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About two years ago, I noticed my photography getting steadily darker and darker. There was no problem with my camera, and no problem with the lights. It was just me. I think that as photographers our personal art flows with our personal life. Two years ago our family made some major changes that affected me profoundly and as a result, my photography.
Let me just tell you a secret.
I was so upset that I didn't take my camera out for nearly 6 months. Since I take at least 100 pictures a day, that is profound.
As I started going darker and darker with my exposure, it changed my photography and it changed how I saw and ultimately captured the light. I made it a point to really see the light. Where is it coming from?Where is it landing? Where is it concentrated?
Here are some images I took around that time.
What I learned through this process is that there is power in under exposure.
The next picture was taken on a an overcast, freezing day, in Dachau, Germany. I have been there twice, and twice it has been miserable. I have been there once in summer and once in winter. Recently, I was there in December. It was so cold, and the skies were so gray. There wasn't much ambient light to be had when I walked up to the Jewish Monument. The light and the air was so gray. The thing is, I remember it this way in the summer as well. Haunting.
I usually snap away and then deal with exposure issues in post processing but I knew this time I really wanted to go dark and "find the light". This is a dramatically haunting location. I followed my husband and my daughter down the ramp and into the chamber. They walked through and left. I hung behind because I knew there was something poignant to capture.
I'm happy to say that while things are not as difficult as they were a couple of years ago, I am still intentionally underexposing to find the light. I love dramatic photography, which is something that has taken me years to figure out.
While in the past, I have specialized in commercial photography, my photography has evolved into something that is not commercial. I'm okay with that.
Are you wondering how to under expose your images to find the light?
Look through the viewfinder of your DSLR that is set on "evaluative metering". Do you see this:
This is your in camera light meter. The center (in theory) should represent correct exposure. The numbers to the right of the center represent a brighter exposure, and the numbers to the left of the center represent a darker exposure. Depending on how your DSLR is set up, you will use a dial to move the exposure up and down. Moving the exposure even slightly to the left will help you get a feel for how your camera responds to under exposure. I recommend playing with it to see the results that you get. I should note that I don't believe in this as rule but rather as a technique used to achieve a specific outcome.
Ready to take the next step in post processing?