Beautiful Sky came out really dull!

Discussion in 'Beyond the Basics' started by meg27, Oct 5, 2005.

  1. meg27

    meg27 TPF Noob!

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    Hi,
    I made a post a few weeks ago asking for advice on photographing skies. I recieved great replies recommending i buy polarisers and perhaps blue intensity filters. Which i am hoping to do next week!

    But in the mean time, i was down in devon with my family having a walk on the beach, it was very cloudy in land, getting lighter over the sea. Then suddenly the cloud broke over the sea in a beautiful patch of blue, and the clouds had golden linings becaus the sun was setting. So i whipped my camera out and starting snapping away, very excited! I bracketed the exposure, to experiment with what would be best with this kind of light.

    However today i got the prints back. :(
    They were awful! The beautiful patch of blue was hardly noticable, and the whole sky was grey white. And all my foregrounds looked so dull!!!! Even though on the day everthying looked to bright and colourful!!

    I had also taken some picture the next day of what did look like a beautuful moody sky with shafts of lights comming through making slivers of silver in the sea. But once again, GREY GREY GREY!! My shafts af light were non-existent!!!!!!! I'm feeling like i want to give up, my only hope is the filters i'm buying next week! But the results were SO bad that i'm beginning to doubt that they will help enough, if at all?!

    Will some one please help me!!???
    My camere is a Pentax MZ-5N. I was using my 28-70 lens and some with my 80-200.
    I was using Fuji Film, superia 200.
    I did have everything on automatic as as you can tell i'm still learning!
    Please help me!
     
  2. ksmattfish

    ksmattfish Now 100% DC - not as cool as I once was, but still

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    And you have learned the first lesson. Even though you may not think you know much, you are way smarter than the camera. ;) Auto exposure modes are easily fooled.

    You have also learned lesson #2: light meters tell you (or the camera if in auto-mode) the recommended exposure to make whatever you point the camera at middle gray. This is a decent strategy for random snapshots of people, which is what auto exposure modes are designed for, but won't work well in the tricky lighting conditions that inspire us to take photos.

    Your meter tells you what to set the camera at for gray. If you are actually pointing at something white, then the camera will tell you how to make it gray. If you are pointing at something black, the camera still tells you how to make it gray.

    Even on an overcast day the beach can be a bright place, full of lighter tones. In order to make them come out gray, the camera underexposes. The sky is even more bright, even on an overcast day. It's not uncommon to for the proper exposure for the sky to be very different from the proper exposure of the ground. Sometimes so much so that it's beyond the capacity of the film or digital sensor to capture it all.

    Put your camera on manual exposure, and switch the metering to spot meter. You'll want to learn about aperture and shutter, and what they do, but for now pick a shutter speed that is the reciprocal of you focal length (this is the general rule for avoiding camera shake). That means if you are using the 28-70 lens, just set the camera to 1/70th or faster, so probably 1/125th with your camera (I have a ZX-5, which is a slightly earlier version of your camera). You'll set the aperture so that it makes the pointer on your meter go to the middle.

    The trick is in what you are pointing the camera at as you set it. The spot meter setting means the meter will only measure what is in the very center of the viewfinder. You could buy a middle gray card, put it in the same light as your subject, and meter off of that. Or you could meter off the sky, and if you want a brighter than gray sky, overexpose a stop or 2 from what the meter recommends, although metering off the sky can be tricky. With neg film I like to meter off something black (camera bag, pants, boots, etc...), and then underexpose 2 stops (going from gray to black). This insures shadow detail, although might not work for sky shots.

    Keep trying. You'll get it with practice.
     
  3. meg27

    meg27 TPF Noob!

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    thankyou!
    As i wrote the automatic bit at the end of my post i realised that the reply was going to be something along those lines! I used to have an old old pentax, no automatic anything. I had to set the apature (i think) on the lens according to the light meter. So do i need to basically use this new one the same way and then make decisions about wether or not i should stick to the middle of the light meter bar or go slightly over or slightly under depending on what i want?
    I was thinking i will get a graduated ND filter to sort out my sky thing, the skies were basically comming out so bright that all colour or tone was gone.
    I think i'm getting what you said, even if it doesn't sound like it!
    thank you!
     
  4. ksmattfish

    ksmattfish Now 100% DC - not as cool as I once was, but still

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    Sounds like you got it figured out.
     
  5. joeboot

    joeboot TPF Noob!

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    This topic may have already died out, but I have also had issues with sky color not turning out the way I wanted it to. I found this to be especially annoying with Kodachrome, which is why I switched to Ektachrome and then Fujichrome. Lately I have been wondering if it might have to do with more than just exposing the sky properly. It seems to me that, other than at sunrise and sunset, it is only possible to get excellent color in the sky when the sun is at your back. I took a lot of pictures at White Sands National Monument a few months ago, and even though the scenes were exposed consistently, pictures taken toward the sunny half of the sky had poor sky color. I'm sure there is some science which can explain that I am onto something or pathetically off-base.
     

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