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Subject: Re: Exposure to the right and tone placement

(Also replying to Bill Janes) I don't mean to denigrate attempts to master technique -- God knows, I spent enough time in darkrooms years ago trying to achieve semi-hemi-demi-mastery of black and white film and paper development. It's just that sometimes these discussions devolve into a numbers-game that makes garden-variety "pixel peeping" look like nothing by comparison. Sure, to programmers and scientists, the numbers matter. But I cannot imagine how anyone can shoot pictures while in the midst of these attacks of number-neuroses. Someone put it to me this way in e-mail: he was finding the mechanics of digital capture so oppressive that it had begun to get in the way of his using the camera as a tool for creating artwork.

I got a practical lesson about this the other day when my wife told me that a number of people had been enjoying a shot I took that I don't much like. I could tell I wouldn't like it when I saw it on the camera's LCD; I was much less thrilled by the print. Difficult lighting situation. There's a large highlight in the scene that is severely overexposed and there's nothing to be done about it -- it's 255/255/255 all the way. Exposing it correctly would have required fill-flash (not possible at the time) or ghastly underexposure of the rest of the scene (eeeuuwww). To my eye, the shot looks big-time-amateurish because of the large overexposed highlight. But the feedback I got was that some people who saw the print liked the overexposure in that one area. It looked "cool" to them. Go figure! I could simply dismiss their opinions as "uninformed"...and then again, I could consider that maybe my own prejudice about "everything" in the image having to be perfect sometimes just gets in the way.

Years ago a landscape architect I knew was approached in his office by a junior architect who was having serious problems drawing something. He wanted to get certain measurements just right but he couldn't figure out how to do it. The older guy looked up from his work, barked "EYEBALL the sucker!" and went back to what he was doing. End of conversation. Point taken...


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