Exposure & Zone System

Exposure & Zone System

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Forget f-stops & Exposure

Today we have very sophisticated and advanced cameras, where the camera, in a fraction of a second does the light measuring job. In addition to this, you have almost precise control over the exposure by many ways(metering modes) for measuring light and another one is exposure compensation, where one can adjust the exposure by increasing or decreasing the amount of light comes in immediately before pressing the shutter.  I have no intention to write about those technical stuffs, it has been brimming all over the internet; one needs to just Google it out. Above all, these stuffs on field, you have now sophisticated softwares where one can play with exposure at least two stops in either way with some amount of trade-off in the image quality, if required. Just in case if you need to, it is possible if you shot in RAW format.

ANSEL ADAMS ZONE SYSTEM from 1930 s

ANSEL ADAMS ZONE SYSTEM from 1930’s

During early film days, you need to be a real master in controlling light. No wonder, Ansel Adams was a master in controlling light and he is the person behind the classification of the lights in a scene into 11 stops, starting from 0 as pure black and X (Roman) as pure white – the zonal system. Even in digital age, we are using the same way, how dedicated he was!  Where in digital, we shrank a lot, being Zone V as 18% grey and more concerned about two stops up and 2 stops down. This means, in digital cameras we will be capturing from Zone III to Zone VII and anything beyond that will be rendered as pure dark(with no details) and pure white(with no details) respectively.

CAMERA’S EXPOSURE METER AND ZONE SYSTEM TOGETHER

CAMERA’S EXPOSURE METER AND ZONE SYSTEM TOGETHER

In the intention of taking good photographs, following technical knowledge alone is going to be exhaustive. You may go to any extent in acquiring technical knowledge; but it will again be exhaustive. You may end up spending your whole life in learning the technical knowledge but is that what is needed to be a decent photographer?  To be clear, it is not. In fact, it will restrict you in making good photographs in the long run. You may either end up in teaching technical knowledge, light and exposure to your friends, peers, and followers or you may become a good engineer and possibly get placed in Canon, Nikon, Leica, but never be a decent photographer. There is an excellent article about how the present generation have fetishized sharpness and detail. I would generally say technical stuffs.

If you ask me how much technical knowledge one requires to make a meaningful photograph, I would say the basics – Shutter speed, Aperture, ISO, Histogram, Lens focal length & the limitations of given lens & different  types of lenses, different sizes of sensors and its effects on the photograph, importance of focus points – exhaustive. Isn’t it? (Let me keep the composition topic for some other time). Hardly one may add one or two more to the list, but then it is still going to be exhaustive. The less technical knowledge from the list is also good enough to make meaningful and compelling images. It is never the amount of technical knowledge one possess, it is all about what you see in the viewfinder or in the mind itself for that matter. What you include and what you exclude from those four lines on the edge is known as “the art of Composition”. Though one may not able to make meaningful photographs immediately after they learn the technicalities behind the photograph, but the art of composition can be learnt and crafted by looking at the master’s works. I have made few attempts in my blog to discuss about Steve Mccurry, Sally Mann & Michael Freeman’s works. I will be writing here, more about the masters, legends and their works.

HISTOGRAM AND ZONE SYSTEM

HISTOGRAM AND ZONE SYSTEM

How much time one need to learn the technical stuffs of the camera? Frankly, I would say, half a day is enough but then it depends on the individual. There is nothing more to know from the camera to become a photographer. Learn to use Histogram when you are on a shoot – Being digital photographers we are not afford to disregard histogram even that is for another day.  However, if you ask me about composition – I would say it is a never-ending learning until your last photograph. The compositional skills can be learned and honed by watching the master’s works and asking the question yourself why they are masters? What they have done by their works? I find it myself that the only way to learn from the masters is to keep watching their works repeatedly and get into the field with your camera. Understanding the ideas from their photographs are the key points in learning the master’s work. To create something original one should not try to imitate them. Finally, anice article I come across.

Cheers and Happy Photographing.

© Navaneethan Viswanathan – NavansPhotography.com

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