was this picture impossible to get right?

Discussion in '35mm Cameras' started by Mike Henley, May 27, 2004.

  1. Mike Henley

    Mike Henley Guest

    Hi guys, i guess it's time to show you my first effort... These couple
    of images are using superia 400 in a mju-ii, shot a couple of days
    ago, i think.

    First one is centre-focused (and spot-metered?) on the gentleman in
    the lower right hand corner. Second is center-focused (and
    spot-metered?) on the scene in the distance. In the first, the scene
    looks overexposed and lacking in beauty. In the second, the gentleman,
    and the trees in the foreground/framing, look dark. Was this an
    impossible shot to make successfully (in the sense of having both the
    gentleman/treeframing and the scene well exposed)?


    Would i have had better luck had i used the minox and chose an f8 or
    above (i have no idea what f the mju-ii chose, it was automatic)? and
    what confused me about the way the minox works, well, with the mjuii i
    can tell the camera which area to expose best by half pressing the
    button while centering the area of interest in that central indicator
    (looks like a +) and then recompsing, but with the minox i just set
    the focus and the aperture and then the camera chooses the shutter
    speed, well, in a complex shot like this one, how can i know what
    exactly the automatic shutter speed selection of the mjuii is based on
    in the shot?

    Mike Henley, May 27, 2004
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  2. Mike Henley

    howard Guest

    The lighting is the problem. Try a low contrast film and fill in
    the shadows with flash, not too much though. Tricky.
    howard, May 27, 2004
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  3. Mike Henley

    Alan Browne Guest

    These are the joys and limitations of film latitude. In a nutshell, the
    negative film can record about 7 stops of scene latitude. In open
    sunlight to the darkest shade there can be 10 or 11 stops of scene
    latitude... so the scene 'light' can't fit on the film.

    One techhnique would be to shoot off of a tripod and take two shot about
    3 stops apart, then combine in PS or in the darkroom. Not a convenient
    way to shoot, less so when people are in the shot.

    The first of your two shots is actuall not a bad compromise, although
    the greens are certainly washed. The gent in the mobile chair is a
    dominant figure in the image; the folks on the lawn are percetibly
    enjoying their freedom in life v. his imprisonment. (I'm assuming he is
    mobility challenged and I'll stop with the symbols here). The framing
    of the overhanging trees is well done a presents a tunnel view to the
    bright scene giving us the impression of seeing what the gent sees.

    The second shot favours, of course, the lawn and the subjects but leaves
    no light for the foreground shady area.

    The typical 'rule' for negative film is to expose for the shaddows as
    negative film has a lot of overexposure tolerance. And so, if you
    metered for the gent in the shaddows (skin) (which would read for a
    long/wide open exposure), and then close down 1 to 2 stops, you will get
    that shaddow area detail, and get as much of the bright area as
    possible... not all, since some is beyond the latitude of the film.

    To control all this, it is best to have control over the metering (spot
    is best) as well as the exposure. Auto cameras do as they are
    programmed to do, and may provide a "backlight" mode which here would
    have exposed about two stops over the bright part of the scene and would
    have done an okay job of getting the scene. But if you could control by
    metering the shaddow area you would do better in fitting the scene onto
    the film.

    Of course, lighting up (flash) the foreground can do wonders, but it is
    difficult to attain a natural looking light that will properly expose
    everything due to the varying distances. If there were a way to reflect
    in some light from panels, that would help too. But of course, the
    benefit of these comapct cameras is light travel, nor carrying lights.
    Not sure exactly as I don't know the cameras. But it comes down to
    control of the meter (metering what you want to meter) and then setting
    the exposure relative to those shaddows (negative) or highlight (slide
    film). This scene on slide film would not be as good as your first
    shot, and would resemble most your second shot.

    You gave up control for the sake of convenience, so there is only so
    much you can do to fool the camera into getting the shot you want. Yes,
    f/8 might be the answer, but if you can't control the other variable,
    shutter speed, then you have no control over the exposure... the auto
    meter will do what it thinks is required.

