Readers' Questions

Jeremy asked in the September 6, 2008 column if he could save money buying legitimate copies of several popular software titles in Thailand.  I responded by showing him the sometimes vast price differences between buying products in the USA, and other countries with high taxation and import tariff’s like most of the EU.  Today he gives us some feedback I think many of you in the EU and other countries with high taxation might benefit from.  It’s always great to receive follow on feedback!

Thanks for your answer in the 6 September article. I had not realised that that is the case. Unfortunately I do not have a US credit card. But I found a solution that may interest your international non USA readers.

B and H Photo Video in New York accepted my Australian credit card when purchasing Adobe software online at the USA prices! The shipping was $42 for my two software purchases and I received the software in Australia yesterday, so less than 5 working days!



Dear Steve,
I was down in Pattaya this week and wanted to take a photo of the new sign on Walking Street.  The sign features an extremely bright LCD screen on top.  I tried many different aperture settings but could not get a decent exposure where both the LCD screen and foreground were decently exposed without one being significantly under or over exposed.  I was able to do something of a rescue in Photoshop using the RAW file but even then the final result is not what you'd call good.  Do you have any suggestions on how to photograph scenes with such a wide exposure latitude?

Walking Street 

Stick, I'm surprised you're having problems photographing this new sign. It seems to work exactly as it should for me. Please see the below photograph.

 Stick Site on Walking Street

LOL! Seriously though, this is a tough one without an easy fix that only involves camera settings. Let me explain what's happening.
Simply put because the sign is so brightly lit, the dynamic range of the scene is far (very far) beyond the capabilities of even the best digital or film cameras. There is no way that I know of to take a simple single image of this scene and not have the sign blown out. However, where there's a photographic solution there is a photographic solution and I'll offer several below.

1.  A simple screw on split ND filter (neutral density, clear on bottom, 4 stops of reduction on top) with a power of approximately 4 stops should do the trick. The disadvantage of using such a filter is that they take special adapters to use with compact cameras which can be expensive, and everything else in the top half of the frame will not be exposed at all. The end result will look odd.

2.  You could make a HDR (High Dynamic Range) image from 3 - 5 separate images blended together in a HDR program such as Photomatrix from  HDR images properly done are very useful and can look very normal thereby increasing the effective dynamic range of your camera. The disadvantages of a HDR image is that they require either a 8 - 10 frame per second rate of handheld, or slower while using a tripod.  Again, more gear to carry around.

3.  The most obvious answer would be the easiest and something everyone can do with any camera they have.  Take the picture in the day time when the dynamic range (the range of light from dark to its brightest) is at a minimum. You can put the camera in manual mode and expose to make it look like it's taken at night time if you wish, and all the elements will be as close exposed as you're likely to get with any other method.
Really, I wish they would take down this ridiculous eyesore and replace it with something more genre appropriate.  It's in terrible taste in my opinion.

I hope this helps.




Please submit your questions to   All questions will be answered and most will show up in the weekly column.