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A Place in the Sun


The sun and any form of lighting always eluded me. I don’t know about you, I use to fib and slide my way in photography. I mean, I use to point and shoot, and have been very lucky with most of my exposures by using the Sunny 16 rule, F8, and ‘auto mode’ etc..

I have taken courses on photography and cinematography where I had to use complex light meters and shoot photographs and moving pictures that have difficult lighting conditions. I have lit gorgeous table top product shots to streets and buildings. And believe it or not, I would pass them with flying colors. But in reality, I learnt about exposure all through my head and not in my heart and soul. That’s why I would forget it all soon after I learnt it.

So when I sent my friend and critic, Mario, some photos I thought looked okay for feedback, he complained about my poor exposure. Which meant the photos were pure trash. Simple as that.  It was a wake-up call that hit my core. I realized, if I’m going to be a good street photographer, I will have to really understand light and shade through a camera from the bottom of my soul.

Shadow Dancer

I forced myself to learn exposure from my heart. Embrace and feel it from my gut. O bought me a small light meter, a Sekonic L-308s to help. You know what I found? Freedom. Yes. Freedom from my own limits of not understanding how the camera really functioned in the manual mode. Freedom from that stifling “A” mode which I relied on like a useless crutch.

The March

When I don’t have time to go somewhere to shoot the streets (in Los Angeles, you have to drive several miles to shoot anything that’s remotely ‘street’), then I shoot my family and my dogs. But I shoot to learn and practice “light” manipulation. Practice makes perfect! Suddenly, my Leica was no longer a point and shoot but an extension of me and my eye. How cool is that?!

Sounds of the Sun

9 Comments Post a comment
  1. So are you suggesting to buy a sekonic?….:)
    I am too trying to understand and learn lighting when taking photographs, but never really satisfied.

    May 13, 2012
    • Hi Fisto: I love my Sekonic. But you can buy any light meter. Learn to trust it by using it to measure the light for the ISO you like. I shoot at 400 normally for street using 16, 11 or 8 aperture. At least that’s where I start. I measure in the morning, lunch, late afternoon and night. I measure when I go inside or am in the shade. I set my shutter speed to whatever the meter tells me. I check the automatic light meter reading on my camera and compare it to the light meter. It’s normally very close or spot on. I fire off a shot. Then I quickly check what the image looks like to connect all the dots in my head. I hope to know this intuitively but right now, I rely on my Sekonic. trusting your light meter is the key to learning and understanding light. Good luck on learning. Thanks for checking out my post!

      May 13, 2012
      • Thanks for the tip! I’d like to try your method as soon as I go down to the street.

        May 13, 2012
  2. Dear Leicaliker, foregive me asking but where did you hold your lightmeter before taking the incredible “invisible man´s hats” shot. Normally, when I´m taking a “underexposed” picture (even on purpose, like you did with a admirable result) the M responses with a strong noise in shadows, which needs a significant correction in Lightroom?

    May 13, 2012
    • Hi Jochen- You can ask me anything. I really love it when you do. This was a spot I measured for the general area using the Sekonic. I measured people’s faces at about 1.5meters. As you can see, it was a very sunny day. I knew the contrast would be huge. I took another reading for the shade. I fired off a shot and the sunny spots were blown out. So I decided to split the difference but favor the measurement taken in the sun with a slight underexposure.I did a couple of test shots with my chosen split reading. I waited around for something interesting to come by. When I saw the men’s hats, I did not have time to measure it again. But they walked into my “measured” area. At 400 ISO, I did not get significant noise. But in Lightroom, I did play with the Tone Curve Module. I knocked the ‘highlight’ down a touch. I lowered ‘darkness’ a few points as well as the ‘shadows’. You get noise on the M if it is too underexposed. But saturation is great. Cheers. And thanks for reading my post!

      May 13, 2012
  3. Very nice pictures. Some of these under-exposed (I assume deliberate) shots are very interesting… as mentioned in the previous comment, the ‘invisible man’ shot is very cool 😀

    May 13, 2012
    • Hi J Panda: Thanks for the compliment. Yes, I like to shoot a tad under-exposed. Thanks for reading my post!.

      May 13, 2012
  4. dnguyen #

    Right on. Love my L758DR, but would like a small L308S as well. With a light meter, I feel like I’m taking on full creative control. It’s nice to see photographers doing so rather than letting their cameras take the lead.

    November 24, 2012
    • Hi DNguyen: I love my L308S. It’s small and fits in my bag. When I carry just the camera, then I rely on my camera light meter. I also use the iPhone light meter too. Thanks for stopping by. Hope you’ll come back more often.

      November 24, 2012

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