Tuesday, April 17, 2012


Greetings, volks. Welcome to Hohenfels Volks, THE place for our place! This time of year in Hohenfels starts seeing some awesome photo opportunities springing up everywhere, I hope you’re seeing some!

First, let me apologize for the sporadic posting, an emergency has left me somewhat distracted. Such is life; I’m making lemonade from those lemons as we speak!

I hope everyone is enjoying the exercises we’ve been sharing. I’ve been shooting mostly film again as I develop a new way of looking at values and value control in digital photography. Today we’re going to cover a couple tips when shooting with ambient light.

Ambient light covers a lot of ground, from the living room lit only by the fireplace to the bright sunlit beaches of the Med. We’re going to focus on the darker side here to make this short.

The first and most important thing to be said about low ambient light shots is that a tripod is required! Without a tripod, you’ll never get a truly spot on level of sharpness that sets an image apart. A shot handheld with a 55mm lens at 1/30 with IS turned on will still be less sharp than a 55mm on a tripod at 1/25 with IS off. You’ll still get something you can use, and be proud of, but nothing like you’d get when you stick it the ground!

Second, consider how dark it is and how much light is available. You will need an ISO that will prove sensitive enough for your range of luminance, yet low enough to prevent excess noise to become a problem.

The third thing to consider is metering and exposure. In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve become big on using the meter to aid in getting things to levels I visualized. Your camera has a built in meter, so let’s put it to use. Do you want to use a small aperture or a faster shutter speed? To control the DOF, go to AV mode and set your desired aperture. To shoot something with more speed, go to TV and set your desired shutter speed. Before you meter, you need to decide where your want your levels to be. For a brighter image, you’ll need greater exposure in the shadows, and conversely less exposure for a darker image. Once you determine that, meter for your intended image. You’ll have a little leeway in editing, but remember that increasing your brightness in editing can introduce some seriously unsightly noise.

Another thing is your composition. You want to compose your image in a way that maximizes visual and emotional appeal. Move around to find that shot, try moving your subject. You may be able to move your light source. Zoom in or out to cover what you envisioned, and you'll notice some interesting things happen, and this ties in to our exercise on shooting only 1 focal length. Remember how you had to move around to get the shot?

Here are a couple more tips for low ambient light shooting. First, use a cable release. This will provide an even steadier platform. Second, if your camera has it, enable mirror lock-up. This locks your mirror in the up position, preventing the mirror vibrations from introducing shake into your image. A lot of cameras let you compose the image, activate the shutter button to lock the mirror, then wait for another shutter activation to actually expose the scene. Third, try to introduce balance into the composition between light and shadow. This allows you to create something that has fewer bright distractions against your main subject. Lastly, this is incredibly important, if your shooting at night or anywhere there is some risk of accident or injury, take a light and play it safe!

I know this all over simplified, but learning your gear and using these simple tips will help improve your low light and ambient light shots. It will also help you get that shot you visualized and not feel like your time was wasted.

Enjoy the week and keep on shooting.

Don’t forget to post any of your images you’d like to see here at the Hohenfels Volks Facebook page. Of course, commenting on both Facebook and here is always appreciated, too! Don't forget, we're on Google+, too!

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