Black Eyed Susan

Adventures in Underexposure: Black-eyed Susan Evening Glow

There is a glow in yellow flower petals in the evening that I have long struggled to capture in camera. I think I may have stumbled across the answer. Here’s the long version of the story.

In the old days of film, I would read about “pushing” and “pulling,” that is, deliberately under- or over-exposing an image by a stop in order to bring out different details. Supposedly certain film responded to such things. I never really tried it; film was so expensive, and results only visible after a lengthy and expensive development process,  I could not bring myself to go past the “sure thing” of what the camera told me to do. With digital, though, the sky is the limit. I can tell what I have within seconds. I can’t always tell, though, what it will be after I finish post-processing. A modern extension to pushing and pulling is creating an HDR photograph from photographs deliberately stopped up and down a few steps. Even more mainstream is underexposing a stop or two while shooting in RAW. RAW seems to respond well to restoring detail in underexposed areas; blown-out highlights, on the other hand, are pretty much lost. I also like to apply the underexpose for greatness in flash photography. I stop the flash down a step or two routinely to reduce the harsh light of a strobe. I can usually restore the slight underexposure to greatness, especially in RAW, without the harsh flash light.

Tonight, I went even further with deliberate underexposure. The subject was in deep evening shadow, and the flash reduced three full stops. Rather than try to force details, I left the final image dark. The yellow of the petals glows nicely–which is more like the glow such petals give in evening shadows, and is very hard to capture with standard settings.