Shooting the Slot Canyons with a Digital Camera
by Mary and Larry Berman
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Exposure modified by pointing the camera at a bright light source, locking the exposure and recomposing

Auto exposure came out perfect without exposure modification

Exposure Control with your Digital Camera when facing difficult lighting conditions on one of a kind shots.

Iíve been traveling and shooting extensively with the Nikon CoolPix 5000 but have not found the time to really learn the ins and outs of the exposure control. I rely on shooting on Auto and tricking the cameraís metering to get proper exposure in difficult lighting situations. As an experienced transparency shooter, I have always depended on bracketing to capture my vision of the event Iím photographing. I do something very similar with the CoolPix.

First of all, I treat shooting with a prosumer digital camera similar to shooting transparencies in that I expose for the highlights and let the shadows fall. Iím sure many of you have experienced the highlights blowing out when metering an average scene. Especially if the sun (or any bright light source) is in the picture. If the area of the scene that the camera is basing itís metering on isnít the brightest area, the exposure will be too light and wash out the part of the image containing the highlights. If I were shooting transparencies, that washed out area would be properly exposed in one of the darker bracketed images. What I do to trick my camera into thinking itís looking at that bright area, is to recompose and lock the exposure while centering the brightest area of the scene on the LCD. Then I recompose again to my desired composition and shoot.

As an example, I was shooting the slot canyons in Antelope Canyon. I was very nervous earlier that day and pulled out the camera manual to study how to set the exposure manually so I could bracket. In actually shooting, I found myself not having to bracket manually, but to point my camera up at the opening of the slots and locking that exposure which enabled me to properly expose for the fine detail off the inner walls. But don't confuse this technique with the picture of the sunlight beam coming down. That was shot on Auto and exposed properly by the camera because the brightest area was already centered in the image.

Between shooting my modified exposure and the actual exposure the cameraís metering system gave me, I was bracketing, just as if I were shooting transparency film.

A tripod is a must for pictures like these, as I recommend with all important pictures. Also, use of a flash is not recommended as it will blow out all the subtle textures and detail on the canyon walls. Not to mention it will screw up the time exposures of all the other photographers.

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