The White Stuff.

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This little post is for those people who first… own a camera… and second… have access to a camera that allows you to adjust the exposure… and thirdly… this post is for people who love photography! so… there you have it… this post has something for everyone! And the subject is … shooting white stuff. Any scene that is predominately white is difficult to expose correctly. The exposure should normally be one that doesn’t “blow out” the white stuff. Over-exposing the scene will create a photo with a lot of its recognizable texture and nuance… completely totally gonzo! Exposing properly will … in a lot of cases… make anything that is dark… even darker! So… let’s take a peek at a few “white” scenes.


See? Blown out as can be! But is that bad? Heck no! I did this on purpose… slightly over-exposing the white snow turned the branches in this orchard black. I did this because the pattern interested me more than revealing the texture in the snow and the cherry trees. Here’s another one… this time… nothing is blown out.


See? This time I wanted to see all of the texture in the horse’s coat. I love this shot. He was so calm and majestic.


What can I say? Pure white to black… with a splash of red. Remember… composition is king! So… no matter what the subject is… pay attention to your composition… make it dramatic … use those leading lines and if you are new to this game… utilize “The Rule of Thirds” to help you with your compositions. Now… scroll back to the horse…. now compare the life-preserver photo with it… they are almost identical in their composition. Amazing how that works isn’t it?

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Now for something different. I play at golf. And to me… every golf glove tells a story. So… I gathered a few of these gloves from a couple golfing buddies and shot this “white stuff” photo. They thought I was nuts when I asked for their old worn out gloves… but they all asked for large prints after it was done. Again… the exposure was key… blow out the background while retaining the texture in the gloves themselves. Now… let’s go outside and focus on some architecture. I love white structures. They always present a challenge. The first is an ancient church just south of Tucson, Arizona.


Sometimes… make that always… I shoot wide and then tight. It often helps me extract the essence from a structure. So… here is a tip… do what an instructor told me to do long ago … “do the 360”. In more lengthly terms… walk around the subject if time permits… look at it in total… and then and only then do you start moving in … getting closer and closer. Of course the closer one gets the more one loses the entirety. But having done so… shooting the subject several times will give you a range of photos from which to choose from. This photo was pretty early in the morning around 10 ish. The sun was a killer… so I positioned it behind a piece of the church… throwing most of the building into “open shadow”. White? Yes. But not blown out.


Here above is a similar photo… white to grey. Borderline pure white. Remarkable building in Granada, Spain. A fun study in lines and exposure.


I know… I know… you have seen this before… but hey… what would a discussion about white stuff be without having at least one up north barn scene with a bunch of Michigan snow in it? Shot on a grey overcast day… which by the way made it so so much easier to expose correctly. If the glaring sun had been lighting up the scene, the barn would gone almost black. But hey… lucky again!


A couple more. Take a peek at the above shot. Wowzer it was bright that day! This was taken at the Crazy Horse mountain sculpture … just south of Mt. Rushmore. I chose to expose for the white so I wouldn’t “blow it out”… therefore showing the textures of the model. In the background is the real thing… notice it hasn’t changed in 15 years… mainly because it is far more profitable…not finish it… to the tune of 20 million bucks a year in the pockets of somebody. But I digress. OK… one more photo…


I can hear it now… “Gosh Gene what on earth is that?” Well… it is a teaching aid. Remember… beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I love the pattern/texture of the white tarp… and others may think it sucks. Others will appreciate its subtlety of exposure and will fully appreciate that exposing something that is predominately white is inherently a challenge. Said another way…someone’s masterpiece is someone else’s pixel disaster. The way you choose to expose a photo is entirely personal… and really… that is what photography is all about. Personal expression. Keep shooting what you love to shoot… the way you want to shoot it. Happy trails.





2 thoughts on “The White Stuff.

  1. You must’ve read my mind. A few days ago I was having a conversation with a friend about my displeasure with my egret shots. The white birds always look blown out. I played with the +/- while shooting but still wasn’t happy. I wonder if a hood would make a difference?
    I do like the look of that first abstract shot.

    • Ingrid! Nope…. a hood would not make any difference at all. If you are “blowing out” a few of those beautiful bird photos then I would only ask this…. how is our autofocus set?
      It helps determine your exposure. If you have it set to “take in” the whole scene, then the camera will take into account the entire “dark” scene and open it up to give you a balanced photo. However… if you have it on “spot” metering… when the autofocus determines the photo is in focus… and you fire the shutter… the camera will do the math and give you an exposure based solely on that in focus tiny dot. I suspect the former and not the latter. Check it out… OK?

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