Saturday, January 13, 2007

New Year and outta the 06 funk

Don't know who I should apologize to first, those who follow my blog or myself for putting my photography aside for the last couple of months. Good reason it happened...finished up the remodel of the house. This wasn't a little paint make over, rather ripped out the entire kitchen and new put in, 2 bathrooms gutted and new put in. Ditto the patio. Some pics so you can see what was done:

Finally last night I got to go out and do a bit of shooting. I chose night time streeet photography for a reason. Am off to London and Paris in April and really want to hone this skill. I spent many years doing night work and loved the quality of light so its a circle back to an love for me. Why I had to pick one that was very cold windy I don't know, but I did.

Wandering down Myrtle Avenue during the Family Festival and Old Town Monrovia when I stumbled across the Kettle Korn store front. This place is usually pretty pristine and it makes the most incredible Kettle Korn. The scene caught my eye and I started to shoot.

I knew when I first peered in the window it was something I'd more push towards the impressionist view with after processing. To do that, you still have to have a good exposure and this scene had its challenges. Dipping back into my bag of tricks I knew that the "Zone System" so beautifully designed by Ansel Adams was the way to go to make it work.

The Zone System is a theory that simply helps you break your scene down into blocks or zones of the shades of gray from absolute black to absolute white. It gives a 10 stop range of gray. The zone assumes that the perfect neutral is an 18% gray and from there you base your exposure. You pic the zone within your scene that you want to be 18% gray, meter that area and expose as your meter readout dictates and voila the area you wanted is perfectly exposed.

The problem with this theory is you have to carefully chose what you want to be the 18% gray. Of course you better know the contrast range your capture media can record. Regardless if it is film or digital sensors each has a range it can effectively capture. If you aren't sure find your self a preprinted (Kodak used to make a great one) gray scale zoned on one side and neutral 18% on the other and take some test shots. Knowing your media limitations help you get closer to the "right" exposure for the gray scale representation you want in the final image.

Back to the problem of picking the wrong gray for your metering for 18% gray. Chose an area that is too dark you have great shadow detail but leaves your highlights completely white and lacking detail. Chose an area too light for your metering gives you great highlight details with no shadow detail. Finding the balance is where the artistry comes in. Bracketing helps you with a range of exposures around what the meter recommended to get the final result you wanted.

Now on to todays image. "Kettle Korn" was an interesting challenge. The front of this store was not lit while the back was strongly lit. There was little light from the street leaking onto the front so I had to work with backlit dark objects and a white wall in the back. A stroke of luck was the fake slate floor was there and knew it was likely a zone V or VI, metered that, used the base "f-stop" down 2 stops and shot with 1/2 stop brackets from that starting point from 1 1/2 stops eitherside of the adjusted. Make sense, it did to me at the time. The 1/2 stop under the adjusted wound up giving me the balance between shadow detail and highlight I wanted to portray. Of course I still had a little of balance work to do with Photoshop to fine tune it for the final image that I ran through the "dry brush" filter for the final image I wanted.

So there you go, even digital art you need to know your capture tool and its strengths and limitations. Bracketing helps get you closer to the ideal you envisioned when you saw the scene, digital makes that cheaper. Enjoy Kettle Korn and forgive the long silence...

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