Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Into the light...

This weekend, I found myself shooting in some very difficult conditions.  Here's the scenario - I'm standing on the ground, looking up into a bright though overcast sky (very bright).  My niece is on a fairground bungee trampoliney thing, that is on a lorry trailer (so the base of it is at my shoulder height to start with), and she is bouncing 10-15 feet further up in the air...

Obviously, I couldn't ask them to move the trailer around a bit, I couldn't get any higher than I was to avoid having sky as a backdrop, nor further away to reduce the angle... and having queued for nearly an hour, I wasn't about to suggest coming back later when the light might have changed!  I just had to try and do the best I could.

The first thing I did (making good use of the queue time) was do some practice shots of other children on the ride - got a few 'looks' from their parents, but nobody actually approached me or hurled abuse at me...

  • Shooting a reasonably wide shot against the bright sky was fooling the camera into giving me silhouette type pictures with a blown out white sky, and no detail of the children's faces.
  • I tried zooming in more on the child's face or body, and spot-metering off that.  This gave better results, but it was very difficult to pan smoothly with the constant up and down motion - so it was difficult keeping the spot-metering point centered on the child.
  • The constant up and down also quite drastically changed the angle of view between the top and bottom of the jumps, making it difficult to decide at what point to set the zoom.
  • I also tried matrix metering, but that didn't seem to make much difference.
  • I set the exposure compensation up by several notches to +1.7 in an effort to get more detail in the shadows.
  • I also tried out 'burst' mode to help get a good shot while panning vertically.
In the end, I stuck with the over-exposed compensation, combined with spot metering, burst mode, and being zoomed out as far as I could and still be able to keep the center-spot reasonably well on the child.

I was shooting in aperture priority, with aperture as wide as possible, in order to get the quickest shutter time I could (I also increased the ISO to 200 from my preferred 100).

I was aiming for a shot as she was coming down, so that her hair would be streaming out above her, and this pretty much guaranteed I'd have to be looking upwards for the shot and have that nasty blown out sky as the background.  I took about 60-70 in all, playing with various zoom levels, and got 3 or 4 that (with some PP work) were good enough to show her parents (thank goodness for throw away digital film)...

This shot was one of the last ones I took, so I guess that I was getting better the more I practiced.  I only cropped this very slightly, so what I saw in the viewfinder was pretty much what you see here.  I think that helped me to be able to keep the metering spot on her rather than taking in too much sky.

I was quite pleased with this one, and it was the one I chose for her parents, but getting it was more by luck than judgement.  With hindsight, there are probably a couple of other things I should have tried...
  • switch on the flash (d'oh!! how many times have I told myself to use the flash in bright conditions!!)
  • switched to manual mode to find a combination of aperture and speed that gave me the exposure I wanted on her face, and stuck with it - rather than have the camera constantly re-evaluating all the time.
Oh well, I'll have another go when the fair comes to town again next year (and probably forget everything I've said here, all over again!)

Until next time - happy snapping

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