In your efforts to expand your photographic vision of understanding exposure, don’t forget that you will need to start limiting your vision as well! Let me explain.
It is estimated that the ‘dynamic range’ of the human eye’s ability to see light and dark simultaneously is around 16-stops. The best camera out there, arguably the Nikon D850, ‘see’s’ light and dark to the tune of only 9-stops, and yet most camera's, on average, ‘see’ closer to 7-stops. So, if you don’t adjust your vision to think and ‘see’ like your camera’s dynamic range, you will miss numerous opportunities to create black backgrounds and black foregrounds as well as the many black shapes that are yours for the taking, including this image of pigeons and a traffic light I shot near NY’s Times Square.
Assuming we were shooting this scene together, our own eyes would easily see the detail in these pigeons including their varied tones of gray, while at the same time easily assimilating the blue sky into the mix without the sky or the pigeons looking too dark or too bright...
BUT the camera’s limited dynamic range of 7-stops CANNOT record a correct exposure of the much brighter blue sky and the much ‘darker’ pigeons in a single exposure because the dynamic range is beyond 7-stops. The fact is, as seen in the second photo in the comments section below, these pigeons and the light pole and traffic light that they are sitting on are in open shade against a distant background that is bright blue sunlit sky! If I were to set my exposure for the pigeons, that blue sky would blow out to an almost white color...not going to let that happen! I want silhouetted shapes against that deep blue sky so I set my exposure for the bright blue sky, thus rendering the pigeons as stark black ‘under-exposed’ silhouettes.
So, at least for now, rejoice at the opportunity to ‘see’ like your camera and and embrace it’s limited vision of NOT being able to combine light and dark into a single correct exposure and instead go out and create even more compelling compositions of BLACK backgrounds, foregrounds and silhouette’s; at least until the inevitable announcement that a new camera with a DR of 16-stops has arrived...heaven help us!!! Until then, you keep shooting!
You Keep Shooting,
- Bryan F Peterson