surface opening. The rest of the image is somewhat under exposed to emphasise this. The coral inside the cave was being lit from a shaft of light from above and the rest of the cave was much darker, if I had not under-exposed that it would have lost much of its atmosphere. The iconic shape of Ankor Wat in Cambodia is brought out in silhouette by underexposing the building against a lovely sunrise coloured sky.

Over-exposures:

The brightness in the dandelion brings out its fluffy white texture by being slightly backlit. The overall scene of my back garden in the snow is very bright because the snow & sky are both very white. The bright white sand in the photo of the sting ray contrasts with the dark ray very well to emphasise the lovely shape of his tail. And lastly, the sky in the photo of the statue of Neptune in Florence was brilliant white, with a white statue and white sky I exposed for the statue to bring out the textures.

The second part of the exercise on p131 is to take bracketed shots of several scenes (which means take the correct exposure and some under and over exposed versions either side of that, there is usually a bracketing feature on most cameras to do this automatically). Then we can look at the set and see if any of them are actually better slightly under or over exposed. My camera was bracketing with the chosen exposure first then two under exposures and two over exposures, which is how I’ve displayed them below. I’ve removed the really blown out last over exposures though because for everything but the last two rows (the interiors) they were just horrible. I think they all worked best as the proper exposures however if I was going to say over or under as next best thing I think the interiors worked better sightly over exposed and the outdoors sunrise/set ones work better slightly under exposures.

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