Friday, October 27, 2006

Photo School

I would like to take this opportunity to apologize to all the people who I have held up as I fiddle with my camera to take a picture. However, this post is to show you why I do that. While I was in Koya-san with Zach a month ago I took several "double shots" to compare the automatic setting, and manual setting. Auto gives you speed. Point and shoot. Manual takes longer, settings to choose, light to measure, but usually gives you much better pictures.

For example, the morning shot above is a very tricky one, with the sharp shadow line. Auto sets the exposure for the shadow, so while you can see detail quite well, it blows out the rest of the photo, and imparts a strange, ghostly bluishness.

I bought a couple of photo books by Bryan Peterson a few months back, one of them devoted to digital photography. One setting you have with a digital camera but not film is white balance. By changing what the camera thinks of as "white" you can skew the color of the whole photo, in subtle ways. In Manual mode you can set your white balance yourself, and if you choose the "cloudy" setting, even in full sun, you get a nice "orange" shift. The shot becomes much warmer, and looks a lot more friendly and interesting than the harsh and blue tinted automatic version.

This was another tricky one. I wanted a shot of the detail in the ashes on this incense burner. On automatic the exposure is set to the background, and the detail is lost in overexposure. So when I reshot, I cranked down my shutterspeed a bit and voila! The ashes come through perfectly. While this does leave the background a bit underexposed, it *is* the background afterall, and not the focus of the shot.

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