Today's Guest Blogger: Joe Brady

Bellvale Starburst Farm Small.jpg

Hey Rick! Thanks for inviting me to be a guest blogger on your site. Here's my post. I hope your readers enjoy it. Now . . . when are we going to play guitar again?

After getting some ice cream at the Bellvale Creamery in Warwick NY, my wife Diane and I decided to take the back roads home on a pleasant, warm July evening. We both had our cameras in the car as we were looking for some beautiful sunset vistas to photograph when we came across a barn that simply had to be photographed.

Luckily for us, we just happened to be driving by on the perfect day as the sun was setting in between the twin silos. The light was changing fast, so I jumped out of the car and positioned myself so that the sun just peeked out from the inside of the silos. Because this was going to be a hand-held shot, HDR wasn’t really an option, so I had to make sure to get the best exposure possible.

This meant putting my highlights as far to the right of the histogram as possible without clipping. As I was shooting a Canon 7D with a 17-55mm f2.8 lens and had tested the camera with Sekonic’s DTS software and meter, I knew that this camera safely captures up three stops from its meter’s middle reading (btw, this is a safe assumption for just about any current DSLR). To put this information to use, I put the camera in spot meter mode and took a reading off of the brightest part of the sky. My camera settings were 1/200th second and f16 at 160 ISO for this highlight, so I needed to open around 2 ½ stops (this gave me ½ stop safety margin) to put that highlight as far right as possible without blowing out the whites.

I also wanted the diagonal S-curve of the fence to lead to the barn, so I needed to make sure I had enough depth of field to keep everything in focus. That meant keeping my f16 aperture and since I wanted to keep enough shutter speed to have a sharp, hand-held capture, I pushed my ISO up to 800. This exposure gave me the widest use of the tonal range my camera offers and allowed me to process the file successfully. As a side note, you will generally get the starburst pattern with a standard lens set at f22, but the Canon 17-55mm f2.8 also does this at f16.

I’m sometimes guilty of not having a camera in my car and if that had been the case, I would have missed this incredible scene. Since then I’ve permanently put a small point and shoot in my glove compartment that I keep charged at all times. That way, I’ll always have at least one camera available when that perfect moment appears!

Joe Brady