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So I found this shot that I want to take here. I just like the composition of this triangle here, with this stone path coming out of it, and I also like the dynamic range here; I like the dark shadow, and the lit up path. So there are a lot of decisions that I need to make here. I am not going to go into too many of their creative ones. I need to consider, how dark do I want the shadows? Do I want detail back there in the shadows, or do I like it a solid black triangle? How much detail do I want on the path? Well, I know I don't want the path to overexpose.
Great thing about digital is that it's not going to cost me anything to experiment; its not going to cost me anything to shoot. So I'm going to try a few different exposures here. Now, the way that I would normally approach this is I would just start with the composition. I would get my shot framed the way that I want it, and I am in Auto mode here, so I am just going to take that shot, and this is the composition that I'm thinking of. And the camera's auto metering is going to err on the side and making sure that the bright stuff is properly exposed. I am not sure there isn't a better exposure in there, though. Maybe I want more detail in the shadows, or maybe I would like the highlights to be a little bit darkened.
Now, obviously I can take this image into Photoshop, and play with it lot, but even with that in mind, I want to be sure that I've captured as much exposure latitude as possible. If I look at the histogram on the back of the camera, I want data across as wide a range as I can get. Maybe I don't have time to stand here and do too much chimping on the back of the camera, too much studying histograms; I just want to shoot a range of shots that are going to get me some good exposure latitude. Well that's really easy to do with my exposure compensation control. My next decision is going to be one of depth of field.
I want to be sure that all of this is in focus. So I am going to switch to Aperture priority mode, and I am going to dial in a depth of field of about 11; actually, I am going to dial in a depth of field of exactly 11. I am choosing 11, because that's going to give me a really nice deep depth of field. Now, I could stop this down to f/22, but as I go much past 11, there is a chance that I am going to start to see a softening in my image due to an optical affect called diffraction. You can learn all about this in Foundations of Photography: Lenses. So I am going to focus in a particular point, I've got my camera set to center point autofocus, and I'm going to take my shot here.
Now I would like to do an overexposure of a little bit, so I am just going to meter, and then turn the rear wheel to dial in an additional stop of overexposure, and now I would like to underexpose, so I am going to do that again in the other direction. So now I've shot a bracket, so I've really got a lot to play with here in post-production if I need it. I am not sure about my composition now, though. I think there are some other things I would like to try, and you know, I could get that bracketing effect much easier by turning on the camera's auto bracketing feature. Now, I can do that from the menus, or, before I left home, I happened to have built a custom mode that activates auto bracketing and high speed burst.
So now I can play with some other compositions. I can put the path off to one side, and knock off a bracket. I can put the path to the other side, and maybe play with that tree that's a different color there, and knock off a bracket. As I'm doing this, I'm increasing my post-production complexity, because now I'm shooting three times as many shots as I was before, so I don't recommend bracketing all the time. You don't want to just walk through the world shooting three shots of everything, because really, you are not going to need them. It's going to chew up your storage faster, and it's better to be a little smarter about how you shoot.
I am choosing to do it here, because I know I've got a high dynamic range situation that I think I might want to play with. Now, I have another option here, which is to actually let the camera take care of that high dynamic range stuff for me. I can turn on HDR in my camera. That's going to shoot three shots, and merge them into an HDR image. Now, I don't get a lot of control over that merge, so I am not sure that I'm really going to want the camera's HDR merging to be my final shot. So I'm setting the merge feature to save the original three shots.
So that's going to give me a merge that I can see on the camera, that's kind of a nice pre-visualization, but I've still got those three shots that I can merge back when I get home. So that's an array of different exposure options that I have on a camera, that I can get to very easily, and I'm kind of using a little bit in combination as I try to solve the exposure puzzle here; this big dynamic range that I'm not entirely sure how I want to represent it when I get home. Ultimately, this may become a black and white image, in which case the dark shadow may really be an important thing, or maybe I like the HDR look that's got a lot more detail.
So I am trying to be sure I get the coverage that I need, so that when I get home, I've got a lot of options to play with, and I'm doing that by driving my exposure compensation control. I am in Aperture priority, and I've got my aperture locked down, so exposure compensation is only going to change shutter speed. If I wasn't in such bright daylight, I might then need to ride the ISO a little, because my shutter speed might need to be a little bit low. And I'm also playing with the camera's HDR feature, just because it's giving me some pre-visualization tools, and it's allowing me to have some more imagery to play with when I get home.
These are the kinds of ways that I work with the exposure controls on my camera to be sure that I've got the exposure latitude that I need to get the results that I want in my image editor.
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