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.
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.
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?!
So are you suggesting to buy a sekonic?….:)
I am too trying to understand and learn lighting when taking photographs, but never really satisfied.
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!
Thanks for the tip! I’d like to try your method as soon as I go down to the street.
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?
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!
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 😀
Hi J Panda: Thanks for the compliment. Yes, I like to shoot a tad under-exposed. Thanks for reading my post!.
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.
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.