    Maybe the following could work with your auto camera(s), assuming you
    can manual focus. Get an 18% grey card. Place it in the shaddow area
    so it is facing where you will be shooting from. Get up close, but
    don't cast more shaddow onto it. Point the camera at it, and press
    halfway down. Hopefully this will lock the exposure (see manuals).
    Then, while holding that halfway down, go recompose, manual focus and shoot.

    Good luck.
    Alan Browne, May 27, 2004
  4. Mike Henley

    Roger Guest


    It is difficult to fit the entire contrast range of this scene into a
    single photograph. The mju-ii did very well (IMO) as well as the
    printer. The choice of ISO400 film is also rather contrasty adding to
    the overall complexity of compressing the dynamic range of the scene
    into the final print.

    Neither camera is going to achieve both detailed shadows and
    "friendly" highlights when the contrast range is this great, either
    the highlights or shadows will suffer. The mju-ii exposed just exactly
    as you would have expected it to from the manual descriptions (and my
    experience) and if you were to have taken the same photograph with the
    Minox you would have to understand the metering pattern (as you
    suggest) and then set the over/under-exposure compensation
    accordingly. Metering on the dark shadows, you would have to set the
    camera to under-expose the remainder of the photo; but metering on the
    strong highlights, you would have to set the camera to overexpose to
    get some shadow detail.

    One possibility is to place the camera on a tripod, expose the
    foreground for the desired effect, then with a second frame expose the
    background. Scan the frames, create a mask digitally and combine the
    two photos to capture more of what you desire. Another possibility is
    to cut the background intensity with a selective filter, or to add
    more light to the foreground with a strobe. The latter is a typical
    choice and it's called daylight fill flash and the mju-ii is pretty
    good at balancing the fill flash.

    Roger, May 27, 2004
  5. <snip>

    So exactly what was the subject here? The guy riding the vehicle, or the
    scene he appears to be enjoying? If the idea was to get the guy as
    observer, enjoying the scene, you might have done better letting him be
    pretty much of a silhouette, but getting closer to him so that the viewer
    of the picture can identify more with his point of view. Something like a
    shot somewhat over his left shoulder.

    I guess the idea here is to be able to recognize what it is you really want
    the image to convey, and then to move to enhance that message. Here, I
    would have wanted to see what the guy himself is seeing, which would have
    moved that tree to the left, creating a nice frame around the scene in the
    distance. The silhouette of his head and shoulder, over which I was
    looking, could readily have been out of focus with no problem whatever.

    The point is to strive to be aware of what you are really seeing. Here, you
    see the scene and then you see the fellow on the vehicle, and then you see
    him seeing the scene. As you do that, your eyes adjust to the dimmer light
    as your attention shifts from the scene to the observer, at which time you
    notice whatever is visible about the observer. Then you realize that the
    observer is also part of the scene itself, and that's the picture you take.

    The non photographer would be more likely to shift directly back to the
    scene he's enjoying, feeling some amount of complicity in enjoying the same
    scene. And that's what might have made a powerful image, I think. In
    effect, your shot could have evoked that feeling of complicity in the
    viewer of your image had you gone directly after that effect.

    When you do that, the chances are much less that you'll require from the
    film what it cannot provide. Here's why: Our eyes probably do not have
    any more latitude than does the film, but we build for ourselves composite
    images by scanning the scene we're viewing. Our eyes adjust for the light
    by opening up and closing down the aperture of the iris.

    So stop scanning and pay attention to the reality of the instant, such that
    it takes on a timelessness, and you're more likely to see the real image
    you're seeking.

    Does any of this make sense? Feel perfectly free to ignore it as the
    blather of an old coot if it doesn't... lol!!!!

    The rest of the business about exposures and such are techniques you need to
    practice deliberately, so that you'll have them in hand when the time comes
    to get the shot.

    Bill Tallman
    William D. Tallman, May 28, 2004
  6. Mike Henley

    Mike Henley Guest

    Mike Henley, May 28, 2004
  7. Mike Henley

    canute Guest


    This is an appreciation of your answer and a question to others.

