Feature Photograph

Silhouette of Pattaya Bay

This weeks Feature Photograph was taken from a small pier on Pattaya Bay where the small fishing boat fleet docks each night to rest and complete maintenance before getting underway early the next morning for another day of fishing.  This photograph is significant because it was taken in conditions we all come across at one time or the other and if we left our cameras in “automatic mode” we’d get a very boring image or perhaps take no image at all.

The conditions are an extreme variance of light in the scene, from very bright to very dark.  There was maybe 12-14 stops of difference in this scene, while the best quality and newest DSLRs can only capture a max of about 8 stops.  This means if the camera would have metered on the boat the beautiful sky would have been rendered a very dull and bright shade of white/gray.  However, by manually metering on the sky the boat become a silhouette of darkness leaving the sky at its natural level of light and beautiful colors.  The question in composition was:  “Does the silhouette still tell the story of the boat in the scene?”  I think it does, and it tells the story in a more unique and subtle way that allows us to focus on the serenity of the two men preparing for a day of fishing, instead of on all the often distracting details of a busy and cluttered fishing boat.

Keep in mind this was a near dark morning in conditions where most people would never think of taking a photograph.  The bright morning sky allowed a ISO of 100 at F11 (any brighter and we’d need to go to ISO 50 or use a ND filter to avoid diffraction softness by stopping down past F11)   In contrast if we’d just metered on the boat and cropped out the overexposed background we could get some interesting people shots, but because the boat was so dark that you could barely make out movement on the deck we used ISO 800, a wider F4 aperture, and a 1/50th shutter speed to increase light sensitivity (a total of 7 stops from the shot above) resulting in an image that ‘appears’ to have been taken in full daylight.  DSLRs have capabilities far beyond what most photographers either use, or know they can use.