A jack-o’-lantern is a carved pumpkin. It is associated chiefly with the holiday of Halloween, and was named after the phenomenon of strange light flickering over peat bogs, called ignis fatuus or jack-o’-lantern. Thanks, Wikipedia. The difficult part, after carving them, that is, is getting the exposure right in the inevitable photographs. Too little and only the cutout face appears. Too much room light and the internal illumination is lost. The trick is to get close and check the results on the camera’s LCD display.
A sign points to Butano State Park from Highway 1, on the coast about 50 miles south of San Francisco. The coast there is grassy hills, but the road keeps going inland until you end up in a redwood forest. Redwood forests are wonderful to visit, but a pain to photograph. You can’t get back far enough to show whole trees, so you get photos of a forest of stumps. There is no telling whether they are big or small. One solution is to spoil the purity of the nature scene by including people, paths, and even cars to provide scale.
We drove up to Berkeley yesterday in search of food and took the opportunity to swing by the Berkeley Marina on the way back, around 4:00 in the afternoon. The Marina looks west across San Francisco Bay to the Alcatraz, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the city skyline. The dappled cloud formation was unusual, and it masked the sun well enough to try a shot straight into the sun.
The automatic exposure capability of modern cameras is a thing to be cherished. It usually produces excellent photos with nothing more than point-and-shoot. There are occasions, however, when it is best to override the automation to force a lower exposure. The built-in exposure automation assumes that the scene is reflecting 18% of the light falling upon it, and that nothing in the scene varies too much from the 18% average. There is trouble when one of those assumptions is wrong.
Patrick’s Point is on the north coast of California, roughly 75 miles south of the Oregon border. This is in a land of stunning scenery. Wild rhododendrons grow among redwoods, and the forests top cliffs above the ocean beaches. Patrick’s Point State Park features Agate Trail, with dramatic vistas as it winds down to the ocean. As I learned, the problem with photographing the scenes is that the forest is dark and the ocean is bright. It takes some Photoshop adjustment to produce a good picture.
We should be able to plug in the camera to a computer and use a software package designed to make the setup process easy, with help keys and online access to the manual and general reference materials. For example, setting up exposure bracketing on a Nikon D100 does not actually require a soldering iron, but it might be easier if it did. Instead, one might have the camera attached to a computer, access “bracketing” from a menu, and then be led through the process step by step.
When the sky is reasonably exposed, the foreground is reduced to featureless shadow. When the foreground is reasonably exposed, the sky blanks out in overexposure. The tricks is to take two frames that overlap very near the horizon. When a Photomerge™ panorama is made, both the sky and foreground detail are retained.
The QSA philosophy is to not worry about exposure and let the automatic camera do its thing. But like all great philosophical principles, there are exceptions. An automatic exposure of a sunset produces a wimpy wash-out image that cannot be fixed in Photoshop. The best strategy is to underexpose the image, then lighten it in Photoshop.
Few subjects are dominated by one color component, so autoexposure usually works well. For example, blue sky appears blue, but actually there is good deal of white mixed with the blue. Flowers are an exception. Flowers can have very pure colors. White flowers or pastel shades do not pose a problem. Usually it is red or red-orange flowers that create a problem. … The rule of thumb for subjects having pure colors is to force the exposure to one and a half stops below the automatic determination.
There was back lighting on the dried grass running up the hill, so it was time to feature the grass. I was only carrying a pocket camera on our early evening walk, so I took three frames to cover the hill up to the hilltop yuccas.
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