Author Topic: Afternoon Sun - Need Advice  (Read 3264 times)

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Offline KAP

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Afternoon Sun - Need Advice
« on: May 17, 2010, 02:27:46 AM »
Hi, I need some advice if anyone could help me.

I used my Minolta APO 80-200 (f/2.8) the other day to take an indoor photo of my cat.  The photos turned out just beautifully!  So, I headed to the pond the next day (with my tripod) to take some photos of a Canada Goose and baby goslings.  I was sooo disappointed when I got home to see that all the photos were dark and really poor.   The condition was late afternoon but there was sunlight although it was not directly overhead.

I headed back today and same result.   Late this afternoon was slightly sunnier than yesterday.

I dislike just shooting on automatic and usually use aperture priority.   I had my white balance on auto and then changed to sunlight but no much difference.

I have read that, in really sunny conditions, you should compensate by adding in light and this always confuses me.

Can anyone point me to a good article about exposing in sunny conditions or give me some advice as to exposure compensation or metering or what is the best way to go?

Thank you very much.
Gear:  Sony Alpha 350, 77 with a variety of Minolta and Sony lenses.

Offline fother

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Re: Afternoon Sun - Need Advice
« Reply #1 on: May 17, 2010, 03:09:10 AM »

Well, a few things....

Changing the White Balance setting is essentially irrelevant to exposure levels (technically this isn't entirely true, but for practical purposes, it may as well be).

You can adjust the exposure level by tinkering with exposure compensation on the a350 (from -2EV to +2EV in 1/3EV steps) - or use exposure bracketing to take multiple frames at varied exposure levels.

What metering mode are you using? Using spot / matrix / centre weighted metering will also impact on the exposure of some scenes - especially where light levels are varied....

You might also have a look at the Sunny 16 concept - it's one of those 'rule of thumbs' that's worth knowing about, but not obsessing over :)

hope that helps

Offline skmalladi

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Re: Afternoon Sun - Need Advice
« Reply #2 on: May 17, 2010, 03:17:40 AM »
Can you show us your "terrible" pictures and say why you think they're terrible?
You'll get more spot on advice that way.
I'm guessing that the geese were either too dark or too bright compared to the background and that caused some exposure issues.
A couple of pics would sure be useful.
Yes, the Min 80-200/2.8 is a good lens with a good reputation. You should be able to get some great shots with it.

Offline Clive

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Re: Afternoon Sun - Need Advice
« Reply #3 on: May 17, 2010, 02:53:14 PM »
Hi KAP,

That's unfortunate about the geese.

Spot metering is always a good bet with a telephoto.

One good way to ensure accurate metering (assuming the light does not change) is to set to A mode and photograph some grass or trees that are in exactly the same light as the geese ... pick an aperture that is desirable....I usually shoot at f7.1 (+/-) ... check the preview and if that looks okay then set the camera on M and duplicate the aperture and speed in M mode. This works well BUT will not be accurate as the light fades or if the geese are not in the same light as the trees were. 

What happens with telephoto shots is that the meter picks up such a small zone and that point may not represent the scene. If you are very close the (say) white cheek patch on a goose head my throw the meter off.

I use M mode a lot for birds.

Please show us a "bad" example if you wish. That my help in the evaluation.

Good luck,

Clive

This tree swallow was shot in M mode at f7.1 and 1/640 at ISO 200. In A mode the white on the front would throw the metering off and the image would otherwise tend (tend) to be too dark.
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Offline KAP

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Re: Afternoon Sun - Need Advice
« Reply #4 on: May 17, 2010, 07:01:13 PM »
I think this is what's confusing me -  I have read where, for example, too much bright snow can fool the meter into thinking the entire scene is too white or bright; consequently, it will try to under-expose and the resulting photo will be too dark  - so, you should compensate by adding in light and increasing the exposure right off the bat! 

I understand that if you meter off a dark subject your camera will over-expose but I think the concept of, basically, adding in more light to an already light (sunny) scene is confusing me.

Can anyone clarity this theory for me!

Really appreciated!
Gear:  Sony Alpha 350, 77 with a variety of Minolta and Sony lenses.

