Re: Topic=Photographing Hostas
Just a minor lesson to all of you "would be photograpers" who are going to
shoot all of your hostas so that next winter you will have something to pull
out and look at when the snow is piling up and the wind is whipping up the
chill factor to about -50 below...
The metering systems on ALL cameras are created to think one thing....and that
is that they all assume the scene - or plant - or whatever you are pointing
the camera at is an "AVERAGE 35% gray scene. The camera will reproduce the
picture to that average.. Now, what that means is that if you are shooting
dark green hosta leaves, the camera will have a tendency to OVEREXPOSE those
darker scenes. It does this because the darker scenes will cause an auto
exposure camera to to either select a longer shutter speed (in the case of an
"aperature priority" camera) or a larger aperature opening ( in the case of a
"shutter priority" camera) If you are shooting negative film, this will cause
your final prints to look very 'light' in color - light green in the case of
hosta leaves. Not that a good color lab can't compensate for it however,
since their equipment also is adjusted for that 35% AVERAGE that I mentioned
earlier - they can reprint the negative and give it more density by exposing
the negative for a longer period of time.. Hence a more dense picture.. The
reality of it is however, that if you take control of the process at the
beginning the negative will have MORE DENSITY and the color of the final print
will be MUCH RICHER ! So the question is "How do you get this control. Well,
the easiest way is to go to your favorite camera shop and buy a 35% gray card.
Its a piece of cardboard about 6" X 8" and is medium gray in color. Now, go
out in your garden with tripod and camera in hand, set up your camera to take
the picture you want - and by the way, carefully focus the camera the way you
want the picture to look. Have your camera control set on manual - using
this method you could actually have your camera on automatic but after reading
the exposure of the gray card you will need some way to lock this exposure
into the camera. Some cameras have that feature, some do not. Being certain
to focus the camera BEFORE you set your exposure adjustment is important
because, if you will notice as you get closer to your subject the barrel of
the camera lens gets longer and this can have as much as 1/2 f stop effect, or
Now that you have your camer set on manual and the lens focused, place the
gray card in front of the camera lens - actually as far from the lens as you
can get it but being sure that the picture area is ALL gray card. Adjust your
camera settings to allow for a "NORMAL EXPOSURE" of the gray card..By this I
mean to adjust the shutter speed and/or the diaphram to the meter needle.
Remember now, that the smaller the aperature you use (that means the larger
the aperature number - ie F11 is a smaller aperature than F8) the more 'depth
of field' you will have available to you.. If you don't know what depth of
field is it is that distance in front of the camera that is in "apparent"
focus. The closer you are to your subject the less depth of field you will
have. So if you are shooting very close to the leaves you will need to focus
very carefully since your depth of field will be minimal. Now, remove the
gray card from in front of the camera and expose your picture.. You may even
want to slightly OVER-EXPOSE you negative film by as much as 1 stop - this
effect is known as "saturating" the film which causes an increase in the
density of the film and an overall improvement in the final print.. But don't
over do it because too much over exposure will cause your film to become
'grainy' and that ain't good.
So that's it for lesson number one in taking beautiful hosta pictures. Take
control of the camera, use a tripod, and get a 35% gray card.. A little tip..
If you wnat to try this without a gray card, since they are difficult to carry
around with you when you leave home, just substitute the palm of your hand for
the gray card. Your palm is about one stop BRIGHTER than a 35% gray, so read
the palm of your hand and then OPEN up the aperature about 1/2 f stop - but be
careful anytime you are reading either your palm or the gray card that the
same lighting is falling on the card/palm as is falling on the subject. If
your card is in the sunlight and your hosta is in the shade, this whole thing
ain't going to work.
Now one last thing....I ahve been talking about exposing NEGATIVE film here.
For you TRANSPARENCY (SLIDES) shooters, the process is just the opposite..
When I say overexpose slightly for negative shooters, you slide shooters ar
going to have to "UNDER EXPOSE" your slide film to achieve the same results.
And, slide film is much less forgiving than negative film.. Overexposure of
slide film by one stop and your slides will look all washed out with very poor
Now go take some pictures...and if I've stirred up more questions than I've
answered you can EMail me directly or go through the listserve if you think
it would benefit the other camera bugs.
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