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Old Feb 15, 2006, 9:20 PM   #1
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I've recently had some problems with blown out whites and black areas without much detail. This seems to only happen when the very black or very white area represents a small portion of the picture. I recently took a shot of a gull on some rocks. Colors were very good, detail was sharp, but the bird was totally blown out. Similar experience shooting a crow. Everything else in the picture was spot on but the bird was almost solid black, hardly any detail. What's the best way to meter these kinds of scenes?

(BTW, I've been shooting a lot with an old KM 100-200 on my 5D. Good for distance and close-ups and not very heavy. The guy I bought the lens from told me Leica made KM's lenses in the 80s. Anyone know if this is true?)
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Old Feb 15, 2006, 9:41 PM   #2
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B1ue wrote:
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I've recently had some problems with blown out whites and black areas without much detail. This seems to only happen when the very black or very white area represents a small portion of the picture. I recently took a shot of a gull on some rocks. Colors were very good, detail was sharp, but the bird was totally blown out. Similar experience shooting a crow. Everything else in the picture was spot on but the bird was almost solid black, hardly any detail. What's the best way to meter these kinds of scenes?
Metering can be tricky and I don't have all of the answers. I can remember the first time I took some photos of a white seagull using center weighted metering to try and retain the highlights with a 5D. Despite my metering choice, the highlights were blown with a white bird dead center in the frame.

So, the center portion used must be a bit larger than it is on some models (and I don't know how KM weights the center versus the rest of the frame in this metering mode).

Any camera takes some getting used to, and they all have different metering behavior (as well as dynamic range limitations). Next time I shoot a white bird, I'll use spot metering. ;-)

If you run into conditions where a camera overexposes a scene, you'll know to use a -EV setting for Exposure Compensation the next time you shoot in the same conditions if you don't want to fool around with available metering options.

You'll just need to observe the camera's behavior and learn from it. It's not always going to meter what you want it to correctly at the expense of the rest of the image ;-)

Leaning towards underexposure is generally a safer way to go anyway if you don't have time to check histograms and reshoot (or bracket your exposure to cover all of the bases). That is, unless you're shooting at higher ISO speeds (where you really don't want to underexpose at all if possible to keep noise levels down).

I use a -EV setting more often than not with my 5D when in doubt. It's relatively easy to pull detail out of underexposed areas (there's a lot more detail in those shadows than you might think). But, if the highlights are blown, there's only so much you can do about it (and then, only if you're shooting raw).

If time is of no concern, use the histogram to see how it's exposing a scene, make changes as needed and reshoot. That's what the histogram is for.



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Old Feb 15, 2006, 9:46 PM   #3
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Spot metering might help. Or shoot bursts with exposure bracketing.
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Old Feb 15, 2006, 9:54 PM   #4
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B1ue wrote:
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(BTW, I've been shooting a lot with an old KM 100-200 on my 5D. Good for distance and close-ups and not very heavy. The guy I bought the lens from told me Leica made KM's lenses in the 80s. Anyone know if this is true?)
It's my understanding that Minolta and Leica were partners for a number of years, and that Minolta manufactured some of Leica's cameras and lenses at one point.

But, I don't know a lot about their history and I don't know if the opposite is true (Leica manufacturing Minolta lenses).


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Old Feb 15, 2006, 10:27 PM   #5
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Thanks for the information and suggestions. I'll do some experimenting.
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Old Feb 16, 2006, 2:55 AM   #6
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Blown out highlights is a general problem. For my Coolpix 8400 I use the raw format and then apply the high quality D-Lighting function of the Nikon Capture raw processing software (in camera D-Lighting isn't nearly as good). In this way I can harness the full 12 bit dynamic range of the raw format for squeezing out more details not only from highlights but also from underexposed areas. It works so well that I use a fair amount of D-Lighting in my default raw processing profile. The DxO raw processing software seems to have a similar tool, which then can also be applied to all DSLRs.
Because DSLRs with their big sensors deliver a much better signal quality than small sensor cameras like my CP 8400, they really should have 16 bit instead of 12 bit raw data, which then would enable an even more d-lightful D-Lighting function.
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Old Feb 16, 2006, 8:34 AM   #7
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kassandro wrote:
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... they really should have 16 bit instead of 12 bit raw data, which then would enable an even more d-lightful D-Lighting function.
I have no idea why the camera manufacturers seem to have settled on 12 instead of 16 bit (something to do with the analogue-digital converter I'd guess), but increasing from 12 to 16 would not increase the dynamic range. No more than increasing the number of steps in a stairway that had a rise of 9" from 12 to 16 would increase the height of the rise. It could cut down the amount of artifacting that can result from various extreem adjustments.
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