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Seeing the Light
on December 19, 2006
The electronic age of cameras has, in many ways, made it easier on photographers. Back in the days when I first began to take pictures, I had to remember the speed of the film I was using in the camera, and then adjust the aperture and shutter speed to match the light. Eventually I got a separate exposure meter and transferred the data to the camera, then a clip-on meter where I matched a needle to an index to set the exposure, then a view of the needle in the viewfinder window that I had to set. And one day, all of that disappeared. I just had to point my camera at the subject and press the button. That was it. Or almost. With nothing to set, I sometimes got grey snow, or blurred figures. But usually I remember my earlier days, and compensate for the situation or my vision of what I want. I often run into photographers who started photography after the introduction of electronic exposure who are surprised that I know the adjustments I want before I take any picture.
This book is aimed at the photographer who is interested in just one thing: getting a handle on exposure. (I know the title includes lighting, but lighting is just the reverse side of the exposure coin.)
The authors start out discussing the nature of light, and then discuss the three-legged stool of exposure: aperture, shutter speed and media sensitivity. They tell how to use a meter, in camera or separate, and then how to modify what the meter tells you to capture your vision. Next the authors talk about adding light either with lighting equipment or by controlling natural light. Finally they talk about lighting and exposure for specific subjects, like portraits, action, nature, objects and architecture. I particularly loved the fact that they gave a succinct explanation of that favorite of older photographers, the zone system. They also dealt easily but fully with my sine qua non, the histogram. There's only the slightest reference to digital post processing. For that you'll need another book.
The authors write in a clear, concise style and cover virtually everything one would want to know about exposure and lighting. I must admit that sometimes that bordered on the pedantic, but they move along quickly enough to hold one's interest. For this subject, this book is as good as it gets.
You may think that you don't need this book. If you know the sunny 16 rule, and know whether to compensate up or down and how many stops for a snow scene, and use depth of field selectively, and understand what you can see in Zone 0, and know when you want to shoot in aperture priority and at what f/stop, then you probably don't need this book. All other photographers should read it.