Seeing the light

It’s funny how you know things, yet don’t really acknowledge them.

I’ve always known that human vision is tremendously adaptive. Dark scenes, light scenes, red light, green light. See it for a few seconds and the brain/eye combo applies the correct filters, switches to the right aperture, and presto: Well exposed image with a good white balance.

Sadly, cameras suck at this.

By now, I’ve got the colour problem pretty well under control, and know when to adjust my WB/filter my lens, and when to gel my flash. With B&W this problem isn’t even there.

The light problem is trickier though. I’m finding that guessing the exposure in low light scenes is much more difficult than in well-lit scenes1. Especially once you get below EV 6, light levels drop fast, while the eye keeps up perfectly.

Recently, with the days growing shorter and the weather turning worse, I’ve had more evening indoor scenes, and often noticed that I was overestimating the light2. I’ve now come in the habit of taking my first guess and then deducting another two stops. Haven’t had any films back though (more on that soon), so I maybe I’ll just end up with overexposed and blurred shots.

  1. For reference: I’m counting EV 10 to 16 as well-lit, anything lower as low light. []
  2. I’ve noticed this when other photographers (who didn’t read Mike Johnston, and thus were using normal equipment) were also present, and I cheated by looking at their exposure values. Naughty me []


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