GH Nagai Photographics

Course Description

Metering Light: The Third Eye in Photography
De-Mystifying Light & Shadows

Gordon H. Nagai, Instructor

Meeting 1: Light & How it Works, & How Your Camera Works, or Not…
Photographers today can stand with their noses pressed against the window of the proverbial toy store of camera gear, and drool over the latest & most advanced, and generally most expensive, pieces of equipment. Cameras have come a long way since I first looked through the viewfinder of my Kodak Brownie with its plastic lens and that little red window in the back to let me know how many pictures I had left on the roll. Today, a camera's on-board computers make exposure decisions in milli-seconds following complex algorithms, lenses zoom in & out with a wide range of perspectives permitting cropping in the viewfinder, eliminating the need to move to compose each shot, and auto-focus makes for tack-sharp images when the eyes start to go. Film speeds range such that you can have in your camera bag a roll of high-speed film for a midnight visit to the Dia de Los Muertos celebration at a cemetery in Oaxaca, Mexico, and not use intrusive flash; a roll of ISO 50 to capture the amazing colors of fall in Yosemite, and a medium speed film for the fourth birthday party of a grand-daughter. Tripods come in high-tech space-age metals, cutting weight down to mere ounces, and lenses with that same space-age technology cut optical aberrations to levels never before seen. And, if you've switched to digital photography, essentially these same ISO ratings apply to these same conditions with digital memory sensors.

With all the advances in the technology of photography over the span of its history, particularly within the latest several decades, photographers like you are still left with the predicament of capturing pictures with unsatisfactory results. Why are the highlights so washed out & bleak? Why are people's faces in shadow? Why are the clouds or snow so muddy and murky? Why are the colors so pale and blah looking? Why, with the camera's on-board computer and evaluative metering system am I getting such lousy results? Sound familiar?

Instruction: Through lecture & viewing of slides we will address the nature and qualities of light & how light interacts with film. We will examine light occurring during different times of the day, and consider the advantages & disadvantages of those various times for most photography, those special times around sunrise & sunset, & what to do during the times with the worst light. We will cover the basics of auto-exposure programs for today's cameras, and learn which to use under varying conditions in the field as ways to solve those pestering problems that in fact plague professional photographers as well.

Meeting 2: Metering: Moody & the Beast...
Whether a photographer is faced with an awesome & imposing landscape, a delicate flower in a slight drizzle, or a grand-daughter on a stool waiting to have her portrait taken, all the technical information, equipment, and knowledge of photography remain secondary to the eye of the photographer. Special & expensive equipment may provide options for various of her/his photographic objectives, & technical information about the nature & quality of light & knowledge of its use may free the photographer to be creative in ways more difficult without them, but the resulting images when she/he releases the shutter are largely dependent upon her/his personal vision.

Oftentimes the array of in-viewfinder symbols & icons that give us information of how the metering system is reading the conditions in front of the camera is overwhelming. Deciphering the meaning of these clues and understanding the minds of camera design engineers can be a daunting challenge. And, once understood, these symbols may still leave us in the dark when it comes to comparing what we thought we saw in the viewfinder and our results...

Instruction: Through lecture & viewing of slides & with accompanying discussions, we effectively destroy the myth, or wishful thinking, that expensive photographic equipment is the guaranteed solution to good exposure with our images. We then examine technical aspects of the metering of light, how reflective light meters work, specifically how the on-board camera metering system works to read the conditions in front of the camera, and finally examine the meaning of the symbols & icons displayed in the viewfinder as aids to our photography. We take a look at two simple tools to evaluate the shadows & highlights of a scene, and end with examining the key role the photographer's personal eye plays in the aesthetic decisions around correct exposure.

Meeting 3: The Third Eye & Photography
How the photographer looks through the viewfinder, and how she/he approaches photography, significantly affect her/his exposure results. At times the results are painfully bad - just awful - but with knowledge, practice, & the development of skills of reading light, these results can improve.

The full spectrum of light covers a rainbow of hues. The use of special filters with black & white film can affect exposure by enhancing certain colors & tones to the photographer's taste, or screening out other hues that negatively affect her/his artistic & aesthetic objectives with a subject. Filters & reflectors can affect the
SceneBrightness Range when working with color film and digital memory sensors, and save an otherwise seemingly impossible shot.

Lighting, whether outdoors or indoors, can also be affected by the conscious & deliberate use of flash. Knowledge of how flash works outdoors & indoors can free the photographer from some of the limitations of difficult lighting in a scene or setting. That knowledge, also, will tell the photographer whether the conditions of the outside light will work in that instance or not, and whether discretion may be the better choice and not take the photo.

Instruction: Through lecture & discussion, with slides to amplify the content material, we address how the photographer can become the master of her/his ship, and bring the artist within to the helm…

We will examine the use of filters, reflectors,
& flash to aid the photographer in dealing with high-contrast situations, and to either raise or tone-down the range of light & shadows. We will examine aesthetic criteria for deciding whether to take a particular shot under difficult circumstances, and when to put the camera away for another day…

Meeting 4: Applications in the Field
There are a number of various options for subject matter & perspective when going out into the field. We will explore subject areas discussed in class, and utilize knowledge & information in practical ways. This all-day includes three specific perspectives: 1) Intimate Landscapes & Grand Vistas; 2) Macro-Photography / Highlight-Photography; and 3) Outdoor Flash & Indoor Flash.

Instruction: We will visit three types of sites where we will experiment with viewing the various subject matter, examining certain techniques & methods specific to each type of subject or perspective, and test skills in composition & design, & the assessing & managing of lighting. Over a bag lunch we will have an opportunity to discuss two perspectives in composition & design: Western Landscape Photography vs. Eastern Design Perspectives in Landscape Photography.

Meeting 5: Review & Sharing of Slides from Fieldwork Outing
This final session will be primarily the sharing by participants of their slides from the field workshop session.

Instruction: Participants will share their slides from the field trip. Instructor will elicit from participants their experiences of what they saw & sought to capture in each photograph, what they like about their work from the day, & what they learned in the process. Instructor will offer critique & suggestions based on the artist's objectives, and from his own experiences for the artist to consider in her/his ongoing development.