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Student Website Launch

I want to let you all know about the launch of a new website from one of my long-time students, Kim Murphy!

www.kimmurphyphoto.com

Kim's work is absolutely fantastic. I've mentioned her before on my blog and I mean it when I say she's giving my work a run for its money. She's also had a lot of good things to say about me, which I'm grateful for. You can read one of her testimonials here.

I helped her set up her site and blog through private lessons. If that's something you need help with too, drop me a line.

Common Misconceptions: How to Use a Light Meter

This is the first in a brand new series of posts called "Common Misconceptions." As a teacher with well over 100 clients, I've run into just about every single common misconception there is to be found in photography. So with these blog posts, I aim to spread the word on what's wrong and what's right!

The Misconception:
When shooting in full manual, the correct way to meter is to line up the light meter indicator at zero, like so:

Shooting in Full Manual

Why This is Wrong:
The zero on your meter does not mean "correct." The zero is simply a reference point for your meter. Just like altitude has sea level as a reference point, your camera's light meter has a reference point. With altitude, you can go above sea level and below sea level, but sea level (which would be "0") isn't any more correct than any other value. Same with your light meter - you can go above zero and below zero, but zero isn't any more correct than anything else.

If you always line the meter up at zero when shooting in Manual, you'll find that many of your pictures come out too bright or too dark, like so:

Taking Pictures in Full Manual

Taking Pictures in Full Manual

In both of the above examples, zero gave me a bad exposure. So, you see, zero doesn't mean correct - it's just zero.

The Truth:
There a few different techniques for how to use a light meter correctly. The Zone System is possibly the most well-known and easily one of the most effective, but I teach my own brand of manual photography that involves an easy-to-apply 3-step process that's just as effective and even easier to learn than the Zone System. But whatever metering technique you use, lining it up at zero does not result in a correct exposure. And regardless of whether you're using the camera's built-in light meter or some sort of handheld light meter, you don't just get the meter to zero. The other numbers on the meter are there for a reason. You have to know how to use them. If you're interested in learning my easy-to-apply metering process for manual photography, I've dedicated an entire 6-week online course to learning it. More details about that course and a free preview can be found here.

My Thoughts and Rants:
I run into this misconception all the time. It drives me nuts. It doesn't drive me nuts that students think this is the correct way to meter - after all, this is what they were taught by someone who was supposed to be knowledgeable and I can't expect students starting out to know how to manually meter for real. What drives me nuts is that a lot of reputable (I use that term loosely) photography instructors actually teach this as the correct way to shoot in manual! I've even heard that instructors from Adorama are teaching students to line the meter up at zero all the time!

I'd love to have a word with these instructors because the truth of the matter is they themselves have no idea how to shoot in manual but they are too proud to admit they don't know. Instead, they just spread their ignorance to eager amateur photographers who are then left wondering why more than half their pictures come out wrong. There are far too many people out there teaching photography who really have no business doing it.

My question to these inept instructors is "If you just want to get it to zero, why does Canon and Nikon even include the -3, -2, -1, +1, +2 and +3? If it was just a matter of getting it to zero, all they'd need is a little red light on the top of your camera that lit up once you got the correct exposure." Those other numbers to the negative and positive must be there for a reason. And by the way, if it's just about getting it to zero, save yourself the effort and put your camera on full auto, because that's all full auto is doing.

So don't buy into this misconception! Learn to shoot in manual the REAL way!

Washington Trip: Part 4

Ruby Beach in Olympic National Park, WA

I finally made it through all my Washington pictures! So, now it's time for the 4th and final entry showcasing my images from my recent trip to the Olympic Peninsula. This entry covers the second half of the second shoot day plus a couple shots from the morning I left for home.

But before we start, I want to share one picture that should have been included in the "Part 3" post. I didn't include it in that post because I included another picture that was very, very similar. But on second look, I think this is the better of the two (click it to see a larger version):

Olympic National Forest, WA

Now that that's out of the way, let's move on to some brand new pictures of Bunch Falls, a beautiful little set of cascades on the side of the road, Ruby Beach and some wildlife.

