Book Recollection: Understanding Exposure 3rd Edition

The timing of this particular recollection should not be much of surprise based on the previous foreshadowing. Yes, it’s another photography book by Bryan Peterson called Understanding Exposure.  As before, this book was actually purchased for Linda and sadly, does not count against the paper buildup.  That downside does not eclipse the benefit of this read.  Like the Understanding Shutter Speed offering, Bryan has an incredible way of presenting a technical topic in an understandable manner.  Per the title, this book was focused on the classic triad of Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO which together deliver an exposure (this would be the good kind, not the perv in the raincoat type).  If you recall, one of the legs of that triad (Shutter Speed) was actually the topic of the first book I read.  To make that book more effective, I recommend reading this first since the shutter book often refers to the “correct exposure” which is thoroughly explained in today’s subject.  As with the Shutter book, this one is full of examples complete with detailed camera settings (again with Nikon so a double bonus for us!).

After reading this book I can safely say I’m pretty much done with the programmable modes on the camera.  I think I can correctly mimic all of those settings plus gain more creative control through the manual mode.  This may take a few minutes more getting the triad correct than the A and S modes, but the satisfaction of being completely responsible for the results of the photo is kind of exciting.  There were a ton of valuable takeaways from this read.  If I had to focus in on just a couple, I would have to go with the different sky meterings to get proper exposure for sunsets, skylines and, surprisingly enough, waterfalls in the woods (the latter being a common theme in our own photo shoots).  The other important tidbit was the focus points for the small apertures (i.e. f/22).  The larger the aperture number (technically the smallest amount based on being inverted) the larger the focus depth is.   Knowing to focus 1/3rd into the scene to maximize depth will come in handy out in the field.  Our photo output has already improved significantly and Linda was able to take some excellent shots at her latest indoor Agility show which is traditionally a tough environment given the low lighting and movement of the dogs.  Apparently others thought the shots were darn good as well based on the number of orders she got for her photo collages.   For those of you into photography, at least take a glance at this  book and admire Bryan’s  awesome shots of tree silhouetted in the sun (pg 26 and 118) and the very nice shot of a Caterpillar Track Type Tractor (pg 124 – possibly a D11) moving coal (of course, I may be a little biased on that shot due to the fine choice of equipment).  Oh, and there is a great  shot of purple flowers fill flashed against the dark cloudy Chicago skyline on page 169.  If there is one room for improvement, I’d suggest giving an outro for the book.  It literally talks about a flash mode (Rear Curtain Sync) and simply ends.  No summary, not words of encouragement no hope you enjoyed, just the final sentence on the sync topic and he’s out of there.  I remember turning past the index and even checking the binding to see if some pages were left out.  It’s as if a topic for another book popped into his head and he wanted to get this one out of the way as soon as possible in order to start on that new concept.  This is just a minor nuisance and the little nuggets gleamed from this read far outweigh this quirk (although that last impression has stayed with me).  Needless to say, this book is a keeper and based on the last two books from Bryan, I’m in the hunt for more offerings from him.

Hit the jump to see read those nuggets!

The takeaways:

  • The Photographic Triangle – ISO, Shutter Speed and Aperture (pretty much got this burned into the gray matter now)
  • Telephoto with smallest aperture (f/22+) focus 1/3rd of way into scene to maximize sharpness
  • He has free video streams for book owners – http://www.ppsop.com/understandingexposure
  • Critical sharpness reigns supreme at f/11
  • Under is better than overexposed
  • Set White Balance on Cloudy when shooting in Raw – you can change it later if you need to
  • Color temp 2,000-4,000K is warm (reds)
  • Color temp 7,000-11,000 is cool (blues)
  • Storytelling Exposures – f(16,22,32)
  • Singular Theme/Isolation Exposure – f(2.8,4,5.6)
  • Who Cares Exposure -f(8,11) – actually gives critical sharpness and great contrast
  • Wide Open – smallest number fstop – increasing fstop = stopping the lens down
  • There is a distance setting mark on the lens – I need to investigate this a little more
  • Only use f/16 if your foreground doesn’t begin closer than for feet from the lens
  • Storytelling Depth of field – f/22: 18-55mm focus 5′ from lens    f/222: 12-24mm focus 3′ from lens
  • I need to locate the Depth of Field button on my camera – provides a preview of the aperture selected
  • Visual Weight – whatever is in focus is understood by eye and brain to have the greatest importance
  • Depth of Field – Macro: 1/4 in front, 1/2 behind  NonMacro: 1/3 front, 2/3 behind
  • Specular Highlights – Out of focus spots of light will appear in the shape of the aperture (if you want a circle, aperture has to be wide open – otherwise get hexagons )
  • Finally explained why operator controlled shutter is called Bulb – used to literally have a bulb that put air pressure on shutter button until the air was released
  • The closer you are to the action, the faster the shutter speed – obvious if you think about it, but just in case you have other things to worry about, just jot this down on your cheat sheet
  • When panning – shutter speed 1/60 – 1/8 sec
  • Capturing falling rain – shutter 1/60 sec
  • Sidelight shooting with the sun – shoot North/South direction
  • Backlighting – sun is behind the subject – exposure setting with a telephoto take at the left or right of the sun
  • TTL Metering – Through The Lens (measure light reflected off of the subject)
  • 3 metering modes – Center-weighted metering (take reading off of entire soon but bias to the center), Spot Metering (takes reading from a narrow range 1-5 deg, Nikon Matrix Metering (does a comparison of scene with an internal DB) – author recommends matrix mode 100% of the time if relatively new to photography
  • Recommends taking an extra shot at -2/3 exposure as a comparison later
  • Does not recommend Auto-ISO since the camera really doesn’t know what you are trying to do
  • Reflected light meter assumes neutral gray subjects will reflect back at 18% (this could be wrong if subject mostly black or mostly white)
  • White snow – set exposure to +1, Black subjects set exposure to -1
  • Backlit Sunrise – Meter to the side of the sun
  • City or Country scenes at Dusk – Meter on the dusk sky
  • Coastal or Lake scenes – Meter off surface of water
  • Very Green scenes (and waterfalls) – Meter off of green area in scene then -2/3 exposure
  • Full moon photography – actually shoot on the day before the calendar indicates a full moon
  • Polarizer Filter – Shooting 90 deg angle from sun otherwise it does nothing (note, this includes 90 deg straight up) – less than 90 deg will cause color changes across the scene (costs 2 stops) – also good for shooting in the woods on rainy days
  • Neutral Density Filter – Recommends the 3 stop filter
  • Bryan commented that if you can afford Photoshop, you can absorb the cost of a graduated ND filter
  • Nikon apparently has a built in multi-exposure mode – I didn’t like the motion effect produced by moving the camera at each shot, but shooting the moon and moving it to the desired location in another scene seems intriguing
  • HDR – DSLR have about 6-7 stop range – human eye has 16 stop capability
  • HDR – Shoot in Aperture priority and use the camera’s bracketing feature (and obviously use a tripod)
  • Indicates that streams and waterfalls are good HDR candidates
  • The ring flash was originally invented by a dentist for dental photography

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