    If this is the blather of an old coot, bring on the blathering. I think your
    analysis and suggestions makes a lot of sense.

    Managing contrast on a bright day is difficult and it's something I struggle
    with. Using fill flash and reflectors and even split gradient filters seems
    necessary some times (usually after I get my pictures back) but it all seems
    so contrived and time consuming. I find it frustrating to have that
    (contrasty) slow speed film in the camera, be presented with a beautiful
    sunny day and then realize that I have no flash or suitable reflector to
    tone down the contrast or worse, not even realize I need it.

    Is it true that the contrast we experience is being expanded by the iris? I
    thought that the iris was not too fast to respond to varying light levels or
    rather I thought the scanning that we do of the image is very fast in
    comparison. Does anyone out there know of a good reference (or web site)
    that explains the mechanics of vision and perception? I've only ever seen a
    two paragraph description in some old photography book.


    PS. another thought, the perception of a photograph must be different from
    what we perceive of reality at any given time because we me miss the fourth
    dimension of time (and I guess the third because it's not stereoscopic).
    Could it be that we don't scan real living images the same way as
    photographs at all? In which case, is looking at photographs something we
    learn and have some kind of cultural bias? Sorry for drifting off topic, but
    I'm fascinated by "good" pictures and how they are made, but in a real sense
    they are made in our mind as we perceive them.
    canute, May 31, 2004
  8. I'll rudely jump in here, even though your post was addressed to Bill
    ;-). One of the delightful things about forums. And Bill may also have his
    own response...

    This is one of the reasons, actually the main reason, why you
    sometimes hear photographers referring to "golden hours", which means the
    times close to sunrise and sunset. Midday light is very contrasty, and
    often goes beyond what the film can handle. So you aim to be out when the
    sun is lower, and the direct light is reduced closer to the level of the
    scattered ambient light, which is lighting the shadows. This brings the
    scene within the range that the film can capture.

    There are other reasons for shooting at these times, too. Light from
    high overhead is rarely flattering, but more from the side means you can
    use the direction to enhance both shapes and shadows. The atmosphere causes
    a color shift too, and the light becomes 'warmer', more yellow, or even
    orange and red. And the sky sometimes becomes dark enough that it can come
    closer to matching foreground detail.

    Truly contrasty films, such as Velvia, aren't good use for contrasty
    conditions. Instead, use a low-contrast film, because the ambient light
    doesn't need any help at all. Save the contrasty films for times, like
    cloudy or overcast days, when the contrast levels have dropped but you
    don't want the picture looking flat.

    Our eyes can make out a vast range of light levels, and not just due
    to the iris. The blood flow to the optical nerves makes a significant
    difference too, and this is controlled to some extent by the body. At
    night, you can breathe deeply and increase your night-vision by getting
    more oxygen to the eyes. You also have greater sensitivity to light outside
    of the main focal area of the eye ("fovea"), but much poorer detail
    resolution. This is why you can sometimes see dim stars from the corner of
    your eye that you can't see directly.

    Film, by comparison, is very narrow in the range it can capture at
    once. So it always increases the contrast over what we see (or perceive).
    This is important to bear in mind, always, and be aware of the areas you
    want to capture and how you're metering for the image. The Zone System was
    created to manage this, though it's a slow method to use all the time. But
    shifting the aim of the camera slightly can sometimes produce drastically
    different settings as the meter reads from different areas of the scene.
    Play with this, to see how much actual contrast a scene has.

    Slide film has the narrowest exposure range ('latitude') of all
    film/image types. Moreover, what you shot is what you get - there isn't the
    extra step of making a print like you get with negative film, a step where
    some corrections can be done if the exposure is slightly off. So
    photographers using slide film will occasionally, or often, 'bracket' their
    exposures by shooting a couple of frames slightly over and under exposed
    from the settings determined by the metering method, to be sure that the
    details they want to capture are indeed rendered onto the film.

    There are a tremendous number of things that differ from our
    perception of real life as opposed to a photograph. And yes, the primary
    two are depth and movement, as you say. But another very significant factor
    is the edges of the photo itself - what's included, what's not, where is it
    all in the frame, and so on.

