FROM DAMN TO DARN
By MICHAEL PERKINS
OVER THE MANY YEARS THAT I HAVE BEEN SHOOTING PRIMARILY ON FULL MANUAL, there have been plenty of chances for me to embarrass myself utterly by mis-reading various settings on the fly. I stay with manual mostly out of the comfort that many decades of doing it afford me, and partly because even semi-or-fully-automatic shooting modes can occasionally stab me in the back anyway. That said, every once in a while, I totally mis-read the road and wind up with an exposure like this:
Lemme ‘splain, Lucy: I was in a hurry to get the man in the lower left corner before he could cross further right. I wanted him to appear small against the immense white wall that was both a literal and symbolic barrier cutting him off from parts of the street and cutting us off from the rest of the available view. Unfortunately, just a few seconds prior, I had shot something much darker and left the settings the same, meaning that a white wall became a By-God-We’re-Not-Playing-Around-Here-Freaking-WHIIIIIITE-WALLLLLLLL. This is what photographers and race car drivers alike call A Blowout.
Then, since I had already obliterated a lot of detail and contrast with the master shot, I wondered if I should just go whole hog and remove more of both, including desaturating everything except the man’s skin tones and part of a traffic sign. In other words, start with a flawed picture and then exaggerate the flaws until it looks, you know, intentional. Did I succeed? Depends on when you ask me.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m all about saving face when I blow a picture, and I’m certainly not above applying a few tweaks to make my flub look like a win. But here I think I’m just telling myself what I want to hear. This isn’t an avant-garde or edgy commentary on our times. It’s just a blown picture. But at least I can tell myself (and you, dear reader) that I can still tell the difference.