Harvey Stearn

Harvey Stearn

Sedona, AZ

To see the scope and essence of Harvey Stearn's photographic art please visit www.CameraStops.com. Mr. Stearn began photographing Western landscapes and wildlife at the age of 13, spent 50 years pursuing his passion in the field and in the darkroom b...
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Monsoon Clouds

Monsoon Clouds

Dramatic Skies Part II On October 25, 2019, PhotoPXL.com published an article of mine entitled “Dramatic Skies for More Compelling Landscapes”. I thought that it pretty much covered the subject, including monsoon clouds, and didn’t require a follow-up. The summer months of...

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Forum Replies Created

  • Author
    Topic: Serendipity God’s Gift to Photographers – Part II Read 0 Times
  • Harvey Stearn
    Harvey Stearn
    Silver Member
    Posts: 14
    Serendipity
    on: July 10, 2022 at 11:43 am

    Erik, I just returned from Colorado. So, I apologize for the delay in responding. Thanks much for your complement. Now that I think of it, what I attempted to do in these three articles is evaluate my current position and determine if any mid-course corrections are needed. This is something that many people should do no matter what career they have chosen. But, it is often something that we photographers don’t think about, probably because of our passions for this pastime.

    I learned a lot from this exercise, and it has reinvigorated my approach to photography. I am glad that you are inspired to review your own work, and you are right: it doesn’t matter what camera you used  or how skilled you were in earlier times. I am sure that you will draw a number of useful conclusions regarding how to move forward. If you have any “Aha!” moments please feel free to share them with me.

    Best,

    Harvey

    Harvey Stearn
    Harvey Stearn
    Silver Member
    Posts: 14
    Re: Why ETTR May Be More Important Than Ever
    Reply #1 on: April 1, 2022 at 1:53 pm

    This is about the last I have to say on this subject, as it seems to be pretty well covered. I don’t disagree with what Andrew is saying, but for the record wish to clarify where I’m coming from. First, I know quite well that ISO and exposure are independent variables, though low light levels often force use of higher ISO’s to keep exposure times at levels the photographer may require. The reason I check my settings at ISO’s of 400 and over is to see how much noise may be building up which might require more exposure to raise the signal to noise level in the darker tones. I’ve been doing photography for 71 years and have an MIT engineering degree with more math than I could ever use. I don’t have a problem reading technical papers and understanding relationships between variables. If automatic exposure does decrease exposure in some cases, then that’s all the more reason to compensate with additional exposure as set forth with ETTR principles. I still believe – based on my own experiments and observations that ETTR is a valuable tool for outdoor photographers, and that adding a moderate amount of exposure will in many cases add quality to the image while requiring little set-up time. This is an important consideration for field photographers who often have to move quickly to achieve optimal capture. Also, I have no problem stating that there is little in photography that hasn’t changed to some degree as a result of evolving direct capture technology (not to mention advances in optical formulations and glass compositions).

    Harvey Stearn
    Harvey Stearn
    Silver Member
    Posts: 14
    Re: Why ETTR May Be More Important Than Ever
    Reply #2 on: April 1, 2022 at 11:34 am

    It seems as if my article on ETTR has fanned the flames of a long-smoldering debate on optimizing exposure. Part of the problem is that optimization means different things to different people. It is not the same thing as maximizing. Optimizing means achieving the best overall solution even though some elements may be substantially below maximum value. Each photographer must decide which elements of the target image are most important and how much time and effort should be devoted to capturing a specific scene or event. 

    For some professionals, precision in measuring complex lighting is a necessity 100% of the time. For the high number of photo enthusiasts faced with limited time and resources in photographing outdoor scenes it is often a matter of achieving best results while constrained by limited time and resources. My article was directed to those who seek simple ways to improve their output without restraining spontaneity and the flexibility to capture short-lived special moments.

    During my film years I calibrated my camera and lenses and routinely took multiple exposure readings with a one-degree spot meter. Setup time wasn’t overly long. But color photography is more complex and can be more time-consuming to determine accurate exposure. After I went full digital in 2002 I sought a simple but consistent exposure method that would produce good balanced results for most prevailing lighting conditions, as I often shoot all times of day in many types of weather. But, sensor and camera technology seems to have developed that reliability in the last four or five years.

    For the record, I always shoot in RAW and pay attention to histograms, particularly when increasing ISOs beyond 400. When photographing outdoor scenes, I rely on aperture-preferred mode. I don’t subscribe to the viewpoint that camera exposure data is de facto unreliable, and therefore adding exposure time to the camera’s readings is therefore pointless. Reviews of my image inventory suggests quite the opposite.

