SPot, Lock & Load

One of the most frequent questions I get asked (in these lockdown days via email) is how do you spot meter to get correct exposure? Now I have to say that lots of photographers shy away from spot metering because they just don’t understand how it works in the field. Unfortunately they stick to what seems to work for them and are a little timid when trying something new. But it’s nothing to be apprehensive about and once you ‘get it’ you’ll find your exposures improve 100%. So how does it work?

It’s a very straightforward process. It just needs a little practice to get to the point where it becomes second nature.

Five basics first: 1. Spot metering covers a very small area ( check your manual), 2.Know how your histogram works, 3. Understand how your meter scale works, 4. Know what a ‘stop’ is, 5.Know how to lock your metered exposure. All this is basic but if unsure just check your manual and/or look it up on line.

If you understand these basics then the rest is a piece of cake. So let’s put it all together:

Example 1. Lets say you want to photograph something that’s predominately white. This is what you do: Set your metering to SPOT, focus on your subject where the white is most predominant, adjust the metering scale until the ‘needle’ is in the middle and LOCK it. Now look at the metering scale again, LOAD in +one stop, refocus and take the shot. The whites will be white and everything else in the frame will be correctly exposed.

Example 2. Lets say you want to photograph something that’s predominately black. This is what you do: Set your metering to SPOT, focus on your subject where the black is most predominant, adjust the metering scale until the ‘needle’ is in the middle and LOCK it. Now look at the metering scale again, LOAD in -one stop, refocus and take the shot. The blacks will be black and everything else in the frame will be correctly exposed.

Simple. It all goes back to the idea that if you place one correctly exposed part of the image in the right place on the histogram then everything else in the image will also be correctly exposed.

It might seem a little complicated but it’s not and once you get used to the process it’ll only take a couple of seconds. And your images will be perfectly exposed.

So, remember: ‘SPOT, LOCK & LOAD’.

May the light be with you

Mindfulness & Photography

About a year ago I saw an advert for a ‘Mindfulness Day of Photography’ and at the time I thought it was just someone trying to cash in on the ‘new thing’ that all the new millennials were banging on about along with their breakfasts of avocado on toast.

However, since lockdown#1 back in March and now with lockdown#2 this November, I’ve been giving this some serious thought. For sure, as the latest season of Autumn Watch hits our TV screens (as I write) there seems much chatter about the value to our mental health of reconnecting with nature: y’know, the walk in the woods, the stroll on the beach, watching the wildlife etc & etc. And many of us ‘togs do just that when we go out and photograph wildlife: And I’ve heard tell that this is a great way to totally be-at-one with nature…or so they say. For me though, it’s never been the case: changing the camera settings, making sure the light is right, checking the Point of View, worrying that I’ve brought all the right gear… etc. And to be frank, there are times when it gets a bit overwhelming when trying to capture that one shot of a life time. Not to mention the frustration when things don’t go to plan.: Not always the greatest thing for my mental health!

So, I had a thought: A light bulb moment you might say.

I’ve always worked to a plan with my photography. I’ve never been an opportunist photographer, at least rarely…it just doesn’t work for me. So I wondered what it would be like if I applied my particular approach to photography in an effort to achieve this so-called state of mindfulness. I’d got nothing to lose, and quite frankly, in these difficult times, everything to gain. So I tried it. And by jingo it works. The Photographer’s Mental Health Restorative I call it, or TPMHR for short. Yea, whatever! Anyway, it worked for me so I thought I’d share it…it might just work for you. But you need a plan and you have to stick to it.

So here it is:

  1. Choose a place that you can pretty much guarantee is going to be quiet with hardly anyone else likely to be there eg. a woodland
  2. Take one camera only together with one lens: a zoom is ideal with minimum focal length of 70mm and no more than 300mm.
  3. Take something to sit on (perhaps a small folding chair) so that you’ll be very comfortable.
  4. Wrap yourself up to keep warm – nothing worse that feeling cold when you’re sitting still.
  5. When you get to your chosen location, choose a good spot that will allow you to have a decent view of what’s around. Don’t try to cover everything, just your line of sight.
  6. Settle down and take a couple of test shots to get exposure right according to the conditions.
  7. Dial your settings into Manual mode.
  8. Have your camera on your lap and just sit and wait.
  9. Give the area around you time to settle by staying still and relaxed.
  10. When something comes along, or you see something worth photographing slowly raise your camera to your eye and take the shot. Don’t check it on the back of the camera. It’ll be OK if your settings were initially correct. Repeat.
  11. Immerse yourself in your surroundings.
  12. Empty your head of all the stress of the everyday.

Tip: A couple of sandwiches and a hot flask may help. But have them to hand so you cause as little disturbance as possible. After all, you are a guest.

I guarantee you will experience mindfulness in your photography.

Bonus: When you post process your images they will remind you of that special time.

Enjoy.

Stay Safe