Untamed Land

Untamed Land
Untamed Land

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Program vs Manual, The Big Showdown

For many years, way back in the dawn of time, I used a Pentax K-1000. It was a fully manual 35mm camera that was touted as the most basic 35mm camera available, and the only one that could be operated without a battery. It was truly simple to operate, but being completely manual, I missed many great wildlife photos because I was fumbling with shutter speed and aperture size (F-stop). I used that camera until it fell apart.
Then a wonder camera came onto the market, the Canon AE-1 program. That meant that one could let the camera decide shutter speed and aperture size. When I got mine I thought it was the final word in camera technology. Nothing could be superior to that. I used that camera for even longer than the Pentax, and I still have it. It still works although I never use it.
Anyway that camera set my habit of using program mode for every circumstance. In the last blog post I talked about trying to photograph strong evening light striking trees in a dark forest. I had to set the camera on manual exposure in order to replicate the mood of the evening.
This time I went to Russian Jack Park to photograph some Fall scenery. I photographed scenes first in program mode, then I played with manual exposure to see which looked better. The following photos are the results.
In this scene I liked the way that bright sun light illuminated the yellow Devil's Club in the middle of the photo. As you can see with this program mode photo, the camera failed to capture the light properly.
By intentionally under-exposing the image, I was able to get the photo to look more like the real scene.
Another over-exposed program photo that makes the scene look flat and uninteresting.
This manual scene is definitely under-exposed but it really captures the mysterious mood of the dark forest.
Program mode got this one right.
Manual exposure works too.
Rotting leaves on the forest floor in program mode.
This manual shot is maybe a tad too dark.
The forest floor from a more interesting angle in program.
Manual takes the cake again. Real photographers record shutter speeds and f-stop, but that seems way too obsessive to me.
By the time I made it down to Chester Creek, I gave up on program, and just left the camera on manual for scenery shots.
I like this photo of Bunchberry.
It is clear that my Fujifilm HS-10 tends to over-expose in program mode. So does my Lumix FZ-50. My old Canon AE-1 program  did the same, but I compensated for that by pushing the ISO.
The lession I learned is that I need to use manual exposure for scenery shots, but I will continue to rely on program mode for wildlife. Of course these new cameras offer many other options which I will probably continue to ignore.

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