    It is likely that camera manufacturers deliberately lower the point at which overexposure takes place. Understandably, they have different objective than do their customers. Passionate outdoor photographers continually push limits in search of unique and more vibrant renditions of their subjects. However, prudent camera manufacturers must always consider the downside and provide margins of safety to avoid customer complaints. They seek to minimize chances of overexposure and blown highlights particularly since high dynamic ranges allow acceptable exposures at one or two EV’s below optimum level. So, photographers should run series of exposures for varying light intensities and light qualities to find where those optimums are. In other words, calibrate your camera. By doing so, you will get better exposures by consistently adding back the margins that the manufacturers take away out of self-interest (though they won’t admit it and will offer other explanations). 

    Developing such a procedure still leaves exceptions at least 25% of the time. This is where experience in recognizing higher contrast lighting and more reflective elements in the scene should ring warning bells. Those conditions require exposure bracketing or at least returning the exposure compensation dial to neutral as a starting point. 

    Three days ago, a rare lighting condition occurred in Sedona which I had seen before. Following two days of intermittent rain, this extensive weather front began to dissipate. The air was saturated with moisture and fine droplets, and the sun strongly illuminated major rock formations while shadows took on an inky cast. Over-exposure of the light colored rock in direct sunlight was more likely. I doubted that my +1.0 EV starting point would hold up under those conditions, and therefore bracketed my exposures. 

    I was surprised though. The best look for the image occurred at +0.7 EV, even though the final image allowed some dense black areas in several foreground trees. This could have been moderated by adding light to the shadow areas in post edit, but at the expense of producing a more dramatic image with more mood. I am attaching a copy of the image to illustrate how experience and judgement adequately covered the bases, though artistic objectives made the final decision. Yes, good images are made. But the challenge is to massage the variables to reach an optimal solution according to one’s objectives. 

    Harvey Stearn
    Harvey Stearn
    Silver Member
    Posts: 14
    Re: Why ETTR May Be More Important Than Ever
    Reply #3 on: March 19, 2022 at 2:58 pm

    Thanks Erik. I appreciate the kind words. Of course everyone has their own way of doing things and are free to choose whatever they feel most comfortable with, or what makes sense for him or her. I did want to share this with the photographer community because – in my opinion – the improvements were so dramatic.

    ETTR has been around for a relatively long time. However, it isn’t quite as productive to just pick an arbitrary exposure compensation value and add it in as equipment and individual photographer procedure and preferences can affect the outcome. This is why I advocate making individual field tests varying the amounts of “overexposure” with your equipment for a few different lighting conditions to see where the optimum setting would be. On my Sony A-1 that optimum was one full stop of “over-exposure” above the camera’s default position. But, small variations around that number were still excellent choices. The results with other cameras (and lenses) may vary from that, though after reviewing older images with other cameras not as much as I previously thought. Also, my recommendations are based on landscapes with natural light. Studio work as one example is a whole new ballgame although in principle there should be commensurate benefits there too.

    So, do a little experiment to find your best setting for the exp-comp dial and then make a number of varied exposures with it to see if there is one particular setting that consistently produces the best results which should include improved vibrancy and fine detail in all of the tones. By all means bracket when the image is too important to risk losing. But, the point is that what I advocate does not in any way slow the photographer down. Quite the contrary once you have a reliable exp-comp setting and use it as your default camera setup.

    I will be very interested to see how this works out for you. So, please share your thoughts and a few JPEG’s with me after you’ve made your trial runs.

    Enjoy!

    Harvey

    Harvey Stearn
    Harvey Stearn
    Silver Member
    Posts: 14
    Re: Why ETTR May Be More Important Than Ever
    Reply #4 on: March 18, 2022 at 4:17 pm

    I want to bring to the reader’s attention an inadvertent mistake I failed to correct when I proofed this article about six or seven times. When referring to maximizing Image Quality by using the best equipment you can afford I meant to refer to highly corrected lenses that largely eliminate Longitudinal Chromatic Aberration (LoCA), but as I was writing fast I put in Lateral Chromatic Aberration (LCA). LCA is relatively minor as flaws go, as lateral dispersion of different colored wavelengths is relatively minor and easily corrected in quality lenses. But, as a matter of geometry the dispersion of wavelengths of different colors associated with different lengths and energy levels is significantly greater as they travel longitudinally through the optical axis of the lens (i.e. the focal length). This results in many waves focusing at different points making sharp focus impossible as seen in color fringing. Correction today involves the use of special partial anomalous dispersion glass elements which slows some wavelengths down and speeds others thereby forcing them to converge at the same point. In particular, APO-chromatic lenses greatly minimize this characteristic. The result is sharper focus which also helps bring out more of the smaller and more subtle transitions in tone and color at fine detail levels. This is a long winded way of explaining micro-contrast which helps make color images of Nature more vibrant and life-like. So, the article was meant to have read LoCA, not LCA.