First off, on the way to Bunch Falls after shooting the hell out of Merriman Falls (see previous post), I was lucky enough to spot a Bald Eagle picking at a carcass on the banks of the Quinault River! I very quickly and very quietly stopped my car, strapped on my telephoto lens and started snapping. Unfortunately, the eagle was very far away from me, and as a result I had to use my 2x teleconverter and crop the resulting images quite a bit. This is a recipe for poor image quality and low resolution. Oh well, I was just thrilled to see a Bald Eagle in the wild - it was my first time.

Bald Eagle on the Banks of the Quinault River, WA

^ Bald Eagle eating

Bald Eagle on the Banks of the Quinault River, WA

^ Raven getting all up in Bald Eagle's business

Bald Eagle on the Banks of the Quinault River, WA

^ Bald Eagle fed up with Raven's shenannigans

After this rare-for-me encounter with such beautiful wildlife, it was on to Bunch Falls just up the road. Much like Merriman Falls, Bunch Falls was much, much more impressive than I imagined. It was tall, it was gorgeous and it was easy to access. I enjoyed photographing these falls so much that I completely ignored the hunger pangs starting to plague my stomach. After all, "I can eat anytime...but the light is perfect now."

I particularly like the vertical panorama shown below. As always, click any of the panoramas for a larger version:

Bunch Falls - Olympic National Park, WA

Bunch Falls - Olympic National Park, WA

Bunch Falls - Olympic National Park, WA
Bunch Falls - Olympic National Park, WA

Bunch Falls - Olympic National Park, WA

Bunch Falls - Olympic National Park, WA

After getting my full share of Bunch Falls, I packed up my gear, stuffed my face with some trail mix, got in the car and started back towards some civilization. But only about 25 feet down the road, a little cluster of cascades caught my eye. With bright, vivid green moss covering the rocks and perfectly placed drops in the falls, I couldn't not take pictures of it.

And that about sums up the whole trip: "Woah! That's gorgeous", photograph the hell out of it, get exhausted, pack up my gear, drive 25 feet down the road, "Woah! That's gorgeous", unpack all of it and start over. It got to be exhausting, but in the best kind of way. Anyway, here are the pictures from that set of cascades - lots of similar shots here, but I felt they were different enough to post each:

Moss-covered rocks and cascades in Olympic National Park, WA

Moss-covered rocks and cascades in Olympic National Park, WA

Moss-covered rocks and cascades in Olympic National Park, WA

Moss-covered rocks and cascades in Olympic National Park, WA

Moss-covered rocks and cascades in Olympic National Park, WA

Moss-covered rocks and cascades in Olympic National Park, WA

Moss-covered rocks and cascades in Olympic National Park, WA

Then it was a quick bite (of some delicious battered fish) before hustling out to Ruby Beach. I didn't exactly luck out with the sunset because it was pretty much overcast, but I was able to make it work by utilizing a heavy magenta white balance on some of them to mimic the magenta color correcting filters of old. By the way, this technique is covered in the Filters for Nature Photography Online Course. Similar compositions here again, but I was playing a lot with the wave patterns.

Ruby Beach in Olympic National Park, WA

Ruby Beach in Olympic National Park, WA

Ruby Beach in Olympic National Park, WA

Ruby Beach in Olympic National Park, WA

Ruby Beach in Olympic National Park, WA

And finally, on my way out of the Olympic Peninsula as I started my journey home, I came across a herd of Elk grazing in a meadow. It was a nice little cherry on top to this fantastic trip.

Grazing Elk - Olympic National Forest, WA

Grazing Elk - Olympic National Forest, WA

Well, that's all of 'em, folks! If you see any you'd like hanging on your wall, drop me a line! Thank you for letting me share this experience and these pictures with you.