Ever wonder why you can get different exposures on the exact same scene with your Nikon camera using 3D Matrix Metering? The meter and AF system are linked in a way that usually produces great results. But for landscape photographers, it can sometimes cause overexposure if you focus on dark parts of the scene, like a shady foreground.
Nikon’s 3D matrix metering is an advanced exposure system that evaluates the entire color image. The same scene can be exposed differently, depending on the location of the active AF point. When the AF point falls on a dark part of the scene, the meter tends to open up the exposure (brighten it). If the AF point is on a bright part of the scene, the camera will expose the scene slightly darker. This difference in exposure can be particularly important to landscape photographers, who usually choose a foreground object for the focus point. If the foreground is relatively dark, the camera will often blow out the sky.
The solution is to first focus on the dark object in the foreground, and then lock focus (I use the AF-On button technique for this). Next, move the active AF point to a bright part of the scene. This allows the meter to bias the exposure to preserve highlight details in the final image.
Periodically, I like to go through my old images and re-process them; it’s one of the great benefits of shooting in RAW. Being able to work with my old images in new software really opens up some options that I didn’t even consider at the time I made the shot. I captured this image in 2005 while on a photo safari in South Dakota. At the time, I was shooting a new Nikon D2x camera and I had just gotten my 17-55mm f/2.8 AFS DX zoom Nikkor lens. I also had just upgraded to Photoshop CS2, which had a new feature: “Merge to HDR.” I thought HDR could be a cool thing to learn, so I shot a lot of bracketed exposure sequences during this 5-day trip. Many of them were uninspiring. Others, I found difficult if not impossible to process, and so I just processed the best exposure in the sequence with traditional techniques (that’s the nice thing about bracketing– you’ll always have at least one “normal” exposure).
The one thing I didn’t do, however, was delete the other exposures from the bracketed sequence. They’ve just been sitting on one of my 1TB hard drives, waiting for me to give them a second chance. Fast forward to 2011, and now HDR tools have progressed to the point where you can get great results quickly and easily. So, yesterday I went back and re-processed the HDR sequence in HDR Efex Pro and Capture NX 2, and I was quite pleased! Here’s what was in the new technology that I couldn’t get in 2005. Continue reading Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow→