Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Aim to Expose

Click image to view at 800 pixels wide

Automatic exposure takes care of everything, right? Of course not, the quality of the image depends on the information you feed the computer in your camera, and that depends exactly where you point the lens. The auotmatic system light meters on what is in the crosshairs, same place the sonic beam rangefinder is targetted for focus, so if you align the camera on a bright object exposure will be adjusted accordingly, even if it blacks out the rest of the image as a result. This picture was an exercise in compromise, and deciding what's most important. I took this shot from the top front window of a London bus in December 2006, and the subject matter was the busy street before me, most of which is deep in shadow due to the buildings being very tall. Note how the shop lights are exposed: this is a much more interesting element in the image than the bright faces of the buildings further up, which are burned out. I kept the point of focus well inside the shadowed subject matter and the system did the rest. In the manual days I could have light-metered on the shadows, set the camera then pointed into the sun if I liked, to create a particular effect of burnout, with perhaps only a small part of the frame exposed correctly for drama, and you can still do this with digital cameras. But with less creative images the automatics will do an excellent job if you help them along a tiny bit. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.

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