    A photograph is intended to present a focus of attention. Everything
    outside of the image is insignificant and therefore does not exist. In the
    real world, this "outside" area is represented by things that we've seen
    but had no reason to pay any attention to.

    But, within the image, we feel everything in there is important.
    Changes in patterns, contrast, color, and so on will catch our eye for a
    moment - we'll lock onto them to figure out what they are. If they don't
    contribute to the scene, this is a distraction, and should be avoided.
    Things that go outside the scene, getting cut off by the frame edges, can
    disturb us because we now know we're not getting the complete picture and
    something is hidden from us. The old "space to move" rule is another one -
    moving subjects need to be given room to move into, since by nature we're
    tracking a moving subject and 'leading' it, trying to stay just ahead and
    anticipate the action.

    Is this influenced by culture? Hard to say, but to some extent I
    would say yes. For instance, photographers and other artists become very
    aware of the details and elements in a photo, and why having the horizon
    line passing directly behind someone's head is bad. Others may see them and
    subconciously dislike the effect, but not be able to pin down why. And an
    image of a little boy in shorts standing in a water-filled ditch and poking
    into the water can be interpreted different ways. In upper-class cultures
    it would seem to be an indication of poverty, since ditches are "unclean"
    areas and little boys should have shirts on and be on the playground, or
    whatever. But in other areas/cultures, he's simply having fun. In reality,
    this is what little boys do (and, *ahem*, some of us bigger boys too), but
    whether this is viewed with understanding or distaste can be cultural.

    We identify with known subjects in the frame. It is always
    recommended that you keep the eyes of your subject sharp, because as a
    species we relate to these, even in cases (such as insects) where there is
    no particular reason to focus on them since they won't tell us anything.
    This is pretty much universal. But in different cultures, other things
    might strike us in different ways - patterns, incongruity, and so on. For
    instance, the same photo above of the boy in the ditch, but now he has a
    rfile strapped to his back. What does it say now, and how does this differ
    in other areas?

    (And for another factor to make you think: What kind of rifle did you
    envision, and why?)

    Overall, you'd probably find that what is considered a good photo
    usually extends to most cultures, since it aims for something fundamental
    to us as human beings, rather than to something influenced by the culture
    itself. A photo of baseball players celebrating after a big win can still
    be understood by cultures unfamiliar with baseball (they must exist
    somewhere), because the drama of the emotions is the subject, not the
    details of the game. Curiosity may be drawn by the uniforms and form a mild
    distraction, but the subject is the people and their reactions, and this is
    something we all lock onto.

    For what it's worth,

    - Al.
    Al Denelsbeck, May 31, 2004
  9. Mike Henley

    Annika1980 Guest

    From: (Mike Henley)
    Your first best option is to meter for the bright background and then fill
    flash to fill in the shadows in the foreground.

    The next best thing is to do what you did and shoot two exposures and then
    combine them later.
    Expose one shot for the highlights and one for the shadow areas.
    I did a quick one with your pics here which only took about 5 minutes.

    If you use the two-exposure trick it is important to use a tripod and keep the
    focal length constant so that the pics will line up correctly.

    An alternative method is to use one exposure somewhere in between the two and
    scan the image in twice using different settings (one brighter, one darker) and
    then combine those.

    The preferred method, of course, is to shoot digitally in RAW mode. That will
    give you one base image that can be used to create whatever you want.
    Annika1980, May 31, 2004
  10. Mike Henley

    Mike Henley Guest

    how did you do that? what did you use?
    Mike Henley, Jun 2, 2004
  11. Mike Henley

    Annika1980 Guest

    From: (Mike Henley)

    It's a pretty simple technique using layers and masking. Basically, you stack
    the images on top of one another and remove what you don't want from the top
    So I put the dark layer on top of the bright layer and simply erase the dark
    areas of the top layer. The trick is getting the images lined up correctly,
    which is what we pros call "registration."
    Annika1980, Jun 2, 2004
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