Eliminate the Mathematics from your shoot

Eliminate the Mathematics from your shoot

Number crunching

Next time you are out on a shoot, start listening to your discussions with yourself and others. How much of the discussions are dominated by number crunching? What percentage equals mathematics? I know for sure that 80% of the questions I get in the field are asking for a number. Some examples; what aperture should I use? what iso settings? what shutter speed? These are f-stop questions mostly. Calculating f-stops involves either doubling the value (+1 f-stop) or halving the value (-1 f-stop). If I need to increase my exposure by 1 stop and I am shooting iso 800, I could double my iso to 1600. To achieve a +1 F-stop in aperture settings, you might go from f/11 – f/5.6, to achieve -1 f-stop, you might go from f/8-f/16

Algebra1 05 fig023

Some algebras

Try writing it down. Draw a table with a matrix showing all the apertures with corresponding shutter speeds at various iso settings, factor in a Vari-ND.

Now tear it up and flush it down the toilet. The point of this article is to encourage the use of semi-automatic modes – yes, AV and TV mode (depends on make and model). Using Aperture Value or Time Value modes lets the camera do half the maths for you!

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Leave the Maths at home

Don’t eliminate the Maths entirely, the Maths in photography is beautiful, it is full of many interesting variables and it is worth studying and understanding, but study it with your camera in your back yard. Out on location, it is best to use your brain for looking rather than counting. In the Semi-automatic modes, as long as you are mindful of your initial value (i.e. f/11) and have chosen a suitable Compensation, you can then concentrate fully on your composition and focus.

It’s not lazy!

Well, yes it is actually, but I would like you to consider lazy as a positive word. Laziness is a fundamental part of the learning process, we would be no where without it. The truth is that most lazy people work 10 times as hard as others maintaining their laziness. Necessity is the mother of invention, but laziness is the father. So you get creative points with this technique. Ask yourself, which mental trait is the opposite of “Creative”?

The trick is knowing when to let the camera do the work, so you can get into the scene, then it is just a matter of feeling the scene with your lens. There will be times when you are on a really great shot and you have the time to get back to the Maths and experiment.

Landscape settings

Tripod Landscape shoot, my typical settings (not Magic Cloth):

  • AV – Aperture Value Mode = f/11
  • -/+ – compensation = +2/3rds
  • iso – sensitivity = 100iso
  • self timer = 2sec
  • Mirror lock = on
  • This will give me a well exposed landscape image (at 14bit) with a nice Depth of Field and sharpness and all I have to do is point the lens in the right direction, now if my tripod skills are up to scratch, I can become fluid in the landscape able to move around and use my visual brain to feel the scene with my lens. The only camera adjustments I have to make are to adjust the compensation according to the amount of sky in the composition, or to adjust the aperture for example if the composition become foreground rich, or foreground less.

    Think of it this way… our jobs as photographers is to record, not to measure, otherwise we would arrive at scenes with tape measures and just send you the numbers instead of the photographs.

    Kirkjufell Light

    Kirkjufell Light

    We checked out the Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall earlier in the day and there were 6 – 10 tourists walking through the scene at any one time.

    Godafoss Red

    Godafoss Red

    The one thing we agreed on was to leave our tents erect and stay another night at the falls.

    Moss on red

    Moss on red

    This is a strange volcanic lake. It goes very deep in places and used to be the deepest lake in Iceland.



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