This example is going to be very short and sweet. The image below was taken at a wedding in Breckenridge CO last March 30th at around 3:15pm. As you can tell from looking at the shot, the sun is high and and to camera left. The extremely bright patch of snow on the far peak at the upper left is an example of the intense reflected ambient light from the sun. Since this was shot in the context of a wedding, during the ceremony, I do not have a lot of examples of the setup to offer.

Before the ceremony began, I metered for the light on the far peaks; but as so frequently happens in the high country, the sun was running in and out of cloud cover very rapidly. Hence, manual settings were out of the question. You might think it rather odd, but I set ISO 800 for this image. That gave me 1/5000s at f/6.3 in aperture priority. SB800 speedlight was on camera with a Gary Fong modifier. I was using matrix metering for the shot. The benefit of the high ISO was much reduced flash power in Auto FP sync mode. Because there was a fair amount of reflected light from a wall of windows behind camera position, a good deal of flash power was not required in this situation. In fact, the SB800 was set in iTTL-BL mode (intelligent through the lens back-light) with -1/3 EV of compensation. In violation of the recipe I’ve given you, the camera was actually set for 0EV compensation. The hottest part of the image is actually a patch of snow just above the right shoulder of the gentleman in the blue shirt in the background. It is blown out at an L-Value of 100. It doesn’t show that way in this screen shot because I’ve put a control point on it in Capture NX2 and knocked down its intensity selectively. However, that small patch is what placed the exposure of the camera in the context of Zones. The large bright snow field on the peak to camera left is at an L-Value of about 90.

D’s white shirt and collar facing us is at an L-Value of around 85 with the brightest edge lined by the sun at around 94 or 95. The same goes for the highlights in his hair. It was fairly opportunistic of me to use matrix metering and to utilize that small bright patch of snow as a “placing point” for the camera’s metering system. Everything else around was at a lower Value than that patch, and the patch itself was going to be easy to manage in post processing. Who cares about its texture or detail? At f/6.3, the background of the mountain and ski runs is there and visible, but its detail is not the primary subject element. It is just suggestive of the locale.

"D", the groomsman

“D”, the groomsman

The main thing is to get the detail of the groomsman in this shot. He’s the groom’s brother and an important member of the wedding party. This screen shot was taken from Capture NX2 with no exposure corrections or modifications other than setting a “Portrait” curve and, as I’ve mentioned, knocking down the brightness on my “placing patch” by about 40%.

"Nailing" the placing patch

“Nailing” the placing patch

The D700 has amazing noise performance at ISO 800. It is certainly good enough for this capture. By bringing up the ISO by 2 stops from the base ISO of 200, the necessary flash power is reduced by the same amount. By opportunistically keeping an unimportant bright patch in the shot with matrix metering, I managed to place it at Zone IX quite consistently. This allowed me to use reduced flash power and a modifier to achieve good illumination on the subject. A suitable f-stop gave great detail in the subject and meant that metering off the brightest background elements yielded a situation in which their detail and texture was unimportant. At f/6.3, the field of view was just fine for the subject, and everything else was nicely blurred. Shooting with the sun behind the subject provided hair light and rim light. The flash kicked catch lights in the eyes and nicely illuminated the subject’s face for a Zone VI placement.

Finally, just because this is about the Zone System, and that harkens to B&W, here’s a monochrome version of the image:

"D", Ilford FP4 emulation

“D”, Ilford FP4 emulation

The B&W conversion was done with TrueGrain emulating Ilford FP4 film with an orange filter to “pop” D’s red vest. Grain is for 6×8 sheet film. The image was then taken into Nik Silver Efex Pro v2 to knock down the soft contrast and increase structure and dynamic brightness very very slightly. This pass has enhanced the grain somewhat. The image above is a screen capture in Photoshop CS6 after the pass through Silver Efex.

Hope you like it. And now we’re done.

Previous Page … ••• Back to the beginning …