Offline skmalladi

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Re: Afternoon Sun - Need Advice
« Reply #5 on: May 17, 2010, 08:43:01 PM »
Check the histogram for the under exposed images. You might have ended up with clipped shadows and a limited tonal range.
Cambridge in Colour has a good tutorial on what a histogram is and how it can be used for feedback to check exposure. Check it out if you're not familiar with photo histograms.

Offline Clive

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Re: Afternoon Sun - Need Advice
« Reply #6 on: May 17, 2010, 11:29:24 PM »
"have read where, for example, too much bright snow can fool the meter into thinking the entire scene is too white or bright; consequently, it will try to under-expose and the resulting photo will be too dark  - so, you should compensate by adding in light and increasing the exposure right off the bat!"

Yes, that is correct. The meters are programed to assume that scenes have an average reflectance (you are photographing reflected light) is 18 percent. So the camera tries to make a white scene (snow, white sand) darker. And vice versa.

With fussy subjects (say, bald eagles with a lot of white head) it really helps to use manual exposure.

Good luck. Let us know.

Clive
« Last Edit: May 18, 2010, 05:35:01 AM by Clive »
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Offline KAP

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Re: Afternoon Sun - Need Advice
« Reply #7 on: May 20, 2010, 02:55:21 PM »
Hello again,

I’m trying to pinpoint where my confusion is stemming from and causing me to, suddenly, get very poorly exposed photos.  Sometimes, one can “over think” an issue and that may be the case here but here is my problem.

In a book entitled “How To Do Everything Digital Camera” by David Johnston he clearly indicates that for photos in very bright sunlight you should reduce your exposure by -1. 

Then, I happened to see another article that indicated too much snow or light can fool your meter into thinking the entire scene is bright and it will underexpose the scene; consequently, you should overexpose for it by adding in +1.    This article went on to basically say  - lots of snow – meter thinks lots of light – meter will underexpose – so you should overexpose.  Flip side:  lots of wooded area – meter thinks lots of dark – meter will overexpose – so you should underexpose.

Now, I am thoroughly confused.   It may be that a “scene” and a “subject” require different handling and that's why I am seeing different instructions...

If anyone can shed some light on this for me (sorry, could not resist) I would be completely grateful.   Thank you very much.

Gear:  Sony Alpha 350, 77 with a variety of Minolta and Sony lenses.

Offline harveyzone

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Re: Afternoon Sun - Need Advice
« Reply #8 on: May 20, 2010, 04:35:35 PM »
I don't quite get your confusion as you seem to keep correctly describing the answer several times.

If a scene is predominantly light then the camera will think that it is too light, and try to average it down to mid tones - it results in a darker image. You need to tell the camera that actually you really, really want it to be light because snow is light, and so over expose it. Likewise for dark scenes.

In a mixed light or high contrast situation the camera may use the 'wrong' areas of light to influent exposure in a way that you are not expecting. Photos 'in very bright sun', for example, can include a multitude of things that can throw metering. Very dark black hard shadows may cause overexposure (as for dark scenes) so -ve compensation could be required. Shooting towards the sun, or reflected light may do the opposite.

In difficult lighting I often just use manual - do a test shot, and then stick to the settings (assuming a  consistent light).

As was suggested before, it may be worth posting a example so that we can see the problem that you are having.

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Offline Stef.

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Re: Afternoon Sun - Need Advice
« Reply #9 on: May 20, 2010, 05:12:42 PM »
I will not add anything to all the above answers which are absolutely spot on. Just one more point: do not shoot in AWB - particularly in sunsets! The camera will try and "correct" the wonderful warm colours to something more neutral. I NEVER use AWB ever! I always use daylight as it keeps the colours the way I want/see them.
The beauty of digital is the histogram! If you check your histogram after your first shot you should be able to correct exposure issues with the exposure compensation dial. Frankly, I have never heard about using -1 in bright sunshine (as a rule)??? What you might want to use in bright sunshine is a flash- particularly when shooting portraits outside as the sun will cause shadows under your subjects eyes. You also might want to use -1 exposure compensation when shooting something such as sunsets as it will give you slightly punchier colours. But not as a general rule???
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Offline KAP

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Re: Afternoon Sun - Need Advice
« Reply #10 on: May 20, 2010, 05:29:01 PM »
Everyone - thank you very much.  I appreciate all your help.
Gear:  Sony Alpha 350, 77 with a variety of Minolta and Sony lenses.