Thursday, September 24, 2015


One of my hoped-for images in Alaska has always been a caribou at the top of a hillside. Each year when I go to Alaska, I look for this type of shot. Each year it has not happened. The animals have always been either on a flat plain or lower down on a hillside. But this year, success! Everyone in my group got a healthy dose of my excitement over this opportunity, and thankfully most of them got similar shots.

These kinds of moments in wildlife photography are fleeting and never controllable. The animals are where the animals are, and no amount of hoping or wishing can change that. But when all the elements line up in your favor, it is best to be prepared and be ready to shoot a lot of images when the opportunity presents itself.

Exposures can be difficult in this kind of situation. Anytime there is a dark subject against a light background, it is typical for the camera to underexpose the subject. This happens because the background  is so bright that it fools the light meter into providing an exposure that is accurate for the background but not for the subject. Even when you look at the histogram, the exposure might look correct. But there are many times when you have to consult your head as well as the histogram. In this case, you should automatically increase Exposure Compensation to +1 or +1.5. Doing so might show an overexposure on the histogram, possibly with "blinkies" on the sky area. But that is not a problem in these situations. Why? Because in most cases an overexposed light sky can be brought back down to normal levels after you download onto your computer by using Lightroom or other image optimization software. Most importantly, by increasing exposure you assure yourself that all the detail in the animal's fur will be recorded.

If you do not increase Exposure Compensation, you might still get a usable image, but the fur will be underexposed. When you try to increase the brightness of the dark fur using image optimization software, it WILL get lighter BUT it will show more noise (a grainy look) than had the dark fur been properly exposed in the first place. This is especially true when using high ISO's above 800.

Note that underexposed dark areas always show more noise than light areas.

So our tools are great, but we can't always rely on them completely. We have think and use our heads, as well as our tools, in many shooting situations. And we have to be prepared at all times for whatever Mother Nature might provide.

Shutter Speed 1/1000.  Aperture f/7.1.  ISO 1600.  Lens: Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II, set at 150mm.  Camera: Canon 7D Mark II.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Serendipity always rewards the prepared."  -Katori Hall

No comments:

Post a Comment