Accidental Alder

(Camera: Hasselblad 503cx; Lens: 150mm f/4 Zeiss Sonnar; Film: Fuji Acros 100)

An interesting thing happened on the way to this picture. I came upon a stand of red alders and carefully set up my camera and tripod. I spent more time than usual trying to get just the right camera position to include the trees I wanted, and exclude the ones I felt were just clutter. In fact, I spent so much time framing the shot that I neglected to set the shutter speed on my camera and wound up underexposing by two stops.

I fired a second shot at the correct exposure, but when I finished developing the roll later, I found that I actually preferred the first frame. Partly this is because, within a range, there are usually several exposures that can produce an image that works.  What’s “correct” then is the exposure that most easily yields the representation you want.  It turns out that the accidental underexposure was exactly right to preserve highlight detail. And since the shot is all about strong vertical lines (defined by the sunlit edges of the alders), I wanted the background to go nearly black. As for the 2nd, “correct” shot, it’s not as interesting. Not only is the contrast range off the mark, but the lighting had changed enough between exposures that much of the drama was gone from the scene — all in the matter of a minute or two. They say timing is everything, but sometimes a happy accident helps too.

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